From the Mind of an ASB Director

ASB LA’s Justin Grizzoffi welcomes us to take a stroll through his dreams in his latest free-form creative animation. Justin wrote and directed this short ASB-inspired story that takes us through a fantastical world of animatic and illustrated possibilities as we go from one surreal situation to the next. 

We truly value the creativity and experience of the talented directors at ASB and they are always happy to be a collaborator with our clients to explore new ideas and push the limits of creative expression. Enjoy this glimpse inside the mind of one of our most creative directors, and we look forward to making your dreams come to life one day soon!

You can see more work from Justin here:


Concept Testing

An Ideal 3D Cinematic Production Schedule

Have you ever built or remodeled a home? Whether you planned for a small renovation or a complete rebuild, the process you followed in creating a timeline and following blueprints likely helped you avoid setbacks that cost you time and money.

The same is true when creating a 3D cinematic. In order to create a 3D cinematic efficiently and on budget, you need a blueprint. In this article, we’ll introduce several things you need to know in order to plan—and execute—an ideal 3D cinematic production schedule.

First, a note about cinematic production timelines:

This “ideal” schedule assumes a comfortable working time frame of 10-15 working days. In order to accommodate rush schedules, the animatic company may eliminate or combine certain rounds.

The biggest determining factor for your timeline? How quickly your agency can turn around its feedback. In our experience, the biggest delay in cinematic production schedules is the time it takes to get consolidated feedback from the agency, client, and whoever else needs to give their say.

When your agency is planning out your calendar, make sure that you’re allowing enough turnaround time for every important person to provide feedback—this will keep your timeline realistic.

Agency & Animatic Company Brief

The purpose of this meeting is to ensure the animatic team is clear in understanding the creative direction and narrative script. The briefing can be compared to meeting your contractor and their team. The animatic company’s producer, director, and designer are present on the call. You will provide the script, rough storyboards (if possible), references for backgrounds, and casting; the concept, characters, wardrobe, backgrounds, product, demos, celebrities, etc. are discussed.

Helpful Hint:

  • Provide as much detail as possible during the brief so there is little guessing needed in the following steps. Furthermore, any briefing materials shared in advance of the call will help the animatic company familiarize and better understand the creative at the time of the initial briefing.

From this step forward, each “round” in an ideal 3D cinematic production schedule is called a  posting. (“Posting” is just another way to say “stage” or “phase,” but we use the term “posting” because the animatic company is literally posting information and artwork to an administrative website for clients to review.)

Posting 1: Sketch Boards

Sketch boards are a metaphorical blueprint of the entire cinematic production. They exist so the agency can approve basic camera angle, frame composition, and story flow of the spot. They’re vital to the entire animatic and production process—working without them is like building a house without any plans: They will inform your final product and guarantee that your story works and is structurally sound before you invest real time and money.

They also provide excellent ROI: While a proper sketch board takes approximately 1-3 hours depending on the speed of the artists and length, skipping this step and going straight into 3D can easily waste 2-3 days—if not more—should there be an error or mistake that has to be redone. And more time wasted means more money spent.

Helpful Hints:

  • Provide sketch boards to ensure a more streamlined process. When agencies don’t provide sketch boards, there is significantly more back-and-forth communication, which can cost precious time. When agencies provide sketch boards, the animatic company knows an idea is already approved and doesn’t have to take any time away from the production schedule. However, if this is not feasible, the animatic company can create rough sketches to visualize the overall framing and story flow—just keep in mind that this may impact the final timeline and cost of the production.
  • In this stage, finish and aesthetics don’t matter—so don’t waste time critiquing them. Especially with 3D cinematics, clients may want to revise in the sketch board stage several times. Don’t do this. What matters here is simply that the angle and composition are correct, not the aesthetics. Even stick figures are OK to use in sketch boards.
  • If it’s an issue outside of angle and composition, wait until you’re in the proper medium to comment on it. Why? Time spent tweaking aesthetic issues and revising art instead of moving on to the next frames is wasted effort and wasted time. You have 10-12 days—don’t spend the bulk of your time on something that won’t ultimately benefit your production.

Posting 2: 3D Characters & Backgrounds

In this posting, you’ll see the 3D characters and 3D backgrounds. They are shown as separate elements so you can review the look and feel of the character and background elements in a neutral background. In our remodel analogy, the second posting can be compared to picking out the fixtures—things like choosing tiles, door knobs, and paint colors. The point during this step is to identify the correct assets of the aesthetics individually—that you like the tiles or fixtures you’ve chosen—not to make sure they are installed in the right spot just yet.

