Frame by Frame: Here’s What to Know About Working with Style Frames

Have you ever wondered how videos become…videos? After someone thinks of the idea, what happens after that? 

It’s a unique process with lots of moving parts, but one big piece of it is making storyboards for client approval. Your client needs to see the look and feel of the photography and approve the typography you’re going to use.

One does not simply shoot and sell a video. The process is expensive and requires a lot of planning. The production company must create storyboards that, when approved, lead to a presentation of style frames to show the look and feel of the video. Let’s take a look at the start of the process.

Client Request For Proposal

Your client will have an idea of what they want. If they’re an experienced buyer, they’ll know that the end use of the video dictates the production needs and budget. For instance, you may have a client who wants a recipe video to use on their YouTube channel or a 30-second ad that they can use for social media.

They’ll tell you what their budget is and what it is they’re selling. Often the buyer will include brand guidelines for the featured company or product. Sometimes they will have samples of creative or previous work for you to use as a guide.

It is now up to your company to begin the creative process.

The Agency Way

The traditional method was that a company used an advertising agency to supply both the creative director and the video buyer. The agency would concept the video, secure model releases, supply logos and other files for editing, and purchase stock images and footage that is already approved by the advertiser.

The video production company would then work with the agency through a pre-production phase to plan the rest of the project. There may be motion video to shoot or still product shots. Each of these steps requires logistical research and careful preparation to ensure a worry-free shoot.

They’ll also receive the script so that they can be clear about the intent of the advertiser. 

In this scenario, the production company interprets the creative intent and then uses the pieces to craft the final video. The process is called editing, and unlike a writing editor, the video editing process is the creation process.

The New Normal

Some video production firms are adopting a one-stop-shop model. Large advertisers who want to cut marketing costs are turning to these companies to save agency fees. A production company that adds art directors and account managers could become a low-cost marketing partner.

What drives advertising today is not what drove it a few years ago. Traditional advertising relies on selling a product to a consumer who may or may not want it. Techniques such as print ads and TV commercials drove consumers to products; a method referred to as outbound marketing.

Internet marketing concentrates on inbound sales rather than outbound. Inbound marketing works on the premise of conversion; you want to attract consumers who already want your product. It’s a matter of distinguishing your company from your competition using non-traditional channels.

Marketing directors are purchasing more short-form videos for use on web pages and internet advertising than long-form commercials. Stylish digital videos hold website visitors’ attention and increase dwell times. HTML5 videos can scale automatically to different devices. 

All of these uses challenge the traditional advertising production model and have opened the doors for production companies to earn more market share. Some ad agencies have met this challenge by creating in-house video production facilities, but there is no doubt that the lines between these services are now blurred.

The Creative Process

After the initial RFP, the production house can begin to concept the video to show the client what they have in mind. Art directors and writers will collaborate to design the look and feel of the finished work. This initial stage usually includes a creative director to guide the team and guarantee branding standards.

Once the art director and copywriter decide on the video’s content, they, along with a studio art team, will create initial storyboards. Your account team will show the boards to the client as an initial introduction to the content.

Storyboards contain video frames with the appropriate script snippets under them to show the general look and flow. The number of frames depends on the length of the video, from 2-4 keyframes for 5 seconds, to 20-30 keyframes for a piece that is 90 seconds or more.

If the client approves the storyboards, the project is ready to move to the next steps: style frames.

What are Style Frames?

Style frames are keyframes taken to the next level. While a storyboard frame can be presented as a line drawing or still photo, style frames are retouched photos and pieces of high-resolution animation that move the project forward while showing the client final detail.

Style frames serve three purposes:

They Prove that You Understand

They also show that you have listened to your clients’ feedback. From still frame to final animation, you are creating a specific aesthetic, and style frames are your opportunity to show it.

They Help You Visualize

When footage and graphic elements get together in your editing software, they sometimes don’t work as well as anticipated. Similar to a video rough cut, these working frames allow both a client and an art director to see how elements transition and how the typography works. They are instrumental in previewing the final product.

They Provide Insight

It’s difficult to foresee potential problems with production and deadlines. Style frames are the last step before final animation. 

For instance, you may have a section of footage where an image moves across the screen, but a cloud in that image makes a white logo invisible. The best art directors and editors can’t anticipate all of these potential glitches. Animated style frames can help the creators identify these before the final edit.

This stage of a project can also be helpful in a quality control process. Sometimes projects move so quickly that your client can miss an incorrect logo or a mistake in the legal copy.

Style frames are the last step before final editing and animation, so they are an essential part of a good video workflow. They can help you and your client avoid unexpected costs and missed deadlines.

Who Creates a Style Frame?

Editors and artists create these frames using photo editing software and video editing software. The production house will decide on the best person for the frames, but these people will work closely together in the production process.

Digital video editing software combines footage, type, still images, and vector shapes to create the final product. Rarely do you see a simple video straight from a recording without some editing. Opening title frames, vector infographics, and effects must be carefully prepared, usually by the art director or a production artist.

Photoshop layers must be isolated and saved in a manner that the editing software understands. Complex typography is generated outside the software as well and then imported for animation. Hand drawings that employ a particular texture or look are scanned and then digitally manipulated into a usable format for the editor.

Throughout these proceedings, an art director will either create or oversee the elements that their teammates funnel into the work.

A Contemporary Workflow

Just as the agency and production house lines are blurred, the parts of the production process can be less structured as well. Agencies with in-house editing departments will sometimes choose to go straight to the style-frame stage when pitching an idea to a client. Don Draper’s mind would be blown if he could see the presentation technology that ad agencies employ today. 

A client can see and approve a set of style frames via one single video, several frames arranged on a page, or a combination of both. Many production houses have portals for their clients to log in and view their project and leave feedback. Other agencies embed the animations in a pdf and share a link to the pdf with their client for markups and approval.

Pitch Perfect

Geography doesn’t matter anymore. The internet has changed any need for a client to be local, or even in a nearby time zone. They can ship products to be photographed, approve retouching online, and offer feedback on style frames in seconds.

As video production houses gain creative capabilities, they can fill a niche that a growing number of companies need: quality video products at a lower cost than traditional agencies. Consider using our expertise to lock down a quality project quickly and efficiently, and enjoy the benefits of our turnkey video creation.

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