How To Produce A Video Like This In 60 Hours

Almost overnight, explainer videos — videos that introduce new products, services or concepts in an easy-to-understand way — have become must-have items for companies. It makes sense if you think about it: the first thing prospects look for on your landing page? A video. If you don’t have one, your chances of converting them suddenly go way down.

The problem is that most clients (or those I’ve worked with so far) have little to no experience in producing animated explainer videos. As human beings, we‘re scared of trying new things where we don’t know each step of the process. I get that. That’s why I’ve decided to explain my own personal process of producing a top-of-the-range, animated explainer video, using one I’ve recently produced as an example, with some tips on how to lower the cost and time of the production thrown in at the end.

A quick overview

Theoretically, this is what my process looks like. As you can see, the first step is understanding the brief and developing a concept. Once you have a concept, you can break it down into a storyboard, where you can define each scene with a rough script. When the storyboard’s done, it’s time to write the final version of the script. (It’s important that both script and voiceover are finished before you start to animate!)

Meanwhile, the Art Director for the video defines the style, tone of voice, music and other creative cornerstones you need to get started. This way the Graphic Designer can already begin digging into the graphic elements! Once the voiceover and graphic design are both done, it’s time for the really fun part: animation! Then you just add some final touches, a couple of sound effects and voila: you have a video.

(For each step to go flawlessly, you’ll need constant client input/approval, as well as highly involved stakeholders. I’ll talk about this a bit more later.)

Example

Got that down? Now let’s go through the process in some more detail, using a video I made based on these criteria:

Brief: Knowit is an IT consultancy and an expert within cloud services. I had to explain their process of building and transforming apps in the cloud environment in a fun, “non-techy” way.

Context: The video was to be used mainly at AWS Summit in Stockholm (a technology conference about cloud services), but also for pitches and social media.

Build and Transition

Day 1

Concept: The day started with a stakeholder meeting, where we discussed expectations, objectives and timeframe. After I had a good understanding of the process (see below), I asked for a written version of each step to start conceptualising.

Concept: After hours of brainstorming, one concept stood out from the rest: a metaphor of an app-like object rising up into the sky. On its way up, the object will go through certain steps until it finally turns into a cloud.

High-level storyboard: We needed an easy and cheap way to test the concept. So I did some rough sketches on paper, filmed them with my phone and sent the recording over to my computer. Then I recorded an early draft of the script with a robot voice, and added some music I thought would fit the tone. By the end of this day, we had a finished video that explained our first concept. This is how it looked:

Putting together the first concept

Day 2

The stakeholders loved the concept, and gave us the green light to move on. (Remember what I said before? Client availability and quick feedback is key to speeding up the process!)

Script: While I started working on a more detailed version of the storyboard, I sent over the the brief, yesterday’s video and some direction on the brand’s Tone of Voice to Noemi Gobel — one of the most talented copywriters I’ve worked with. It didn’t take her much time before she came back with a stunning script. The stakeholders had some minor feedback, according to which we tweaked the original script a bit, and by the end of the second day, we had the final script done.

Detailed Storyboard: In the meantime, I was working on a detailed storyboard that was in sync with the script.

Storyboarding on paper

Before leaving for the day, we placed an order to get the voiceover done in the US. In this case, it was an easy choice since we went for the same voice who narrates Knowit’s other videos as well. Consistency is always beneficial for a brand.

Day 3

Art Direction: It was time to decide the style and look and feel of the video. We already knew we wanted something smooth, soft, playful… These are things you don’t see in techy cloud service conferences very often, right? We wanted something that looked more like a game than a technical explanation of a transition process.

Graphic Design: Color palette was easy: I had to use the official Knowit color palette. Still, I wanted it to stick out a bit. So I decided to use purple (aka the “Color of the year”) as the main color, rather than the traditional green that has been Knowit’s primary color for a long time. Stakeholders had no problem with that, and the rest of my day was spent on designing the graphics.

Illustrating in Adobe Illustrator

Day 4

Voiceover: We got back the voiceover and it was amazing! It always gives a motivational boost to hear your script come to life with a professional voice.

Graphic design: The entire day was spent on experimenting and designing the graphics for each scene.

Animating in Adobe After Effects

Day 5–6

Animation: We got a green light again, this time for the graphic design. Now it was time to make things move. We estimated 2–3 days for the animation part and to be honest, it didn’t take more than 16 hours (so 2 days total).

Adding sound effects in Adobe Audition

Day 7

Finally, it was time to put everything together. All those tiny last touches, details, hot improvements that often make or break a project!

Sound design: The last big boost was adding the mastered version of the voiceover, buying the music license for the background music and adding all those tiny sound effects that make an animation come to life.

Abracadabra! And just like that, we were done — well done! If you take a step back and think about it, 60 hours of production is a huge achievement. A one-minute animated video like this should usually takes more people and twice as much time to finish.

So the million-dollar question is: what’s the secret to reducing the time and cost of videos like these so rapidly?

How to speed up the process and lower the cost? Here are my 4 tips:

  1. Define your goal. When making this video, my goal was not to spend too much time on it. I clearly communicated this throughout the process. But, as we all know, that’s not always the case: sometimes your objective will be to create something larger-scale, for several important purposes, where time isn’t a primary factor. In cases like those, you should involve Project Managers, dedicated Art Directors, Sound Designers and experiment with several concepts before selecting a winner.
  2. Less people involved also means less complications with communication. In this case I was the Project Manager, Art Director, Graphic Designer and Animator; so far I haven’t had any problems communicating with myself. :)
  3. Pay for things that aren’t your specialty. For example, we could definitely have lowered the cost by recording the voiceover ourselves, or writing a less impactful script in-house. But that would have lowered the quality and engagement rate, and it would have cost us more time. No thanks.
  4. One more time, client availability and quick feedback are both key for speeding up the process. It’s also important to define ONE stakeholder who has the final word. I’ve been involved in projects before where three people had the final word(s); you can imagine how much time we lost, waiting around for each of them!

I hope this article has given you a better idea of the process behind the production of an animated explainer video, and how you can lower its cost and time factors. If you have any questions, or would like to know more about a certain step in the process, just let me know! I’d be happy to help out.

/ Husein Aziz

See more: huseinaziz.com