Finally, I’m able to share something I’ve been working on for a long time: A 2D kinetic animation on lessons learned from more than a decade of water and food research by the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food:
The animation is produced by Room3, a Melbourne-based agency specialized in developing creative video solutions for non-profit organizations. I’ve contributed with input to concept, script, visual ideas, and project management.
The process from idea to product was long and more complex than I’d imagined. Based on my experience, I’ve written up seven tips on what to expect when embarking on a kinetic animation project:
1) Start Early
The production process takes a long time, partly because kinetic animation itself is time consuming, but also because of the many different steps involved: ideation, script writing, storyboarding, sketching, voiceover recording, music selection, and animation. I recommend starting the process at least six months before you need the final product.
2) Keep It Short and Simple
When we began considering a kinetic animation, it was because we wanted to communicate the main lessons from more than a decade of research in one message. My advice? Keep that message as short and simple as possible. During the production process, I felt that we continuously reduced, simplified, and streamlined our message. In hindsight, we could have simplified even more.
3) Allow Enough Time for Feedback
In the beginning of the production process, I—and my stakeholders, managers, team members, etc.—didn’t have the opportunity to review moving images. Rather, we provided feedback based on a script, sketches, and a storyboard. It was sometimes difficult to visualize the final product, and providing meaningful feedback required talking through the animation scene-for-scene, something which also took time.
4) Request Feedback from the Right People
From the outset, we scheduled several rounds of consultations that allowed us to request feedback from a large group of stakeholders, including top-level managers. Getting and documenting feedback from many different stakeholders early on in the process, while it was still possible to make changes, helped us to create support, buy-in, and ownership for the final message and product.
5) Hire a Professional Voice-Over Artist
This one was a bit of a surprise to me. As it turns out, recording a good voice-over is incredibly difficult. Even if you can book a professional studio, have an audio engineer on hand, and know someone with a charismatic voice, I recommend leaving this one to the professionals. Hiring a professional voice-over artist is worth the additional cost.
6) Toss What Doesn’t Work
Sometimes, we thought we had a great idea for an illustration or a turn of phrase, but in the end it just didn’t work well on audio, video, or both. We tossed a lot of initial ideas and sketches, and I feel that the final product benefitted from our heavy pruning.
7) Work with Creative People
Because I was so close to our material and message, it was sometimes difficult for me to convert a message into an image. How do you illustrate “ecosystem”? I found it hugely beneficial (and fun) to work with the creative people at Room3, who helped us come up with ideas such as ecosystems in light bulbs and fishermen in hourglasses.
The animation, Lessons from 10 Years of Water and Food Research: Quick Fixes Don’t Work, was developed for the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food—now the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Food and Ecosystems.