What is an explainer video?
An explainer video is a short video, usually between 1-2 mins in length, which is used to explain an idea, product, service or brand in a fast yet engaging and powerful way.
How do you make an explainer video?
A good question! Here at Shy Guys Studios, we use an 8 step process to create explainer videos for our clients. For this post, we’ll take you through this process using our explainer video ‘Geoff Needs An Explainer’ as an example. So, first off, here’s the full video!
Stage 1. The Brief
In order for us to design you an effective explainer video, it’s crucial for us to get a thorough understanding of you, your business, the problems your customers face and the solutions that you offer.
Everything starts with a briefing call, where we ask all the important questions around what you’re trying to achieve. Things like; Why do you need an explainer video? Who is your audience? What are you trying to say? What do you want people to do after watching it?
These and other similar questions will give us a solid foundation on which to plan your video. As a result, this initial conversation enables us to develop the animation brief.
Stage 2. Scriptwriting
Once the brief has been created, the ‘pre-production’ phase begins with an audio script. The script is the blueprint for the project. Before we start planning any visuals, we need a solid message on which to build. We take all the information from the brief and use this to create an informative, well structured and engaging script.
Bear in mind that your script doesn’t have to explain everything about your business or product! The video is a tool to introduce your product or service in simple terms, and establish how it fixes a particular problem for your customers. This often takes the form of a ‘problem and solution’ approach ending with a call to action (‘CTA’). For example, this CTA could be a link to buy the product, a newsletter sign-up or a signpost to where the viewer can find out more information.
You know your story better than anyone, so a good place to start is to think about your elevator pitch, and identify your problem and solution, and we can help you from there.
Example: Here are the first few lines from our ‘Geoff Needs an Explainer’ script;
This is Geoff. And this is Geoff’s cat, Boromir. Boromir kept throwing up on the carpet, until one day, Geoff came up with a business idea that would change the world forever. He registered a company, rented an office, ordered stock and designed a flashy new website.
With our audio script in place, we then start to think about the visuals. We enter the next stage of development, which is to write the audio/visual (AV) script.
This is where we start to develop ideas for the visuals before committing to any design work. It’s far easier to modify the script and tweak the wording at this stage than to redraw storyboard frames!
Example: Here are the first few lines from ‘Geoff Needs an Explainer’s AV script;
Voiceover Visual This is Geoff. And this is Geoff’s cat, Boromir. Geoff appears on screen. Boromir appears alongside him. Boromir kept throwing up on the carpet… Geoff looks frustrated as Boromir is sick on the carpet. …until one day, Geoff came up with a business idea… Close-up on Geoff’s face – he has a lightbulb moment. …that would change the world forever. Geoff holding up schematics / sketch of the cat bib. He drops the paper down to reveal Boromir actually wearing the cat bib. He registered a company, rented an office, ordered stock and designed a flashy new website. Geoff turns from household layabout to entrepreneur – his new office / desk / computer (showing new website) animates in around him.
How long should an explainer video be?
We recommend a final script length of between 60 to 120 seconds, with no more than 150 words per minute of animation.
If the video is any shorter, you may struggle to get across enough information. Any longer, and you risk losing viewer engagement.
Stage 3. Visual Development
Next, we develop the visual style for your video. Typically, we produce sketches, including characters and background assets, and use these to develop 1 or 2 ‘style frames’.
The style frames could be rough sketches or one or more complete works. This allows the opportunity for us and the client to visualise the animation before we commit to designing each frame.
This is also usually when we develop your colour palette (if you don’t have one already) which we use when designing the rest of the assets. This might be based on existing brand colours, or totally unique to the project.
Example: Here are some sketches of Geoff, and a style frame from the opening scene.
Stage 4. Storyboard & Animatic
A storyboard is a series of frames which illustrates the shots planned for the animation, laid out sequentially; it builds on the AV script, and allows us to visualise the project before we go into production.
Each sketch is accompanied by the corresponding script, shot description, any camera movements and sound effects. If there are characters, key poses will be drawn to show the important actions, movements and emotions. This document will become the main reference for the team when designing and animating the video.
This is an essential stage to share with the client so they can visualise the story with us. We always aim to get the story, structure and visuals signed off this stage, because changing these things after your video been animated is far more time-consuming, and an unnecessary waste of the budget!
Example: Here are the first 20 seconds of frames from our ‘Geoff Needs an Explainer’ storyboard;
Along with the storyboard, the animatic is a valuable visualisation tool. The animatic is a video containing the first read-through of the script with rough visuals taken from the storyboard, in order to test the timing of the script alongside the rough visuals.
It enables us to get a better feel for the timing and pace of the animation; we can see if some sections are too slow or fast, if there’s too much or too little voiceover script accompanying the visuals, and whether the message is being conveyed correctly and coherently.
Example: Here are the first 20 seconds from our ‘Geoff Needs an Explainer’ animatic;
Stage 5. Voiceover
Usually, we select a shortlist of voiceover artists from our database, based on the client’s needs and brand. This selection is then sent to the client for consideration.
Once the client has chosen a suitable voiceover artist, the next step is recording the script. It’s important to get the final voiceover recorded before we start production, as timing is extremely important when animating; how the artist delivers each line can impact the timing and pace greatly.
Stage 6. Production
The designers will reference the storyboard and style frames to create all the individual assets for the animation. These are usually made within Illustrator, Photoshop, After Effects, or Cinema4D (if you’re opting for 3D visuals). This will typically include any characters along with their different clothing and facial expressions, the various backgrounds, as well as any props, iconography and other supporting assets.
If your explainer video contains characters, they’ll need to be rigged before animating. Rigging is the process of creating a skeleton for each character, so they can be moved and animated. We include a rig for the body, arms and legs, as well as facial rigs so different expressions and emotions can be animated.
The next step is to take all the assets and prep them for an animator. Scene setup involves bringing all the design assets together inside the animation software, building each scene and creating custom templates. This makes it easy for the animators to jump straight in, focusing on the performance of the characters or the overall animation.
Animation and compositing is the lengthiest and most intricate part of the whole process; where our animators breathe life into the story. This typically involves the manipulation of hundreds, if not thousands of individual keyframes to create the illusion of movement and character.
As each scene is rendered, it’s edited into the full film. The animatic is sometimes used as a guide, so it’s quite exciting seeing the sketches develop into colourful animated sequences.
Stage 7. Audio Mix
Most projects require music, so we’ll find a few different options before settling on one we think matches the vibe of the video. If any animations are to be timed to the music, this stage will happen much earlier in the process.
Sound effects can add an extra layer to the video – some subtle, some right in your face! They can really help to set the scene and immerse the viewer.
Example: Here are the first 20 seconds from our ‘Geoff Needs an Explainer’ with different audio stems;
Stage 8. Delivery
Once the animation is complete and the audio has been mixed, all that’s left to do is to prepare the final deliverables. Depending on your requirements, this will often include the final video file as an MP4 with and without subtitles, and quite often a square version with mini-clips for social media.
So there you have it! Our 8 step process to making an explainer video.
Whoever you are and whatever stage you’re at with developing your explainer video, I hope you found this an interesting and useful read.
If you’re ready to kick off your explainer video, contact us to get more info and pricing!