In this post, we’ll talk about how to get animation ideas for your scenes and videos.
It’s not always easy to know how to visualize something, but there are a couple of practical techniques you can use to progress faster through your video scripts.
I’ve created animations for 100s of course lessons, client videos, and this YouTube channel, and it has taught me how to quickly convert a sentence or just one word into a scene.
And after you’ve read this article, you’ll be able to do the same, by choosing a visual category, using inspiration from other animators, letting templates inspire you, and much more.
Let’s get started!
As you probably know, I suggest starting your videos with script-writing.
The script is then to be turned into animation, which is easier said than done, right? How do you turn something textual into something visual?
When I work through my script, line by line, and I get stuck at a sentence I don’t have any visual idea for, I take a step back and start by thinking about what category this scene should be.
Could this be a textual scene?
My textual scenes consist of a colored or textured background and words in different sizes and colors.
I think textual scenes work great when you mention a word or a term that needs to be spelled out or highlighted a little extra.
Or as a last resort, when you have a sentence that is rather dry or simply doesn’t contain anything to visualize - then you just write it out with an effect.
A bonus with textual scenes is that they are the fastest to create - by far. When you’ve done one once, simply copy and paste it again and again when needed.
Conceptual scenes are still quite simple in their construction, although not as simple as the textual scenes.
My conceptual scenes usually contain a simple background and a few animated assets.
I use these a lot, because I love how they support what’s said through a simple visual idea.. and because they are relatively fast to make, too.
I find the elements I want to use by searching through the libraries in my animation maker, using keywords from my script -- or by searching on Google Images for inspiration on how this word or term has been visualized by others.
Also, I often use dividers of 2, 3, and 4 if I’m talking about the difference between something and something else; if I’m talking about a process; or if I’m talking about a number of elements that need to be listed in a nice way.
What’s important is that what you show supports what you say.
If that’s just one single animated item and a few words, then that’s your scene.
The last of the 3 scene categories I use to get ideas for visuals is environmental.
These are scenes that show a contextual setting with some people that do something - people walking down the street, sitting on a bench in the park, working from an office, and so on.
If you use an animation maker, your point of departure for environmental scenes is one of the scene templates - and then you make custom changes to it if needed.
These environmental scenes are great for when you are telling a story, talk about a person …. or simply don’t have any ideas for a strong conceptual scene.
That’s right - sometimes my animation choices are based on lack of ideas or lack of time.
Then, a quick solution for visualizing a sentence like.. “Barry is writing advanced code for AI enterprise software”. This sentence could just be a person typing frantically on a keyboard with a smile on his face.
Then the viewer just has to imagine all the cool AI stuff going on on the screen.
In this way, environmental scenes can save you from having to visualize complex sentences conceptually; they help when you don’t have a great idea; or when you don’t have the time to ideate for very long and build your scene from scratch.
Choosing one of these 3 overall categories is very often my go-to method for getting ideas for animations.
It forces you to think inside one of these boxes, which limits your options and makes it easier to get a concrete visual idea.
Next method I use to get animation ideas quickly is to sketch it out on..
Using pen and paper might sound simple, but stay with me here.
What I do is that I re-read the sentence I’m stuck at, then force myself to doodle at least 2 different ways to visualize what’s said.
I’m horrible at drawing, but that’s fine as this is not about drawing - it’s about ideation, and pen and paper is an enabler of ideas, even though you’re not used to drawing.
Don’t make it pretty - do it quickly without any judgment. It’s just a means to an end.
And don’t sketch for hours. Usually, I do this for about a minute only, then decide what idea I’m going with.
This process of drawing a little usually gets the good ideas out on paper, and then I throw the pen down and quickly move the idea into my animation tool.
I always keep a block of paper on my desk for this purpose, and I can really recommend it.
The next method I use is super controversial. It is to.. lend a little.. from great animators out there:
To watch other creators animate is a great source of inspiration. It provides you with new ideas on how to divide a scene up, how to transition between scenes, and how to design scenes that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Even though I can’t animate at this level, I look for compositions, color combinations and asset choices that I can steal for my own videos.
Because you don’t want to copy the sequence you're watching. You want to steal the idea behind what you see, and incorporate that into your own style and video.
This method is better for overall inspiration than for specific ideas for a scene you're stuck at.
But I think it’s something you should do once in a while if you work with any kind of visual content creation.
The last method I use is probably the least creative, but the most effective.
What often ends up happening is that I try to get ideas, and maybe I do get a rough idea by sketching a little - but then I start to search for the components I need, and I can’t find them.
Then what do you do?
Do you get frustrated, and insist on sticking with your first idea - or do you drop your first idea ... and let yourself get inspired by what’s there instead?
Most animation tools have some sort of template library or asset library where you can go look for inspiration.
It might not sound super creative and cool, but I often end up choosing something that’s already there, instead of building my first and best idea from scratch.
Because, if I conclude that the visualization that came from a template - supports what’s said as well as my own original idea, I’m totally fine using the template.
As long as there’s a clear connection between what’s said and what’s shown, I have no problem with ditching my first idea and go with that instead.
Now you know how I get animation ideas for the scripts I write on Mondays.
I think in terms of categories - textual, conceptual, environmental.
I use pen and paper to sketch out a few alternative ways to visualize a sentence.
I steal great ideas from great animators.
And I surrender to my animation tool and let what’s already there lead the way.
As a final remark, I want to say - to you who don’t think of yourself as a creative person, or as someone who thinks visually - that this is a skill that can be trained.
Getting ideas for visuals is something many struggle with and find hard to do.
But, after a while of using these methods - maybe a bit mechanically at first - you start to get ideas for animations immediately as you read a sentence from your script.
So, try one of these methods for yourself, and use it to get started - and in no time the ideas will start flowing to you naturally.
Thanks for reading along - remember to take care of yourself and those around you.
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