How many times have you sat on your computer, unsure whether you want to make a purchase, and found yourself looking for a ‘play’ button to help you make that decision? Often, right? The power of promo videos is undeniable in today’s day and age. According to Forbes, 59% of senior executives would rather watch a video than read text describing a product or service.
Seeing as how we specialize in and love storytelling, it was quite ironic that we didn’t have a promotional video for ourselves. Staying true to our last new year resolutions to self-market, we set out on a mission to create one. The animated promo video was on top of our to-do list.
Promo Animation: a Process of 7 Steps
The real legwork in the promo animation is deciding what the message is. Doing an animation that lists the services is the path of least resistance, and far from the most impactful. You will need to ask yourself: Who are you? What do you sell? Why would people buy your product instead of any of your competitors’?
People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it
Watch this video (incidentally, the most watched video on TED) to help you frame yourself and your message.
When we gauged who we were and where we stand, we pigeonholed why we do things in one word: “Success” – We want to be the strategic reason behind our clients’ successes.
A promo video isn’t about listing services and products, but rather showing their importance and impact, and showing how this reflects on you as a brand. This was our primary concern throughout the different stages of developing the animation.
Once you nail your purpose (takes approximately a century, so better get started on that if you haven’t already), you can move on to the building the actual animation. This is roughly made up of seven steps:
- Brainstorming, where you come up with an idea for the animation
- Storyboard, where you visualize your idea in frames and scenes
- The script, writing the final copy of whatever text is spoken in the animation (if any)
- The voiceover
- Animation, developing the moving frames
- Music & SFX, adding any needed music and sound effects
- Refine and export, final touches
1. The Brainstorming
Tools: A room, a group of people
Outcome: Two sentences | 1. a single-minded proposition | 2. How it will be visualized (the idea)
Here, you can go crazy.
The fewer the inhibitions, the more the creative juices can flow. Do not be afraid to share the wildest ideas you have. No idea is too stupid. Encourage a dynamic where the team fosters positivity and doesn’t shut ideas down. Use the “Yes, and…” approach, making sure you are all equally contributing to the conversation.
Once you have a number of good ideas, you tone them down to match the budget, time constraint and primary idea you want to get across. You hone down on your single-minded proposition, which is the one message you want your promo to deliver. Do not over-clutter, multiple messages will confuse the viewer and you will lose conversions as a result.
Once we did this exercise ourselves, we reached our outcomes for this stage:
Single-minded proposition: Design has a subtle but tremendous impact on a business’ success.
Idea: Sift through a visual display of the services we offer, and match them to the value they give clients using the voiceover.
2. The Storyboard
Tools: Pencil and paper
Outcome: A visual description of what each scene will look like, using frames (an A4 typically contains 12 – 15 frames)
The storyboard is a fluid process. You build on ideas and develop things more as you go, but at the end of the exercise, you would have a clear idea of how the story is moving forward, what elements are showing on the screen and so on.
It’s your blueprint for developing the actual animation, which makes it a very important step. Our scenes were first laid out into a basic storyboard. We figured out the transitions between one scene and another.
Then, we asked ourselves the question: Does this animation reflect us and the 247 brand? Fun and friendliness is an integral part of our identity, so how can we add humor to this piece, too? The logo elements – the magnifier and the pencil – were then brought to life. In the logo, they represent the core part of our work process: research and sketching. In the promo video, they go crazy and have fun to reflect our brand voice.
3. The Script
Tools: Pencil and paper | Text Edit | Microsoft Word
Outcome: All the text that will be read, the duration it needs, as well as where they fall with respect to the storyboard
If a script will explain what the animation is showing visually, then you might as well drop it, and stick to the visuals. A script should give an added value to your animation. It needs to have your brand voice and should be able to relay the message you want to send as efficiently as possible.
Our focus was on the client as much as it was on us. The script was written with that in mind. The word success was the key, and the animation script took us on a journey to business success, through the impact of design.
After deliberation and refinement, below is the script we reached:
Success does not come easy. You need clarity on who you are and what you stand for. Those brand values will define you and set the tone for any material you distribute to customers. Take your vision and develop it into modern and beautiful interfaces that mark your presence in the necessary markets. And of course, advertise it! Make sure everyone knows your core brand qualities and capitalize on that. Whenever applicable, expand into different media that best help deliver on the brand promises you’ve made your audience.
Promise. Reach and Deliver. Success is a natural aftereffect.
4. The Voice-Over
Tools: Voiceover Artist (not that Artists are tools, but you will need the collaboration of one to complete this step)
Outcome: High-res recording of the script in MP3, WAV, or AAC format
This step is all about delivery. You need to look for the voice that best matches your brand and video tone. If you don’t have a handy list of suppliers, listen to various voices with different tones and accents, and ask for availability for the project. Always try to ask for an audition of 10 seconds when possible. Even then, you send her the final script and it would be many iterations before you land the perfect version.
For projects that are low key, branded content that you don’t have the budget to outsource for voiceovers, an in-house recording might do, but keep in mind that the end result will show a stark difference in quality.
On our hunt for that right fit to narrate our script, we looked for someone with a strong, professional voice yet with enough warmth to reach the viewer.
5. The Animation
Outcome: Animated Video synched with the voice over
To start an animation, you first need to prepare all the material you need. Once again, the storyboard is your guide. Illustrations are either bought (stock illustrations) or custom-drawn (as is the case of our animation). For the drawings, you’ll need still references; they can be images from the internet, photos you take, objects around you or even a live model. As for the animation studies, you need video references or sometimes you need to re-enact the motion and record it. Whenever there is a skill you lack, it is always better to outsource to someone who knows what they’re doing than to risk ruining the end result yourself.
The crux of the process, the actual animation, is both the longest step and the most fun. We chose Adobe Aftereffects as our primary tool to do the motion graphics.
6. The Music and Sound Effects
Tools: Adobe Audition | Adobe Premiere
Outcome: Animated Video synched with the voice over, SFX and music
What is the music genre that suits your video? Do you want to hire a composer? Or do you want to look for stock music? Your answers will help you choose a selection of candidate music pieces that can be tested live on the animation.
We looked for cinematic quality, inspirational and uplifting. We added sound effects on particular actions especially when we needed to emphasize humorous scenes.
7. Final Touches and Exporting
This is the last part, where you play the video over and over again, making sure all is aligned: the animation with the voice over, the music, and the sound effects. The final video is then exported following the right technical requirements and made ready to be uploaded.
We posted ours on youtube, and on facebook. We shared it on all social media platforms and adapted it to shorter versions for Instagram. (at the time, Instagram allowed 15 seconds of video, not more)
Our Own Spoof of the Animation
The animation starts with the phrase “What do you need?” which reminded us of Justin Bieber’s “What do you mean” song. Being high on the overnights, Rafic, the animator, soon started singing this song along each replay, until he decided we need to make our own spoof of our promo. And so this video came to life (please don’t judge us):