Animation and Video Production Overview

The process for animation and video begins well before you will start working with specialized software. Here are the production steps that professionals follow when making an animation or video:

  1. Pre-Production: In this phase, you outline your idea as a script and storyboard. These steps provide the road map. Here’s what you do:
    1. Write out an outline and script of what you want your project to be about.
    2. Convert your script or outline into a visual outline that shows that actions or visuals the viewer will see at each point of the outline. This is called a storyboard. You can use a template like this Storyboard Template and see more detailed instructions on storyboarding here.
  2. Production: Once you have your pre-production road map in place, you can start filming or animating. Here are some animation and video software that might be helpful.
  3. Post-Production: In this phase you incorporate audio, transitions, and fine-tune color issues. Then export your final project.

Animation Software

There are many different ways you can create animations. You can (1) add motion to a presentation, (2) create a stop motion animation, or (3) build an animation like a traditional cartoon. Here are some tools you can use to accomplish these kinds of animation:

Animated Presentations

Prezi. Prezi is an online, flash-based presentation tool which makes use of one large canvas that allows you to pan and zoom to various parts of the canvas and emphasize the ideas presented there. Prezi allows the speaker to navigate amongst data and visuals along a pre-determined “path” telling a compelling story that sticks in the minds of the audience and makes for a more effective presentation.

PowerPoint. You can add movement to PowerPoint to give presentations an animation effect. There are many tutorials on YouTube that walk through how you can animate text or other elements in your presentation. The tutorial below provides a good overview too:

VideoScribe is a video application that allows you to create whiteboard movies using vector graphics. So a hand will physically come onto the screen and pretend to write whatever it is you want in the presentation.

Stop-Motion Animation

Getting Started with Stop Motion Animation is a training video that goes over everything you need to know about how stop motion animation works and gives you ideas about tools and software that could be helpful:

Traditional Cartoons

Pencil 2D. This is a free open source, beta software that you can use to draw and animate cartoon images.

CreaToon is another free software, but it was originally built to animate only (meaning you would have to complete illustrations in another program and import them into CreaToon). The newest version has some illustration capabilities so that you can create the illustration directly in the program, but the quality and control is lower than Pencil.

Adobe Flash. Adobe Flash Professional is multimedia authoring program that creates interactive and animated content. This is a professional software, so be prepared for a more complex tool with all of the bells and whistles.


Clip Art and Images for Use

IAN Symbol Library. Integration & Application Network at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (IAN) has a library of symbols and images that may be helpful for building conceptual diagrams, and they are open source (meaning free for your non-commercial use):

Flickr. While not a bank for scientific images specifically, you might get lucky. From the home page type in your search terms, but then under the license drop down menu select the “All creative commons” filter. Creative commons is a copyright license that indicates the image is available for non-commercial use.

ARKive. A source of free-for-use images of animals and plants—most are photos.

NOAA Photo Library.

NOAA Fisheries Image Gallery. You might be able to find photos of species you work on here.

Paid Stock Photo Sites. Make sure you read the copyright rules. Some copyrights will cap the audience size that can view the image. For print products or unrecorded presentations, you will probably not have a problem, but for web-based resources, the number of viewers can be much less predictable over the long-term.