It’s the details that matter

Working with a new client can be challenging but always refreshing, especially when creating an animation for a start up company. The key to creating any good animation is understanding the branding and the message they are trying to convey.

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We worked with a company called CRS Xeraphic. They offer an integrated business platform that consolidates management information using Big Data analytics. They wanted a video animation to illustrate who they are and what they do in a short simple way.

Presenting a variety of design concepts always helps the client visualise the route you are taking and opens discussions so you can choose what is right for them. We were immediately drawn to the unique shape they use in the logo which we used as a base to expand upon and add characteristics. By using a shape as the character instead of a person, the audience will feel more attached to the cute and lovable character. This of course went down well with the client as the character shape was reinforcing their brand and we continued to build a world for our animation around it.

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So keeping an eye out for the little details always helps to bring a brand to life!

You can have a look below to see the full video:

Show me where to go

We’re all used to leaning on our sat nav’s to show us where we need to go, but what if they were listening too? What would they say?

That’s the idea behind our recent video for Capgemini’s Cars Online report. An annual study that looks at what car owners and buyers expect today.

While part of the brief was to collect interviews from the automotive sector experts, we wanted to add something a bit different. So we put forward our idea of the sat nav that listened, with the aim being to create a teaser. Something that enticed the audience to find out more, and in this case read the report.

We set about creating our story, all based inside one car, following the everyday journeys of the two owners. People spend a lot of time in their cars, so it was important to connect with the audience using scenarios that all drivers experience; long drives, traffic jams, family trips… Once the idea had been established, a few teasers could be used to introduced through animation, to highlight some of the report content. 

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The filming day was a technical and logistical challenge; finding the right car aesthetically, but suitable to film in. Finding the right locations with, traffic jams at the right moment… Making sure all in car footage was stable while driving and ensuring the sat nav could be tracked in post-production… But all went as planned and the video is now a main feature of the Cars Online 2015 landing page.

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When it comes to details there will always be huge value in hearing from experts and reading in-depth reports. But for your audience to get there you need to connect with them, create something memorable, and give them a starting to point from which they can be guided to everything you want them to see. 

Otherwise they might just get lost! 

Creating value from Stock Shots

The vast majority of our work is bespoke at Napoleon Creative. Each animation is drawn and designed with a specific client in mind, incorporating their branding or product. Every shoot is specially set up to capture that particular moment for a client, or to cover the specific action within the script. However we occasionally use stock shots to save time, or get a shot we can’t get ourselves. For example, we needed an oil drop for an animation, for another we needed a close up of soft drink bottle being opened. Far easier to buy a stock shot than set up an entire shoot for something someone else has already shot!

Recently however, we wanted to create an internal presentation with impact for one of our regular clients. We’ve done several videos for them over the last two years, illustrating work done over the last few months. We wanted to try something different, so rather than just sticking to text-led motion graphics with brand logos, a very literal interpretation of the projects, we wanted to convey the feeling of what was actually achieved. So we found striking stockshots that had a distinct ‘feeling’ so the viewer didn’t just see the facts, but felt the actual emotion of what their client does, and how they made impact. We didn’t put any logos on screen, and kept the copy to a minimum.

The downside with stockshot sequences like this is that the footage comes from many different sources, and can look a bit disparate. So we added a treatment which fulfilled two functions. First, it made all the shots more consistent in look. Second, it made it easier to put the copy over the visuals in a way that was very easily read.

The audience at the presentation was from an entire department, most of whom had only worked on one or two of the projects. So seeing the stock shot image really reinforced what the client was about and how they’d helped them. The end result was a refreshing video for the audience and a very pleased client.

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Why video is like tennis, or at least it should be…

As another year of Wimbledon begins (something I can’t help but be drawn into every year) I started to think about how watching a video is much like watching a game of tennis. At least it should be anyway.

As a match starts, there is an inevitable anticipation for what you’re about to see. You have an idea what might happen, as maybe you’ve seen the players before, or you’ve at least seen one game of tennis before… So the expectation is already there, but you can never be 100% sure how it will play out. It’s down to the players to surprise you.

This is much the same with video. There are very few people out there who won’t have seen any video at all. Therefore your audience is already primed with a certain level of expectation, even if subconsciously. So when it comes to the basics, if you don’t deliver the goods, the audience won’t be impressed. The pacing of the edit, the colour, the composition etc… should all be at a high level, that of a top seed at Wimbledon. As much as it’s good to be different or unconventional, a paying crowd wouldn’t be amused by a player serving with their racquet upside down…

Similarly, when it comes to the final delivery, you should be so well drilled that the simplest of mistakes can never creep in. A flash frame in the edit or a spelling mistake in a title is not what the audience expects to see. Much like when a star player serves a double fault, the crowd deserves better.

