About Adrian King

Adrian is an independent award-winning animation and visual-fx producer, designer and artist working under the banner Redboat. His career spans 18 years specialising in animation and visual effects for television, film and interactive media.

Navigating the Animation Process (Part 2 of 5—Script Development)

Script DevelopmentFrom concept to screen, getting the best results.

by Adrian King (Animation/visual–fx producer, designer & artist)

Welcome back. If you missed the first stage (Initial Briefing) in this series you can read it here.

In this instalment we’ll have a look at stage 2. (Concept & Script Development). In stage 1, we defined the brief but not the content. The aim of stage 2 is to define (in written form) the content that will be produced in stage 4, and lay the foundations for stage 3 (Design).

2. Concept/Script development

With a well-defined written brief we can move into defining more of the details of the concept and script. This involves writing the script and gathering a few suitable visual and audio references. The script should be in written form only, formatted in a manner that clearly shows all auditory and visual elements to be heard and seen, in which order they appear, for how long, and indicate any special transformations to occur. It should include the following information.

  • All voice over and/or dialogue
  • Music & sound effects
  • Written description of key visual elements, designs, graphics, text, people, characters, objects or environments to be seen
  • All significant motion or transformations to occur

I like to construct scripts in a spreadsheet with four columns; duration, section, audio and visual.

If your animation doesn’t include any voice (for example a visualisation of a biological process for a stage presentation) the audio column might be empty. Getting the visual column filled in is still important. If you plan to use the animation as a backdrop for a verbal presentation, you could jot down some presentation notes in the audio column in place of voice-over to help time it out.

The script will also define the narrative style, (ie: informative, humourous, dramatic, children’s, educational, etc.)

Here’s an example of the beginning to a tongue-in-cheek animated video about quantum physics and mysticism. (If you’d like to make something like this drop me a line!)





5 secs

Opening Sequence

SFX: Building vibration and explosion

Open on black with a point of light in centre expanding and exploding into millions of stars (the big bang), leaving a star filled universe.

12 secs

VO (Eccentric professor): “Mystics and spiritual teachers often use analogies with quantum physics to describe their view of reality, but what do quantum physicists actually think about this. Is this a misappropriation of science or is there some common ground?”

Fly through galaxies with montage of symbols zooming past camera. Quantum physics equations, symbols, mystical and spiritual symbols from various traditions, waves/particle illustrations.

15 secs

VO (Eccentric professor): You’re about to hear ten quantum physicists de-mystify the most commonly used mystical quantum physics analogies with some nifty animated explanations.

MUSIC: Heroic
DEEP ECHOING VO: “The De-Mystifiers”

Cartoon style illustrations of the ten heroic quantum physicists reveal into the frame with their names and titles, followed by the logo.

LOGO: “The De-Mystifyers”

4 secs

Shot 1

VO (Eccentric professor): “First stop… Entanglement!”

Particles, people and spaghetti meatballs getting in a jumble.

GRAPHIC: “Entanglement”

So how do you get from the spark of an idea, to a fully formed script that fits within the duration? That’s a great question and whilst it can take time, it’s not as hard as it sometimes seems. I like to make a Script Plan first. This involves jotting down in bullet-point form all the key ideas/messages you want to convey without worrying about actual words for the voice-over. Then add to these a note of what we need to see to get the message/story across. Keep it simple at this stage and think of script writing as an iterative process, not a linear one.

Once you’ve got all the key message points and key visuals listed in either bullet form or a table, then come back and allocate each section a duration.

From here you can step back and adjust how much time you want to allocate to each section to make sure it fits the duration in the brief. The hardest part here is deciding which bits to cut. Most scripts run overtime on first draft.

Once you’ve worked out the timing for each section and established what points are in or out of the script, start writing the actual voice-over/dialogue. This non-linear approach can avoid spending time writing voice-over/dialogue that ends up cut from the script due to duration constraints.

This can work brilliantly as a collaborative process and bringing on an animation producer or scriptwriter can really help, especially if you’ve not done this before. For example there might be one person working on the key points, another on the actual voice script and another working on defining the visual elements. Involving the production team at this stage will mean they can advise you if the script is looking like it will blow the budget before you unnecessarily script wonderful ideas that are beyond scope. They might be able to suggest ways to show an idea in less time.

Here’s what the above script might look like as a Script Plan:





5 secs

Opening Sequence

Big Bang

Big Bang explosion

12 secs

Introduce concept behind video

Quantum physics symbols mixed up with mystical symbols

15 secs

Introduce ten physicists and tongue in cheek title logo

Humourous portraits of ten physicists and logo

4 secs

Shot 1

Segment 1 title: “Entanglement”

Entanglement graphic

For science communication animation, working iteratively on a Script Plan also helps identify anything that needs still needs researching to deliver a script that is both scientifically accurate and engaging. Science communication animation should be fact checked by appropriate scientists and researchers. Where Organisation/agency/stakeholder communication managers should also be included at some point in script development to ensure the needs of any organisations involved are met.

By this time you’ve probably considered what type of voice or narrative style will be best suited to getting your message across. You can find libraries of voice talent agencies online for reference. If it’s essential and the budget permits it can be valuabe to take the script through a professionally conducted user-group for feedback before you commit to production.

