Global Animatics: All Over the Map

I was recently part of a team tasked by a US global advertiser to review all major animatic suppliers and suggest which would be best for their global consolidation strategy.

Alphonse Normandia

Alphonse Normandia

I have a long history with animatics, I was agency producer for all animatics and test production in the 80’s at BBDO NY. My boss was Alphonse Normandia, a widely beloved agency art director, cartoonist and character extraordinaire.

Anyway, I grew up producing hundreds, if not thousands of “American Style” animatics.

Our normal process was to have Alphonse “dope out” the action in a storyboard and order 2D flat artwork to be created by artists and illustrators. We then shot this flat art on an animation stand and keyed in the loose 2D elements, arms, legs, mouths, etc., with various on line systems in a 1” edit suite.

Upon reviewing the global offering for animatic production in 2016, I quickly found the limits of global market penetration for “American Style” animatics. The advertising history in most countries does not include extensive market testing. Resources were not focused on a standardized testing format and so as a result, most regional brand folks are often agnostic on format and very reserved on cost.

TYPICAL 1980'S 2D ANIMATIC ARTWORK, I GUESS THE ARTIST MUST HAVE BEEN WATCHING MASH AND USED HARRY MORGAN AS A MODEL

TYPICAL 1980'S 2D ANIMATIC ARTWORK, I GUESS THE ARTIST MUST HAVE BEEN WATCHING MASH AND USED HARRY MORGAN AS A MODEL

There are also regional peculiarities, for instance many Central and South American markets want the director, or at least his production company, to handle the test production. Their approach is often called a “Quick & Rough” which is the commercial produced with actors just as it sounds… quick and rough. The overall cost of about $50K which is twice the cost of a standard US animatic. My larger problem with this approach is that you have effectively single bid your production company in the animatic phase, so true negotiations on full up production costs are pretty difficult!

In Europe, often the rough cut is tested, which to my mind defeats the purpose. Because you’ve already made the spot – why not just finish it and test that!

Larger problems have arisen with the VFX production and editorial communities. Most VFX work requires pre-visualization or a pre-viz which are also called animatics. So naturally VFX artist think they are able to make animatics. Editors have a self-image of themselves as master story tellers. So they too feel eminently qualified to cut animatics, though working with animatic media is not something they are generally familiar with.

So looking around the world at the animatic production offerings in various markets is an interesting mixture of “American Style” animatics, cinematics, board-o-matics, cartoons, VFX pre-vizes and various editorial mixed media hodge-podges. Much of it remarkably lame.

The advice I suggested was to step back and review our client’s testing goals and review if their current mixture of production methodologies is appropriate for their goals. I suggested that they take a close look at an apples-to-apples testing approach, then get behind a consensus methodology – globally. Short of that, their testing results would always be suspect, as they are now.

In the end, we suggested companies with global reach broken into two camps, facilities groups and agency production groups. The facility folks actually do the work and the agency folks manage the work; sometimes do the work and sometimes they go to vendors… depending on the project.