Behind the scenes: How to make animation for science online courses
After a few minutes browsing Youtube, you’re sure to stumble on some videos on a certain scientific topic. When you go deeper into this rabbit hole, you will find a lot of science animations and notice that there’s a whole trend going on!
But have you ever wondered how to make science animations of that sort? Today’s your lucky day, let’s find out! This article will be a full guide with a case study for reference, and at the end there will be some useful tips for when you decide to make a science animation.
Why science animation?
For the longest time, sciences like maths, astrophysics, geology have been deemed dry, boring and inaccessible by the public. And the people aren’t exactly at fault, because the methods used for teaching these subjects have been long considered boring and obsolete. The “traditional” way of educating has limited the science fanatics to only researchers and scientists.
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But that is no longer the case! Many individuals and groups like Kurzegesagt and AsapSCIENCE have embarked upon a noble quest to breath new life into science. What they do has helped many people rekindle their curiosity and learn more about these seemingly dry subjects. Many educational institutions have taken up this new method and incorporated animation into their daily lectures, training and research presentations
An overview of how to make science animation
To best demonstrate the process, there’s no better way than to take a look at a real case study, one we call “Sedimentary”. This is a project we worked on alongside UNSW Sydney (The University of New South Wales) for their civil engineering program. The series is used as visual aids in explaining various processes that occur in the formation of metamorphic rocks.
The production of a complete animation is essentially very simple, consisting of only 6 steps, which you can see in this map below.
Step-by-step guide to making animated educational videos for online courses
The process in this specific case study is a bit different from the generic one mentioned above. For cases that require a high level of expertise like our deal with UNSW Sydney, some steps might be omitted. In particular, UNSW Sydney provided us with a lot of materials like storyboards and voice-overs beforehand. Keep reading and you’ll notice the differences.
UNSW Sydney reached out to us with specific requirements, and along with that they sent us the essential materials: storyboards, scripts, pictures for reference and research, and even voice-overs. Now as you may remember, making science animation requires high accuracy, and therefore research is very important. That’s why UNSW Sydney sent us a lot of reference materials, and we made sure our communication process is straightforward and quick.
Since we don’t have the expertise and years of experience in geology, we had to work around the scripts and voice overs they sent us. That said, necessary adjustments were still to be made.
From the basic storyboards and pictures UNSW Sydney sent us, what we do is essentially upgrade the design with our art concepts. We have to carefully pick the color so that it suits the tone they want to convey, all the while staying as close as possible to real-life colors for scientific purposes.
Every storyboard comes with specific requirements. For instance, in “Scene 1”, they wanted it to start with the picture on the right, showing an overview of the environmental landscape where the 3 rock types are formed, while having the color resemble the one on the left.
Art concepts and design go first.
Here we managed to stick to the accurate details and the neutral colors according to the guide. That said, we injected some more vivid colors to make the art more attractive, along with the 2.5D blocks to make it more modern.
And here’s what comes out of the storyboard – the “after” picture.
Followed by a full illustration
With our approved art concepts, we proceed to make the illustrations. These are custom teaching materials but without the motions to make animations. After these have been accepted, we can go on to make the full animation.
Next up, adding motions
When making science animations, our clients, like UNSW, usually opt for 2D motion graphics, as it is highly optimized for this purpose. 2D animation helps a lot in explaining various processes that occur in the formation of metamorphic rocks. This type of video focuses more on delivering the information by storytelling, rather than straying too far with complex information.
Storytelling is the key to using 2D motion graphic for science animation
When animating, storytelling perfectly explains the complicated process. As you can see, we don’t need the rock’s 3D visual that perfectly looks like the real one. What is necessary here is to make the content easier to understand, through the movement and change.
Add in some sound effects and the video is ready to be delivered
Do keep in mind that we’re working around the voice overs. It’s the very first thing to be put in the animation. The rest revolves around them. And when everything is set and done, voilà, we can deliver our final product.
5 tips to make the best science animation
Making science animation is specifically tricky since you have to balance between information and attraction. Losing the balance means losing the audience’s interest. So here are 5 basic tips that apply to every animation you’ll ever make.
By adding a wide array of colors, you will inject a fun atmosphere into your lessons. Thanks to radiant colors of the animation, many people report to feel more excited and at ease to learn about even the most complicated topics.
If you want to see a flawless demonstration of this tip, watch a video by Kurzgesagt. Not only do they use a variety of colors, they also go for soft, round shapes instead of hard and angled ones.
While you can be experimental with colors and shapes, you don’t want to overdo it to the point that the information is twisted and becomes incorrect. Science is science, it demands accuracy, so do pay attention to that.
Simplify your video
Even though it’s a science animation, your video should not burden the viewers with too much jargon and excessive complex information. If you can use simple words, do. If there’s anything you don’t really have to put in the video, don’t put it in. It’s as simple as that, otherwise you will scare away a lot of curious novices.
Use storytelling wisely
Storytelling plays a huge role in science animations, since it’s the very thing that can prevent you from falling in the pit of excessive information. Here’s a small tip from our recent article The subtle art of communicating complex concepts with animation.
“Use a plot if possible
Animation and storytelling go hand in hand, fusing together to make the best catalyst for emotions, reeling everyone in with funny, sad, triggering images, you name it. Even the toughest Kinesthetics will have their pickles tickled.”
Pay attention to your audio
Use background music and sound effects in your animations if possible. This will alleviate the tension and make the video less boring.
Moreover, your voice overs must be inspiring, or interesting at least. The tone of the narrator can greatly affect the viewer’s mood, so don’t use a sleepy voice, please. Depending on your audience, you should also pick your narrator carefully. For example, if your content is meant for children, pick a female narrator with an upbeat, happy voice.
We believe in the power of animation in science education. It’s an extremely powerful tool to simplify scientific concepts and processes while making learning more fun and effective. That’s why we’ve always prided ourselves on making animation for online science courses – all the while setting us apart from other animation studios.
Now that you’ve learned how to make science animation, why not start doing it right away? Take new initiatives and design the best online courses the Internet has ever seen! If you don’t know where to start, don’t hesitate to contact us!
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