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10 Step Guide To The Ultimate Motion Graphics Process

July 3, 2020
By John Hawley
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The motion graphics process has a lot of moving parts to it. 

It takes capable project management and a team of many to get the job done right. But if you’re looking to get a motion graphic produced — it doesn’t have to be a headache! 

Of course, if you’ve never produced a motion graphic before, you may be overwhelmed. You’ve probably heard about all the benefits of motion graphics, but don’t know where to start. Hiring the right voice-over artists, picking the right music track, and deciding on the right aesthetic… where do you begin the motion graphics process?

Well, buckle up, because we’re going over everything! A complete motion graphics guide to everything you need to know.

motion graphics process step 1 getting started

1. Getting Started — Understanding roles and responsibilities

There are potentially serious pitfalls for clients unfamiliar with the motion graphics process. They can result in added expenses or delays in delivery. 

But fortunately — they are easily avoidable! 

To avoid them, it’s important to understand the roles and responsibilities between the client and the creative agency producing the motion graphic. Knowing what to expect during production is arguably the most important step, so let’s run through what you need to know before the motion graphics process begins.

How to Manage Expectations 

Motion graphics has a lot of moving parts – pun intended. So before starting the motion graphics process, it’s essential to be crystal clear about what you want out of the project. If you don’t have the correct plan and vision established from the start, you could end up largely unsatisfied with the outcome.

Imagine this — you’re taking a first look at your new house alongside your contractor. The house is largely complete, and all that’s left are a few final touches. After walking through the house, you ask your contractor, “Actually, can we move the kitchen to the front of the house instead?”

That is an immense ask — one which quite literally changes the entire structure of the house. Changing the location of the kitchen would involve rewiring, repiping, rebuilding, and completely rethinking the blueprints. Now keep in mind, the contractor had been working with the approved blueprint and specifications for the house. So going through with these changes is going to seriously hurt your wallet and delay the entire motion graphics process extensively — and this was entirely avoidable. 

You may have already guessed, but motion graphics work the exact same way. And we want to avoid this at all costs. That’s why we stress the importance of managing expectations through collaboration and feedback throughout the motion graphics process. We’ve been doing motion since 2005 so we know how to avoid the pitfalls and help our customers stay on message.  It’s important to have motion design guidelines in place.

Why Collaboration and Timely Feedback Matter

Of course, as a creative agency that specializes in motion graphics — we’re more than happy to make changes! We’re no strangers to pivoting without missing a beat or making changes down the line. We always strive to bring our client’s vision to life. 

However, receiving timely feedback throughout the motion graphics process is how we protect our client’s budget and deliver results on time. 

There are specific times in the motion graphics process that require our clients to review and give full confirmation of approval. Remember — motion graphics are all about collaboration.

Barring extraordinary circumstances — projects only drift off course when feedback is vague, delayed, or unconsolidated. Developing a punch list of change orders lets us knock out edits one after the other. Not to mention, it’s an easy fix to avoid unnecessary back-and-forth, lost emails, or missed edits!

In the past, we’ve received feedback from uninformed stakeholders weeks after final delivery. Unfortunately, after final delivery, we need to explain that change orders require additional fees and delays to execute. We like to look out for our clients, so it’s in their best interest to have all stakeholders on the same page throughout the entire motion graphics process.

The Motion Team

Great motion graphics are typically made by a team. Having professionals who specifically focus on their role ensures everyone is performing at the top of their game. But why? Having one person in charge of coming up with a script, illustrating, animating, and sound design seems more cost-effective.

But realistically, no man or woman is an army. Short of a miracle worker, it’s incredibly rare for one person to deliver top-notch results in every department. 

That is why our Mighty Fine team is made up of degreed art directors, designers, animators, and copywriters. Aside from our pedigree, we have decades of video experience and are no strangers to motion design. Each function on the team is difficult and requires someone who is totally focused on their area of expertise.

Motion designers work hard to master their craft. Their animation tool is daunting and takes a long time to perfect, much like an architect or engineer in their respective fields. While technical proficiency is essential, they must also have a strong creative vision. Implementing abstract ideas and transitions in various styles while ensuring everything flows flawlessly is difficult!

Each Project Is Unique

While many professional creative agencies have their own motion graphics process, most follow a similar workflow. Keep in mind, every motion project is different because every client is unique.

Clients may have different budgets, certain needs, accommodations, or desired aesthetics. So, while there are certain steps we will always follow, do keep in mind that one size does not fit all. Larger projects with bigger budgets and scopes will have more steps and considerations, whereas smaller products and budgets may have an expedited process. 

