The Animation Process – Complete Step by Step Guide

17/07/23         Author: Florencia Oliveto         17 min reading

A group of characters putting up a billboard with a video graphic of the animation process

You probably already know that animated videos, like explainer videos and whiteboard animations, allow you to transmit your company’s message with ease and simplicity, even if your product or service is super complex to understand at first sight. So, you’ve probably heard about the perks of investing in one of these videos, but you might not know much about what the actual animation process entails.

Whether you’re embarking on this new journey on your own or are considering enlisting the help of a professional video marketing agency, I want you to be fully prepared for the animation steps ahead of you. So, in this article, I’ll tell you all about how we, at Yum Yum Videos, typically create an animation.

Ready? Let’s begin!


A Bit of History on the Animation Production Process

Animation has been around for quite a while now. However, the process required for bringing characters and stories to life was quite different before the advent of computers and digital tools revolutionized the video industry. Back then, films and short videos were made entirely by hand, following a complex and painstaking process that could take years to complete.

The hand-drawn animation technique involves drawing each and every frame of a story sequentially on a transparent plastic sheet called a “cel.” Then, each cel would be photographed and played back in rapid succession to create the illusion of motion.

This animation production process required highly skilled professionals and meticulous attention to detail, which is why only the top animation studios worked with it.  Ultimately, it was replaced by more modern techniques like 2D and 3D animation.


What Are the Main Steps in the Animation Process?

Modern computer software and digital tools have allowed artists and producers to streamline the process, and while it can vary for different animated video companies, it usually consists of ten key animation phases:

1. Research
2. Script
3. Storyboard
4. Art Direction
5. Voiceover narration recording
6. Illustration
7. Animation
8. Sound Design
9. Integration
10. Deliverable

I’ll go over these animation steps one by one, giving you a detailed overview of what each of them typically entails in our commercial video production company.

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1. Research: Getting to Know Your Brand

Making animated ads is not only about character design and script brainstorming. In fact, it’s crucial to gain a thorough understanding of your business first. That’s why we always take the time to learn as much as possible about your brand and your product and service so we can discover your specific needs and goals for your animated corporate  video.

How do we do this? Well, we send clients a creative brief with questions about their brand’s values, identity, and target audience. We also ask about the video’s goals and the tone it should have.

Once you’ve filled out this document, we will hold an online meeting to discuss further details and get both your team and ours on the same page. Finally, with all your information in mind, we put our heads together and start working towards the next stage of the 2D animation process.

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2. Script: Defining the Concept

What’s the message you want the video to transmit? That’s what the second animation step is all about —defining your piece’s core message and writing a cohesive script to effectively deliver it in a compelling way.

No matter how complex the concept we’re working on is, we always develop a clear and simple script that’s easy to understand and lets your message shine through.

People often tend to skip scriptwriting, but we can’t stress enough how critical this animation phase is because it’s going to be transformed into video storytelling later on. Believe me when I say it’ll be the foundation for the rest of your video and will save you a lot of time and effort down the road. There are no two ways about it: not having a script or using a poor, rushed one can never result in a quality piece.


3. Storyboard: Visualizing the Script

The third step of the animation process is crafting the storyboard. If you’ve never heard of this term before, you can think of it as the visual version of your script that can help you better organize your story. 

Now, when you want to create an animation, be it a doodle video, or any other animation style, you should follow a comic book-like format to illustrate the keyframes of your future video. In our case, we also add a description of the shot, which includes the corresponding script lines and any other relevant details about how the story will unfold.

We consider the storyboard as the roadmap that our production team will follow to effectively produce a coherent and engaging piece for our clients. It’s one of the most valuable tools in our animation production workflow, as it not only allows our clients to visualize and check how the video will look, but also helps us prevent inconsistencies, mistakes, and unnecessary delays.Animation process


4. Art Direction: Deciding the Visual Style

In this stage of the 2D animation process, we focus on creating your video’s style frames, which are a series of illustrations that reflect the piece’s overall aesthetic. They include the art design of every important element that appears on screen, such as the characters, product, color palette, typography, and the keyframes of the video.

We typically provide three style frames with the color palette, the art design of the characters, and some scenes from the storyboard so you can get a sense of how the final asset will look and feel. Needless to say, we pay special attention to delivering style frames that accurately match your brand’s identity. What’s more, with this animation step, we can build a solid basis for the rest of our team to work on.

Animation process

Animation process

5. Voice-over Narration: Choosing the Right Actor

The next crucial (and fun!) animation step involves bringing the script to life with the help of the right narrator. It’s important to choose a professional voiceover talent that can help set the tone for the video.

That’s why, in this phase of the animation production process, you’ll listen to our pool of talented voiceover artists and select your favorite one. I know it can be pretty hard to choose only one, so to help you narrow down your options, we always suggest that you first think about whether you want a more masculine or feminine voice. Then, choose the actor whose style you believe represents your brand’s attitude more accurately. This step is particularly important for corporate videos and educational video production, where it’s key to use the right tone to convey your message.


