Animated Video Production

What to Look for When Judging an Animation Studio’s Portfolio

Claude Harrington 06.15.2016

If you’re looking for an animation studio to help you produce an explainer video, it’s a good idea to look around. In fact, at IdeaRocket, we actively encourage prospects to do so.

At the end of the day, your decision will likely be most influenced by an animation studio’s portfolio. That’s the best indicator of what a studio is capable of accomplishing, and the best gage of what you should expect in the end. The problem, though, is that when looking at an animation company’s portfolio, it can be difficult to figure out what, exactly, you should be looking for. So today, let’s tackle that very situation and explore what to look for when judging an animation studio’s portfolio…

Four-Elements-of-Video-Venn-Diagram

 

Story (i.e. How do the Dots Connect?)

It’s easy to confuse story with the copy in script, but story is about more than the words that are being read aloud. It’s more about structure than anything else, about how all of the elements are a weaved together and framed for the viewer. This is probably the most difficult element to boil down, but it’s also the most important as this is the engine that drives your video. Forget about messaging, branding and highlighted points made and ask yourself: what is the overarching narrative here? What is the beginning, middle and end?

A good way to think about this may be a game of connect the dots, in which many of the elements on this list below (i.e. characters, animation technique, etc.) represent dots and story is the final image that is revealed after they’re all connected together.

For example, consider a recent video we did for Know Better Bread:

When reviewing this explainer video, it’s likely those “dots” that stand out at first glance. The main character (the Earl of Sandwich) the animation technique (whiteboard animation) and other such ingredients But, as we described, story is what happens when you connect all those things together and ask yourself: what is the overarching narrative here? What is the beginning, middle and end?

In this case, when we take a step back, the answer looks something like this:

  • BEGINNING: Bread is something many people love and have eaten for hundreds of years.
  • MIDDLE: But, unfortunately, it’s not that healthy.
  • END: Luckily, Know Better Breads provides an alternative solution

No matter what your explainer video is about and no matter how long (or short) it is, it will benefit from having a strong beginning, middle and end. Which, when taken together and those dots connect just right, will deliver your message to the viewer through the power of a well-crafted story.

Script (Narration-Only)

Although the script, ultimately, is the blueprint for your entire explainer video, what we’re referring to here is the narration only portion of the script (i.e. the part that’s read aloud).

When evaluating the narration of a script, you want to ask yourself a three things:

  • Is the copy well-written?
  • Does it seem to flow organically?
  • How does it match with brand and tone?

All three questions are important, but it’s the last one in particular that deserves the most weight. Because, at the end of the day, your explainer video is an ambassador for your brand and must represent itself accordingly.

Visual Design

Speaking of tone…

Even more than the copy of your script, it’s the visual design that will set the tone. The illustration and animation must not only be on brand, but should also be engaging, accessible and memorable. Or, if we look at those three adjectives another way, the animation should:

  • Hook your audience
  • Retain your audience
  • Remain in the audience’s mind

A final note of caution: Don’t confuse complexity with good design. Sometimes, keeping it simple is not only harder to pull off, but can be much more effective.

Characters

One of the luxuries of animation is that a character can be anyone or anything.

It can be executives and employees that work at your company…

Header- Maximize Whiteboard

It can be a customer themselves…

Screen-Shot-2016-03-08-at-2.46.23-PM-300x187

Or maybe a metaphorical manifestation of your customer’s pain point…

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 5.40.03 PM

The point is that you have a lot of leeway. That’s part of what makes animation so empowering. But, as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. So when evaluating characters in a studio’s portfolio, consider how responsible that studio is being:

  • Are the characters properly servicing the message? The brand?
  • Are the characters imaginative enough? Are they too imaginative?
  • Are the entertaining, engaging and appropriate ambassadors?

Animation Styles (i.e. Whiteboard Animation, 3D Animation)

Different animation studios offer (and excel) in different animation styles.

It’s not unusual to begin the process without a specific animation technique in mind, but as you learn the difference between RSA Animate and CGI animation, you will begin to get a sense of what might be right for your project.

For a quick crash course on some of the different styles, you might want to click on a few of the different techniques listed below:

Je Ne Sais Quoi

Lastly, and most importantly, trust your gut.

Your target audience won’t be judging your explainer video based on the specific elements listed above, but rather as the sum of all its parts. So regardless of how much you know about animation or its many parts, your opinion and gut reaction are incredibly important.

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