3 months ago
For live-action production companies, COVID-19 changed everything.
This article is in response to emails from friends who are not able to shoot. They are unable to generate revenue to pay staff or serve their clients.
Live-action production is an integral part of our industry that we — those in post and animation — can never live without.
We are in this together.
In a time of unprecedented crisis, we want to contribute our knowledge and expertise to help you continue to serve your clients. More importantly, we want you to stay in business until we get back to normal.
This article offers various live-action alternatives but focuses on animation and motion design for the following reasons:
1. Motion Design and Animation
If you’re used to managing live-action shoots and post-production, you can pivot to motion design. It’s not that different. You can leverage your current know-how in project management, strategy, creative direction, and outsource only the execution.
Motion design is infinitely flexible and can be done on a variety of budgets and styles. Every project is different, and studios/freelancers have varying rates. Generally speaking, a 60-second animation starts around $10,000 and can easily go upwards of $250,000.
Factors that affect pricing:
Character animation and cel animation is expensive. You can mitigate character animation costs by limiting or avoiding characters walking, jumping, and other activities that require extensive rigging and animating.
3D animation and design are more expensive than 2D in most circumstances.
If your budget is less than $15,000, hiring freelancers is your best bet. If you have more, a small studio can handle the job. Larger, well-known studios may require budgets of $50,000 or more. The top studios are much more expensive.
Make sure you fully understand and can explain the traditional motion design process to your clients. Following the process is crucial, we can’t stress this enough.
Most studios follow a 'waterfall' project management style, meaning all stages of production are done in succession. Once a stage is finalized, locked, and approved, you move onto the next step. Going backward and revising already-approved assets can cause delays and impact budgets. Here are the milestones we use, in order:
The workflow is similar to live-action. However, unlike the editorial phase in live-action post, visuals are very time consuming to change once they are animated. Once something is animated, going back to make changes is similar to scheduling a re-shoot.
I’m happy to provide our full process for you to use, just email me.
From start to finish, final deliverables can typically be completed four to six weeks after the script is locked. Production schedules can be compressed if needed but will require next-day feedback from your client and more hands on deck.
As you might expect, simple, shorter animation projects can be done much quicker. A 15-second 2D spot with no character animation can be turned around in two weeks or less. If you want high-quality character animation, it will take longer.
Right now, studios and freelancers may be much more willing to take on rush jobs and deliver faster than they normally would. Just be careful you don’t compromise quality.
Should you hire a studio or freelancer? There are pros and cons to both.
You can find studios here:
Getting a referral from your own network is your best bet when hiring a studio.
Hiring a freelancer or team of freelancers is more cost-effective, but turnaround times can be longer. Managing production is more time-intensive on your part, so you’ll need to plan for that.
Here are a few sites where you can find freelancers:
Panimation (female motion designers)
Again, your best bet is to ask around for referrals. Stay away from Fiverr and Upwork!
More Examples: Ice Cream Hater
2. Stop Motion
Can be done in a small studio or room, at home, on iPhone, or large format cameras, etc. Minimal crew is needed—some people do it alone. Voice over can be outsourced and recorded remotely via Voice123.com. Can use everyday objects, printed materials, hand-drawn titles, felt, food items, 3D printed assets, etc.
3. Crowdsourced Video
Can be done remotely without any crew. Low production value video can be spruced up and made interesting in post. Ask interviewees to record clips of themselves at home, on their phone, responding to your interview sheet (five - seven questions max) and send them in to you. Send them tech guidelines and shooting specifications. For example: shoot widescreen, prop up the phone, declutter the background, ensure proper lighting, etc. Keep it simple. Edit together with stock footage, graphics, and music. A good editor can make this type of content look decent enough.
4. Stock Footage Video
Develop your concept, write a script, record VO, combine footage with mograph, add sound design and music. There are some great sites out there for stock video. Dissolve is our economic go-to right now, but Film Supply has better quality footage because they recruit actual commercial companies to give them b-roll they license. So, it’s not really stock, but better.
Instead of human actors, use puppies, kittens, hamsters, or whatever cute animal you have on hand. This can be done in a small studio setting (or living room).
Tactile/practical in-camera style videos. Diorama, knolling, etc.
7. Visual Podcast
Record podcast shows and edit as you normally would, but add straightforward visuals later. Or, just record with screencaps and share on-screen content to keep it simple.
8. Virtual Presentations
Create presentations in Keynote/Google slides, record video, audio and screencap, distribute as PDF, .mp3s and video. This is a fast and low-cost way to get content out there. Note: this is probably more appropriate for in-house production departments and internal comms production teams.
9. Self-Recorded Screen Cap Content
Have your subject matter experts do screen captures and record content at home using Loom. For higher production value, send to an animator to recreate, edit and jazz up.
10. Phone Interviews Paired with Motion Design
If you were planning on doing live-action interviews, you might think about pivoting to a 'interview explainer' instead. This is a cost-effective way to interview stakeholders or clients around the world. With motion design you can produce something straightforward, including photos of the interviewee and basic on-screen text, or something with extremely high production values. Use the iPhone recording app, rev.com for transcriptions, then do a paper edit. Bonus points: mail interviewees a Zoom recorder to boost production value.
This method also works well-using stock footage for b-roll.
11. Skype/Google Hangouts Interviews
Use live action recordings of the screen itself with a cool backdrop, or screen cap. Use backgrounds creatively, For example, shoot an iPhone with the interviewee on a color backdrop. You could have two phones in the frame like they are talking to each other. Alternatively, create a mortise for each Skype video interviewee. Skype video can be cleaned up, color graded and stylized to increase production value.
12. Recycled Footage and Interviews
When you can’t shoot new footage, cut together new content with previously shot interviews, dive deeper into a specific topic, add motion design to differentiate.
13. Virtual Documentaries
Send interview questions by email, have interviewees self-interview, record onto iPhone, email, or text responses. Everyone is used to seeing text bubble responses on TV, so feel free to use this technique in docu-style productions. For b-roll, use stock, previously shot archives, abstract graphics, cel animation, title cards sans motion, kinetic type, stop motion, whatever works on your budget, etc.
14. Text Form Interview Videos
Send questions to interviewees via Typeform or Google Forms, get responses via email, edit into a script, design, and animate the quotes.
We are calling on all motion design studios and freelancers to come together and offer discount rates, flexible payment terms, and advice to our live-action colleagues.
Everyone is threatened by this uncertainty, so now is the time to band together and collaborate.
Good luck. If you have other ideas, please comment below, and we’ll update as frequently as possible.
Motion Design Studio: BIEN
Creative Director: Hung Le
Executive Producer: Ricardo Roberts