Building A Team-Oriented Motion Graphics Workflow

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

Image courtesy of Motion Co

A motion graphics workflow differs in a lot of ways than your traditional live-action production. Here are the differences and variations when producing a motion graphics or animation piece.

Verbal Treatment
Similar to a typical live-action production, we start with a verbal treatment or script. In addition to action and VO, a motion-graphics verbal treatment might dive deeper into the visual and design aspect of what the client is trying to achieve.

Research & Development
Typically referred to as the “look development” or “R&D” phase, this stage can come before or after the boards / styleframes, depending on the type of project. For example, if the project requires photoreal elements, the designer would typically want to factor in some research and development time to test looks, textures, lighting, etc. to achieve that particular look.

Unlike a live-action production in which an Illustrator would sketch a series of frames to communicate framing and action, these boards should have a more finalized look, ideally created by a Digital Designer. These boards are sometimes referred to as “style frames” and are the nuts and bolts of the project. The digital designer would use a variety of elements including 3D, stock footage, type design, etc. to communicate the visual message and design as clearly as possible. A reputable digital designer would also create his/her own elements in a 3D application that could also be used by the animators further down the road.

Once the boards are created and approved, an editor will create a reference spot for timing. If the project calls for VO, a scratch track would be created and used temporarily. This board-o-matic would include timecode, rudimentary transitions and or simple movement to convey action.

Previz & Blocking
Now the project is in the hands of the animators, who use the storyboards to begin breaking down the scenes and doing preliminary blocking animations. Depending on the content of the design, both 3D and After Effects artists will be involved. Typically, a Lead Animator would begin to develop the project inside an After Effects composition, who would then distribute tasks to other 3D and or After Effects artists. This team will use the digital designer's assets from the storyboards to begin building their animations.

Work In Progress
The animator's workflow will consist of milestones along the way. Typically, the Lead Animator will collect works in progress from the team, then implement those elements into the main comp as placeholders for review. The goal here is to present animation progress to the client, while maintaining a happy balance between incompleteness and clarity. This allows the client to review the direction of the animation and provide feedback for further progress. This process repeats itself until the works are more or less completed. This also can be fickle as each client has their own threshold of interpreting animation in progress.

Polishing, Post Effects & Final Audio
Once the base animations are near completion, the animators will apply all final touches to the animations and a comper will apply final coloring and effects. Similar to a live-action production, a file will then be sent over to an audio engineer for sound effects and music then returned for final exporting.

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About the Author

Adam Lawrence
Adam Lawrence
Adam Leroy Lawrence is co-founder of Motion Co, a content studio focused on animation, design & visual effects. With over 20 years of experience he has worked in every aspect of the medium, from music videos to episodic animation.

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