Creating Whiteboard Videos - Which Technique is Best for your Project?

Posted Jul 16th, 2015 in News

Creating Whiteboard Videos - Which Technique is Best for your Project?

So, you are thinking of create a whiteboard video. You or your client has seen them popping up all over the internet; they are popular and effective. They are a great storytelling device and you have a complicated product or service you need to explain. Whiteboard videos are excellent teaching tools since they engage both the visual and auditory senses, so you've made a great decision about utilizing this style of video.

But when it comes to choosing the technique for creating these videos, where do you begin?

Well, the good news is that you've got options. I've been creating whiteboard videos for the last 3 years and I've explored many options available to create an awesome video in this style. Below, I've outlined 4 options for creating your whiteboard videos along with their pros and cons to help you decide.

Live Action Video - Sped Up

This was the initial whiteboard technique which made these videos super popular in the beginning. Basically, this technique involves filming an artist drawing out the whiteboard video, then the final footage is brought into editing software and sped up. It’s seems straightforward enough, but here are a few things you will need to consider before you embark on this option.

This technique requires the following:

-an experienced videographer who is adept at working with studio lighting.
-video equipment and lighting
-studio or space large enough to accommodate the set up
-a talented artist who can freehand illustrate in a cartoon style and perform under pressure. A graphic facilitator or Cartoonist would be ideal.
-a large whiteboard 

The Pros of LiveAction Whiteboard

Production time is relatively quick. It will take a few days to shoot the video, depending on how skilled your artist and videographer prove to be. The shooting will be intense, but if you plan properly and your artist has a good storyboard, this could work well.

Live action will produce the best quality of hand movement as the images are revealed. You will achieve a beautiful reveal of each image because the artist is actually drawing the image, rather than a photo which is animated and composited over the revealing image, which can sometimes feel robotic or unnatural.  The human element of live action is a huge advantage.

The Cons of Live Action Whiteboard

The set up for this particular technique is intense and it must be consistent and well planned in order to achieve a professional level of quality. I’m sure someone out there could achieve a decent video with masking tape, flashlights and an 8 year old cartoonist. But if your goal is to attract attention of a broad audience, you will need to produce something that can compete with the volume of high quality videos which are taking over the internet. It is a huge challenge to create and maintain proper lighting throughout the video and squeeze your talent within the camera/lighting set up and have them draw under these conditions. Bottom line, don’t try to “hack” your way through this technique. If you aren’t an expert videographer or illustrator, be sure to hire professionals!

Revisions will suck. When it comes to shooting any sort of live action, there is no way to fix or revise images of your video footage except to re-shoot the video all over again. If you or your client are looking to revise the video over time or would like the option of swapping out images later on, live action is not going to be a good technique for you. You will be faced with reshooting scenes at a later time and then attempt to color correct the scenes to fit in with your original footage. This is very tricky since the lighting and framing must be consistent throughout the entire video.

Camera moves are tricky. If you need any sort of camera move in your video, you might reconsider this technique. You’ll definitely need some extra video equipment to create a nice smooth camera pan and this will also require a larger whiteboard and studio space. If you can pull it off, camera moves will add that extra interest, but be forewarned you will be juggling a lot of elements such as lighting, framing, camera move, and not to mention planning out the illustrations.

Sparkol - VideoScribe

If you've done any research on whiteboard video creation, you've likely come across Videoscribe by Sparkol. This software has revolutionized the process by offering accessible software designed for anyone to use immediately. Essentially you can drop or import images onto the canvas, control the sequence of how they will be revealed, the time and even how it will be revealed - drawn, moved or morphed onto screen. The software includes a basic stock library of illustrations that will get any project started. But there is also a cool feature where you can create and import your own illustrations. VideoScribe is pretty amazing, but you should consider a the pros and cons before you begin.

The Pros of VideoScribe

Videoscribe is easy, affordable (with subscription or outright purchase options) and accessible to anyone with a computer and internet connection.

You don’t need to be a designer, illustrator, videographer or creatively inclined at all to use this software and you’ll still have the ability to make create something cool.

They offer additional, affordable libraries of illustrations in case you need more specific images.

As mentioned earlier, you can also import illustrations in an svg format, so it does come in handy for more custom video ideas.