Helpful Hints:

  • Pay attention to art in this step, and speak up if there are things you don’t like. Things like hair style, color, wardrobe, and setting are all important. One caveat: do not pay attention to expression in this posting. Compositional elements (like expressions) come in at a later posting.
  • The content of your script will determine whether or not 3D characters and backgrounds will be in your cinematic. It’s important to consider the end result you want to achieve with your product—just as you wouldn’t buy a sink if you’re remodeling a closet, you wouldn’t want to use part of your budget on 3D characters for a storyline that doesn’t require them.

Posting 3: Making Revisions To 3D Characters & Backgrounds

In this posting, feedback from posting two is addressed. In our renovation metaphor, imagine you’re working with a designer who has provided
swatches and samples. You’ve given the designer your feedback on their choices, and now it’s their turn to give you their revised product. (For those going the DIY route, imagine you bought a paint sample, decided it wasn’t the right color, and went back to the store to get a different color.) This is what happens during Posting 3.

Composed Board Stage

Sometimes instead of Posting 3 or in between Posting 3 and Posting 4, there may be a composed board stage. This is a colored 3D board—frames look like a PDF storyboard of the animation stage. Composed boards are beneficial for clients who need to be able to visualize the project in its entirety before moving into animation.

  • Composed boards take a little more time because they are a stop in the process—not a byproduct of what you’re already doing. While this step absolutely aids the process, it needs its own time.
  • Even when bigger changes are required in the composed board stage, the changes are less involved and time-consuming than when you’re already in animation.
  • At Animated Storyboards, the composed board stage is not necessarily a part of our standard schedule, but we recommend this stage when a production schedule has enough flexibility and time.

Posting 4: First Round Of Animation

The first round of animation is your chance to see the project in its entirety—review the composition, animation of the characters, camera movies, and overall story flow. This is a first look at all of the 3D elements combined and is incorporated with your comments from the sketch board and prior reviews.

Helpful Hints:

  • Provide consolidated and detailed feedback from your agency on how the characters are animated, how the camera moves around, any changes you’d like made to the scene, the removal or addition of props, etc. We suggest providing as much detail in your feedback as possible. Any dramatic changes to characters or backgrounds may delay the next posting or may need to be caveated if not completed for the next posting.
  • Don’t share the first round of animation with your clients yet. Use Posting 4 as internal review only—wait until the subsequent rounds to get other approval you need (from the client, for example), so the final posting can actually be the final posting.

Posting 5: Second Round Of Animation

The second round of animation is a revised look at all of the 3D elements combined, incorporating your comments from the first round of animation.  Your agency, along with your client, will again review the revised composition, animation of the characters, camera moves, and overall story flow.

Helpful Hints

  • Provide consolidated and detailed feedback from your client in this step. Changes to how the characters are animated, how the camera moves around, as well as any changes you’d like made to the scene or the removal or addition of props, etc. should be addressed in detail and by the suggested feedback time.
  • Make sure all of the right people (both the agency’s and the client’s representatives) are giving input in this stage. Don’t wait until the next posting to share the animation with someone internally or on the client side who’s important and may decide they don’t like it. Any dramatic changes to characters or backgrounds may delay the next posting or may need to be caveated if not completed for the next posting. 

Posting 6: Third Round Of Animation

The third round of animation is a revised look at the entire spot to ensure the agency and clients are satisfied with the changes made based on comments from previous rounds. This is the final round before shipment, and any major animation changes or changes to artwork may delay the final posting.

Third Round Of Animation

Helpful Hints

    • Animation changes should be minimal at this stage, such as tweaks to facial expression, editorial revisions, and audio revisions.
    • Clients should review and give final input.

Final Posting For Shipment

The final posting ensures the client and agency approve the final spot. Animation should be final.

Helpful Hint

      • Make sure you and the client review and give final approval. If minor edit or audio tweaks are needed, they can be made same-day. Any animation or artwork changes needed may cause delays in shipment.

Final Notes

In order to make sure your cinematic production schedule stays on track, the best thing you can do is to “measure twice and cut once”—or in the case of cinematics, plan twice and execute once. Take the time to make sure you’re getting approval, thinking through timelines, and setting realistic due dates for all of the key players (on both the client and the agency side). This will help you stay on deadline and ensure you get the best final product.

Concept Testing

2D Vs. 3D Animation: What To Pick For Your Project

“What type of animation is best for our project?”

