The benefits of animation for business

animation of man filling a jug of water by Leap

Moving image and animation has exploded in popularity and accessibility in recent years. When the number of seconds that you have to capture somebody’s attention and engage them with your website or content can be counted on one hand, movement (and in particular motion graphics) are our secret weapon.

And now, with physical distancing still very much in force as the world works its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, gathering a film crew and actors together to create a short film is riddled with challenges. Creating animations, however, is unaffected and their impact remains as positive as ever.

Leap animation for N26 2020 campaign

Why Use Animation?

There are no limits to what you can achieve with animation. Anything is possible. Animation can elevate and differentiate an everyday task because it is more visually engaging than a film of the same process that perhaps the viewer is already very familiar with. If you want the main character to be able to fly, or morph into a dragon, then that’s possible. And, a lot easier and cheaper to achieve than with film. There are no actors, sets, props or locations to consider. Bad weather won’t delay a project. Neither will a worldwide pandemic. If you can imagine it then we can animate it. Animation is incredibly accessible to viewers (one of the reasons why so many children’s TV shows are animated) and key information can be delivered within the animation in a much more fluid manner.

A business can get a lot of life and value out of animations, and they don’t date as fast as films. A style may age, but not as quickly as fashions and the myriad of cultural references that are inherent in a film. All of these are benefits that elevate animation above conventional “in real life” filmmaking anyway, before social distancing measures made gathering a film crew and actors a serious challenge. Now, more than ever, animation is an excellent option for a variety of a business’s moving image needs.

Types of Animation: From Movement To A Movie

An animation can be as simple as a small and repetitive moving element in an illustration – something to catch the viewer’s eye on an otherwise static webpage. This might only take an animator a half-day to a day to create. At the extreme other end of the scale, are feature length animated movies that take teams of animators years to complete before they hit the cinemas. Most businesses have fairly modest needs when it comes to using animation; a suite of small illustrations or icons with moving elements, a simple moving element added to a map or explanatory graphic, or a sort 2-3 minute animated film to introduce and explain a product, concept. An animated short film may sound like a significant undertaking, however time and cost required can be mitigated through careful consideration of the style and content to minimise the need for complex or detailed illustrations.

“Five Years in 59 Seconds” kinetic animation produced by Leap for the Design Programme.

How Animation Works

Traditionally, animations were created by illustrating individual frames with minor adjustments between each one to create the desired movement, like a flipbook. When these frames are played at speed, it creates movement. The alternative method that utilises the power and capabilities of modern design and animation software, creates moving elements within a scene. When animating this way an illustration is created and separated into multiple layers, with each layer containing an independent moveable element (so a character would be separated into layers containing individual limbs, for example). The layers are then “rigged” together so that when one element is moved, the other elements that it is rigged to all move as a result. This saves the animator from moving or re-drawing multiple elements of a frame. When animating this way, an entire “set” can be animated and then zoomed or cut into, to create different scenes or close-up shots without having to re-illustrate. The best way to imagine this is to think of a person in a room. The animator can create the wider scene and then “zoom in” to the character’s face for a close-up shot without having to redraw the character or the backdrop in more detail, as it is already there. This technique is smooth and incredibly flexible.

Animated map by Leap for N26 2020 campaign

Animating frame-by-frame is still a good option for many applications, despite the apparent ease of computer animation. The traditional method is less “clean” (there may be slight discrepancies between the illustrations in consecutive frames that make it a little bit jumpy) and this adds humanity to the animation. It is a great way of conveying craft. Also, there are some processes that are easier to achieve through frame-by-frame animation. Say for instance that you wanted to morph a skull into a butterfly; this would be much easier to achieve by illustrating the transition frame-by-frame.

Whatever it is that you wish to achieve with an animation, however, can be done using either technique. When commissioning an animation the correct process will be selected following the storyboarding process to ensure that your brief is met and the animation completed in the most efficient way possible.

Leap animation for Goodfest Digital 2020 social media marketing

Where Your Business Can Use Animation

Animation can add value to various digital properties. Small “light touch” animations such as a moving logo can be utilized across a business’s website, social channels and e-mail newsletters. Short animated films or edits can be used on home or landing pages to immediately engage visitors and deliver your brand messaging. These can also be pinned on social media accounts, sent as part of press releases to online media, and seeded for increased reach. Animations might also be deployed where instructions or explanatory videos are required; these can sit on product pages, FAQs, or be e-mailed to customers. Compared to text and multiple images or film footage, animations can show exploded views, pan around a product, and zoom in and out in a much more user friendly and understandable way.

Leap logo animation for RunFix

What’s Involved When Commissioning An Animation?

If you are considering commissioning an animation, then it might be helpful to know what to expect of the process. When an animator is briefed, there will be a conversation with the client about exactly what it is that they want or need the animation to achieve. With so many options open to them, it is important to pinpoint from the outset the objectives so that they can inform every decision the animator makes. A period of research will follow this, so that the best options can be put forward to the client in a pitch. Once the concept has been pitched to the client and approved a storyboard will be created for longer or more involved or narrative based animations. The storyboard will show the progression of the narrative (essentially, a visual script) and the suggested scenes. Style frames may also be presented with the storyboard. Style frames are one or several single frame examples to showcase the illustrative style to the client. “It will look like this, and move through this narrative”. Once the storyboard and style frame/s have been approved then production begins in earnest.

But, Isn’t Animation Expensive?

Animation needn’t be expensive. A small animation such as a moving mark or element might only take a half day to a day to create which is a worthwhile investment considering the increased engagement it can trigger with your company’s digital touch-points and the longevity of animation. If you need a short film or edit and want to compare the cost of animation against the cost of a film, then animation can certainly provide better value for money against a production that requires a crew, actors, locations and props – particularly when you consider that you can go anywhere in the world and have a cast of hundreds with animation, without actually going anywhere or gathering anybody.

If you think that your business could benefit from animation then drop us a line. We’d love to talk to you about how we could bring your brand and messaging to life in this way and put some ideas in front of you.