Digital DNA 2017
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Digital DNA’s New Video: The Animation Process


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April 4, 2017

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In terms of business benefits in Digital Marketing, the return on investment for animated videos is growing rapidly.

According to Unbounce animated explainer videos on landing pages are increasing conversion rates by as much as 80%.

Studies like Kissmetrics’ also regularly show high figures for consumers who feel more likely to purchase after watching a video, often as high as between 64-85%.

On social media too, video is King. Facebook has now overtaken YouTube in terms of video uploads and viewers, claiming more than 8 billion average daily views from it’s 500 million strong user-base.

Short animation videos like explainers have become a trendy marketing tool but they take effort and knowledge to work well. They include elements like script writing, storyboard drafting, designing original illustrations, delivering a voice over and creating animation ready for web.

Digital DNA’s latest animated video was created by David Henderson Design, an award-winning multimedia design company based in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland.

We asked David a few questions about the design and animation process, creatively and technically…

Do you start with a pencil and paper like in the good old days?

Yes, 100%.  After we have spoke to our clients, and have a really clear understanding of the core message and purpose of the animation or video, our first creative process involves getting out the pencils and paper. Like so many of the other services we offer, each of them involve pencil and paper at the outset, whether it’s branding, web design or even planning a graphic design project.

With animation projects we use pencil and paper to begin thinking around a storyboard. These sketches then allow us to quickly see how the narrative of the story will unfold over the course of the 1- 3 minutes we have to play with. I actually believe that there’s a certain type of creativity, idea generation you can only get when you sit down to sketch and draw. These storyboards then help us to see the structure, order and even the flow of the animation. Once these are agreed on, only then do we bring them to screen and begin to illustrate the artwork.

Animated Courier Bid video

What is the planning process like for modern animation compared to traditional graphic design projects?

The creative process isn’t that different than that of a traditional graphic design project.

The main difference would be that a graphic design project is static and usually has one purpose, where as an animation project is dynamic, so needs to follow a more layered approach to the process.

As mentioned, once we have the storyboard completed we move into the process of illustrating out the entire artworks for the animation. Depending on what has been agreed, this can range from characters who have a detailed environments around them like offices, homes, or even the outdoors to more typographic or geometric based animations. The illustration process is usually the most time consuming of the entire project.

Once these have been signed off, we then bring these illustrated assets into the animation software, which in most cases is After Effects. Along with the music files and often the voiceover artist’s recording we begin to animate, using the storyboard as our guide. We usually pause and render out a 10 or 15 second preview to ensure our clients are happy with the flow, speed and feel of the beginning of the animation.

Once signed off, we then proceed through the full animation. These animations are usually layered up in scenes so we can play around with timings and transitions. The final stage is then to render out the full project and make any required tweaks requested by the client.

Is the animation process evolving like other elements of digital creative? 

Yes, I definitely have seen changes in how we produce our animation projects over the last few years. However, a lot of these changes are to do with efficiencies or improvements that are updated to the software we use.

The creative process has changed very little and there will always need to be a lot of time and effort put into it, especially in the planning and illustration processes of the projects. We have worked remotely with our teams from time to time and it has worked well, where we can break up the project into smaller, more manageable chucks and assign these off to 1 or 2 different individuals.

In my experience though, because this is such a creative process, the best and even most efficient results come when you have 2 or 3 creatives in the same room collaborating, providing feedback, discussing challenges and encouraging each other through the project.

We use a number of external apps to help us track our time (Toggl), plan out our process (wunderlist, simplfyd) and communicate (Slack).

What have been the most exciting/helpful/creative developments you’ve seen in the evolution of animation?

I think we are actually just scratching the surface with the power of animation, 3D and video content and that we will see an explosion of how we will not only view this content but actually interact with it. With the rise and development of VR in the last few years, I think we as creatives will begin to create and be required to deliver dynamic, exciting and creative environments, characters, messages and various types of content for these new technologies that will soon be part of our day to day lives. The same argument could be made for AI or big data and how we will consume the huge amounts information we are constantly creating, analysing and using now.  There are huge opportunities today and in the near future and I’m excited to see how we continue to engage creativity with technology to push the boundaries and make the world a better place to work and live!

Animated 10 second TV advert produced for Media Cast: The Lisburn Road

What do you think brands and marketers still don’t understand about animation?

To be honest, I now think most brands, marketers and many others in the world of advertising realise the huge importance and raw power that animation and video can bring. I think many marketers have realised that potentially hundreds of thousands, even millions, can be reached with an engaging, quality animation through the power of social and online platforms.

Take the example of the Australian public announcement campaign by Metro Trains in Melbourne, Dumb ways to Die. This was an animated ad that was meant for a relatively small audience of people who use the metro in one Australian city, back in November 2012, but it went viral and now has been viewed 146 million times on YouTube alone!

I’ve seen a change in attitude to how it’s used and who uses it in the last 8 years as well. For example back in 2012 we were producing 1-2 animated explainer videos per month for a PR company in Boston, and at that time it wasn’t just tech start ups that wanted to use animation to get their message out there, but industries like medicine, law and finance. I didn’t see that same attitude here in the UK or Europe though and it was a few years before more traditional industries began to implement it as part of their marketing this side of the pond.

We’ve also worked on projects that are used to train and educate their teams internally rather than the traditional idea of advertising to the mass markets.

So in short, animation is being used by a wide range of industries and for a deeper level of engagement in not only advertising but training and education as well, and we’re excited to see where it will go next!

Find out more about David and his team at WeAreDHD.com

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