A guide to develop a standard and maintain the quality of your animation series
Have you ever watched an animation series with a very nice drawing style and tells a compelling story in the first few videos, but it started going downhill from the next one? Especially in the field of education, where the videos need to be constantly engaging throughout the whole series to ensure the best outcomes for learners. This inconsistency happens so often that it has somehow become a bad practice in the industry. It has also lead to boredom and lowers the bar of expectation from the audience.
As an educator, it should be your responsibility to keep students engaged, but how do you make sure your animators understand that viewpoint? In this article, we will provide you with an insider’s look at the quality control process of a professional animation studio so that you can easily collaborate with your vendor.
How to develop a quality standard for an animation series
Building quality standards for an animation series should start at the first step of the working process between you and your animation vendor. It is commonly called the “Pre-production stage.” The Account Executive (AE) from the studio will have three main tasks at this stage:
- Collect information about the requirements and preferences from the client
- Debrief, come up with solutions, and create a demo.
- Consult with the client and set up the animation standards
Collect information about the requirements and preferences from the client
The first step in every creative project is to get briefings from the clients. This can occur as an official briefing document or a briefing session where the client brings their request to the studio. The key information can include:
- An overview of the client’s business and industry (it can be still education but in different contexts)
- Project background information: objective, content/subject and target audience (who will be watching)
- The client’s available resources for the project (time and budget), specific requests and expectations for the studio (usually, the client will send a link that best describes his/her taste)
- The client’s working process
If the AE handling the job has a high level of expertise, he/she can immediately come up with the solutions in the briefing session or after receiving the briefing document. He/she can consult with the client whether their primary requirements are the best options for the project or not. Simultaneously, he/she can provide specialized insights and guide the client through the process of choosing the most suitable direction for the project. After having finalized the direction, the AE will proceed to the next step.
Debrief, come up with solutions and create a demo
After receiving the basics, the AE will have to debrief the whole team and also work with them to develop a solution for the client. They have to provide a comprehensive solution from the working process to the set of quality standards in creating the animation. The final output for the animation quality standard is usually/normally a demo video (10 – 20 seconds long) and a style frame so that all elements will be shown simultaneously. The demo should illustrate:
- Type of graphics (vector-based or hand-drawn)
- Visual design concept
- Motion complexity
Below are 3 demos of style frame that we created for our client Cobble Stone Learning. They want to create an animation training series about health & safety at workspaces.
Style 1: Simple concept
Style 2: Standard concept
Style 3: Complex concept
Consult with the client and set up the animation standards
With the final product to show, the AE should gather related project stakeholders for a pitching meeting. In this specific meeting, the studio will pitch their work and show the client the proposed direction that best fits the job. At the same time, the client can provide constructive feedback in order to reach a mutual agreement in terms of the deliverable standards and working style. There might be several meetings instead of one, but the ultimate goal is to have everyone, from both parties, on the same page.
One of the most important things in this step is to accurately evaluate the compatibility of the standards set. There are two main questions to decide if these standards match the project:
Do the visual concept and type of graphics align with the objective, content, and target audience of the project?
This question seems easy, but it can become tricky when it comes to the evaluation. The client representative, aka you, may agree with the studio, but other stakeholders, including the decision-makers, may have other ideas. Therefore, you should be careful and think ahead of possible scenarios when making the final decision on the animation series standards.
Also, consider your audience’s insights. You should consider their preferences based on demographics and behavioral characteristics. Each type of student has a different animation taste. K-12 students might be into more modern style and vector-based graphics. But working adults just want formal and simple videos that convey what they need to know.
Do the timeline and budget allow this type of visual style and motions to be executed?
If you have a small budget allocation for the project, you should only choose the simplest motion graphic. If you have a short duration (for example, a month), avoid using hand-drawn graphics, as a vector-based animation can do the job. To be more specific, let’s take a look at this client X, who wants a 30-minute video, Japanese anime style, to teach primary school students about African forests with a $1,000 budget. There are 3 unreasonable things about this order:
- With the objective of teaching children, there is no need to do an anime-style video as this takes too much time and effort. Furthermore, anime-style that looks cute could bring a more entertaining atmosphere that would eventually distract children from learning.
- The video length is way too long for an educational video, especially for an audience of 6-10 years old, who have very short attention spans. As a studio, we will advise the client to divide this long video into a series of 3-5 minutes of videos.
- The budget for the job is also too small compared with the requirements. On average, for a 1-minute video, it takes $30 to produce. Thus, the budget is only enough for a freelancer or a studio that uses software with templates to complete jobs.
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Building the quality standard for animation series is one thing. Keeping it through the production process is even more difficult. In the next part, we will dive into the tips on how to maintain the wanted quality.
How to maintain the high-quality throughout a series
Quality maintenance relies on the professionalism of the studio team. For an experienced and reliable animation studio, there is always a project manager in charge of monitoring the animation series’s production process. Additionally, there are fixed steps for quality maintenance throughout the whole series:
- Organize a team briefing session (this is the client’s brief that’s translated to creative language so that the team can understand), and this also sums up the project information and answers every possible question that the team members (who are not facing the client) may have so that everyone is heading to the same goals.
- Create a simple enough production guideline for the whole team covering strokes, shapes, colors, motions, … etc. of the animation series. This enables the entire team to see from illustrator, storyboard artist, animator to VFX designer.
- Before sending it to the client, the project manager (usually the AE) will have to spend time double-checking (even triple-checking) the final product. This is the quality control phase (aka the safeguard step), and it’s done to ensure the deliverables meet the client’s expectations.
From the client-side
Even if you are not an expert in the industry, you are the key person in deciding what is good and what is bad. Consider the checklist below so you can evaluate the final animation product from the studio. Be a smart client!
1. Carefully watch every scene of the demo video that the studio provides. This will ensure that the studio will understand your requirements. While watching the video, ask yourself:
Does this scene look nice enough to you or to your target audience?
Do the motions run smoothly?
Is the speed of motions too fast or too slow?
2. Let your vendor know that you want to be involved in the production process. Actively give comments for the producers in these steps: concept building, storyboard, illustration, and animation.
3. The storyline and logic of the videos should be examined closely. Ask yourself:
Have the producers transferred your ideas into images perfectly?
Is it comfortable and easy to watch?
When the sound is off, does the video still make sense? If the storyline retains its meaning, then this video has a good storyboard.
4. Information accuracy check is another essential part that only you – the client can do. Since educational videos contain a rich amount of specialized knowledge, so it is your job to check and get back to the producers as soon as possible.
Above are our experiences consolidated in this article with the hope that you can have the animation series that satisfies your audience. To keep up the high-quality animation from the beginning to the end of a project, it takes great effort and attention from both sides: the client and the animation studio. However, if you have done your “homework” from the pre-production stage, it’s only going to get better during the process. Take these suggestions with you so that you will be more productive and more effective with your future projects. If you are still concerned with this quality control process, don’t hesitate to contact us for a 30-minute free consultation session. In this session, you will receive more specific advice regarding the animation quality of your project. Contact us to start your consultation session right now
- 2D vs. 3D animation: which works better as animated educational video
- 5 steps to create animation storyboard for educational purposes
- Animation making in education: should you do it yourself, or should you hire the professionals
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