Once you’ve decided that video is the way to go, whether your aim is to sell, educate, or entertain, you’ve reached a new branch of your communication decision tree. Today, let’s consider the pros and cons of using animation to get your message across.
Animated video has proven to be a highly effective way to communicate abstract or practical information. Thanks to technology, it’s now much more affordable and provides good ROI.
It’s versatile and imaginative, allowing viewers to instantly enter an entire world, ready and willing to absorb the information you want to present.
Let’s look at some questions that make the process more likely to be successful.
First three key steps:
In some ways, I feel like the strength of animation is in its simplicity and caricature, and in reduction. It’s like an Al Hirschfeld caricature, where he’ll use, like, three lines, and he’ll capture the likeness of someone so strongly that it looks more like them than a photograph. I think animation has that same power of reduction. — Pete Docter
Start with an overview of your project.
What’s the purpose of your video? How will you measure its success?
Characters are expensive and time-consuming to create
An animation is best for explaining practical things in terms of objects, such as software technology or how things work. It is less appropriate for subjects involving humans, such as HR training videos, because it’s still expensive and time-consuming to make animated characters.
Who is its target audience, and what tone is appropriate for them?
Clearly identifying a target audience is crucial to your success. It determines the flavor: fun, serious, classy, rustic, friendly, or formal. That tone, in turn, impacts every design element, from scripts and characters to colors, motion, and narration.
What does it sell or teach, and what are the most important points to get across?
As painful as it may be, you must boil content down to the essence of your message. A lot has to happen in a three-minute video: set the scene in a believable animated world; represent your company accurately and creatively; present your topic (or the problem you’re solving); offer your solution and how it works, presented so simply people can remember it; and a call to action. That’s a lot, and if it isn’t done well, your video is a muddle—and so is your message.
7 Other important considerations
1. Good animation demands a very distinct story arc. You are creating an artificial world in a very short amount of time, so you need to present a clear path—a beginning, middle and end—to keep your viewers oriented.
2. The voiceover’s job is to complement, support, and give depth to the visual story. If it simply repeats, you’ve lost the power of video and created redundant material that may appear condescending to your audience.
3. Characters, whether they are animated boxes or foxes, must be appropriately and culturally diverse. This includes language, tone, and other factors.
4. Research indicates a clear limit to how long someone can watch an animation without their attention drifting. Three minutes or under is ideal.
5. Section 508 compliance is now almost mandatory for organizations of any size. How will you make your video accessible to audiences of varying ability? Do you need closed captioning, a special design for viewers with vision issues or the hard of hearing?
6. With BYOD becoming very popular, you need to consider how your video will play on a variety of screens. A font size appropriate for a laptop screen may disappear on a phone. What technologies are your target viewers likely to use?
7. How do you want to represent your organization? Naturally, you’ll use your logo, color scheme, and other branding identifiers. But be aware that once online, your video is forever. Whether it’s an advertisement or a training video, make sure you like what the quality, professionalism, and content say about your company.
One example. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Last year we worked with a large hardware manufacturer, who wanted a series of technical training animations. What seemed to be an ideal project, soon became a nightmare, as we began to realize that animation was being used to avoid planning and careful consideration of the content.
Many training departments are adept at taking the “manual” for a module and turning it into a PowerPoint. For face-to-face training with unlimited time, that’s fine, for an animation of a few minutes length, this technique tends to fail.
As we struggled to align what animation could do with our client’s thoughts, I discovered an important point. Not everyone can or is willing to take a long-form document, be it training or marketing and boil it down to its essence. This shortcoming is not apparent when a project starts with new material but becomes evident when it’s an existing course that needs boiling down.
Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive. This facility makes it the most versatile and explicit means of communication yet devised for quick mass appreciation. — Walt Disney
SME’s are all the rage. Organizations have trainers that rely on subject matter experts to provide the content for training. The problem is that left alone SMEs naturally want to include every detail and nuance of their subject.
In this case, their approach created a situation where a significant amount of content was being shoehorned into an inappropriately small container.
Once we all recognized what was happening a “discovery” session with the SME, trainer and ourselves, lead to a rapid culling of extraneous material and the development of an outline that was good for animation and yet retained the essential training information.
Everyone was happy.