It can be useful during script development to view reference images for key visual elements that relate to the concept. This can help bring to attention things that we might not have otherwise noticed in words alone. Whilst it might start to trigger creative ideas, and there can be some overlap between Stage 2 (Script Development) and Stage 3 (Design), it’s not necessary to define the visual style until Stage 3 (Design).


  • Prepare a Script Plan before you write voice-over/dialogue
  • Allocate durations for key sections in your Script Plan
  • Decide what parts must stay/go to fit your brief’s duration
  • Work iteratively and look for the missing research
  • Collaborative approaches work well
  • Consider testing your script on a user-group
  • Validate your script with scientists, researchers and others.


  • The Written Script

In the next instalment of this series… we’ll turn your script into a fully formed visual production plan. Whilst a good script defines in written detail what we will see and hear, we still don’t know exactly how it will look. The goal of the design phase is to establish a set of shared expectations that animation production team/artist, client and stakeholders agree on. This includes schedule, storyboards and style frames.

I hope this is useful and that you’ll join me then…

Adrian King (Animation/visual–fx producer, designer & artist)

(PS: You can send any questions you’d like answered about the animation process by logging in and leaving a comment below, or contact me directly at www.redboat.com.au)

Navigating the Animation Process (Part 1 of 5 – Initial Briefing)

Navigating Animation 1

From concept to screen, getting the best results.

by Adrian King (Animation/visual–fx producer, designer & artist)

I presented this material at a workshop at the ASC Conference 2014 in Brisbane. Some positive feedback has prompted me to write a condensed summary for ASC members who couldn’t attend. I hope you find it useful.

Creative processes can be described as the series of decisions required to turn something imagined into something tangible. This might sound like magic, and to some it is, but how do we learn to get the best results from the process? Every decision starts with a question, so the best way to get the best results from any process is to have a firm grasp of the language of the process. Fortunately we can break the process down into a bite size chunks that de-mystify or decode it. This is what we need, and exactly what I‘ll be doing with this series of articles on Navigating the Animation Process.

I like to break down the entire process into 5 stages, each of which has a number of key processes and assets. In this first article we’ll take a quick overview and then look closely at stage 1. Stay tuned for stages 2–5 in subsequent articles.

The Stages

  1. Initial Briefing
  2. Concept & Script Development
  3. Design
  4. Production
  5. Delivery

Stages 1–3 are your planning stages. Stage 4 is where most of the costs are incurred. It’s essential to get stages 1–3 right in order to avoid hidden costs or wasted time and energy down the track. Just like building a house.


  • Make the primary goal of the first 3 stages to ensure that only minor creative decisions remain to be made during stage 4.
  • The more major creative decisions remain once you enter stage 4, the higher the risk of disappointment!

Let’s have a deeper look at each of the 5 stages…

1. Initial Briefing

It all starts with an idea, a little spark of imagination, some neural activity forging new pathways in the brain. But how do we get this out of our heads and onto the screen? First step – put it on paper. You need to go on a quest! Ask yourself questions (the challenges) and speak, write, draw, or act out the answers. Go on – have fun with it!

The first thing I ask when someone enquires about producing some animation is how well defined is the brief? Most producers, including myself, will spend some time facilitating an enquiry process with a client to define these (free of charge) until we get to a point where we can provide an estimation or quotation of costs of the next three stages. We need the brief to be well defined in order to provide accurate costs. We love clients who come armed with well defined briefs!

The goal of this phase is to turn those sparks of imagination into a well-defined written brief consisting of as much of the following essential and preferred information as possible. A good animation producer will be able to help you achieve this if you don’t have it already.


  • Title (or working title)
  • 1 sentence description
  • 1 paragraph summary
  • 1 page synopsis
  • Audience/demographics
  • Purpose/intention
  • Date required by
  • Duration
  • Media platform(s) where it will be shown

Preferred (and sometimes essential)

  • List of core messages
  • A list of all stakeholders/agencies involved, and their interest in the outcome
  • Sequence/timing requirements (if available)
  • List of characters (if required)
  • Voice over and dialogue requirements (if required)
  • Related or associated campaigns
  • Any creative material (sketches, designs or writing) already developed for work (if available)

In most cases, armed with a well-defined written brief, we can then provide an accurate cost for the entire project (Stages 2, 3 & 4). However sometimes we need to complete stages 2 or 3 in order to provide an accurate quote for the stage 4 (Production). In that case we would provide an accurate quotation for stages 2 & 3 (Concept/script development & Design) and a close estimation for stage 4. After stage 2–3 that estimation can then be firmed up to provide an accurate quotation.

If the client provides a budget constraint, the results of stages 2 & 3 can be tailored to ensure the production costs match the budget, which can help speed up the process.


  • Write down all the essential information for the initial brief.
  • Include as much as possible of the preferred information.
  • Expect a good animation producer to help you during this stage by asking questions that will help you define the brief.


  • The written brief (aka the scope of work)

Next month we’ll continue the journey with stage 2 (Concept/Script Development).

Till then…

Adrian King (Animation/visual–fx producer, designer & artist)

(PS: You can send any questions you’d like answered about the animation process by logging in and leaving a comment below, or contact me directly at www.redboat.com.au)