What’s the harm in an animator/account handler hybrid?

As a growing business, we often have discussions about the things that define us, that set us apart from the rest. But despite what we see as our own, unique way of doing things, it’s inevitable that large parts of our business processes will broadly be standard practise amongst our competitors.

Company: “We’re creative”

Client: “Err… I should hope so too!”

Company: “We’re also skilled at what we do”

Client: “Good, I’d assumed you weren’t just a goose with a paintbrush…”


Illustration copyright © Katherine Loosley 2015

That said, we know we have our own special blend of USP’s (otherwise our clients wouldn’t keep coming back) and one of these UPSs is a fundamental part of how we have worked for many years.

When a client wants a change, they can talk to the person that makes it.

Whether it’s illustrators, animators or editors, we’ve always seen value in our production team talking to our clients about their projects. Sure, a lot of the time the discussions with our clients can revolve around higher-level aspects such as scripting, tone, delivery formats and of course budget… And involving the production team in too much of this at once can have a negative impact on their creativity. But when it comes to “can we make that icon blue” or “we need this word to have US spelling”, placing a barrier between client and production team simply because of company hierarchy is just a waste of resource and can often lead to miscommunication.

We make sure the whole team is kept in the loop.

At NC we train our production team to interpret and respond to client communications and always understand the full context of any project. In doing so they’re able to think of the bigger picture, make quick informed decisions and contribute to an environment where the client feels assured they have a full team on board with them, not just an account handler. In short, it makes them better at what they do.

If we receive an email suggesting alterations to a project, our production team will have been copied into the email thread, if not we’ll pass it on to them. So when the client then follows that up with a call, our team are already aware of the changes. And who better to take the call and make sure instructions are 100% clear than the person that will make those changes.

Project managers and account handlers are no doubt a fundamental part of any production team, but what’s the harm in an animator/account handler hybrid?

How to get a great voice-over read

Jonathan at the microphone

Hi, my name is Jonathan, a motion designer, and the latest member to join the Napoleon Creative team. In my time here so far, I’ve learnt that you need many different skills to make a project successful. Not just animation techniques and illustration, but the ear for the right background music, and the best performance from a voice over artist.

With this in mind I was offered the chance to attend a beginners voice over workshop at The Showreel, a voice over training company based in Soho, London. They run all different types of training sessions such as, character workshops, personal one-to-one workshops and accent workshops.

After covering the basics of the role of a voice over artist, the second part of our training was getting a variety of scripts for possible scenarios we may have, from a charity read to a serious documentary or a corporate read to an advertisement.

The first read for me was the charity read, I was nervous and unsure of what to expect. I tried the read on my own with no guidance or music. My read was then played back for everyone to hear and the advice I got from the tutor was, ‘More energy, emphasis on certain words and wave my hands around!’ The second and third read had different music playing while I was reading the script and this gave a better result as you get a better understanding of the style and read for the voice-over. After my turn was done, I felt more confident after gaining the experience of a voice over artist and cannot wait to go again. I got to see how the other people in my group did, learning from their strengths and weaknesses. We carried on reading various scripts until the end of the day and every script enabled us to be more creative with it and change things up different situations.

Some of the key advice I took away was;

  • READ OUT LOUD! (Helps you get better and build confidence)
  • Have a physical trigger (e.g. wave arms, jazz hands) for more energy
  •  Don’t be afraid to ask clients or engineer questions
  • Don’t wear clothes that will make a lot of noise when moving (Shirts, loose change in your pocket, squeaky shoes)
  • Avoid dairy food before a read
  • Drink room temperature water rather than cold or hot
  • Always mark your scripts with pencil (changes the client wants or personal notes which can be rubbed out)
  • Stand straight so you can breath easier, no slouching

Overall I enjoyed the beginner’s workshop very much as it has helped me build confidence in myself and gave me insight of how a voiceover artist works. Now I’ll be able to apply this knowledge to the work I do and have a better understanding of voice over performance when selecting and editing voice overs for our projects.

High Speed Drawing for High Speed Internet

Whiteboard animations continue to be a popular choice amongst businesses that want to explain their offering. They can be a great way of illustrating quite complex information in a short, visually simple way. Most importantly it’s a style that resonates with business people who are used to formulating their next big idea in the boardroom, on a whiteboard!

There are a variety of ways these can be done, and there are a few sites around that allow you to produce low cost, very simple whiteboard style animations. But we believe the very best whiteboard animations are done for real, and you can really see the difference when they are.

