Let’s Explore the Animation Process

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The world of eLearning is massive, with tons of ways to teach content and tons of mediums you can present this content in like Animation. Microlearning videos are a popular choice among eLearning groups, since they are short and can relay information to learners quickly.

These videos can be live action, animated, or a mix of both. Here is a brief summary of  the 2D and 3D animation processes that go into making an animated microlearning video:

Why Animate?

Animation isn’t just for kids, even though the simplified imagery may urge you to think so. In actuality, animation is a great way for educators to display detailed and complex information like statistics, weather patterns, or demographic information.

Animation can also be used to save money in the long run, by providing learners with an accurate demonstration of an expensive or dangerous process without the need to set up, build, and execute the action in person. Depending on the content, your video will either be animated in 2D as a character animation or animatic, or in a 3D render

2D Animations

2D animation is simple, versatile, and works best when relaying information to others. The animation process stays about the same between classic character animation and animatics, although the end result is quite different.

Script

Before an animation team can craft a dynamic video that can guide learners through even the densest material, we must first determine what kind of tone our client hopes to establish throughout the video. For example, it would not make much sense for the dialogue to be weighed down by overly technical language if the goal is to reach an audience that knows little to nothing about the subject matter at hand.

When writing the script, we take this information and present it in an engaging manner, and we’ll often write and rewrite the script many times until it is approved by our client.

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A script for a 2D-animated video should be written with the following characteristics in mind:

  • Message
  • Story
  • Character development
  • Action
  • Dialogue

From there, it helps to understand what message a client is hoping to convey in the video. That way, we can transform that message into an engaging story with likable characters that make clear even the most abstract concepts. The script should offer so much more than just witty dialogue and valuable information; it should also allow for some life and movement.

With animation, we do not have human actors at our disposal to ensure that every action is performed as written. We need to ensure that all of these actions are clearly written into the script from the start if they are going to make an appearance on screen.

Finally, dialogue should be crisp, succinct, and sincere. As we work on a script, we always keep in mind that the amount of time it takes to read words on a page to yourself is quite different from the amount of time it takes to voice those words in the actual video. It may help to use a Words to Time tool to guarantee that the dialogue and animations line up

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Storyboard

Simply put, the storyboard stage allows the animation team to see how a video will play out in a tentative sketch before committing any one idea to the final project. At this stage, there is no animation, just static images that perhaps only vaguely seem to fit together as a cohesive narrative.

Additionally, the storyboarding process isn’t frame-by-frame. Instead, only the most important frames in your video will be drawn out. Frames in between these keyframes will be added in later. 

Typically, there will be multiple storyboards to choose from to find how a scene flows best. These boards will be edited and redrawn over and over just like with the script as well.

In sum, we may have a vague beginning, middle, and end, but we are open to modifying them for the sake of clarity and engagement. The storyboarding process simply lends us the opportunity to see what works and what does not.

Animation

During the animation process, a team of animators will work on the project rather than just one person. When animating, we begin with the keyframes in the storyboards, and a team of animators will smooth out sketch lines. Then, we move to the frames in-between the keyframes.

These frames are usually pretty weird looking, since they are made to emphasize motion, but are a necessary part to making the final product look smooth and polished. Once each frame of video has been animated, we move on to coloring.

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Coloring and shading is usually done by a separate team of animators, who focus on making the final product feel properly-shaded and pleasing to the eye. At this stage, we also ensure that the animation style is consistent throughout. Once the colorists are done, we can start finalizing your video.

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Finalization and Asset Development

During the finalization stage, we’ll sync any audio with your animations, make sure the speaker’s lips are moving in sync with the audio itself, and edit the sound as needed to ensure quality.

We also take the opportunity to go through each frame of animation—there’s usually 24 frames per second—and begin fixing any mistakes we find. Sometimes, a line may seem too messy or the color of a character’s eyes isn’t the same as it was in the previous frame. In any case, we take this stage seriously to ensure that no bug big or small makes it to the final cut.

Whiteboard/Animatics

When working with animatics, we skip most of the animation phase and work with the storyboards. Instead of animating keyframes, we line and color the storyboards themselves and piece them together digitally. This makes the animation less fluid than traditional 2D character animation, but most other things stay the same.

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What’s The Difference?

The main difference between 2D character animation and animatics is their simplicity. Unlike character animations, animatic videos are usually drawn much simpler. Animatics are also far more casual than traditional animated videos, since they were mainly popularized by “storytime” videos on the internet.

