Animator Ben French talks about what it takes to be a good animator. And how digital art and design can radically transform your business and better engage your audience. Ben, who is based in London, U.K., has been working in digital design and filmmaking for 15 years. North by Northwest subcontracted Ben to work on an animation project which highlighted the right of way process.
Passion for Design
Ben has had a passion for design from an early age. Since his childhood growing up in Devon, England, Ben has loved telling stories and expressing himself through art and media.
“I was never really ‘neuro-typical’ and struggled with memory and concentration. This made a lot of more traditional or academic schoolwork challenging. So, I focused on creating my own comics, artwork, games, plays, and other things that held my attention in response to projects and briefs. I would try to find a way to get them into any subject I could at school. Although, my bawdy comic about a short-sighted French man and his chaotic shopping trip landed me in detention at the time,” Ben laughed.
These interests eventually evolved into an interest in filmmaking and animation. He earned a degree in filmmaking at college. Ben attended college at the Surrey Institute of Art & Design, now UCA Farnham.
Connecting with the Audience
Today, Ben says he most enjoys projects where he has an opportunity to make a connection with the audience and provide a memorable experience. He achieves this through a variety of mediums including creating engaging videos, whole websites, training courses, and virtual games. In these mediums, learners get to engage with content in a way that feels personal and appealing to them.
“I particularly enjoy providing unexpected forms of immersion to the user/learner, that are nonetheless intuitive. I find telling stories, especially unexpected ones, is a powerful way to get messages across and change behavior because the lessons stick when the brain is fully engaged,” Ben shared.
Recently, Ben was the lead designer on project in collaboration with North by Northwest. The project details the right of way process by using claymation style puppets. Ben was the obvious choice for spearheading the design of this animated video due to his ample experience writing, designing, and creating videos in the past for training courses. Through training modules, he’s explained a variety of different subjects to different audiences in an engaging and humorous (where appropriate) manner.
“The majority of the work I’ve done like this was either animated or a combination of animation and live action. I recently took on a project similar to this for an HR diploma that featured a series of videos depicting the life at a company where half of the employees were animated and the other half were represented by live actors, think Who Framed Roger Rabbit, that is where I first got to see the depth of what’s possible on Adobe Character Animator,” Ben told me. Adobe Character Animator was one of the software programs Ben used to create the animation for this video. “It offers powerful tools for the task,” Ben said.
The Demand Driving More Ways to Connect Online
I asked Ben why he loves doing what he does. “My own struggles in education have given me a deep appreciation for content that is engaging and accessible for everyone. I love the feeling I have when I’m learning a new subject or skill and I ‘click’ with the material. That’s when it starts to get exciting for me. That is my driving passion in creating learning, and all the media around it. I want to be able to provide that moment for others and provide insight in unexpected ways.”
“I love the feeling I have when I’m learning a new subject or skill and I ‘click’ with the material. That’s when it starts to get exciting for me. That is my driving passion in creating learning, and all the media around it. I want to be able to provide that moment for others and provide insight in unexpected ways.”
— Ben French, Designer
As 2021 has illustrated, the demand for more ways to connect to audiences online and also for online training material is definitely paramount. Today, people are spending an average of 8 hours a day looking at and absorbing digital content. That alone highlights how there is an increasing need for high quality and engaging online material.
How to Engage a Broad Audience
Ben said he believes that this kind of work will be increasingly valuable for organizations and companies in the future. “I think [promotional videos] are engaging ways of informing a broad audience, whilst hopefully providing a light humorous tone that doesn’t detract from the key information that they need to impart,” he said.
“ I think [promotional videos] are engaging ways of informing a broad audience, whilst hopefully providing a light humorous tone that doesn’t detract from the key information that they need to impart.”
— Ben French, Designer
To create the finished product, Ben first took the script which was largely dialog based, and storyboarded what was being said by the characters. “I tried to envisage some engaging scenarios and visuals to support this. Wherever I could add weight to a statement or help clarify what was being communicated with animation I would work that into the storyboard. I was keen to work some subtle visual humour into the scenes, informed by a lifetime of watching Looney Tunes, and Monty Python, without distracting from the important details. I also made sure to switch up the action and location regularly to keep the viewer engaged.”
Finding the Right Style
“I chose to use claymation for the characters because I’ve always been a big fan of Aardman Animation. They produced the Wallace and Gromit films. And I enjoy their ‘Creature Comfort’ videos from the early 90s. They were made in a mockumentary style that presented relatable interviews with people, animated as clay animals.”
“The characters all had a warm down to earth tone. This was coupled with unexpected and wonderfully observed anthropomorphic gestures, glances, and subtle emotions. We expressed that in the way they were animated. The expressive clay puppets I have used for this video evoke this style. I felt there was a great opportunity to connect to the audience with them,” Ben explained.
Ben got involved on the project through his connection with North by Northwest, Media Coordinator, Angela Carlton. “I got involved through [Angela]. We had talked a lot in the past about finding a way to work together on a project. I was thrilled to get involved. I’m most excited to work with such a talented group of creatives, across a diverse range of projects. Next, I’d really love to work on a project that combines a variety of different forms of media as part of a larger unified campaign,” Ben expressed.
Get in Touch to Learn More
To learn more about how videos can be one of the most effective ways of communicating to the public today, or how we can create videos to help your company, organization, or municipality detail processes, procedures or new initiatives, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today.