With the proliferation of 3D computer animation software and the abundance of cloud computing to aid in the rendering process, big budget marketing departments aren’t the only ones that can make a computer-animated video.
Upon the launch of my company’s Open Cloud
product, we wanted to do something new by telling a story to a general audience instead of focusing on the bits and bytes of the solution. Our group thought that an animated video would be the perfect vehicle to tell this story.
Here are five things we learned that might help you in creating your own animated story, like our “One Very Proud Dad.”
1. Select the right agency
Making an animated film might not cost as much as you think. The first thing to do is get creative with spreading out the cost over several months, so it doesn't hit your budget at once.
Next, you will need to hire an agency to help create, because the chances are that no one on your marketing team knows how to do 3D animation. Selecting the right partner for this project is crucial, and one of the hardest things to do.
You can choose either an agency that has a proven track record or one that is looking to make a big splash on the computer animation scene. Agencies with a strong portfolio will certainly get the job done, but they may come with a higher price based on their prior success. You can save some money by partnering with a smaller firm that has some big time design chops instead of going with one of the giants.
We went with Impossible Engine
, an agency that we had worked with in the past and had an amazing production portfolio, but one that hadn’t made something quite like “One Very Proud Dad.” They were hungry to make something great, and we were willing to take a chance based on the quality of work they had done for us in the past.
2. Create a strong story—amazing animation doesn’t compensate for a weak story
No amount of animation that can make up for a weak story (think “Cars 2”). We worked with Impossible Engine for a couple of months on the story for “One Very Proud Dad” until it was perfect.
The agency came to our headquarters in San Antonio to brainstorm stories that resulted in three different ideas. One story was massaged and reworked until we had the basic skeleton of a storyline. From there, we started putting meat on the bones. Characters moved from being a flat 2D cartoon to a 3D image and the script was worked and reworked until everyone on the team could quote it from memory.
Most importantly, a world was created that felt real, alive, and compelling. I know the cave-dad better than some of my real life acquaintances.
3. Find the right voice
If you are going to the trouble of making a high quality animated video, don’t skimp out on the voice recording. Work with your agency to find the right voice for your film; we worked with Edge Studio
and that team provided some high quality talent.
Ask for several different samples of readings and give detailed feedback on what you like and dislike about each voice. Want a person with an English accent? Someone who has a range of emotions? This can all be done with talented voiceover artists.
Once you select the talent to be the voice of your film, schedule a call where you can hear him read through the script. Don’t be afraid to provide feedback and criticism if the talent is not sounding the way that you want.
4. Add music to the mix
What would “Toy Story” have been without Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” or “Star Wars” without John Williams’ score?
Don’t underestimate the impact of music. There are a couple of options as you look to score your video. You could hire a company to write a unique piece of music for your video, evoking happy and sad sounds, crescendo and decrescendo at the proper times. While more costly, budget money and time to get the score written and recorded.
The other alternative is to select a stock piece of music. While it is a more economic option, it may be difficult to sync the music to evoke the viewers’ emotions at the right time. This challenge can be overcome with creative editing, changing the volume levels and adding in different complementary sound effects.
We chose this option because of the cost savings and time—we didn’t have enough of it to get an original piece scored.
5. Avoid too many cooks in the kitchen
With creative endeavors, the more people involved will result in more diverse opinions that could dilute the original story. It is key to have a small, tight knit group working on the video. Even with just three people on our core Rackspace team, there were some very passionate disagreements on which story to select, how to trim the script to get the video down to three minutes, and what piece of music should be in the film.
In the same vein, trust your agency’s creative ability. While it is important to give them feedback and ideas, give them the creative freedom to innovate and ideate. Equally important is to empower your agency to disagree with you—having a bunch of “yes men” could adversely affect your final product, whereas empowerment can result in an amazing video.
Garrett Heath blogs for Rackspace and has experience as a technical project manager in the cloud. He enjoys writing about how the cloud is spurring innovation for startups, small businesses, and enterprises. Follow him on Twitter @pinojo.