Whiteboard Animation

Whiteboard animations are all in the planning. At the end of the day an illustrator has to draw all of the images, for several hours, under the watchful eye of a camera. So when they’re drawing, you need to make sure all the details are spot on! Before we enter the studio we go through detailed, script writing, storyboarding and produce full animatics to a dummy voice over, making sure the client is happy with every image before we put pen to board.

Over recent weeks we’ve worked with a company called WarwickNet, who deliver ultra fast internet connectivity to business and science parks around the country. They wanted a video that explained the many benefits their services can bring to businesses around the country, how it all works and in a competitive market, what make them stand out from the crowd.

What better way to explain high speed internet, that with some high speed drawing!

Video production London

Getting the details right requires the right prop house

What do you do when you need to turn an empty studio into a bustling coffee shop? Of course, you need a range of cups, saucers, coffee machines… And in the right colours to make the look just right… And it’s easier to find them than you might think!

There are several large prop houses throughout London from where you can hire every piece of furniture imaginable. If you’ve ever seen a major film or photography shoot made in London, chances are some of their set came from one of these curiosity shops.

To build our coffee shop we turned to Backgrounds, specialists in kitchenware props. Their aisles containing everything from chopsticks to champagne flutes, all organised by colour to make art direction as simple as possible. There are filing cabinets simply labelled ‘Tea Spoons’ or ‘Egg Cups’. Making choices between twenty different styles of Coffee mug was overwhelming. Backgrounds have provided props for a range of cookery programmes, photo shoots and dramas.

In the end we were able to find exactly what we needed to make our bespoke coffee shop feel real and look good on camera. In fact it was so convincing, after calling ‘cut’ the actors didn’t want to leave!

Looking at nice things

I recently wrote a post about how staff training days are always a good thing. Well there’s something else that is always good and that is keeping inspired. We recently took a day out to get some visual inspiration. We started with a bit of fun up the O2, then we moved on to the design museum, after a quick coffee with a client, before moving on to the Tate.

The design museum had an exhibition for Designs of the Year 2014 and was full of amazing work, covering fashion, technology and education, amongst other things. Our particular favourite was Chineasy, a series of illustrations to help you learn the Chinese language in a new way. This was the eventual runner-up to the very impressive Phonebloks

You can have a quick look at what we got up to and some of the things we saw in this video!

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/103716385″>NC Away Day v1</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/napoleon”>Napoleon Creative</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Did you know we do infographics?

We’ve been making infographics for a while now with various clients, such as Heineken, PayPal and Compeed.

With PayPal we worked to create an infographic for potential customers to highlight how PayPal’s new way of taking card payments can impact small businesses in the UK. It clearly lays out the statistics so customers can see how much they will benefit from the new scheme. This is showcased here on techplz.com

Compeed wanted to create an infographic to highlight how the use of their products would decrease discomfort in wearing heels or new shoes. We approached this one by looking at the spending habits of European women on shoes.

Compeed Infographic v9

Infographics can also be made to run alongside animation. We created an animation for Capgemini and suggested an infographic to accompany it that would show the essential steps highlighted in the animation. As the graphic elements had already been created for the animation, the client was able to create extra marketing materials at a relatively low cost.

CG Ocommerce Infographic v3

Infographics are a great piece of marketing that can convey a lot of information in a relatively small space and in a visually interesting way. If, like many business today, you’ve got a lot of information to share but you don’t know how, then get in touch and let us know show you how.

What I learnt from Matisse

A few weeks ago we had a work’s day out. We’d come to the end of a bunch of projects, and hadn’t started properly on the news ones on the slate. So we started the day by climbing over the dome (amazing view), then the Designs of the Year exhibition at the Design Museum. We ended up at the Tate, to see the Matisse Cut Outs.

What I loved about the cut outs was how raw they are. As part of the show, there’s a short clip of him at work, cutting deftly at the paper, creating shapes. And throughout the show, you could see the raw edges and slightly miss-cuts he made. Even when these were transferred to prints, all those edges were left ragged.

With the digital world we work in, everything can be perfect. Circles circular, boxes stacked neatly, everything this crisp and defined. What I’d like to do is make sure we introduce human elements to our work at NC. I’d like to see us do an animation that’s a little less perfect, a little raw at the edges, because often it’s the imperfections that help something digital feel a little bit more real.