How to Produce Animated Explainer Videos

August 02, 2018

Learn why animated explainer videos help explain complex ideas and the steps your business can take to produce these videos.

When investing in animation and creating an animated explainer video, the key to producing good content is for marketers and content creators to have a high-level understanding of the overall animation production process.

This includes both the “pre-production” process, or the strategy and script, and the actual “production” process of bringing that script to life.

Visualizing the animation process in its entirety helps illustrate not only the steps that go into producing good animated content but also the interdependency of each step throughout the entire process and why each one is important.

Following a production methodology for creating these types of marketing assets will greatly contribute to making sure your animated explainer video project stays on track, on budget, and on brand and most importantly, achieves its intended purpose.

Benefits of Explaining Your Business With Animation

In our opinion, video is by far one of the most powerful marketing tactics available to today’s digital marketer.

Using animation and hand-illustrated, stop-motion-style videos helps explain your value proposition. These types of videos tend to be visually stimulating but not overwhelming and are simplistic in nature, making it easier for your target viewers to digest and retain your key messages.

You’ll also have complete control over every single visual element of your video, including its characters, their environments, and how they interact.

For example, this hand-illustrated explainer video explains a difficult concept – building and hosting digital experiences – in an easy-to-understand way.

The illustrations and narration help explain the service in a way that’s simple for the viewer to understand.

Visualizing the Animation Process

To help you better visualize the animation production process, we created the process map below to illustrate all of the different pre-production and production steps.

Animation Production Process

Creating animated content with a proven production methodology also helps ensure you don’t run into costly and time-consuming animation revisions during the latter half of the process.

Whether you’re producing your video in-house or outsourcing it to a video production company, we recommend you give serious consideration to the process when producing your animated video content.

Pre-Production:

  1. Animated video idea
  2. Viewer targeting
  3. Creative concepting
  4. Content scripting
  5. Character concept
  6. Environment concept
  7. Storyboard concept
  8. Animatic storyboard

Production:

  1. Modeling, rigging, and asset production
  2. Animation production
  3. 1st cut
  4. 2nd cut
  5. Narration
  6. Music and sound FX
  7. Render & process
  8. Final cut

Each step of the animation production process plays an important role and will ultimately contribute to the success of your video.

Animation “Pre-Production” Explained

When it comes to producing animated content, the pre-production process is essentially everything that occurs before the artists or animators create or illustrate the assets for the video.

As a marketer, it’s during the pre-production process where your contributions will have the greatest direct impact.

Step 1: Video Idea

This step sounds pretty simple, but don’t let that deter you from not putting enough thought into it.

The key to coming up with good video ideas that will provide value to its viewers is to think of how your company communicates externally from a tactical perspective, identify your biggest challenges, and then develop animated content to help you overcome those communication challenges.

Step 2: Viewer Targeting

Like any marketing asset, an animated video needs to have solid strategy behind it in order to deliver the greatest return on investment. This is where viewer targeting comes into place.

Often, people want to create video content that appeals to a broad group of audiences, but the key is to identify who your “dream viewers” are from a demographic and buyer persona perspective.

Develop content that resonates with those viewers while still incorporating elements that will appeal to broader audiences.

Step 3: Creative Concepting

Creative concepting is the process of coming up with the overall creative direction and high-level vision for the video.

In a nutshell, the creative concept is “What do you envision happening in your video, and who do you envision doing it?”

The key to a good creative concept is to develop one that caters to your target audience, aligns with the goal of your video idea, and adequately illustrates your story.

Step 4: Content Scripting

The script is extremely important and plays a critical role in the development of every single creative component in your video.

Even if you hire a talented animator, a video with a poorly written script will not perform well.

The key to a good script is to make sure it tells a story that appeals to your target viewers, is aligned with how you position and message your solution, and provides value to the people who watch it.

Step 5: Character Concepting

You don’t have to spend countless hours trying to find the perfect on-screen talent for animated videos; you just create the characters.

