The fine art of providing information in an engaging and understandable format

After creating 3 new animations covering the topics of urban climate, climate change resilience for city infrastructure and data use for mapping urban areas our Climate Data Analyst HANNAH GOUGH and Bafta-nominated Digital Media Designer ANDY WAN share their top tips for producing short films that engage audiences with climate information

A scene from the brief animation called 'A quick guide to urban climate'
Watch Now: 'A quick guide to urban climate', asking whether mapping data on to our city help us to understand and manage the impact of climate change on our urban environment?
The title scene
Watch now: 'Futureproofing cities'. A short introduction to the impact of climate change on cities, urban developments and infrastructure.
A graphic from the short animation 'Mapping and modelling our cities'
Watch now: 'Mapping and modelling cities'. Can mapping our cities, using a combination of local knowledge and big data, help us to understand and manage the impact of climate change on our urban environment?

6 key tips for capturing your audience with a climate science animation

Plenty of high-quality information about climate change is available but it can be difficult to filter out the relevant content, or even find basic background details, and if your job involves staring at text on a screen all day, reading fatigue can begin to take its toll on your capacity to absorb information.

Enter the art of animation as a way of breaking up the monotony of endless reams of text.

As part of the VIEWpoint project, which covers a wide range of aspects of climate science, a team within the Institute for Environmental Analytics (IEA) produced an equally wide range of resources to extend the reach of the research. Stakeholders and users within VIEWpoint and its parent project – Climate Science for Service Partnership (CSSP) China – have varied multi-disciplinary backgrounds, with their knowledge being in specialist areas such as town planning, health or civil engineering. To ensure everyone has the required basic understanding to use the outputs developed by project partners, we developed a set of accessible animations to introduce the basic concepts of urban climate to a wide range of audiences.

Here are our 6 tips for an engaging and informative animation:

  1. Look at the knowledge required to use the projects’ tools and identify the key pieces of information. Also assess the intended audience(s); the platforms the animation will sit on and how it is likely to be shared.
  2. Group the key concepts into loose themes to allow bite-sized information delivery. The overarching climate change and cities concept draws the three animations together.
  3. Do your research to ensure the information provided is up-to-date and make a note of key words, phrases, key figures and images. Make sure you cover common mis-understandings and don’t fall foul of them yourself.
  4. Points 1 to 3 provide the basis of your voiceover script. Draft it out, remembering to read it aloud to check the flow and for hidden tongue twisters. Invite feedback from those involved in commissioning the animation and/or those who are likely to use it, it is never too early in the process to check that it meets their needs. Also try it out on a couple of people who match the profile of the intended audience. Make any necessary edits and check the timing matches your brief.
  5. Consider whether the voiceover and/or subtitles need to be in more than one language to maximise the audience you reach, if so, which languages? This may impact the overall flow and length of the video. For VIEWpoint we provided voiceovers and subtitles in English and Chinese.

From here, the digital media designer splits the script into sections and develops a storyboard for each animation, ensuring it flows with the script.

A storyboard usually begins its life as hand-drawn sketches of how the script play out scene by scene as well as describing the visual style and actions.

From the initial sketches, the designer develops visual scenes, or ‘full-colour storyboards’. These include character design, illustrations and other visual elements such as text or icons that may appear.

  1. For an animation to be successful, it’s important that the visual look and flow of the story are in sync with the content and deliver the correct message to the target audience, including representing the diversity of your audience to establish connection and relevance.

After the storyboard has been produced and the early version of the script recorded, the animatic stage begins where the production team transforms storyboard images into a timeline that are synched to the recorded audio. This is the stage where the flow of the story is experienced and experiments with music in establishing the mood and pace begin. Often previously overlooked ideas are added including where the visuals can enhance or add meaning to the verbal description.

Once the animatic is signed off, it means the scripts and storyboards are final and production of the animation will begin. This is the most labour-intensive stage where the animator will produce the final high-quality animations and edit them into a video.

The final recording takes place  once the rough cut of the animation is signed off, and the project moves into the finishing phase. The editor combines all the elements, from the animation, music, audio effects and voices, to produce a high-quality video to the final specifications.

Judge for yourself – watch our animations ‘Creating climate resilient cities’

Watch our three animations, the first on urban climate setting the scene for the issues faced by population-dense areas, the second on climate change and futureproofing cities and the third on the scientific ways that we investigate cities, breaking cities into component parts using maps and models.

The VIEWpoint animations are on our YouTube channel and the website we created to make all the VIEWpoint CSSP China resources freely available, easy to share and to download: www.viewpoint-cssp.org.They have been produced for the Newton Fund-supported VIEWpoint project under a Creative Commons Licence and you are welcome to use them, please credit: Institute for Environmental Analytics.

For more information on how we can support your climate services, email info@the-iea.org

A brightly coloured cartoon-style scene
A scene from 'Futureproofing Cities', the engaging, animated introduction to the impact of climate change on cities, urban developments and infrastructure, produced by the Institute for Environmental Analytics for the Newton Fund-supported VIEWpoint project.
The cover of the English language version of the VIEWpoint CSSP China handbook

See all the resources we created for the Climate Science for Service Partnership (CSSP) China project at the website, www.viewpoint-cssp.org.