Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter

Greater Manchester’s Good Employment Charter is an initiative led by Mayor Andy Burnham, that aims to raise employment standards across Greater Manchester.

The Brief

Style Development
Character Design
Storyboard
Animation

Phase 1

Style Development

The first stage of the project was to develop an illustration style that was professional, engaging and it had to work well with live action video.
good-employment-character-style-idea
andy-burnham-style-sketch
We developed a style that has a traditionally illustrated quality. It was professional, but not too corporate and polished. This gave it a friendly and charming feel. The clients were happy and we were able to move on to the character design phase.

Phase 2

Character Design

We had a draft script that featured Andy Burnham, who would be narrating the video. The script also included two charter members and a charter employee that would be assisting and assessing each member. The style was adjusted slightly at this point, removing the black outlines to make the characters better suited for animation.

Phase 3

Storyboard

With a script and the characters developed we moved on to creating a storyboard to help direct the video and animation. The initial idea was to start the video with Andy Burnham’s character walking through various locations in Greater Manchester whilst explaining what the Good Employment Charter is. We’d then move into different scenes interspersing the other characters with graphical elements to keep the video engaging throughout.
The first part of the video changed towards the end of the project, but a lot of the scenes followed the storyboard quite faithfully. The storyboard acted as a good base for use to build from. Some of the scenes and layouts evolved to improve the final video.

Phase 4

Animation

At this stage Saz Media had helped the Good Employment Charter develop their script, had shot the video around Greater Manchester and recorded the voiceovers from Andy Burnham and the other voice actors. They’d also provided us with an edited version of the video that included the new voiceovers. Now it was time to bring this all together with the animated characters and motion graphics. We decided on a rigged character animation method. This is a process of separating each limb of the character, stitching them together at the joints and then animating each part using motion tweening. This basically turns the character into a puppet and is a common and cost-effective animation method when there are time and budget restraints.
We combined this with some stop-frame animation for some of Andy’s arm and hand movements, however these didn’t make it in the final video due to a last minute decision to remove Andy’s character from the video completely. You can see a clip of the original Andy Burnham animation below.
Each character also had speaking parts, which meant we needed to animate the mouth movements with the voiceovers, also known as lip-syncing. We achieved this by illustrating each mouth position and importing this along with the voiceover into Adobe Character Animator, which has a clever lip-sync tool that matches the sound to the specific mouth position. After a little tweaking, we exported the mouths and attached them to the character puppets at the correct times to create the illusion of talking characters.
In addition to the character animation we created a few motion graphic scenes. This involved designing layouts and animating various graphics and text seamlessly throughout the video.

The Edit

As mentioned previously, there was a decision to remove Andy Burnham’s character from the final video. This was about a quarter of the video that unfortunately, had to be changed. This can be quite common on projects that need to go through a number of channels for approval. We had approval from our direct contact as well as Andy himself, who loved the original animation, but there were some concerns from the communications team. You win some, you lose some!
We replaced Andy’s character with more motion graphics and video footage previously shot by Saz Media. We got final approval on this and the video was officially launched early November 2022 and featured on the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter homepage.

The Final Video

Summary

This was a fantastic project to work on blending live action video with animation and we’re really happy with the end result. It’s been great collaborating with Saz Media founder Sara Auty on our first of hopefully many projects together. We’re currently in the process of working alongside Saz Media again on a second Good Employment Charter Video.

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