Thinking of Making a Whiteboard Animation? Read This First!

Thanks to software like VideoScribe, almost anyone can make a whiteboard animation video. But even though the software is easy to use, there is still a learning curve. After producing my first few videos this year, I’ve come up with some helpful pointers I wished I’d known when starting out. If you’re thinking about creating a whiteboard animation, these eight tips will save you time and effort and help you produce an engaging video.

  1. Know your audience. Who will watch your video? What’s the main point(s) you want to convey to them? How will you do that in a meaningful way? And what’s your call to action — what do you want your audience to do after receiving your message? It’s tough to write an effective script without answering these questions.
  2. Polish your script. Part of the appeal of a whiteboard animation is its simplicity. Script writers, once you’re clear on your audience and begin drafting your script, try reading it out loud. You’ll quickly realize that what looks wonderful on the page might not sound so good when spoken. You may notice some overly complex sentences that need to be streamlined. Succinct sentences pair better with your animation and convey your message more efficiently to your audience.
  3. Use a title that connects with your audience. A title should provide a glimpse into the story but be concise. Use language that is understandable to a wide audience, and skip the jargon. For example, if your organization uses certain terminology that won’t resonate with the intended audience, say health workers, it’s probably wise to skip it. For more information on crafting a good title, read To Click or Not to Click: The Art of a Good Title.
  4. Understand your software’s limits. There are always limits to what you can accomplish with technology without getting into building custom code. In VideoScribe, the main limitations I’ve experienced are with its Image Library. There are not as many illustration files as I’d like, especially public health and health care images. You can modify text color, but you can’t make any changes to the image files themselves. You can upload your own image file, but it will appear as full image instead of the gradual hand-drawn materialization distinctive to a whiteboard animation. Don’t get hung up on these limits, though! The key is to know what they are so you can figure out how to work around them. You might even find that the restrictions feed your creativity to produce something fresh and unexpected.
  5. Timing is everything. Lining up illustrations for key points in your script is realistic. Lining up an illustration for every single point in your script is impossible — and even if it were possible, it would be overwhelming to your audience. It is all about timing. Trying to include too many illustrations can make the video feel rushed and leave the audience feeling confused.
  6. Credit your sources. Think about the acknowledgements section of your video before publishing it. Who contributed to the script? Who narrated? What organizations’ logos need to be included? Have you referenced a finding or anecdote from a publication? Have you used someone’s photograph? And while we’re on the subject…
  7. Do you have permission to use that? If the VideoScribe library doesn’t have the illustration you’re looking for, you can upload your own photograph, screenshot, logo, graphic, or other image. A number of online repositories offer free images. For example, Pixabay allows users to search more than 370,000 photos and illustrations without copyright issues or attribution requirements. And Photoshare provides thousands of international public health and development images, free for nonprofit and educational use. If you use a photograph or image found on another organization’s website, be sure to ask permission from the originator.
  8. Be prepared to spend extra time in the narration phase. It’s a lot harder than you’d think to not flub up your words while reading a two- to three-minute script. You might need to make five or more recordings to get one good one. To get it right sooner, remember the following tips:
  • Speak slowly and audibly, and enunciate your words.
  • Eliminate as much background noise as possible — turn off your email, silence your phone, close a window, and alert office mates.
  • You don’t need fancy equipment. I just used a standard Skype-type microphone with my desktop computer and a MacBook without a microphone.
  • Record 5 to 10 seconds of silence at the beginning and end of the narration to allow space for the title and credit information.

Check out my debut whiteboard animation and let me know what you think — did I follow my own advice?

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Thanks to Elizabeth Futrell and Nandini Jayarajan

Elizabeth Frazee Tully

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