6. Illustration: Creating the Characters and Backgrounds

Once we get your approval on the style frames and all the previous animation steps, it’s time to start working on the design of the different graphic assets.

The illustration stage of the animation process can be done using traditional animation methods, such as the drawn animation technique, or using computer software such as Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop —or both! Which option you’ll go for will ultimately depend on the cartoon style you choose for your video.

When illustrating with digital tools, the artist can sketch their character and background ideas using different digital brushes provided by the software. They can work directly on the canvas or on separate layers to allow for quick adjustments and to easily undo or modify strokes. 

But more importantly, by separating different parts of a character or object into different layers, the artist can prepare them for rigging and animation. Each of those layers can then be manipulated and animated independently in the next stage of the process using a different kind of software.

Once they’re happy with the sketch, they can refine the line art and begin coloring, shading, and adding texture to the illustrations. The artwork is always created with high resolution to ensure clarity and detail, and exported in a suitable file format, such as PNG and JPG for individual image files or PSD and AI for layered files.

Our video animation services include the delivery of a PDF file with some of the illustrations so you can see how the story will visually develop.

Animation process


7. Animation: Bringing the Story to Life

Now’s the time for my favorite part of the animation process! Here, the skilled animation artists at our animation company set out to bring the illustrations to life. 

Using sophisticated software, they import the illustrations and start rigging them. This means they build a sort of skeletal structure that controls the movement of each part of the illustration at specific points in time to create the animation.

After that, they create keyframes, which, in simple terms, are the frames that determine a character’s important poses or positions.

Ever wondered how animated characters can move so smoothly? Well, that’s thanks to the next animation step, which is called inbetweening. In simple terms, this involves filling the gaps between the keyframes to achieve smooth and fluid motion. In traditional hand-drawn animation, the artist had to manually create each and every in-between frame, which is why this was such as time-consuming technique. Nowadays, we can use interpolation to generate these intermediate frames and save a lot of time.

Finally, our team carefully reviews the animation and checks for any inconsistencies before exporting it into a suitable file format. Moreover, they also clean up any imperfections in the frames to ensure a polished, professional-looking result.

And that’s how you create an animation. To no one’s surprise, this stage is one of the most complex parts of animation production, so it can take some time to complete it!

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8. Audio Edition: Adding Sound Effects

We’re almost there! The visual part of the video is over and done with now, so it’s time to buckle down and focus on the audio.

In this step of the animation process, we edit and synchronize the voiceover recording, sound effects, and music with the visual counterpart.

We’re well aware that the music and audio quality can make or break your animated video, so we pay close attention to getting the best result possible.


9. Integration: Putting Everything Together

As part of the final stages of animation production, every digital asset and individual frame must undergo rendering. This means that they will all be combined into a single video file according to the artist’s specifications. 

The process can be entirely customized, so, for example, you could set your desired resolution, aspect ratio, frame rate, and more parameters depending on your project’s requirements. This can be particularly important for social media video production, for example, where video content has to meet certain criteria.

Other than that, it’s important to note that rendering can often be one of the most time-consuming parts of making an animated video, particularly if you’re dealing with complex scenes or high-quality output.

Then, the final animation step of this stage takes place. In post-production, the animation is enhanced through careful editing. Here, you’d use color correction techniques and add any final touches or effects to the animation to make it look awesome.

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10. Deliverable: Finetuning the Details

Finally! The animation process is over. All we have left to do now is adjust the video to your liking.

Since we’re committed to satisfying our clients to the fullest, we’ll send you a deliverable as part of the animation production workflow, so you can let us know what you’d like to change.

Including the round of changes, finishing all the animation steps can take up from seven to nine weeks in total.

And there you have it! A custom 2D animated video of the highest quality 😉.

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Extra Bonus: Types of Animation (in a Nutshell)

After diving into how to create animated videos, it’s often useful to take a quick look at the main types of animation productions you can go for.

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1. 2D Animation

Two-dimensional animation consists of flat characters, objects, and scenarios – flat being the keyword here.

This is the most popular animation style in video marketing, so it’s the one we used as a reference to explain the overall animation process. Don’t worry, the steps don’t vary much in other production styles, and you can find more examples in our portfolio.

On a side note, I’d like to mention that there’s a similar style that’s often mistaken for 2D animation that’s actually called “2.5 d animation.” For our purposes today, you can think of this style as a hybrid between 2D and 3D.

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2. Motion Graphics

Graphic videos are the ultimate animation style if you want to give movement to text, numbers, charts, and symbols. It’s the go-to option to communicate hard data in a clear and dynamic way or create overlays for live-action videos. They might look simple at first glance, but they’re actually very complex to make and there are even motion graphics companies specialized in producing them.