The Cons of VideoScribe

The drawing hand animation isn’t awesome. It’s a bit jumpy and often just “pops” onto screen, rather than moving on and off screen. If you aren’t that picky about this detail, you can get away with it, but the few times I’ve used this tool, the client has definitely noticed and asked me about this issue. Be sure to show your client the look of video scribe videos before you commit to using the software.

There is limited control over camera animation. For the most part, this may not be a huge issue, but if there is any sort of fluid, slow or continuous camera movement that you’d like to incorporate, you will not not have the option with this software.

At the end of the day, the look of these videos are “cookie cutter”. I can spot a video scribe video a mile away, just from the camera movement, hand animations and especially if the video is using the stock library. From an artist/designer perspective, the quality of the stock illustrations are pretty low and I rarely use them in my own client work. If you are looking for a custom and creative look, I would not recommend this route. On the other hand, if you are looking for the cheapest and easiest way to get a whiteboard video, this is the best technique available.

Design and Animation Software - The True Custom Method

The third method that I’d like to share is the custom, hand made option. This option is available for those designers and animators out there who have access to Adobe Suite - in particular, Illustrator and After Effects. And if you are not familiar with the software package, you may want to skip this method altogether and read my final tip on hiring professionals.

Here is the summary overview of this technique:

This method involves creating illustrations in Adobe Illustrator, importing them into After Effects and then using masks to reveal each image. I use the “generate stroke” effect to reveal the images.

To create the hand animation, you will need a series of hand photographs which must be keyed, color corrected and set up in After Effects as a separate Comp. The poses of the hand should be subtle movements in drawing action poses, around 5 - 8 images will work. Once they are set up sequentially in the comp, you can apply “time remapping” effect to the comp and flip through each pose with a hold keyframe. The hand comp can then have position keys set over the revealing images.

Of course, this is a very quick explanation of how I use the software and in the future I plan to offer more detailed information on parts of this process. But as you can see, the method is involved and requires a high level of software efficiency. Here are some pros and cons of this method.

The Pros of the Custom Method

This method offers the most creative control and flexibility. Camera moves, hand animation and illustrations are all separate entities in After Effects and this offers a great deal of flexibility when it comes to revisions and creating your best work.

This method looks custom made rather than generated from a automated software. The illustrations and hand animations will look unique and the option of camera pan and movements have the potential to support some beautiful storytelling.

Your video will truly stand out in the crowd. It is completely unique and if you've got a good story and high quality production, it will be noticed.

The Cons of the Custom Method

This method is time consuming - especially if you are embarking on your first project. Setting up the hand poses, drawing out the illustrations, animating the mask reveals and camera moves...these tasks can become tedious and definitely take time.

The end result will be as good as your skills will allow. In other words, there are no short cuts. You must have the illustration and animation chops to be successful at this method. If you don’t have either, your struggle will become evident in the final product, so consider hiring professionals if you lack the confidence.

Hire A Professional

In this day and age, you can find all kinds of professionals with a simple google search. If any of the above 3 options seem overwhelming or completely out of the realm of your expertise, don’t hesitate to bring in the big guns.  In the end, you will save yourself a lot of time, stress and pain and if you hired the right professional and the result will not disappoint.

It’s no secret that we are pro’s when it comes to whiteboard videos, but if our style is not your cup of tea, the pool of talent is far and wide, thanks to the internet. Make sure your chosen professional has a process clearly outlined before you hire them along with some case studies to prove their experience and level of professionalism.

The Pros of Hiring a Professional

If you've hired the right person, you will sleep well and relax, knowing that your project is going to be awesome!

Assuming your delivery date is reasonable, you will have a great video to post on time rather than trying to squeeze in a few hours between other tasks and projects. We all know how that can drag out a timeline!

Having an outside perspective will enhance your project immensely. Hiring a professional also means you are getting some great consulting as well - a fresh perspective has the potential to boost your marketing story to a new level.

The Cons of Hiring a Professional

When it comes to quality video and animation work, the price range can vary quite a bit. Established talent agencies will charge a higher rate and smaller studios or freelancers will offer similar services at the mid to lower range which to many small businesses or entrepreneurs, may still break the marketing budget.  It’s important that you find the professional that you can trust; who listens and understands your story. But you should also understand that the cost of their time, care and effort is not going to be cheap. Be prepared to budget accordingly.

I hope this post has been helpful! I’d love to hear from you and learn more about what you think about Whiteboard Videos.

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