How animation can help video producers thrive in the COVID-19 era

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

By Alicia Sample East 

Image caption: A breakdown reel of the animation process for the Denver Startup Week Kick-off video. Mass FX Media used a low-poly 3D style to layout some simple stats. 

Nike’s latest spot is proof that when circumstances force you to take a new approach, you can create something even better. It was produced using archival footage, voiceover, and top-notch copy. That’s the magic of creativity! It takes you on unexpected journeys where obstacles can become gifts. I talked to Shawna Schultz of Mass FX Media, the motion design and animation lab based in Denver, about how production houses can help clients meet their goals in light of the limitations COVID-19 has imposed on them. This is when we earn the title of a creative, right? We also talked about the skills video professionals and production houses can add to their toolbox if they want to start offering animation.   

Adjusting to new realities with current clients

Schultz has had plenty of clients approach her production house with their COVID-19 challenges. Many had live action concepts they simply won’t be able to accomplish under current conditions. Specializing in animation has made the pivot much easier to stomach and Schultz has been able to offer solutions that don’t require an indefinite delay.

Unreasonable Group and Barclays came to Schultz to create a virtual summit experience that mimics what you might have seen pre-COVID, with speakers, large screen videos and live Q&A sessions. The Unreasonable Impact COVID-19 Response Global Summit created with Barclays went off without a hitch partly because of the graphics package the live stream could use to start the event, transition between speakers and even cut to in case of technical glitches. 

Entry-level animation skills to get you rolling 

Motion capture and creating new characters may be the glamorous side of animation, but simple is good, too. Animation can be words and images brought to life in unique ways. Most video professionals who’ve spent time at an editing suite have already dabbled in iconography, typography, and adding motion to stills.

You can do some seriously fun stuff with just words on a screen. I never would’ve thought seeing a Conan O’Brien monologue with typography animation alone would be more engaging than watching the man himself. 

Ken Burns brings history to life with basic zooming and panning on stills. 

Getting comfortable with your pen tool and clone tool in Photoshop can help you create the parallax effect in your editing software--another way to add visual interest to photos. 

When you can’t get out to capture new footage, you can still make movie magic with stills and minimal animation. You can likely get started with software you already have. Adobe Premiere,After Effects and Animate have helped drop the barriers to entry so you can delve into the basics without an overly burdensome learning curve. 

Tools and trainings for when you’re ready to add a whole new piece to your business pie

Schultz and team have put together this comprehensive list of resources to get you started with minimal investment. Many are free!  

While you’re spending extra time at home anyway, you may as well learn the basics. You can become proficient enough to add new depth to your projects or, if you like it enough, you can keep learning and become an expert. 

There’s plenty to explore before getting into motion capture and creating complete characters. No matter how far you take it, you will find uses for everything you learn.  

Bottom line

Sometimes when you’re boxed into a corner, your pivot causes you to create something even better than you thought possible. When life hands you lemons, animate them. 

Crew Connection helps video professionals connect with clients. Put all your skills to use with us by applying to be listed on our online database of highly-vetted crews.

Shawna Schultz is president and executive producer of Mass FX Media, a motion design lab serving brands and documentary filmmakers animation and visual effects to enhance their stories.

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