The tortoise and the hare: animation tricks to create videos faster

Once a video is in post-production, one of the processes that can put the schedule out of whack, if you’re not careful, is rendering — especially when a video has lots of CGI (computer-generated imagery). So it’s worth understanding what rendering is, and asking: What animation tricks can we use to help create videos faster?

To answer this question, we can borrow from the fable of The tortoise and the Hare. But first: some baking.

What is rendering?
Think of creating a video as like baking a cake. In baking, once you’ve assembled all your ingredients, you need to put them in the oven and leave them for an hour or so to turn the mess into a glorious cake. In video production, once you’ve assembled all of the elements of your video – the audio, filmed footage, 3D graphical objects, and so forth – the computer ‘renders’ it all to transform it into a video file.

OK, I hear you ask: so why would rendering put a schedule in danger? And what’s this got to do with tortoises and hares?

Slow hares, speedy tortoises
Rendering isn’t entirely like baking. Unlike baking, rendering takes longer when the ingredients are more complex — when the computer has more to do, such as crunching a more complex algorithm, to make the image appear on the screen. This is why rendering times can be a particular issue with CGI.

Now imagine you’re creating a video with an animated hare. The hare is, well, a hairy creature. And making hair look natural is quite a complex animation. So as speedy as the hare is in reality, in your video he’ll really slow down your render if you want him to be lifelike. If you swapped him for a smooth-shelled tortoise, on the other hand, the render would be much simpler and quicker — because shell behaviour isn’t complex at all.

Textures, in short, can have an impact on your video production time – so they’re worth considering when you’re making your creative decisions. If you’ve created a virtual studio (like this one), smooth textures will be easier and quicker to render than leathery textures. The smooth, slim, abstract animations so in-vogue in corporate videos right now aren’t just elegant, but faster to render.

Of course, if you want to go for complex textures and other ‘render-heavy’ elements (wide shots with lots of movement, for example, or lots of complex camera movements) there’s nothing stopping you – just build it into your schedule. As a rough guide, the video in the link above took around 36 hours to render. Your video production agency should be able to give you a steer on the elements that may affect deadlines vs. the ones that won’t.

B2B video marketing: who do you send on shoots abroad?

As video continues to grow in popularity in B2B land, it’s likely that many businesses will start to get more ambitious with their B2B video marketing. That event in Los Angeles, that case study in Paris, or the new site you’re building in Abu Dhabi could all be great opportunities for video – but who do you send to capture the footage when filming abroad? A company local to you? Or one local to the filming site? To help you decide, here are some pros and cons of each:

Scenario 1: Send a crew local to you to shoot abroad
• The chances are it’s a company you’ve worked with before, and that’s worth a lot: in confidence about the preparation they’ll do, the quality of work they’ll produce and in ease of working with a team that knows you.
• Theoretically, it’s as easy to work with an overseas as a local team during pre- and post-production phases. In reality, many B2B marketers find they have better creative input and control when the video company is local to them, often because they can meet face to face or because time differences and cultural barriers aren’t an issue.

• It can be costly – especially if flights are involved.
• If you’re asking the crew to film in a country where they don’t speak the language (and the locals don’t speak the crew’s language well), logistics will be harder to manage.

Scenario 2: Use a crew based near your shooting location
• This is likely the least costly option, assuming you’re comparing two video agencies from different geographies that are otherwise similar in cost.
• There won’t be any language or cultural barriers on location, making it easier to coax the best performance from participants.
• If you’re shooting in a country where your language isn’t spoken well, you may still have communication problems – but this time between you and the video company.
• As mentioned before, many marketers find that a greater distance between them and their video team makes it harder to stay involved in the creative process and ensure the quality of the end result.

Which do you choose?
Only you can judge the relative importance of cost against factors such as known quality, ease of working with a company and language issues — which of course will differ for different projects.

In considering and balancing these factors, never forget that wherever the crew comes from, you’ve got to feel confident that the company you work with can get great footage that tells a killer story. A crew you trust to do that for you will make the whole process so much smoother – which may be more cost-effective for you in the long run than focusing (for example) on minimising travel costs. The last thing you need is to waste budget getting a result that doesn’t do the job you want it to.

So you may end up making decisions that on the face of it seem surprising. One new client chose us for a predominantly American shoot over a video partner they knew well, and over potential American options, because they were looking for a fresh, creative perspective they just didn’t feel the others could provide. In this case, familiarity with a partner and avoidance of large travel expenses weren’t big enough pros to override a greater certainty of achieving the core objective with somebody new.