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7 top tips for writing a great animation

This post was written by Steve Myerscough and first appeared on the Epic blog on 4th December 2013.

7 top tips for writing great animationAnimations can be a great way of communicating complex information in a fun and interesting way. But they can also be a real challenge, involving careful consideration of many elements. In my time at Epic I’ve worked on a number of different animations for a variety of clients. Here are my 7 top tips for creating a great animation:

1. Understand the purpose of the animation

Before anything else, you need to have a clear understanding of the message you are trying to tell. Is it a teaser for a larger learning course, an introduction to a new product, or perhaps a hearts and minds piece for a new set of policies? As well as understanding the message you also need to understand the audience. Who are they? What roles are they in? Is the message new to them or is it reinforcing existing knowledge? These are just some of the questions you need to ask to understand the animation’s purpose.

2. Choose the right style

Epic is experienced in producing a range of different styles of animation: kinetic text, whiteboard animation, papermations and Flash animations. One of the key factors for the style you choose is whether you want the animation to feel hand-drawn, whether you want it all be drawn digitally or a combination of the two. One thing to bear in mind when making this decision is the editing process. It’s not uncommon for changes to be requested even after the animation is produced. If the animation is hand drawn then making changes may require you to film the whole animation again. Edits are often much easier and cheaper if the animation is purely digital.

3. Have a narrative

Once you have a clear understanding of the message you need to tell, you need to think about how you’ll communicate it. Stories are a powerful form of communication. Our brains naturally try to form narratives out of the information we take in, so animated stories can help viewers to make sense of complicated concepts and help them to remember them better. But stories aren’t always appropriate – if a story isn’t a natural fit, you still need to have some sense of narrative that will pull the learner through the animation and help to ensure they don’t lose interest. This might be by using characters, metaphors, or other creative solutions that give the animation cohesion and interest.

4. Keep it short

Getting the length right can be tricky. It’s a balancing act between saying all you need to say to fulfil the purpose of the animation, and keeping it short enough to keep the interest of the viewer. A good length to aim for is 2-3 minutes. If your animation is longer than this, try to remove content without compromising the key messages. If this isn’t possible, you might want to split the animation up into two or three separate animations.

5. Read your script out loud

Writing for the spoken word is different to writing for the page –people don’t talk the way they write. While your audience is a key factor, your tone will likely be a lot lighter than it would be if you were writing for the page. A good way of checking your tone is to read it out loud. You might feel silly but it will help to highlight things that sound stilted and things that can be cut.

6. Match the audio to the animation

This may sound obvious but can be another tricky area. Most importantly, the animation and the audio need to complement each other so the viewer isn’t confused. But you also need to think about having enough activity on screen to match the audio. The learner doesn’t want to be looking at a static screen while listening to a lot of audio. On the other hand, having a pause in the audio while a complicated diagram is drawn on screen can be a good idea, as long as the viewer understands what’s going on.

7. Work with people who’ll make your animation better than your script

On paper, you may think your animation is great, but the proof is always in the pudding. You now need to hand it over to people who will put your words onto the screen. But don’t settle for people who can match your expectation. Work with people who have the talent to surprise you. I’ve had the privilege of working with some very talented graphic artists, production designers and voicers in my time at Epic. There’s nothing better than seeing your expectations exceeded in the final product.

If you want to find out more about the learning resources we can provide, please get in touch with Epic to discuss your needs, or check out the digital learning resources insight on the Knowledge Base.