10 Simple Steps to Create Awesome Animated Explainer Videos

Explainer Animation Boy

One of the project types we’ve been working on quite a bit recently is creating animated explainer videos.  Animated explainer videos are great tools for explaining a new service or technology that is difficult to explain in words alone. Animation allows you to creatively convey concepts and content using abstract representations that get the point across clearly. Also, in the current coronavirus world we all live in today, explainer videos can be developed remotely, don’t require any face to face interaction and don’t require any actors or expensive video shoots.

As many of you know, video assets tend to get more attention in the online world as compared to written articles and presentations. Videos of any kind allow you to communicate information in multiple dimensions simultaneously, including sound and visuals. Because this medium is more complex it really requires much more planning and forethought in order to end up with a video that works. This post will cover 10 simple steps to follow when planning your next animated explainer videos.

1.     Write a Draft Script
Start by capturing all of the messages you think are important the subject of your explainer video. This will be a lot of stuff, most of which will be condensed later. Start with bullets of everything you can think of. Define the single purpose for your video. It is to convey that your service offers the fastest delivery of your services? There should always be a single underlying message you want the video to support.  Now, write your script like you are reading a radio ad or a written piece relying on words alone from the full list you created. Don’t consider any visuals at his point. Focus on capturing all of the key messages, differentiation and concepts. Include everything you think is important here.  It will be way too long. Don’t worry because we’ll reduce this down.  Getting this step right is the foundation of the rest process so take your time and get it right. You will be able to supplement or convert some of these simplified words into visuals later.

2.     Cut, Cut, and Cut More
Remember videos provide the opportunity to convey a lot of information, in a short window of time using different dimension of sound, visuals and words. People are inundated with information all day and have really short attention spans. So, in order to have them retain your defined key concept and supporting attributes, using simple and concise language will greatly help. Overload them with detail and they’ll likely retain very little.

When it is your business and you know every detail about it, people have a natural tendency to over-complicate the language or include details that really aren’t important to your audience. Your objective it to use the video to create enough interest in your product or service via your key concept so that they will engage with you, providing you with the opportunities you need to get into the nitty gritty details that you believe will sell them on your product or service.

Go over the script a number of times to reduce content and really focus only on the essential and key messages. YOU WILL NEED TO CUT CONTENT. You will need to make hard decisions about what is really important to your customers. These decisions become apparent when you put yourself in the shoes of the audience. Some content doesn’t fit with the flow and focus of the overall messaging or direction of the video.  Save these ideas for a separate video if they are really that important.  Less is more, make tough decisions and keep only what fits your single purpose.

3.     Simplify
Now that we’ve cut this down to the bare essentials, let’s start to simplify. Look at your language. Are there ways you reduce your word count? Remember that when viewers watch a video they simultaneously filter through and absorb visual, sound and word content at the same time. Done right these can reinforce each other but making any one or all of these elements overly complicated can result in viewer confusion. How likely is it that they’ll rewatch a video to understand that language or message they didn’t understand the first time through? Not very likely.

Think of ways to convey your point through an analogy, or simple case example. People remember how it something was applied. Things like a customer reducing a critical timeline by months because they used your service, may resonate if they have the same challenge. An actual example shows that someone in a similar situation achieved the desired result with your help, and makes it possible for them as well.

Assess the technical language you use.  Your content needs to be technically correct and your statements factual. But, remember your audience, even if in the same space as you, are usually much less informed about your product or service than you are. Some of your audience will have less technical knowledge than others. You want your video to make sense to the broadest applicable audience. Don’t try to prove your scientific superiority over your audience. Instead simplify and teach so that the audience knows you are an expert in the field and can help them to make sense of what you do. Use the most concise and common language possible for your video.

4.     Add the Visual Concepts – Two Column Script
Once you are happy with your draft script it is time to blow it up. Now, split a document into a two-column table. Put your written words representing your voice script in the left column. In the right column start to describe possible visual elements you think of to go along with each line of the words spoken.
What are the actions, characters or visuals that support the concepts in the voice script? Are there process flows or technology descriptions that can be shown on screen? This way, the animator can understand what you expect to see on screen, timed with the voice text.
Sometimes it may make sense to remove or rewrite the voice text so that it works with the associated visuals. This step is one of the most challenging as you have to consider three main elements at the same time. Words, sound/music and visuals. All three need to work together to reinforce the idea without being redundant. For example, asking the audience the question “Do you ever wish (insert task here) was less time consuming”? Then you could show a character growing a long beard or an hourglass running out or a calendar flipping by to demonstrate and exaggerated slowness. It’s not meant to be a literal statement but visually reinforces the spoken message.

5.     Define the Off-Limits
While we’ve established many of the elements we think we want in our explainer video, there may be other elements we know are to be avoided. Your suppliers may not have the same detailed awareness of concepts, visuals or ideas that are NOT acceptable in your specific industry segment or those of your company management team. If there are specific words, images or actions that are to be avoided, provide this information to the supplier and a rationale as to why. It is always a good idea to make it easy for your animators to get the best results.

6.     StoryBoard
Try to storyboard the entire video. Most suppliers or agencies look after this step for you but the more you can explain your vision to them the more likely you’ll get to the result you expect. Storyboards are visual representations of shots or scenes. What do you show in frame, how are things moving, colours or concepts. Take your script with visual description and start drawing out each shot you think will happen in the video. Add a reference marker in the script for each storyboard panel (this can be number or letter, so the animator knows which frame goes where in the script). These can simple hand drawn stick figures drawn in a rectangular screen shaped box showing key elements of the shot and actions. All of this helps the animator create your vision.

7.     Review, Review and Review Again
Once you have the voice script, visual descriptions and storyboards done make sure you test them. Read through the script to make sure it makes sense (considering the planned visuals) and try to determine the length of the video. Well-made videos typically have some breathing space between key messages.  Check that you avoided overly complex explanations that will be lost to the viewer. The more direct and simple the better. If you want to animate a visual element, will your voice over lines give it enough time before moving to the next point? How can I stretch the animation sequence to align with longer text passages?

8.     Pronunciation Help
If your company name or any language to be included in video is unusual or uncommon language (that they may get wrong), provide your own simple voice recording of the word(s) that are difficult to your voice over talent in advance. Just because you know how your company pronounces its name it doesn’t mean that the rest of the world does (Yet!).  This can help to avoid costly re-recording of the voiceover track or making changes to the animation late in the production process.

9.     Brand
Good animators will try to integrate your company colors to reinforce your brand. If you provide them with your brand standards and the look and feel of other established collateral it can help guide the animator to incorporate colors, elements or characters that align with your brand. You can have custom characters created if you want one to really stand out and represent the brand.

10.  Review Edits
Once you get back the first draft of your video from the animator, you will likely still need to make some minor edits or adjustments. This is normal. When you see it on screen some ideas, concepts, timing etc. just don’t work. I recommend updating the final two column script, redlining any changes, so that the suppliers know exactly what you want changed. You can add screenshots from your draft video to clarify the exact changes needed. Try to capture all changes in one document and avoid going back with changes piecemeal. Ask questions about possible options if you don’t like the approach taken by the animator. They likely have lots of great alternatives available that may meet your needs.

All of these steps work towards one goal. Producing a video that resonates with your target audience, convey your core message and encourages prospects to connect with you so you can perform a more detailed sell. These steps help your animators to meet this lofty goal with more ease, reducing timelines and costs so you can spend more time selling your scientific business to customers.

Kevin McCarthy
Managing Director, Bio-Atomic Scientific Marketing

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