Friday, June 1, 2007

Feature: How to get your ideas through testing

Animaticmedia becomes a partner with its clients with the production of over 1237 test spots in nine years. Here are some tried and tested techniques you can start using today to make your next commercial idea fly through testing.

Written By Scott Ownbey,
Founder and Chief Creative Director, Animaticmedia Inc.

Animatics. To some it’s the dirtiest word in advertising and others it conjures up the discomforts of a root canal. As the founder and chief creative director of Animaticmedia, I have shared the anxiety’s and emotions of hundreds of creative teams over the past nine years and in my experience I have found that the creatives that go into the animatic process unprepared suffered a long drawn out revision process and bad test scores. The spots that scored well all shared common traits inherit from the very start of the production cycle.

Start by picking the right animatics company. If a spot doesn’t get through testing, it doesn’t really matter that Joe Pytka is attached as the film director, put some time into selecting a good animatics vendor. Don’t base your decision on the lowest bid, in the end the money you initially saved will be wasted on revisions from a variety of reasons: lack of communication, culture differences, weak story- telling experience. First try to find a good fit for your creative team. A team on the go, juggling multiple projects would feel handicapped if forced to work within the walls of an edit suite and like-wise a hands on creative team would suffer if forced to work online, so try and determine what online and offline capabilities an animatics company is offering. The lone illustrator and editor are no longer the norm on todays test spots, with yesterday deadlines, many animatics are produced by teams of artists, editors and VFX technicians, find out who directed or managed your favorite spots on the company’s reel and request to work with that person because you ultimately want someone you can trust, who has a vision to make your script better. Animatics are a different medium than film. Some shots work better than others and you want someone that can guide you along the way in this specialized medium. In the end, they probably have produced more animatics than you. Deadlines are so short and money is so tight do you really want to micromanage every aspect of the job?

Don’t lose sight of the big picture. God is in the details but the ultimate goal is to get the idea successfully through research. Let your director finesse the spot. On one occasion we had completed a very detailed and beautifully hand illustrated scene for a client only to have them ask to move the angle two feet. We gladly fullfilled the clients request; however the time it took to redraw that illustration could have been used on rendering other scenes. In the end the overall quality of the project suffers. Unless the revision will make a dramatic impact on the story, tone or mood its probably a better idea to evaluate revisions at the end of pre-production once all the main art assets are complete.

Have good reference material. Until you are comfortable enough with your animatics vendor that you can just hand them a script, you should have a vision for every character and background in your spot. If you’re too busy to look for references, delegate it to some one that does, otherwise you will be wasting a lot of time and money revising what the animatics company renders for you. I have found the most valuable websites for reference are available at the following sites:

Its all about your idea. As much as we rely on elaborate testing measures the simple fact of the matter is, if it’s a great idea it will sell itself. A good animatics vendor can sugar coat the animation with VFX, 3-D amazing illustrations complied with a top rate production team and still fail in research because the idea just didn’t tell a story. We were told on a conference call once, “Oh! just make it work! It doesn’t have to make sense it’s just an animatic". Quite the contrary, the animatic is the time to flush out the production details not on a location with a full crew costing you thousands of dollars a second. Some ideas at first sound amazing until you actually try to make them work visually. Once you have a storyboard of your idea, present it to someone that is seeing it for the first time; your spouse, kids, an intern, it doesn’t matter as long as its someone who has never seen your spot. Odds are if they don’t get it, neither will a focus group watching an animated version of it. The greatest animation in the world can’t tell a bad story or sell a bad idea.

Get realistic with your production time lines. Great ideas will sell themselves. These ideas can be presented to a focus group as a storyboard or board-o-matic (static images with no moving parts shown in a video format) and score remarkably well. A board-o-matic is the most cost effective format for presentations. However sometimes the whole key to your spot can be centered around a complicated, visual effect or mood. Don’t try and short change these productions as they often aquire a 15 day production cycle and the master skills of 3-D and VFX artists. Some effects that require more time and money are the following:

  • Cloth or hair that moves in slow motion and moves along a certain path
  • Realistic water effects that have a life of their own
  • Custom 3-D models that need animation
  • Animated group shots of people timed to music

    Clockwise from above:
    Layout illustrations, Animatic art, video stills

    Agency: Leo Burnett-Cicago
    Animatics company: Animaticmedia
    Title: Grand Canyon
    Client: Go Tart
    Art Directors: Amy Servidea / Pete Lefebvre
    Animatic director: Scott Ownbey

    How much animation should you have? As much as possible within the production time you have. Sure, great ideas can be sold with a storyboard, but what if your idea is competing with other animatics that share a great concept, with superior animation. Would you rather read a good comic, or watch good movie?

    This special information is for the guidance of our staff and the clients of Animatic Media.

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