Screenshots KidGuard Dubai
25 May 2016 We Are Alive!

Behind the KidGuard animation

For the team here at We Are Alive, Kidguard animation was an amazing project from start to finish, a real dream come true! When our team first met with the crew at Kidguard, we felt like this project could be a ton of fun. Kidguard was open for suggestions and they gave us creative freedom to come up with a fresh concept for the project.

Initially, the project was supposed to be a simple explainer video, but we decided to take it one step further and wrote a script that was closer to a cartoon then a motion graphics animation. Considering that the nature of the project had changed, we realized that we would need some characters. From there, we created a young, Dubai-based expatriate family.

Characters in different outfits

Character Design

Character design is always fun because there are so many different possibilities. How should they look, how old are they, what jobs do they have, what are they wearing? It's almost like casting your actors and giving them directions and motivation.

Our team collected a lot of relevant references that helped us establish the general style. We knew we wanted something simple and colorful, so we came up with a few different versions. In the end however, we decided on a young, casual couple with a son and a daughter. For some reason, we imagined that the father is a graphic designer and that the mother is a school teacher. This helped us immensly later on when we were designing the backgrounds.

Three options for the character design


Now that we had a story and had cast our actors, it was time to work on the storyboard. The first sketches took us around 20 minutes to draw. It's always amusing to compare them with the final frames because these initial drawings are used only to clarify the story and to establish the basic framing. These early sketches usually stay hidden forever and are only used internally. To someone outside it would probably look like a bunch of random shapes with no meaning. But for us it's a blueprint for what’s to come.

Comparison of the storyboard sketches and the final designs

Getting the story right always takes some experimentation. Should we cut from a wide angle to a close-up or have it all in one continuous shot? Should we add that detail shot or cut to something neutral? There are almost an infinite number of possibilities, so you need to nail down exactly what you would like to do before you start animating.

Sometimes it's just easier to work with your hands instead of clicking with a mouse. We discovered that it's always more effective to brainstorm without the computer. So we printed all of our storyboard frames, cut them out and placed them on the table. Now we were free to rearrange them easily and refine the storyline until it's perfect. This particular method also made us feel like we're back in the kindergarten again, which was very suitable for this particular project.


The way we used paper and scissors to refine the story



The next step of the process was to create an animatic. An animatic is basically an animated storyboard. We use it to get the general feel for the timing and motion. It can contain static images or have some basic animation. In this case, we created a simplified motion that helped us to envision the final video. Here is the animatic for the first scene compared to the final animation:




Character Animation

Here's when the fun starts. Now that we have the finalized script, character designs, backgrounds, storyboard and the animatic, we can finally start putting the final artwork inside the animation software. In this case, the characters were animated inside the Toon Boom Harmony. First, our animation artist created a complex set of controls which were used to put bring the characters in life. This process is called rigging and it’s basically like adding joints and bones inside the characters body.

After that, our characters are ready for animation. Each bone will be moved and key-framed. Slowly this process will build up the final movement. The animation process is completed scene by scene, character by character, frame by frame. It takes time, but it is the most important part of the project.

Screenshots from the animation software used for rigging and character animation


3D Modeling

Parallel to the character animation, we were also working on the 3D modeling and animation of the watch. We gathered a few reference photos of the device, taken from different angles and used them to recreate the watch inside the 3D animation software. First, the 3D artist set the wire-frames and then added materials, virtual lights and camera move to get that final look.

The 3D process from reference photo to final 3D model used for animation



The final stage of the visual side of the project is compositing. That's when we take the animated characters and background designs and combine them together. This was completed in Adobe After Effects. In this process, we also add camera moves, create 3D depth, do special effects, animate typography and adjust the overall color balance.

Screenshot from Adobe After Effects that was used for the compositing of the animation


Music and Sound Design

And last but not the least comes the music composition and sound design. It's easy to forget how important sound is, especially for animated videos. High quality audio adds another layer of realism and enables us as animators to materialise the objects and movements and highlight important moments in the animation. For Kidguard, we decided to compose an original soundtrack that will perfectly fit the mood. We arranged a cool and relaxed jazzy vibe and spiced it up with a carefully crafted layer of sound effects.



The Results

After a few weeks of work, Kidguard animation was ready. The client was very pleased with the results and they soon launched a digital marketing campaign that revolved around our video. We created a few cuts with different durations, which the client used on social media. At the time of this writing, our video has attracted more than 3000 views on social media combined and more then 100 likes and comments. Be sure to check it out on their website and your social media platform of choice.


All in all it was a nice experience and we are looking forward to similar projects!


Logo of a Dubai based company KidGuard