A practical guide on how to make a whiteboard animation – part 1: the setup

whiteboard video
Imagine you want to explain something to someone. Something that might be hard to transfer. Like an idea or concept. Something that is very comprehensive and hard to capture in a few words.
You might consider making a whiteboard animation. A tool that is excellent to share thoughts and knowledge. Because allows you tell a story. The visual images support the story and make your message easier to process. And the short duration of the animation forces you to get to the core of what you want to tell.
A whiteboard animation might seem simple to make, but there is a lot more to it than you think.

This is the first of two blogpost that will tell you a bit more about how to make a professional whiteboard video. We don’t want to tell you how you should do it. Just how we did it. It might help you if you want to make one yourself.

In this first part we will cover the practical side of making a whiteboard animation: lighting, filming and post-processing. It is about knowing what your result should look like, knowing what you need to do and being creative enough to make it happen!

You might want to watch this video in advance. It shows you how it is done in a professional studio.

Too much light on the hand

too much light on the hand

too dark, too much shadow

too dark, too much shadow

Nice!

nice!

In this post:

STEP 1: LIGHTING SETUP

The first step is to get your lamps in place. The better your lamps are positioned, the easier it is to set the camera settings and do the post-processing.

There are a few things to keep in mind while setting everything up to get the best result:

  • evenly illuminated whiteboard
  • enough light on your talent
  • animation without distracting shadows while drawing
  • whiteboard without glare

1 BLIND THE ROOM

Shut drapes and close doors. Make sure no other light sources can interfere with your lighting setup.

2 TURN ON THE OVERHEAD LIGHTING


The overhead lighting smooths rough shadows, illuminates the talent and gives
an even fill on the whiteboard. So if you have them, turn that switch.

3 ILLUMINATE THE WHITEBOARD

Now we’re really starting! We’re going to build two diffusers for the 400W construction lamps. After that we’ll put them in position by cleverly hanging them from the ceiling.

Make the diffusers
A diffuser spreads out the light. The result is a softer light and reduction of shadows.

  • Ingredients:
  • 400 watt construction light 2x
  • self-sticking magnet strip
  • translucent paper
  • 6x super magnets

alignleft

  • Lets start with making the filter. We’ll make a double layered diffuser. So we need two pieces of translucent paper. Make sure they are wider and longer than the actual front side of the lamp. This is because they have to bulge a bit and stick out to have a better diffusing effect
  • Now we want to attach the filter onto the lamp. Cut two pieces self-sticking magnet strip that have the same length as the sides of the construction lamp. Attach it on both sides
  • Put the two pieces of translucent paper on top of each other and place them around the lamp
  • Place the magnets on the magnet-strip with the paper in between
  • Do the same things for the other lamp as well, and voila, your diffusers are ready

Tip! You can use less or more layers of translucent paper to create the effect you want

Hang the construction lights
The lamps with diffusers need to be above eye level and close to the whiteboard. Of course you can use huge tripods to put them in position. But because we work on a shoestring budget we chose to hang them from the ceiling. To make the position of the lamp easy adjustable we chose to hang them from three points. To make it easy adjustable in height we used hooks and chains.

  • Ingredients:
  • 6 ring-bolts and nuts
  • 12x S-shaped hooks
  • 6 tie wraps
  • 6 chains
  • tape

  • Lets begin with getting the lamp ready to hang. Attach a ring bolt on three points of the lamp. One in the front, two in the back

  • Now we need attachment points on the ceiling. (When you have a ceiling with modules this is easy. When you don’t.. be creative.) Take three tie wraps and use them to attach three S-hooks to the ceiling
  • With the attach points on the ceiling we can actually hang the lamp. Connect the hooks on the ceiling with the hooks on lamp with chains. And simply adjust the length of the chains to position the lamps

  • Do the same for the other lamp

Adjust and position
Now that you’ve set up the lamps for the illumination of the whiteboard you can start adjusting. Try using multiple layers of translucent paper and different positions of the lamp. Keep in mind that you want an evenly illuminated whiteboard and no distraction shadows.

4 ILLUMINATE THE TALENT

Ok, we have a beautiful light on the whiteboard but we want our talent to look good too. To make this happen we’ll create some sort of softbox. Get your 1000W construction lamp ready and make your talent shine in the video!

Create a softbox
If you watched the video ‘how to light your whiteboard video professionally‘ you saw that you need two softboxes to illuminate your talent. This is to create a nice large area from which the light comes. There are many DIY instruction video’s to built these yourself.
We chose a different solution.

  • Place the 1000W lamp on two boxes
  • Point it to a large white surface (wall, back of a closet, …)
  • Try different positions for the lamp till you get the result your looking for

Tip! You might get a bit of a glare on your whiteboard when using this method. Make a few drawings on your whiteboard to test if this is the case. Adjust the position of the lamp until the your board is free of glare.

5 FINE TUNE

Great! You’ve got all the lamps in place. Check out the overall lighting of your talent and your whiteboard and make some small adjustments here and there. Don’t put to much effort in it, the real fine tuning will take place in the next step.

STEP 2: CAMERA SETUP

This is where the trial and error part really begins. There are many settings that can influence the quality of your lighting. We’ll cover the most important ones we came across. Connect your camera to your computer or use the SD card to quickly test your settings on screen.

Things you want to keep in mind while setting up your camera:

  • The whiteboard has an even white color throughout the screen
  • The black (blue, red, green etc) has the right color on screen
  • Your talent has a natural skin color
  • Your white is as white as possible, and your black is as black as it gets

1 MAKE A GREY CARD

A grey card provides a standard reference object to determine the exposure of your video. When you start post-processing later on, the grey card will help you to get a consistant exposure throughout. Make a card with a black and a grey colored area. Make a shot of the card before you start filming.