This is one of the most common questions we hear from our clients at the beginning of their animatic projects—they’re debating 2D animation vs. 3D animation and want to know what we recommend. Here are our thoughts for agencies debating 2D vs. 3D animation.

2D Vs. 3D Animation: Basic Information

2D animation refers to anything that exists in a two-dimensional plane. 2D is what you might think of when you think of “old-fashioned” Disney animation (or cartoon animation in general). It is typically animated in Flash using hand-drawn elements.

3D animation refers to elements that exist in a three-dimensional environment. 3D animation involves computer graphics and is rendered by computer, which results in elements with a higher resolution of detail and texture—3D is excellent for simulating textures and scenarios like water, cloth, and hair.

2 Questions To Ask First

1. What’s going to be on the screen?
The type of action in your commercial is your biggest consideration in 3D vs. 2D animation. If your story involves big movements or action—like cars, explosions, or large camera movements with crowds—the answer is typically to work in 3D. 3D animation is a more accurate way to get these effects, and the results are usually more pleasing to the eye than hand-drawn animation.

However, if you’re working with a character-focused spot—a commercial with people or close-ups or that’s emotionally driven—2D animation may be able to drive the concept better.

2. How detailed does your product need to be in the spot?
If staying fully realistic and true to your product artwork is important, you need to make sure the animatic company you’re partnering with knows this in advance. That way, they can make sure the product art elements don’t get an illustrated finish.

2D Animation Benefits & Considerations

  • 2D animation leaves a majority of the storyline and action up to the viewer.
  • It’s not an accurate predictor of the finished product, because the animation is created by hand and is only a representation of real-life movement. The intention is to give an overall sense of the impact of the story to the viewer.
  • Multiple spots done on a tightened timeline may require multiple artists, which can result in the artwork not looking perfectly consistent. If consistency is important to your spot, you can have single artist do everything, but it will extend the timeline. (3D illustrated animation is a better option for jobs that need to be done quickly but need the benefits of typical 2D animation.)

3D Animation Benefits & Considerations

Generally, 3D animation is an excellent predictor of the spot’s narrative and a great option when you need faster turnaround times. We’ve broken down three major types of 3D animation—3D illustrated, hybrid, and fully realistic—so you can see which type may work best in your project and situation.

3D Illustrated

  • 3D illustrated animation works for any concept and offers flexible, customizable, fluid motion.
  • This style is a great option if you are working with characters and want the benefits of 2D animation (like the hand-drawn quality) but need flexibility in your schedule.
  • This style allows you to customize various art styles from different artists to create illustrated looks in 3D. This makes it the preferred style for characters and emotional concepts.


  • Hybrid animation involves illustrated characters on realistic environments.
  • This style is a great option if you have a client who does not want fully realistic characters but wants to keep realistic-looking elements within the spot—for example, things like food, location, environment, storefronts, etc.
  • However, if your client is expecting a fully illustrated look, then the detail of the environments in this style may offer too much realism.

Fully Realistic

  • Fully realistic animation has a very high level of detail and realism while still being a flexible, animated product.
  • This style is recommended anywhere there is going to be complex movement or choreography (either with or without a camera). It essentially exists in a true-to-nature realm, and it’s a great tool for agencies because it allows them to plan exactly how they should shoot a spot in live action.
  • This style is an excellent choice for products like liquids, food, cars, technology, product demos, healthcare simulations, scenery, and landscapes.
  • While the realism of this style is good for commercials featuring celebrities, it is not necessarily recommended for non-celebrity characters—characters can seem so “real” that they are too real—which may confuse or even create discomfort for the audience, otherwise called the “uncanny valley” effect.

The Bottom Line

In the past, clients and agencies were convinced that 2D animation was cheaper, faster, and easier than 3D animation. While this may have been the case years ago, it just isn’t true anymore.

In fact, different types of 3D animation offer benefits people think they’re getting with 2D—inexpensive, flexible, fast animation—plus all of the benefits of 3D. 3D animation offers processes that are less expensive due to motion capture technology as well as the overall flexibility of not having to redraw every single thing when a change needs to be made to camera angles, characters, movement, scenery, etc.

That’s why we think it’s so important that agencies consider all their options (including 3D options) before choosing 2D animation based on misconceptions. Of course, in situations where 2D is the best option, it should definitely be used.