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3. Stop Motion

As part of the animation production workflow, the stop motion artists place elements in front of the camera, take a picture, move the pieces a tiny bit, take another photo, and so on. Each picture represents a frame, so when you place them in a sequence, you obtain the illusion of continual movement.

This beautiful effect gives an artistic feel to marketing videos, but the stop-motion animation steps can be tedious, costly, and slow, so it’s usually not recommended for product advertisements, for example. However, it can be a cool YouTube content idea to spice up your channel!

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4. 3D Animation

In a 3D animated video, the elements on the screen have not only height and width but also depth. Unlike a 2D animation process, 3D characters and objects are modeled from a digital mesh instead of illustrated.

This is the ideal style for promotional video production and for some specific niches, such as healthcare advertising; they are useful for showing the inner workings of a mechanical or complex product or offering viewers an immersive visual experience. That said, 3D animation phases are often highly expensive.

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A Bit More about Yum Yum Videos’ Animation Process

Our animation production workflow might not differ much from other top video services in the market. However, there are many other aspects related to it that set us apart.

For starters, our endless dedication to meeting our clients’ needs and expectations. We believe that truly listening and understanding what they need is the main ingredient of a successfully customized animated piece.

Our animation process is also distinguished for our close attention to detail. We can’t help it because we’re hardcore perfectionists who work on all the animation steps with a detail-oriented mindset. Moreover, we firmly believe this is the only way to deliver top-notch results. Watch our reel and see our work’s quality for yourself!
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We also provide our clients with:

  • One of the highest animation qualities in the market, thanks to the hard work of our dedicated team of experts.
  • fully customized video from beginning to end.
  • A smooth and flexible motion graphics and 2D animation process with several layers of quality control.
  • The best price-quality guarantee with no hidden fees down the road.
  • A smooth communication flow – no leaving you in the dark during any of the animation phases!

But don’t just take us at our word! You can check our reviews at Google, Clutch, and FixThePhoto for more details on what it is like to work with our team.

So, if you want a hand with your animation project, don’t hesitate to drop us a line! We’ll be happy to embark with you on this new adventure 😄!


Frequently Asked Questions about the Animation Process

Learning about how to make animation videos might’ve left you with some questions. Hopefully, my mind-reading powers will work, and I’ll be able to guess what’s in your mind right now 😛.


1. How important is planning in the animation process? 

I know that planning might be boring and tedious, and you want to get to the juicy part and actually create an animation video. However, planning is a crucial step in animation production because if you don’t build a blueprint for your video, you’ll most likely end up facing serious setbacks and delays during production.

Minor issues, such as the script being slightly longer than it should be, can be fixed on the spot, but if you choose the wrong video type for your goals, you’ll be facing a big waste of time and resources. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll end up with a piece that can’t accomplish the goals you set out for your campaign. To avoid that, it’s best to take the time to do your due research and plan your video. You could also partner up with one of the best animation studios in New York, for example, and save yourself the hassle.


2. How much does animation cost?

If you’re thinking about entrusting your project to a video production company, you’ll naturally want to know what you can expect to be charged for their services. Considering they truly know how to make animation videos that are compelling and visually attractive, you’ll find that an average custom 2D animated video typically costs between $7000 to $20000 per minute. However, the animation cost can vary greatly depending on the type of video you want to make and the company’s expertise.


3. How long does it take to animate 1 minute of video?

This is an incredibly hard question to answer because there are many factors that come into play, such as the number of characters, the actions they perform, and the animation style you choose. Regardless of that, leaving aside the time devoted to all the previous stages and to post-production, and if you already know how to make an animation, it can take anywhere between 12 days and two weeks to just animate 1 minute of video.


4. How long does the animation process take to complete? 

Depending on the complexity of the piece, the whole animated video production process can take a professional explainer video company between eight and nine weeks of hard work from the start to the final delivery. Our usual production cycle at Yum Yum Videos typically requires six weeks, plus however long it takes to integrate your feedback and make the necessary changes to your video.


5. Is the animation process flexible?

If you’re making a silent video, you can (and you will) skip recording the voice-over narration and adding sound effects. But in general terms, the process doesn’t allow for much flexibility because each stage is important to make a great animation video that fits within your video marketing strategy perfectly.

With most professional companies, you do have some wiggle room for customizing the timeframes and giving feedback, though. For example, at Yum Yum Videos, you can ask us to speed up the production process and even request more revision rounds. However, you do need to bear in mind that working toward faster deliveries will always translate into a price increase to accommodate the increased production effort necessary to meet tight deadlines.


Wrapping Up

Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither was any great animated video out there!

To create awesome explainer videos, training videos, product videos, video promos, and more, we put plenty of time and care into them and strive to get the best results for our clients. Not to mention there are many people involved in any worthy animation process, namely a director, scriptwriter, illustrator, animators, voiceover artists, and more. No wonder why the production can take weeks!

But don’t despair: once all the animation steps are completed, and you have an awesome video in your hands, you’ll see the waiting will pay off big time!

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