Last year, Julian Haber Creative Studio’s lead designer, Meredith Lindsay led the creation of several animated training videos.
Many of these videos were designed from new scripts or audio transcripts. Some were from repurposed training materials originally presented in power point. And still others came to us as older videos using styles and formats they were dated and no longer met the need of the client’s main objective which was to provide updated new training for its employees.
The purpose of the animations was to communicate specific lessons around learning and development areas for our client’s employees. We tackled topics like data privacy, conflicts of interest, using AI and conducting market research in China to name a few. The content was usually complex and the idea of putting the materials into animated format was to make it more engaging, quicker to digest and easier to communicate very targeted lessons and training on subjects employees need to be current on.
This was a new field of expertise for us, but after delivering over twenty such videos, we learned a few takeaways worth sharing to help with projects like these in the future:
- Having a final author approved script is critical: getting a clear and concise message written down takes time and often requires a few approvals (or more depending on the size of the company and how it is structured). While it may seem like a time gaining technique to ask your providers to start working on the concepts from a rough draft or even partially developed script, it becomes problematic when the timelines create pressure to start actual production even if the script is still subject to changes. Working without the final, author approved frozen script invariably winds up creating bottlenecks and slowdowns due to re-work down the line. It can get even worse – adding cost and frustration – if the script has already been read and recorded by a professional and requires a re-read.
- Speaking of voice-overs – it’s almost always better to use a professional: most clients like to save money and cut costs where they can. One area that seems to be more affected by this than others is in recording voiceovers for animated videos where there is a lead narrator/character guiding viewers through a lesson or module. Using audio recorded on a phone or even a professional microphone but not in a professional sound studio always results in a lower quality file. There may be background noise you are unaware of when recording (ie the hum of a ventilation system, footsteps in the hall, your phone receiving texts, etc). Asking your editor to fix these and other mishaps – low talkers, variable volume of voice, slurring of words, etc – is not always feasible. In the best case scenario it adds time and effort to the project, and worst case, can’t be done and requires a re-recording by a professional anyway. Save time, trouble and get a better result by using professionally trained voice workers.
- Watch the length: a big issue in video (as well as written content) is the tendency to try to say too much at once. This is especially relevant in animations used to teach a concept or convey some key ideas to the intended audience. It’s almost always better to break your content down into smaller chunks and issue a series of topics on a theme, than try to cram everything in under one title. It is the equivalent of making screen shots of power point slides and put two or three slides on one slide. The information gets garbled, the messaging drowned out and the engagement level is sure to drop off as well.
- Length will vary with languages: on a related point, making content in multiple languages, as we often do for our clients, will result in the same core content coming out in different lengths, depending on the language. For example, a script in English that reads in at 3 minutes may be over 4 minutes in French or Spanish. The extra minute may seem small but if it is matched with animations, it could result in the need for more animation work to be done to fill the time, or the pace of the video to be slowed or sped up in parts to accommodate the variations.
- To subtitle or not to subtitle?: if you are working in a bilingual country like Canada or have audiences in multiple markets and can’t afford to have content read in all target languages, you may need to provide subtitles to your content. Ask yourself if the content is intended to serve both audience at once (ie its spoken in English but you want to provide French subtitles to accommodate your French-speaking audience), or if you will provide two versions of each video, one with the same language spoken transcribed and included as subtitles and one with a translated version.
These are just a few of the areas we encountered during the last quarter where we learned from experience what worked best. If you’re in the planning phase of transforming some of your existing content into more user-friendly animations, or if you are starting fresh with the development of your training materials, feel free to get in touch with us before you begin and we can help structure your project to increase it’s effectiveness and save you time and money.