Now that we understand the logistics behind the motion graphics process let’s jump into production.

motion graphics process step 2 discovery of client's brand

2. Discovery — Exploring Your Brand

Before creating anything, we analyze and empathize with your brand. This step is actually quite common in many creative branding endeavors. Professional creative agencies aren’t strangers to taking the time to learn about your business and your audience. 

After all, the project is 100% about your brand — so tell us your story! 

This helps us identify who our clients are and informs us how to create something that will stand out and rise above the competition.

After getting into the brand’s headspace, we like to explore a mood board. This is simply a document composed of existing motion graphics, aesthetics, or inspiration that will give us an idea of the desired look and feel. That way, expectations are crystal clear. 

Of course, no worries if you aren’t sure what direction best suits you. Our team will gladly work with you and develop an aesthetic direction that aligns with your brand.

motion graphics process step 3 copywriting script

3. Copywriting — Developing the script

Now that we understand what you’re looking for, we move into crafting a script that speaks your brand’s language. The script is like the roots of a motion graphic tree — it’s the absolute foundation. From design to animation and sound… we draw every creative idea from the script.

The Basics of the Script

It is no exaggeration to say that script defines the success of the rest of the project. Good copywriting is key!

Our team of copywriting experts, creative directors, and designers work together to develop a voice that brings your message to life. In this phase, we are laser-focused on the important stuff — like your core services and unique key messages. And, of course, if our clients provide a script they approve, we are more than happy to work with that.

Speaking of your key messages and run time, we like to keep these to a minimum. Ideally, you want your runtime to hit the one to two-minute mark. One hundred and fifty words are equivalent to roughly one minute of video. 

150 words = 1 minute of video

Now, you may be wondering why so short and so few? Let’s get into it.

Keeping Messaging Clear

We’ve been producing animations since the early 2000s. We know the ins and outs of how long you can keep a viewer’s attention before it starts to fizzle out. 

Simply put, viewers’ attention spans are seriously limited. As we mentioned, you have about one to two minutes at best to get your message across before viewers begin to drop off naturally. Not just that, but too many key points might make it harder for your audience to absorb the information. Sometimes it’s best to think about doing another animation down the road for additional messaging. 

Of course, it’s entirely possible to go on longer if necessary — but to do so effectively and successfully requires a serious budget. So keeping it shorter is not only better for effective messaging but also ensures your budget gets more bang for its buck.

motion graphics process step 4 concepting treatment

4. Concepting — Crafting the right treatment

This is where the real fun begins and where we let our imaginations loose. We go through iterations upon iterations of ideas and visual metaphors, using loose, simple sketches and letting group brainstorming sessions be our guides. Of course, our sketches are not pretty — yet. Right now, we are laser-focused on high-level creative thinking and concept creation. 

Concepting requires a holistic approach

We’re cooking up what will appear on the screen and how it will move. And especially how to transition from one scene to the next seamlessly. 

That said, we can’t think of a motion graphic as a series of individual scenes mashed together. Because they’re not — everything is connected. It’s impossible to have a powerful motion graphic without a cohesive visual narrative and aesthetic. This is why we spend so much time on this phase.

Developing the Treatment

On the client side, we use what’s called a treatment to explain our ideas. Think of it as a storyboard prototype. It paints the picture of what visuals will show up on the screen alongside each line of the script. This way, we can visualize how each scene works before we even begin to illustrate.

Another crucial function of the treatment is that it defines the general timing of the piece. A motion graphic, naturally, should stay in motion. When a team begins animating, having a scene that is either too long or too short for a voice line is a nightmare scenario. That’s why we establish the timing up-front, so we never have to run into that issue.

Feedback Checkpoint #1 

Remember when we discussed how important it is to thoroughly inspect and approve the blueprints before building your dream house?

The treatment is essentially the first set of blueprints for the motion graphic. In the interest of protecting your deadline and budget, it’s important that any potential kinks in the plan or vision are addressed now.

motion graphics process step 5 voiceover talent

5. Voice Over — Finding the right pipes for your project

We have an expansive network of voiceover artists. Between different accents, tones, and styles — there’s a perfect voice out there for your project. And we have the connections to reach them.

Typically, we first start out by reaching out to the voice talent we think would be a great fit based on the information we’ve gathered from our client. From there, we provide examples of their previous work to ensure their voice jives with the client’s vision.

Usually, we find a fit pretty quickly. In the event that our client is looking for something else, we send out a casting call to our network and wait for auditions to start rolling in. From there, we filter out the best-of-the-best and send those to our client for review.

motion graphics process step 6 storyboarding illustration

6. Storyboarding — Building out your narrative visually

Now that the treatment has been confirmed and approved, this is where we begin illustrating the concepts. Every still frame of the animation project is rendered in full detail. This is what we call our storyboard — a sequence of still images that map out your story from beginning to end.

