A GUIDE TO OUR 5 STEP MOTION DESIGN PRODUCTION PROCESS.
Not all projects are the same, so no production process is alike. That’s why, over the years, we developed a set of processes and use them for our production framework. It outlines every step along the way and works like a blueprint that can be adapted to almost every project. These tools help us and our clients to align on goals, ideas, timeframe and budget of the project and allow us to carefully plan and keep track of every step along the production process. Depending on the project we might skip or add one in between, but in general this is how we set up our production workflow.
1. The discovery
We love to start our projects with a workshop. It’s a great opportunity to get to know each other, exchange ideas and make the project truly collaborative. Together we take a look at the brief and any other relevant information from the client and discuss every detail. Sometimes clients have a script, a voiceover, some visuals or other references that we need to have a look at and talk about. Now we outline all the details and requirements of the project, i.e. the objectives and goals, the target audience, context and environment where the movie will be watched, the deadline and the budget, etc.
To fully understand the clients needs and the purpose of the movie we like to take some extra time and ask more questions. We really like to identify the core function of the animation and approach the task from multiple angles. The results build the foundation of the project, so this step is critical for the success of the movie.
2. The concept
Now it’s time to digest all the information we gathered in our discovery. We take all requirements and restrictions into account and come up with a basic idea that we put in a few words. This can be in many forms like a draft description of the information displayed in the movie, an interpretation of the storyline or the style or visual language, or maybe a first draft of the voiceover.
And we’ll talk about money asap. We like to have an open conversation with our clients about effort, price and budget so we can readjust the idea or project scope if we have to. And if that’s out of the way, we lay out a rough production timeline displaying all the key production phases, including feedback and approval dates, to get an idea of how long the production is going to take, and who is going to be involved.
3. The design
We start dreaming up the best possible style direction for the idea. First we look for inspiration and reference materials that matches the idea and concept and aligns with the intended look and feel of the project. If the client has an existing design or campaign we use this as a starting point and adapt and expand on that.
During research and development, we explore styles and techniques we can use to visualize the idea and we validate feasability so we don’t promise what we can’t keep. These visual styles, together with other design elements like typography, grid, illustrations, etc. are merged into the style frames (or style scapes) that show a mix of the key design elements to get a better idea about what the final product will look and feel like.
4. The storyboard
A key element of the production process is the storyboard. It represents the building blocks of the animation, and gives an idea of how the script will match up with the visuals. All the scenes are mapped out to give an overview of how the animation will support and enhance the script. The storyboard is purely for narrative explanation, the style frames in the previous step are the visual direction. Creating the storyboard and sharing it with the client ensures that we’ve included all the main elements of the script and we’re all happy with the path we’re about to take together.
Another very helpful tool is the animatic, it is like a storyboard in motion. We sometimes supply a very simple voice-over or text over image played along with the storyboard frames, so we and the client can get an idea of how the timing will work for each scene. Or we put together everything we’ve got so far, draft camera movements and raw scene animations and create a fully timed-out rough film. Its purpose is to demonstrate timing, flow and pace alongside key movements and transitions.
5. The execution
The reason we devote a lot of time and attention to the previous steps is to ensure everything is in place before we dive deep into the animation process itself. We start preparing all the footage, modelling 3d objects, texturing and lighting the scenes and creating all the graphics and other elements for the animation.
Then it’s finally time to set the main elements in motion, animate the environment and move the camera. We are bringing the story to life frame by frame and create those inspirational moments that turn the piece into a highly engaging visual experience. At certain dates scheduled in our production timeline for feedback and approval, we will provide work-in-progress-clips, low-res .mp4 files for the client to review, provide feedback or sign-off on our work
The rendering process is where all the images for the movie are actually created. When there’s a lot of hi-res 3D included, this can be a very time and computing power consuming process. For most project requirements we render all frames in-house, for more challenging projects we work with 3rd party rendering services. When the final renderings are ready we compose all generated elements, add effects, fine-tune colors and the overall look and add final touches to the piece.
Now we edit the music track, mix in the voice over and add sound effects where needed. Or we just drop in the final soundtrack from the recording studio. The final version is ready to be signed off by all key stakeholders. We’ll generate all the different formats and resolutions of the final movie for all the different purposes, platforms and applications.
Finally the approved film is ready to be shared with the world. Enjoy!
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