Creating an Animation – A Step by Step Guide

Play button on a staircase

We know that choosing to create an animation can be a daunting process. Especially if you’ve never commissioned one before. So we’ve put together this simple step-by-step guide on how we create animations here at F&E, with an aim of simplifying, demystifying and clarifying every step of the animation production process.

Every project will be different and sometimes what we call the “Animation Path” may skip several steps, or perhaps at points, the steps may align (and this is when our expert animation producers will tailor this guide to your individual project). But let's assume we’re starting from scratch with this simple route, explaining how to create your animation from that ignition spark, to delivery.

STEP 1 - Animation Brief, Deliverables & Budget

You’ve identified a need for an animation. Now we need a little more information about your organisation and your project. This could be a detailed briefing document, or perhaps simply a quick chat on the phone. It’s important at this stage we know exactly where your animation will be shown, a rough idea of style and duration, and what deliverables you’ll need. Finally, how much will it all cost? Sometimes clients have a budget in mind, but often we quote based on the requirements outlined in this step.

STEP 2 - Moodboard

What style will the animation be? Perhaps you’ve got strict two-colour corporate brand guidelines or maybe you’ve just come across a hand-drawn reference you love. If this is the case we’d skip straight onto the next steps. But what if you have NO IDEA! Don’t worry, we’ve got bucket loads of experience so can help recommend a range of styles that fit your organisation’s tone of voice and budget. We do this by creating a moodboard alongside animation reference links featuring a range of relevant illustrative and animation styles. From here you pick and choose the ones you like (and equally importantly, the ones you really dislike) to help us when we get to step 5.

STEP 3 - Animation Production Schedule

Now the style, narrative and deliverables are decided, this is where our production team get busy with outlining your schedule. This is a collaborative process that will fit around your key dates and deadlines. The schedule will block out durations for each of the steps that follow, alongside pinpointing key moments to share our work in progress.

STEP 4 - Script Writing

Perhaps you have a script that's ready to go, or maybe you’re more of a jumble-of-papers-spread-over-the-desk kind of person. We can help at any part of this sliding scale! Whether it’s making a nearly-done script more animation friendly. Or starting from scratch by collaborating with one of our super talented copywriters and creative scriptwriters. As with every step, we can jump in at any stage to help ensure your animation achieves your goals.

STEP 5 - Style Frame & Written Animation Direction

Combining the visual style established in step 2 (the moodboard) and the script (if there is one), this is where your animation will begin to come to life. By taking a key moment from the narrative, we'll work up a full-colour style frame (or sequence of style frames) to give a taster of what your animation will look like. In addition to this, we'll add line-by-line written creative direction alongside each line of your script. Like a written storyboard. This allows us to collaborate with you and explore creative ideas in a flexible way - before we get into the time-consuming next step!

STEP 6 - Storyboarding

This is where we break down the script into detail; creating a fully illustrated storyboard where each keyframe of action is illustrated against the script, alongside detailed written animation direction. Usually, the illustrations created for the storyboard will be the same assets that are animated, so the storyboard will be your first full glimpse of what is to come. We hope you’ll love our designs but if there are tweaks, this is the time to make them.

STEP 7 - Voice-over

In an ideal world, this is the best time to record a professional voice-over (if you're going to have one). We can provide options for voice actors that compliment the tone and fit the budget of your project. Continuing to direct and produce the voice-over session either remotely or from a sound studio. Having a locked voice-over at this stage means our animation team can rest assured their animation hits key moments in the script, and be safe in the knowledge none of the animation timings will need to change. However, we know all too well, recording a final VO at this time is not always possible, so in this case, we’d work to a “guide VO” which will be as close to the real thing as possible. Then we will match the VO to the finished animation once it’s completed.

STEP 8 - Music

Music can add a lot to an animation, so this is the stage we’d recommend choosing it because, as with step 7, it helps define the pace of the animation and gives opportunities for the animator to hit beats and crescendos in the track. Depending on budgets, we can offer a selection of options for tracks to choose from: whether it’s a more cost-effective library track, securing the rights to an existing song or composing something that’s completely bespoke. That being said, if it's not possible to choose a final track at this stage, we can also use a guide track and come back to this step once the animation is complete.

STEP 9 - Animatic

Sometimes an animatic is a really useful tool to see how your animation will be paced out and time to sound elements if you’re using them. Using the frames of the storyboard, we add them into an animation timeline with simple transitions. Creating what is essentially a moving storyboard. Think of it as a taster of what’s to come!

STEP 10 - Animation

You might be amazed it’s taken until step 10 to get here! This is the most cost-sensitive part of animation production, so everything that happens before is designed to make this step as seamless as possible. By now you will have a clear idea of how your animation will look and move. It’s time for our animators to use their experience and creative flair to bring that storyboard to life. At predetermined stages, our schedule will set out when you’ll have a chance to see animation work in progress and give you an opportunity to give any feedback as we progress.

STEP 11 - Sound Design

By this stage, hopefully, we’ve already got our VO and music track locked down from steps 7 & 8. But if we’re mixing up the steps then here is where we’ll record the final VO and cut the track to fit the final animation. You’ll learn this about us, but we ALWAYS love to finish our animations with sound effects. Whatever your animation style, this creative sound design adds and enhances an animation and really brings movement to life. Then the last step is a final mix, making sure all of your sound elements are brought together in one harmonious track.

STEP 12 - Additional Assets & Delivery

Perhaps you told us you need the animation converted to play on multiple platforms with different aspect ratios. Maybe you’d like the VO translated into several languages or the animation need subtitles. Do you just need clips of the animation or stills to share on social media? Now is where we can arrange all of these additional assets to make sure you have everything you need. And of course, your final animation will be ready to go and work its magic with your audience. Virtual high fives! This animation journey is complete. Until the next time.