We're all storytellers at heart. These are skills we began developing at a very young age and continue to use throughout our lives. The wonderful thing about storytelling is that it doesn't require a medium. Storytelling is not just communicated through words and text. You can tell an fascinating story and convey emotion through every design medium. Good designers become excellent storytellers thorough their careers.
A relatively new way that I've found my storytelling voice is through video and motion graphics. I find it exhilarating to breathe life and tell stories through animations and moving graphics. Almost every bit of motion graphics has an element of storytelling itself; the person riding a bicycle on a windy day, a single leaf falling from a tree, or the sound church bells make at certain times of the day. All of these things become a seminal part of the bigger picture and become things I love to play with and perfect.
Motion graphics are a lot of fun to experiment and play with. It's certainly satisfying when one finds the right pace, tone, audio and animations that make the story come to life in a way that elicits emotion. But like most digital design the process is not easy, and it requires a lot of thought, preparation and care throughout the process.
It's time consuming. It doesn't always go perfect or right. However, when it does, you know it does. Following a structured approach is key to making it go right. I'll share my approach with you here.
This is the most important step, and I can't stress that enough. This basic step is keyto begin with for any video. It looks like asking yourself and your client some key questions about the results you are looking for--the emotion and feelings you want to convey. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- Who is this video for?
- What is the action I want to elicit from users?
- What is the emotion they should feel?
These questions seem basic, but the answers to them will get you far into beginning the planning of your project.
After you ask yourself the conceptualization questions, the next step I do is creating high-level story sketches for each scene in the project.
These don't have to be complex or highly detailed in their drawing, in fact it's helpful to move quick through the sketching. I draw stick figures and a lot of basic shapes and decide how they will enter and exit the scenes and interact with the story. This process helps me visualize the entire story, and I think it should come before scripting. This step will help you write the script.
This is a good place to get feedback as well. Explain your ideas to anyone who's opinion you respect. Not only will this help you get good reactions, but the very act of it helps you solidify your story.
The storyboard should give you a lose idea of what the script will look like, but this is the part of the process where you really get the script ironed out. What text appears on the screen, if any? What do your characters say if they speak? What kind of voice-over work might be required for execution?
Once the script is complete it can also give you a better idea of timing. Think of the storyboard as the rough sketch of your script, and the final script will make everything more clear.
This is the most fun and exciting part! It's mostly technical, but there is a lot of creative decisions to be made here also. You should already have a solid idea of what kind of timing you're working with, what your assets are, and how you will execute. The design is the execution.
Keep in mind that motion graphics design is not taking a bunch of popular animations and techniques and putting them into a composition, but rather telling a cohesive and compelling story with animation. The timing should be in sync with the audio, the voice-overs, and the music. It should all come together in one cohesive piece, the viewer should almost forget about time for a moment and be absorbed in your story.
I hope this process was helpful for you and your own motion graphics storytelling. I hope sharing what has worked for me is helpful for you. Now go out and tell some stories, and have some fun getting dirty in the long and exciting process!