The Illustration Process

Once we begin, all of our graphics are custom-made to tailor specifically to your brand and your message. The goal is for everything to be entirely unique for your brand! We always stress the importance of high-quality assets — and here’s why! Hand-made graphics cost more, but you’ll stand out from thousands of other videos that are created using third-party graphics from resources such as Shutterstock. We are senior-level designers who love our craft and would never compromise a project for a better bottom line.

This is also where we get a second look at the timing and make any further adjustments as needed. The key is that everything is mapped out before we start animating to avoid having to go back to the drawing board. Once we finish the storyboard, we send it over to our client for review.

Feedback Checkpoint #2

Revisiting our housing analogy, the storyboard is like seeing a 3D rendering of the house. This is the last stage of the motion graphics process, where we can make significant changes to the final product without resulting in delays or revisiting the budget.

Essentially, this is the most critical feedback checkpoint.

As mentioned before, changes after animating begins are like moving an entire kitchen after the house has been built. All project stakeholders should carefully review the storyboards and ensure everything aligns with their vision before construction begins.

motion graphics process step 7 animation

7. Animation — Bringing everything to life! 

Finally, we begin the animation stage. Since everything is lined up, there is rarely a need for back-and-forth communication until we are finished. In some cases, we’ll have “animation checkups”, where we show pieces of animation as we go. Usually, this is only for larger-scale productions with hard deadlines. But since we’re working with an approved storyboard, there’s nothing else for us to do but put our nose to the grindstone and execute. Also, it makes more sense to our clients when we show them the whole animation because each part relies on the next for a cohesive understanding of the message. 

Essentially, this is where we work our magic.

Of course, motion magic doesn’t appear out of thin air, even though we make it look that way. The animation process is difficult and time-consuming. While we work on animation, we’re also curious about exploring possibilities — we try new things out, iterate, and revise. Sometimes, things look great on paper but fall flat when executed through motion graphics. But when that happens, we swiftly pivot or refine until they do – we don’t mind redoing a scene if it doesn’t work. That’s our job, and we love a challenge to push for new heights with each and every project.

motion graphics process step 8 sound design or royalty free music

8. Sound Design — Royalty-free Music or Custom Sound Design?

Music is absolutely critical to any production because it significantly influences the viewer’s emotional reaction. There are a few approaches we can take when it comes to music.

Royalty-Free Music

The most common and cost-efficient option is using royalty-free stock music. This service comes with every animation we produce. For most productions, stock music is the perfect solution because it’s more affordable than custom sound design, and there is no shortage of options to choose from. Quite frankly, some great licensed compositions can enhance any project. We also add some flourishes to every project on top of the composition to accentuate important parts or scene changes in the animation.

Custom Sound Design 

Another option is a custom score for your motion graphics project. A custom sound design can add another layer of dimension to your project and take it to the next level. And of course, custom music will be completely unique to your brand but it comes with added costs.

Simply put, the sound design gives more weight to what’s happening on-screen by reinforcing or influencing certain emotions. It will take a scene from serious to solemn or from clever to thought-provoking. 

We posted two animations, one with a basic royalty-free track and the other was a full score created by our sound designer. 

Of course, don’t expect to be able to license Billboard hits. Unfortunately, the new Ariana Grande hit song is probably out of the question.

motion graphics process step 9 final delivery

9. Final Delivery — The icing on the cake

We’re almost there. The finish line is so close! 

This stage is all about simple, final-touch refinements. Maybe you need a different color here. Or some text swapped out there. It’s best to see this phase as a final checklist for pending items but nothing major. The motion piece is primarily finished. However, this is a good time for you to make a final close inspection of the work.  

motion graphics process step 10 distribution

10. Distribution — Getting your message out to the world

Now that the video is complete, you need to begin to share it with your target audience. We can help with distribution and provide analytical tools to track the progress of your video.  You can get a lot of mileage out of a custom motion graphics video. You can leverage it across all digital and broadcast channels, thereby getting a good return on your investment.   

And that’s all she wrote!

Now you are ready to take on your next motion graphic project. Hopefully, this insight into the motion graphics process will leave you with a better understanding of the various moving pieces. And as we mentioned before, the motion graphics process may deviate somewhat depending on a variety of factors, such as budget or which motion graphics agency you work with. 

And while that was a lot to digest, don’t worry — you won’t be going to your next project alone. Quality animation is no walk in the park, but following the motion graphics process sure does take the edge off the complexity. Feel free to drop us a line if you have any questions about your next big idea.

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