Animatics are more like live storytelling. They can introduce company policies, how to interact with customers, and focus more on interpersonal and anecdotal lessons. 2D character animation videos are less casual and geared more towards showing how something works.

Planning for Animatics

The planning stage for an animatic video is about the same as the planning stage for a traditional 2D animated video. A script is made, audio is recorded, and we work hard to gather information that will help make your video as accurate as possible. When we do write your script, the tone will be a bit different than other videos. Since animatics are more casual in nature, a casual tone will fit best.

animation process, animation, 2D animation, 3D animation, whiteboard animation, eLearning
animation process, animation, 2D animation, 3D animation, whiteboard animation, eLearning

Animation for Animatics

When we animate, we work mostly with illustrations, meaning no in-between frames, or really, any frames at all. Instead, animations are sparse and used to add emphasis in a story. Maybe the speaker is trying to point out information or highlight a crucial action, allowing animators to add in a few frames, otherwise, there is minimal movement compared to character animation.

A large portion of animation production goes toward style and creating a recognizable brand. This means a lot of time is spent sharpening linework, adding color, and developing a memorable design and tone overall. This extends to the cleanup stage as well.

3D Animations

3D animation is best for displaying complex processes, like a delicate surgery or the inner workings of an expensive machine. By creating to-scale digital models of objects, animators can help provide learners with an accurate representation of how parts work together at any angle.

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Script

An effective 3D animation script enjoys many of the same elements you will find in a 2D animation script. Most notably, we begin with a clear message and have some idea of how to take that message to create a gripping, informative narrative that people want to watch and can easily follow. Keep in mind: in 3D animation, there won’t be an animated speaker relaying information to the viewers. This means information will need to be as clear and concise as possible.

Additionally, character development, dialogue, and action are just as important in 3D animation as they are in 2D animation. That said, there are some special things to keep in mind. Because 3D animations move differently than their 2D counterparts, you will want to take that into account when voicing the script to ensure that the words flow effortlessly with the images on the screen. Again, it sometimes helps at this stage to use a Words to Time tool

Storyboard

As is the case with 2D animation, the storyboarding stage gives us the chance to visualize our ideas and bring them to life “in rehearsal” before we devote our time to bringing them to life in the actual video. For 3D animation, we find it helpful to break down the storyboarding process into three distinct sections: beginning, middle, and end.

That way, we have a clear introduction to the characters and a set stage (that’s the very first thing to happen in the video), distinct transition points between actions (the middle section where the bulk of the information and character development will be found), and a concrete place to call the end (the final thing the viewers see before the screen goes dark).

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But the storyboard for 3D animation takes it a step further by also allowing us to visualize how all the “extra” elements come together. For example, it would be a shame to put together an entire 3D animated video, only to realize at the last minute that the characters interact with each other or the audience in a stilted, unnatural manner.

Moreover, we also need to ensure that the background music and character voices complement each other rather than clash. Too many things going on at once is disastrous for a 3D-animated video.

In sum, the storyboard stage allows us to solve all these technical hiccups before we put to use precious time and resources.

Modeling

In order to recreate accurate digital depictions of any machine, system, or organs, a 3D model needs to be made. These models are usually made by a team in a separate modeling software, and will look flat, plain, or downright boring at first.

As modelers build each visual from the ground up, they may use assets and textures other modelers have put on the internet to help keep things accurate and compare models. Once the models are complete, textures are applied to each visible portion of the model, and they’re ready to be rigged.

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Rigging

A different team of animators will be in charge of rigging the models. During this process, animators treat the models like puppets and move them around via points on the models themselves. For animation to run smoothly, rigging needs to be precise. This means it may take a while to fully rig complex movements, like running or eating.

Finalization and Asset Development

During the finalization stage, animators go through each part of the animation to make any necessary changes. For example, they might adjust the colors, alter models, and make sure movements are smooth and fluid. This is about the same with 2D animations, except when working in 3D, animators will also need to apply shaders into the video to add depth and make details easier to see.

Animators will also need to make sure the program’s gravity engine, lighting system, and motion settings are just right, so everything renders properly.  With 3D animations, we’ll also need to find assets for the animation itself. Textures for each model and accurate measurements are vital to make sure the animations are as precise as you can get them.

THE BOTTOM LINE

All of this may sound difficult, and even frustrating to learn and perfect. That’s why we at NinjaTropic have dedicated ourselves to our craft! With a little help, you too can make fantastic, smooth, and memorable microlearning videos. Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation.

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