What to look for when engaging an animation production house

Blog
July 10, 2016

 

Finding the right animation production house for your corporate video is a bit like managing a county fair pony. There can be a lot riding on it, and a ton of crap to sift through.

But wading through the piles of faceless animation studios can become faster, easier and less daunting when you’ve got a solid checklist of what to look for. You can safely assume the first step with any of these checklist items is to research and understand exactly what it is you’re looking to get out of your new animated video. Are you looking to increase sales of one particular product? Explain a complicated service in an easily digestible way? Create a more natural company image?

But once you’re clear on your ‘why’, it’s time to look at how any given animation house will work with your project. Today we’re revealing seven things you should look at to make sure you’re betting on the right pony.

Scale

Like any company, animation houses come in different shapes and sizes. Some are heavily staffed studios with conveyor-belt style production, where individual employees work extensively within a specialist skill area before passing the project onto the next worker. Other production companies are one-person operations, run by talented generalists who can cover all aspects of the animation process without the added cost of maintaining multiple employees. Still others sit more in the middle—these often take the form of a boutique production house with a set skill base and small number of employees.

Look at the scale of your intended project to determine which kind of studio will best suit your needs. A TVC, explainer, training video, logo or web series can easily be managed by smaller or solo operations, while a full-length animated TV series or movie-style campaign often requires a larger pool of animators.

Specialisation

You wouldn’t go to a dentist for a sprained ankle. Hiring a live-action production company to make you an animated video makes about the same amount of sense. Look for a production house that specialises in animation and you can be sure they’ll be equipped with the right software, technical skills and creativity to get your project completed and completed with confidence and expertise.

Creativity

When you take a look at an animation house’s portfolio, check for visual variety. Does it seem like each video uses the same copy-and-paste template? A studio with a wider range of style and tone will be more inclined to bring your company’s individual flavour into the video. Template animation isn’t by any means a bad investment: if you can see a studio’s specific style suiting your company’s image then great, but keep in mind your end-product runs the risk of not standing out amongst the pack. If a production house has a portfolio of cookie-cutter videos then it’s more than likely you’ll be eating the same kind of cookie as everyone else.

Proven Track Record

On a similar note, not every quality animation house will have a huge portfolio. However, the quality and range of projects displayed on their website should give you an indication of the house’s available skill set, stylistic tendencies, and whether those things will suit the kind of video you or your company are after.

A list of big-name clients doesn’t mean the studio has the creative skill you’re after, but it might. A small amount of excellent videos doesn’t mean they’ll provide the professional service you’re after, but it might. The best way to determine an animation house’s track record is to compare their portfolio and their professional claims to get a full picture of their work history.

Budget Compatibility

Inevitably every project has a budget limit. This is even more prevalent for businesses, where the cost of advertising needs to be weighed comparatively against the projected revenue gained. You want to know you’re not throwing money down the drain and you want to feel secure that you’re getting what you’re paying for.

A professional production house will discuss your project needs with you thoroughly in the early stages so an appropriate quote can be given, and will outline the scope of the project so it’s clear to both you and them what’s expected.

This is the bit that’s most important to be clear on. ‘More expensive = better product’ only rings true if there are demonstrable benefits compared to cheaper options. Those benefits could be the studio’s proven animation skill, fast turnaround times, or a specialist understanding of your field of business. It’s obvious but true: A production house that is consistently capable of offering what you need for your business, when you need it, is the one worth spending on.

Budget Compatibility

This goes for both frequency and style of communication. Everyone is busy, and everyone has occasional periods where they can’t be contacted. However, a production house taking months to answer every serious email/follow up on every phone call is a production house who likely doesn’t have time to commit to your project.

Communication style is important too—whether you like regular updates on your video’s production, or would prefer to let the animation house work its magic so you can focus on your own business, it’s important to make this clear at the start of the project so the production team can keep you in the loop.

Communication

This goes for both frequency and style of communication. Everyone is busy, and everyone has occasional periods where they can’t be contacted. However, a production house taking months to answer every serious email/follow up on every phone call is a production house who likely doesn’t have time to commit to your project.

Communication style is important too—whether you like regular updates on your video’s production, or would prefer to let the animation house work its magic so you can focus on your own business, it’s important to make this clear at the start of the project so the production team can keep you in the loop.

Respect

Most people working at production houses know what they’re talking about. They’ve studied the ins and outs of visual design and storytelling, and they know how to convert even the vaguest description into a compelling video narrative.

But the topic in which you’re more knowledgable, more experienced and more passionate? Your business. And while most of the time you’ll be happy leaving your business’s new video in the skilled hands of a carefully chosen production house, there may be times where you’d like to take a specific angle on your video.

Feeling enough mutual respect in your chosen production company to both trust their capabilities and feel safe pitching your own ideas is a virtue that can’t be quantified, but one that is often neglected on the ‘suitable production house’ checklist.

Written by Maree Railton.