Over the past week, I made an animation introducing Scenable: a new platform for local communities online (i.e. my job). This was my first experience animating to narration, so I thought I’d post some tips as well as the video.
Brainstorming the script and initial storyboarding
First of all, it’s almost essential to have a whiteboard around.
Start by mapping out your introduction, main points, and conclusion. Then add a transition sentence between each section. This sounds pretty basic, but it’s very helpful to decide on a structure and stick to it. For what it’s worth, here’s a partial shot of our whiteboard:
Next, start to storyboard. Take each element you’ve mapped out and illustrate it. Spend very little time on your drawings, focus on content.
Write the script word for word, including pauses
You might be tempted to keep working on the visuals, but I recommend diving into the script first. Finalize the wording, but also add any cues for pauses or emphasis – these are very important in the animation process. After you have the script finalized, start on a more detailed storyboard. Here’s mine:
Record the script and record it well.
A teacher once told me that in animation, sound is 75% of the viewer’s experience. In other words, when you record your script, don’t skimp on quality. Don’t use your computer’s built in mic; borrow or buy a real one and learn how to use it. Or hire someone. And spend some time on the editing. Take out obvious breathing sounds, add or remove pauses as needed, and adjust the volume wherever words are to heavily or lightly accented.
Convert your drawings into keyframes. I imported my drawings as bitmaps and traced them in Flash. Then I created a project in my editing software, Adobe Premiere, and added the audio. I then imported my keyframes and synced them with the narration. Here you’ll notice where you need more or less animation. Keep in mind you need to account for every second of the script. Although you can get away with lengthy transitions in places, that’s not going to cut it. It’s very important to do this before you start animating. Otherwise you’ll have a bunch of footage and realize it’s way too short or too long for that portion of the script.
Make more keyframes
Once you have a good idea of the time for each section of animation, create keyframes for each section of movement. If you have a ball bouncing, create keyframes for the beginning, middle, and end of the bounce. Then move to something else. Filling in the gaps between the keyframes comes last. As you are creating these, continue syncing them to your audio. The worst is when you think you’re done with a section and you find out you need five more seconds.
Plan your time wisely
This will all take twice as long as you think it will. You’ll think of a better way to portray a certain point and have to animate it all over again. You’ll render with the wrong settings at least twice. You’ll notice something is off center. You’ll be really pissed at Flash because it sucks. Technical contingencies galore. Well, at least this is what happened to me.
STOP WORKING ON IT!!
I did this in a week, which was a time crunch. Of course, I could work on it for the next three months. It’s never going to be perfect, so be satisfied with good enough.