The key to good character development is to design characters who will visually support the script’s storyline and appeal to the target viewers in a way that positively reflects your brand’s identity.

Step 6: Environmental Concepting

Just like the character creation, you’ll also have complete control over all of the visual environments of your video. This means you can visually create whatever world you want your characters to live in.

The key to good animated scene design is to create environments that support your script and reinforce, visually, what is narrated at any given point in the script’s storyline.

Step 7: Storyboard Concept

Once you’ve developed your script, characters, and environments, the next step in the process is to put together a rough storyboard.

You’ll want to break the script down into a frame-by-frame sequence that represents what will be shown on the screen at every single point of the narration.

The key to creating a good storyboard concept is to provide detailed directions for all of the visual elements you want represented in a given shot and how you want them to interact.

Step 8: Animatic Storyboarding

This is when you’ll start to see your creative vision put into motion.

Once all of the video’s elements have been approved, you will create a more detailed “video storyboard” using static artwork placeholders that represent each scene with placeholder narration.

The purpose of the animatic storyboard is to give you the opportunity to see your script in motion so that you can see how it progresses and transitions from scene to scene.

Animation “Production” Explained

The “production” part of the process is when your video starts to come to life.

Once all of the pre-production steps are complete, the designers and illustrators will begin to create all of the assets necessary to produce your animated video, and the animator will start putting all of the pieces together and in motion.

Step 9: Asset Production

It’s during the asset production step when all of the visual elements of your video beyond what was shown in the animatic storyboard are created.

This includes the illustrating, modeling, and rigging of all of the different scenes and character elements that will appear in the video.

Step 10: Animation Production

Now it’s time for the animators to begin producing the actual video animation.

This is where animators put all of the recently created assets into motion using animation software programs.

Step 11: First Cut

If the illustrators and animators execute all of the pre-production work as you intended, the first cut of your video should be very close to the final product.

It’s important to use placeholder narration during the first cut in case you end up making changes to the script after viewing it for the first time. You don’t want to pay a narrator for having to do a voiceover twice.

Step 12: Second Cut

In the event that you decide to make edits to the first cut of your animated video, the second-cut version should incorporate all of your requested changes and should essentially be ready to proceed to the next step of adding in professional narration.

Step 13: Narration

Once you’ve found the perfect narrator for your video, it’s time to send him or her your script and have him or her record it using professional audio recording equipment.

The key to good narration is really taking the time to find the perfect voice for your video. We primarily use an online service called Flyover Voice Overs, but there are many online narration sites.

A video production company will usually recommend a voice to you but will also send you a list of voices to choose from.

Step 14: Music and Sound Effects

The next step is to add the background music and sound effects to your video.

Music has the power to evoke emotion, and the music you use will contribute greatly to the overall feel and pace of your video.

Step 15: Render and Process

Once you’ve added the narration, music, and sound effects, the second-to-final step is to render and process the files for the final cut of the video.

Where you plan to use your video may determine different format requirements. Most of the time, the format will be the traditional 1080p widescreen format, but sometimes people want them formatted, for example, in portrait style instead of landscape.

Step 16: Final Cut

Delivering the final cut of the video is the final step of the animation production process.

Once the final cut is delivered, you’ll want to start promoting your new video asset by embedding it on your website and any other relevant marketing channels you use to communicate with prospects.

Creating Animated Content That Converts

Whether you’re trying to explain what your solution is or how it works, animated explainer videos are an extremely effective communication tool when it comes to selling complex solutions to multiple audiences.

The key to producing great animated content is to understand the entire animation production process and see what really takes place behind the scenes.


About the Author

Headshot of Peter HortonPeter Horton is the co-founder and managing director of Telideo Productions, a Denver-based video production company. Prior to Telideo, Peter spent the majority of his career in various marketing leadership roles helping B2B technology companies achieve their strategic marketing communication and channel marketing goals.