Then we come to the overall performance. While a lot of the game might be as expected, a few short standard rallies, a changing of ends, and so on. There will always be the moments that shake things up a little. The 140mph ace down the middle is like surprising the audience with a hard hitting fact. The 25 shot rally is the detailed explanation you never quite understood, but when you get to the end it all makes perfect sense. Then of course there are the moments of flair. The shots that don’t seem like they should be possible. For me, these are the moments video producers most look forward to. When you can surprise and amaze your audience with something unexpected, special and beautifully executed.

Finally we get to the end of the match, the moment it’s all been building up to. When the crowd hold their hands up and say “this player really knows what they’re doing”. In video, never undersell the ending. If your audience has been good enough to watch it all the way through, don’t pass up the opportunity to give them everything they need to see you play again, or better still become a loyal lifelong fan. When you reach the end of the video make the most of your call to action. You never know who might be watching on from the royal box, it could be the client or customer you’ve always been waiting for.

So, next time you’re making a video, just check you’ve got all the same ingredients as the Wimbledon final. Then you can sit back and eat strawberries while the fans roll in!

Reaching out to young drivers

Earlier in the year we filmed some road safety videos for the West Midlands Road Safety partnership. It was a joint creative venture with B3 Online, a marketing and communications agency that specialises in communicating responsibly with children and youth.

The aim was to address anti-social rather than illegal behaviour, not just in drivers but with passengers as well. We worked with local talent, including lots of young actors.

Filming in March is always a challenge. It was bitter, despite some of the sunny shots. The light changes quickly, warming up and cooling down as the sun rises and falls (which we fixed in the grade at Azimuth).

We’ve just complete the films and you can watch them below.

Quick turnaround animation? Yes, we can!

We’ve had a few projects through the door in the last month that have had tight deadlines. One of these was for a long-standing technology client, one from a new hair care client and another from a banking client who googled looking for an animation. The latter we won not just on the quality of work, but our assurance that we could deliver quality animation within two weeks. We call these our FastTrack projects.

Our confidence in being able to deliver comes from the process that is the back bone of our work, and it’s a process that definitely supports, not hinders, creativity. Of course, when you’ve got two weeks to turnaround a job, you have to make sure the creative is executable in the time, but adding strict process really helps speed the project along.

The end result? Well, here’s what we just got back from the client:

Alex and I have both seen the final cut and we are happy with it. A great job done by you and your team! Please consider this email as our approval of the final version. Many thanks and best wishes!

 If you’re looking to create an animation in a short turnaround, then here are our nine key tips for making that deadline.

1) Early inclusion of all stakeholdersING KID'ING Still 01

We ask that all key stakeholders give input on the project early on. We work swiftly on FastTrack projects, often with two or three designers working concurrently. We need to make sure that we’re going in the right direction, and by running ideas past everyone involved it avoids us wasting time.

2) Lock off the script and storyboard

It’s important to focus on the script and storyboard and get them signed off, even if that means starting the actual animation work a few days later. It’s better to bring in more talent later in the day, than waste time on scenes that might be cut.

3) Sign off on a Look and Feel sheetING KID'ING Still 04

Early on we’ll send a Look and Feel sheet, to show you still images of the direction we’re taking. This will be quick and easy to share, so you can get feedback to us promptly. Again, this needs to be signed off before any real work starts.

4) Quick Clarification on any issues

When we’re working on a project, there are inevitably areas of the script or the product offering that we don’t understand, which we’ll raise by phone or email. We ask that you respond to these within 2 hours.

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5) Pronunciation Sign off

If there’s a voice over, we’ll send an email with any words that we want clarification on pronunciation. We also ask you to read your script aloud to someone else in your office, as this is a great way of revealing any changes needed to sense or flow.

6) Independent Eye

We recommend someone from outside the project taking a look when we’re a good way in. When you’re working on something on a tight deadline, it’s easy to become blind even to obvious mistakes. A fresh pair of eyes watching the film is more likely to spot little mistakes and also highlight where there might need to be more clarity.

7) 20% Contingency

We add a 20% contingency on to the budget. We find that working at speed sometimes means a detail is missed, or additional animations are requested. Quite often the delivery deadline is brought further forward, as delivery is needed a day or two before the event, rather than on the day. By building in the contingency, there’s scope to add additional hours if needed.

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8) Tolerance

We try our best on FastTrack projects to deliver to our usual high standards, just quicker. However, there will be times when we have to say no to a creative suggestion, because it will be too complicated to implement and hit delivery. We’re also likely to miss details because we’re trying to turn things around quickly. So we ask for your patience and understanding as we collaborate to make something brilliant and quick!

If you’ve got an animation project, whether quick turnaround or not, get in touch. We’re always happy to talk it through!


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?