Animatics: Bridging The Client-Creative Gap

TL;DR: Casting vision is really, really important. Animatics set expectations and bring clients along on the creative process. Also, watch this animatic.

It's hard to believe, but at one point in Epipheo history, we would email a plain ol' script to our client for approval. And THEN add visuals.

Typing it out loud makes me realize just how ridiculous that was.

That method was a crappy way of meeting our goal: to create a video that the client would approve and use, that had the signature style and flair of the designer, and that all parties were proud of. Sending a script by itself—with zero visual context—set us up for failure. Storyboards were a step in the right direction, but they were still incomplete.

Storyboards are great—and we use them early in our process–but when you're working with content that is as abstract and complicated as we often do, there is a lot that can get lost in translation. It's healthy for both sides to do what we can to reduce any confusion. Even storyboards create confusion.

Now we have a system to bridge the gap between imagined narrative and visual narrative. The principle of taking the client along the creative journey has led us to maturing the second step in our process:

  1. Planning (delivering a Story Plan document)
  2. Pre-production (delivering a Production Plan packet)
  3. Production (delivering the Final Video)

The Production Plan consists of the script, a style sample, voice and music recommendations, context for the storyline, and an animatic. It builds off the deliverable of the previous stage which includes basic storyboards.

What the heck is an animatic?

It's like a blueprint. It's a set of drawings, roughly animated and timed out perfectly to a voiceover file. Sometimes it has music. Sometimes it has color. Sometimes it has full-fledged animation. It includes anything it needs to in order to set proper expectations for the next stage.

Want to see one? This is the actual animatic for our very own flagship video on our website:

[youtubeplayer video_id="Fcn54XxBDtA"]

And here's the final video:

[youtubeplayer video_id="n4XGEwdDi74"]

What the heck is the purpose of an animatic?

"No alarms and no surprises please."

Radiohead always knows what to say. Thanks Thom.

With the animatic—and an entire department dedicated to creating them—we are now taking the client with us on the decision-making process, adding context to our script, defending our choices, adapting to feedback while the clay is still soft, and getting sign-off on the mockup while it's still a mockup. And a happy little side effect is that we're seeing a reduction in revisions during the production stage because we're addressing the big stuff earlier.

Epipheo didn't invent the animatic. It's a long-standing practice in the animation and film industry. But once upon a time we chose to ignore it because we thought we could get to the end faster. In our immaturity, we didn't realize that casting accurate vision for the creative was a massively critical step. We were doing it halfway.

I'll say it this way:

Your end result will be better if you set expectations. Both for yourself and for your clients.

It's about plotting out the delivery, establishing context for the decisions, and including the paying customer in the process. Surprises are fun, but only when there are ice cream sandwiches and piñatas involved.

That said, at Epipheo, sometimes there are ice cream sandwiches and piñatas involved.

Written by Levi Bethune, Director of Brand Communication

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