10 TIPS TO CHOOSE THE BEST ANIMATION STUDIO FOR YOUR PROJECT
February 2021, Mar Exposito
Whether your priority is getting a beautiful design or that the story has a happy ending, many factors will decide your project's success and how smooth it was to create it. It all depends on who you decide to work with.
This article is meant to help musicians looking for an animated music video, filmmakers who need a specific animated clip, advertising companies, and similar professionals in need of 2D or 3D animated videos.
1) Look for studios from the professional side as well as their portfolio account
While many professional studio directors and animators can be found on LinkedIn and other professional listings, most studios will have social media portfolios.
You can also look for animated videos and similar products of what you want and research who is the studio behind them. Or browse animators on freelancing and job sites.
Note: Twitter has a great pool of Japanese-style animators but they may be too specific. You should be looking for studios (bigger or smaller) who can create the full video file at your desired level.
2) Observe their past and current style
To know the broad spectrum of their work, don't just look at their latest creation. Chances are they can adapt to different styles within a range of visual choices. If it is available to them, they can also get inspired by your chosen references.
3) Look for details revealing quality
Common red flags are pixelated art, typos, pacing that is too fast/slow to understand the story, unreadable fonts, and palettes without consistency. Looking deeper on credits and project descriptions will also tell you if you are dealing with an amateur, a young studio or a bigger known company.
Assume all artists make mistakes at some point, especially in old pieces. Because of that, see what is their average standard and see that they are willing to make revisions and whether their portfolio has shown growth and improvements. If really intrigued, ask how that mistake happened and what is the artist doing so it won't the case again. Maybe the fonts were provided by their client, who asked for an old-school specific style. Or maybe they made an honest typo and will make sure that doesn't get out again.
4) Know your timing
One of the first things to clarify is whether there is a strict deadline. That is not just to make sure the delivery is possible, but it can also affect the complexity, pricing and overall viability of what you are asking for.
Animation takes a lot of patience in general as well as preparation work for designs, storyboards and concept art. For TV anime-style music videos, we suggest contacting at least 5 months in advance to the release date.
5) Keep a flexible budget, and a creative mind
More than knowing what your "top price" is, what is relevant for the studio is knowing what are your goals and vision for the project so that can be integrated whatever the conditions. Although that might mean that sometimes a project is not feasible without major changes.
A good studio will show you a proposal as close to your vision as possible. Then, after checking the timing and expected investment, things can be adapted in complexity. In the negotiation stage, you both need to be flexible and creative so all priority points in the video are protected: styles, story, deadlines...
6) See what they stand for
Branding is important to any company and individual. And if you will share a space in the credits with the animation studio, you may want to stay away from supporters of causes you are completely against and risk the association of your image.
This is a tricky situation because even with tough research of their values there is no 100% match. We are all different. Plus, people and businesses change.
Yet it is best to prioritize collaborations with studios that share your core principles at the moment. Not only does it feel better, but it can save a lot of further marketing problems.
7) Consider cross-promotion campaigns
Bigger studios are likely to bring you new fans just by associating together. But any collaboration also has that same potential really.
During the proposal stage, talk about how can you cross-market: Will they post pictures of the process or post-production? Will they tag you in social media? Do you want to tag them? How much is secret before the launch of your animation?
8) Explore what their other clients say about them
See how past clients of the studio are doing and what results did the video bring them. More or less views than prior campaigns? What comments did the viewers leave?
Some studios have case studies, and you may even consider asking those public clients to get a fresh review.
9) Choose reliable communication
As with any social interaction, here both sides are responsible for communication. You tell them your vision, deadlines, and answer questions they have to ensure the product will be according to the proposal. But they also need to do their part in setting the right expectations.
Whether they use formal emails or casual messaging app updates, consider how long did the studio take to get back to you. Also, do you feel they are listening to you? How do they reply to your concerns? Have you been informed about the process and whether you will get sketches during production?
All connection styles are different so regularly check in with your intuition to see if you feel safe with your project in their hands. And don't hesitate to reset the channels and consistency of communication. Such as, you want more or fewer updates.
Talking is the best way to solve anything.
10) Know your rights
Intellectual property law changes around the world so don't take things for granted in that aspect.
Be clear about who owns the copyrights or distribution rights of the commissioned piece. Those decisions can heavily influence the cross-marketing promotion aspects and the price of the piece so don't take too long to bring up the subject if the studio didn't mention it.
For example, you can own all copyrights and distribution of the final piece, but avoid restricting the pre-production art so the studio can use it in social media and increase awareness about you. You can even decide that you both can monetize different aspects of the piece as long as you get to release it first and keep exclusivity on X platform.