How I Create Sketchy Videos

Yesterday, I created a visual writing idea:

I’ve created at least one of these videos each week (in this playlist) and one of the most common questions I get is, “How do you make these?” The answer is actually pretty simple. I don’t use a special animation program. I know that there are programs that work faster but I like doing everything by hand. The process is time-consuming. It can take 2-3 hours from start to finish for a video that will only last 45 seconds, but I find it to be a fun process.

I’ve been reluctant to write a post on this subject, because I’m sure there are better ways to make one of these videos. However, I figured I would share the process anyway:

Step One: Write and Record the Script

Sometimes I like to just press record and go. Other times, I like to write out an entire script and then record it. Because the audio capture isn’t working properly on my Mac Mini, I usually record the audio with my iPhone. It’s not the greatest quality but it works. 

Step Two: Storyboard

Okay, this isn’t anywhere near as complicated as the word suggests. This is essentially the visual concept for the animation (if you can call it that). It’s basically boxes with stick figures and arrows. I actually have a forced time limit on storyboarding where I will only allow myself three minutes from start to finish. It’s supposed to look crappy. 

Step Three: Sketch It

This is the part where I was initially way too slow. I was insecure about how my visuals would look. I was worried that people wouldn’t like what I had sketched out. There’s this strange perfectionism and shame for me when it comes to art. The fact that I use “doodle” rather than “illustrate” suggests I don’t see a ton of merit in my craft. 
At some point, though, I just had to find my own style. 
Sometimes it’s more detailed:
Other times it’s a little more simple:
I have found that pencil works best for me. I like being able to decide how thick or thin the lines should be based upon my own personal preference. Note, too, that if you enlarge or reduce an image, you will change the final thickness of the lines. It’s why I generally like to draw everything to a similar scale. 

Step Four: Scan It

Nothing fancy here. Just scan the picture with an old-school scanner (is it too early to call them old-school?) I use a 300 dpi setting (even though some would say it doesn’t matter as much when converted to video) and I keep it on the text setting rather than picture. So, even thought it is sketched in graphic, I want it to be black and white and not fifty shades of grey (yeah, I went there). 

Step Five: Edit the Pictures

I have a standard blank slide that I use. I label it as 000.png.

From there, each individual slide will be added from what I have sketched. As I erase things and make tiny tweaks, they go into specific numerical places. 

So, for example, I might start with this:
By erasing a part of it, I might have this particular slide (which is actually slide 050.png). I can then erase it ten more times, each time saving the slide as a lower number. So, when it’s done, there is a ten part animation from 041.png all the way up to 050.png. 
Sometimes the animation is as simple as adding stick figures, opening and closing a door, or adding clouds going by to give the illusion of flying. 
When this is done, I can do a quick review of the file by sorting it from start to finish. By sliding down the file folder, I will get a stop animation view (think flipbook) and see if there is anything missing. 

Step Six: Edit on iMovie

Once these are finished, I drag all the pictures into iMovie and click the “fit” choice rather than the Ken Burns Effect. Under the information, I change each picture to 0.1 and then I go back and add longer times on certain slides. So, in that example above, I have found that the starting slide should be about .3 and the finished slide (the house) should be about 1.2 seconds.

I then add my audio under the slides that I have created. I usually have to take about twenty minutes or so to change the times on some of the slides to go longer or shorter based upon my voice.

Note that this whole process is way faster when you are not recording your own voice. Take this ridiculous one I made about a bowling pin:

Step Seven: Export the Video

When the video looks good enough to share, I then click File —> Share —> File and choose the highest video quality possible. Once it’s exported, I upload it to YouTube and it’s ready to view.

If you enjoy the videos, please subscribe to my YouTube page or click the thumbs up button by the video. If you dislike the videos, you can throw rotten fruit at me. 


So, if you’re interested in this, my advice would be to go do it. Have fun with the process. Be confident about your doodles. There aren’t any shortcuts or magic formulas or anything. 

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