How I Made This Complex Animation
Part 1: From Concept to Animatic
In this article, I want to take you on the journey of how I made this scene, from the first concept to the final execution.
To bring the final vision to life I needed to combine
- hand-drawn character animation,
- background illustration,
- parallax animation,
- camera movement, and
- After Effects animation & compositing!
I love challenging projects like this where I can combine multiple skills and tools.
Let’s jump in and see how the scene developed from the start.
The Evolution of this Scene
In the beginning, there were the following lines from the script:
You spend time bouncing off tools, vendors, dashboards, and setting up other people’s laptops when all you could be doing is getting sh*t done and creating cool insights for the business.*
Before doing any sketches, the client and I put our heads together and brainstormed all the ideas and visual themes we might want to explore
This video is trying to address the problem of people working with data and analytics. This was the audience we were trying to excite.
For this particular line, we thought:
“Hey, why don’t we make the jumping between apps look like a literal game? A platformer, like Mario!”
“Yes, and then one of the platforms breaks and you fall through the cracks!!”
And thus the idea was born!
Before jumping right into the animation there is a process I like to follow. Especially when working with clients it’s smart to have a reliable process. For each step, you want to get feedback before you invest all your work into something that’s not desired.
At first, I usually do very rough sketches. You can also call them thumbnails because they can be the size of a post stamp. These were my first sketches of the idea:
Often, these thumbnails are just for me to figure out what I want to do. Sometimes they are not even legible to other people.
💡PRO TIP: Don’t try to make them too pretty. Try to get ideas going!
After I generated the basic ideas with thumbnails, I make them more understandable and dare say, a little prettier, and put them into the storyboard.
To storyboard the entire thing I used Concepts on the iPad. I like the infinite canvas. The way I sketch is very free-flowing, so I appreciate having space to expand on an idea before committing to it.
Here’s how an excerpt from the storyboard looked like before arranging it into a sequence:
I arranged it later into a presentable format with FIGMA.
And here is the drawing for the scene in question:
The storyboard is an important milestone to present to a client. You can use it to clearly communicate the vision and get proper alignment before proceeding to invest more work into it.
Get as much feedback as you can here!
Paradime was really happy with the vision so far and wanted to proceed to the next stage with what we had.
One important thing is missing from a storyboard.
The movement. And that’s a problem I tackle with the animatic.
Now that we know WHAT is going to happen, let’s exactly figure out WHEN is it gonna happen and HOW is it gonna move! In other words, the timing and pacing. This is also a good time to choose the music, and do a preliminary voice-over!
I was short on time so my animatic was very rudimentary in many places. For this scene, I re-used the drawings from the storyboard and just made a circle jump from window to window to figure out what the timing of the jumps could look like.
Additionally, to make it look all wiggly I used my Handcrafted Look for After Effects Presets. But I did that just to add more interest to the mostly static illustrations from my storyboard. Also, that way it looks more rough and unfinished. This is good because we don’t want the client to think this is even close to the final quality.
Still, the animatic is something I would always present to a client to get their reactions and feedback.
Seeing the ideas in motion for the first time and with the spoken word will trigger a different response than a static image.
It worked, I got some feedback on this scene.
Feedback is good.
Especially feedback that tells you that something does not work, or needs to be improved!
The best thing is to get feedback early in the process, during the storyboard and animatic stage. That’s why I follow this process in the first place. Get all the feedback now! If it happens later or at the end of the final video and it is something major then you wasted a lot of time on the wrong thing.
What did the client say?
“Let’s make the person (ball) jump on different levels to show more …struggle!”
Great, makes sense. I can do that.
Now with that feedback in mind, I knew what to do and could progress to the last stage.
Animating the final scene!
💡Note: You might want to tweak the animatic several times to get the final approval before moving on to the final stage. It’s better to figure it out now. It can save you time to do extra steps now. Make the animatic more detailed and clear if you are unsure about any part of it. As you can see, my animatic was still FAR from the final result. I made a lot of creative decisions inbetween this animatic and the final result 👇. The decision to go ahead was based on the tight schedule to deliver the final video. I was confident I can meet or exceed the expectations with the final result.
Coming Up: Animating the Scene
Now comes the hard part…
Getting to this point was only 10% of the work. The animation itself will be the other 90%.
You can look forward to some juicy animation insights in part 2, where I will dive deep into how I did the…
- Hand-drawn animation
- Build the “level” with all the windows
- Combined the hand-drawn with the After Effects animation
- Made the camera move how I wanted
- And finally added all the subtle effects that make the animation satisfying!
Continue with part 2:
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