If you’re not sure which type is right for you, we can help you choose a style that communicates your story the best. Our creative directors can help guide you based on your needs, your product, and your deadlines. In order to speed up the process, here’s what we recommend you bring:

  • Come with an idea of what is necessary for your product in any style. Bring references for characters (age, ethnicity, gender, wardrobe) as well as references for environments.
  • Bring rough pencil sketches. The process is quicker and smoother if you can provide sketches at the initial briefing.

No matter what style you think you want, make sure you’re asking the right questions up front to determine what style your project actually needs. By taking the time to really consider the benefits and considerations of 2D vs. 3D animation, you can make sure you’re choosing the most efficient, most cost-effective animation style for your spot.

Concept Testing

Producing An Animatic: An Overview For Agencies & Brands

Producing An Animatic: An Overview For Agencies & BrandsYou’ve got a great concept for a commercial—or so you think. But before you shell out thousands—or even millions—of dollars on your full-up production, you need to guarantee your idea is going to resonate with the people who matter most: your audience.

That’s where animatics come in.

Animatics allow agencies and brands to test their ideas with focus groups before putting them into production. With testing, you’ll learn whether or not you should proceed with the idea, and you can also test and implement changes that make the message more effective. Here’s what you need to know about how to make an animatic.

Step 1: Animatic Brief

The first step in creating an animatic is the creative brief call with the animatics company. Generally, a producer, director, designer, and illustrators from the company will be on this call—these people will supervise the process. You’ll discuss the concept, characters, wardrobe, backgrounds, product, demo sequences, and more.

After the brief, the animatics company will share a director’s board. (At Animated Storyboards, this happens same-day or the morning following a call). Director’s boards are typically rough black-and-white frames presented in a storyboard format to help the animatics company align on story flow and angles.

Step 2: Art

The second stage of producing an animatic focuses on the look of the artwork itself (instead of the movement of the story or characters). The artwork will affect the storyline as well as the viewer’s understanding of the message. At this stage, depending on the style of art chosen, the animatics company may present various deliverables:

  • 2D illustrated storyboards.
  • 3D characters and backgrounds.
  • Composited 3D storyboards.

Artwork phase

Artwork is usually presented twice before moving into animation so brands and agencies working on their behalf can review and the animatics company can revise the art as necessary. One advantage of working in 3D is that artwork is never locked, and it can continue to be revised throughout the process

At Animated Storyboards, we send you a link to an online, interactive comment page you can share among your team members. Our system allows you to enter your comments next to each frame and attach any related references so you can consolidate your feedback and make sure every important comment is included. Feedback from the agency and brand is encouraged throughout the process, and revisions are built in to the process timeline in order to accommodate any changes or revisions you may request.

Step 3: Animation

In the animation stage, the animatic company brings the artwork to life in fully realized animation, with full audio and editorial treatment. The company continues showing full edits and addressing agency and brand comments on audio, animation, and editorial at every stage until the final ship date. If you’re working with a 3D animatic, camera movement, angles, characters, and environments can all be adjusted easily, as all elements live in 3D.

Animation Phase

The animated artwork can be done in a variety of ways:

  • In After Effects.
  • With Flash animation.
  • Using 3D animation.
  • With other proprietary animation tools.

3D animation can leverage motion capture (mo-cap) technology for extremely fluid and realistic character movement. This is standard practice for us at Animated Storyboards: In order to fully maximize the fluidity of the animation, we utilize a state-of-the-art mo-cap system, in which we capture facial expressions and body movements and later translate them onto our 3D character model from any angle.

Motion capture technology
At Animated Storyboards, we invite our clients to join us for an in-house edit at our facility at any point in the process. We work together and in person to make revisions on-site so we can ensure you are getting exactly what you want at every step.

Step 4: Finalize Animatic

Once approved by both the agency and client, the animatics ship to a testing facility where the concepts will be tested with focus groups. At this point, the communication between the animatics company and the broadcast producer ends (until it’s time to test the next concept, of course).

What You Need To Bring To The Table Before The Project Begins

In order to make the production process as efficient and seamless as possible, the agency’s (or the brand’s) creative team can provide the following:

  • References including character references, environmental references, backgrounds, mood, lighting, logos, and any other product artwork that needs to be included in the project.
  • Audio concerns including voiceover specs, sound effects direction, and music direction.

Animatic Production Timeline

How long will it take to produce your animatic? The standard 3D and 2D animatic production timeline is 10-12 business days. However, if you have a project that needs to be completed in a tighter time frame, rush schedules can be accommodated. Let us know if you have a rush project that needs to be finished ASAP!

Have more questions about producing an animatic? Contact us today!