A Guide to Creating Whiteboard Animations

The simple whiteboard hasn’t been displaced by technology, but rather, it has been embraced. Whiteboards line the walls of Silicon Valley firms and have given rise to some of the most creative and clickable videos you can find online today. Whiteboard animation, also known as dry-erase animation, is a method of animating that is simple enough for anyone to learn and requires little technology. Nonetheless, this elementary animated format has become a favorite on YouTube and regularly shows up on social media feeds. The engaging technique lets viewers see an image being drawn at rapid speed. For entrepreneurs, teachers, and all kinds of storytellers, whiteboard animations are simple to learn and captivating to audiences.

The Basics of Animation

All animation relies on an optical illusion. When the human eye sees a series of very similar images in rapid succession, it can appear that these images are moving. The most basic example of this principle is a simple flip-book. Instead of recognizing each individual page or “frame” of the animation, we superimpose a continuity on the pictures and believe we are seeing movement. Whiteboard animation works the same way. The animator draws on a whiteboard and records this process. Afterward, the video recording is played at a high speed or cuts are made to jump forward through the recording more rapidly.

Types of Animation

Time-lapse animation is one quite simple method of whiteboard animation. The technique consists of two basic steps. First, the animator draws out the full animation on a whiteboard while recording the entire process. Next, the animator uses dedicated software to play the recording back at a faster speed. Saving the video at this higher speed, the animator can then add in a voice-over. While time-lapse whiteboard animation is appealing for its simplicity, a pure time-lapse video would require that the animator make no mistakes throughout the drawing process. To ease the pressure and allow for some adjustment mid-way through drawing, many whiteboard animators combine a time-lapse approach with some stop-motion animation.

Stop-motion animation was widely used with clay figures decades before the rise of whiteboard animation. This type of animation, sometimes called “claymation,” requires that the animator make slight adjustments to clay figures, shooting one frame or a handfull of frames after each tiny adjustment. Afterward, the video can be edited together to create the illusion of movement. The same basic principle is used with whiteboard animation. Instead of moving a three-dimensional figure, the animator adds to the two-dimensional drawing between each break in the filming. For example, a whiteboard animator might draw a man’s face and use time-lapse animation throughout. The final video would depict the man’s face rapidly taking shape. Then, if the animator wanted to convey that the man had a sudden idea, stop-motion animation might be used. The animator would draw a thought bubble next to the man’s head. This time, instead of showing the entire process of drawing the bubble, a break or jump in the filming would make it appear that the bubble suddenly appeared.

Steps for Creating a Whiteboard Animation

  1. Storyboarding: Before you begin to draw, it’s worth creating a storyboard of what you will draw. Depending on how you create your animation, you may prefer to do this on one large whiteboard or sheet of paper or across multiple pages. So that you can refer to your storyboard when you’re ready to begin, it’s advisable to draw it somewhere other than on the whiteboard you will use for the actual animation.
  2. Drawing: This is the main step of animation and may require you to hire a professional cartoonist or artist. In addition to the actual drawing, this step requires that you train your video camera on the whiteboard. Before you launch into drawing your full cartoon, draw out guidelines of your images using a light pencil. Then, turn on the video camera and check that the lighting is appropriate, so that the camera picks up the marker lines but not the penciled “guidelines.” Then, draw your full animation as the camera rolls.
  3. Editing: After you’ve finished creating the drawing itself, your focus will move to the video recording of the process. Typically, whiteboard animators use dedicated software to edit their recordings. At this stage, you’ll apply both the time-lapse and stop-motion effects as desired. This is also the stage when you’ll add in any voice-over track. If you have a pre-recorded audio track, you may also need to edit the animation at this point so that it complements the tempo of the recording to your satisfaction.

By following these steps, anyone can create a piece of whiteboard animation to help add impact to their message, whether it be a college lecture or a business presentation.

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