Tip! When you use multiple colors in your video your can add them to your ‘grey’ card as well.

2 SET APERTURE, ISO, WHITE BALANCE AND EXPOSURE

Unfortunately the auto settings of your camera will not get you to where you want to be.. So when you’re almost fed up with trying out the many combinations, remember that you will be rewarded for it during the post-processing. Make some test shots with different settings of the aperture, iso, white balance and exposure. Make sure someone is drawing on the whiteboard while you make the test shots.

Here a some guidelines:

  • Get as much light into the lens as possible, so set the aperture as low as possible
  • ISO value between 100 and 400 will work great
  • The white balance is very important. Use the custom white balance. How you can set it is explained around 6:04 in this film
  • Exposure, be careful with this one. You don’t want you talent to be overexposed
  • If you might wonder what to do with the shutter speed. It doesn’t make much of a difference. Just leave it as it is

Tip! write down the settings on the white board before you film. This way you know exactly wich settings you used in wich shots.

3 CHECK YOUR COLORS ON SCREEN

Ok, now that you’ve made some test shots, we’re going to see how they look on screen. Load your test films onto your computer and have a close look. Go back to the beginning of this chapter to check what you have to look for.
Use a tool like “DigitalColor Meter” for Mac.
make sure that the whiteboard has an even color. it doesn’t have to be as white as posible yet, but the overal color may not vary more than 10 points. Does your talents skin color look natural or is it over exposed? Is white 255 255 255 and black as 0 0 0? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RGB_color_model

Troubleshooting

  • The whiteboard doesn’t have an even color throughout the screen: It is ok to have have some difference, but it shouldn’t be over 10 points. There is obviously more light shining on one side of the whiteboard. First try adjusting the softbox. If this doesn’t work you can try adjusting the spots
  • There is a glare on your whiteboard: The light of your softbox might be too direct. Try adjusting the position of the 1000W lamp
  • Your talent’s skin looks too white: It could be that your talent doesn’t feel very well. Try feeding some fruit and vegetables. If this is not the case your video is probably overexposed. Try to adjust the exposure settings, aperture or brightness of the lamps. Notice how each setting changes the light and brightness in your image. Carefully play around with them
  • The whiteboard looks grey instead of white. And the black is not as black as you want it to be: try the following steps:
    a. Adjust the white balance
    b. Adjust the shutter speed and exposure a bit.
    c. Last resort: Use color correction in a video editing program

4 REPEAT STEP 2, 3 AND 4

Yes. Practice make perfect.

STEP 3: FILMING

Fantastic! Everything is set up and you’re ready to film! Climb in your directors chair, unroll your storyboard and make your animation shine.

A few tips:

  • Use tape to make a frame on the whiteboard. This way your talent doesn’t draw out of screen
  • Mark where the middle of your frame is. Because your talent is close to the whiteboard it is more difficult to get a good composition
  • Don’t forget to make a shot of the grey card before you start filming
  • Your talent might hold a piece of paper with example drawings. Make sure this is not visible in the shot
  • Make sure nobody stands in front of lamps. Moving shadows will be very distracting in your video
  • Make sure there are no other light sources interfering with your lighting setup
  • Film everything. Even wiping out drawings can look cool in your animation.
  • Stay focussed. Even though you might not be drawing, you’re the one with the overview. Help your talent with the sequence of the animation, the composition of the drawings and make sure that notting is forgotten.
  • Make jokes. Some scenes need many retakes. And it’s going to be hot under all those lamps. Everybody’s energy levels may drop. Humor keeps everyone fresh and fruity.

STEP 4: POST-PROCESSING

This is the last part of the lighting proces. Use the settings of a movie editing program like Final Cut Pro or Adobe After Effects to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

  • Determine your black color using a digital color meter and the shots of the grey card. The black on the grey card has to be real black on screen
  • Play with the exposure-, saturation-, and color settings to make this happen
  • Determine also your white color. The same way as black, but now check the whiteboard itself.

We just pushed the white exposure and pulled the blacks a bit as you can see in the image below. You can check when it is enough by checking your image with the Digital Color Meter.


Now you know how to get a professional looking whiteboard animation! To show you what the result looks like, we’ll show you a snapshot of a whiteboard animation we made for a client.

BONUS: AUDIO SETUP

Ah! A bonus. The audio in whiteboard video’s are usually narrated. So you need a studio to record your story. Of course, being on a shoestring budget we found another way.

Things you want to keep in mind while recording your audio:

  • Make sure there is no background noise
  • Make sure the audio is set to the right volume
  • Ask someone with a nice voice to tell the story

Ingredients:
two Klippan Granån white sofa’s,
Nikon D7000 and
Röde Videomic Pro
tripod
rope

  • Put the two sofas on their side. Position them in a way that you create some sort of booth
  • For more stability, bind them together with rope
  • Put the microphone on the camera, and the camera on the tripod. Place them inside the booth
  • Point the microphone upwards. This way you reduce the amount of background noise on your recording
  • Clear your throat. Press play. And start recording

Tip! Tape your script to the sofa. This way you won’t hear any noise coming from the paper.

Troubleshooting

  • If you get a hum in your audio, check if any electric stuff is in range of the microphone, like lighting or power outlets
  • If you get a noise in your audio, check the settings of the microphone and even the battery! If it goes on it can be your camera or noise from another source

In the next part of this two-piece blogpost we’ll tell you how we made the script of our whiteboard animation!

Update
Here is part 2

by Candide van der Hout Tags: ,

12 Comments

  1. Posted by Adam. on 08/04/2014 · 02:40

    WOW!, what a guide, its great that you share the details of the equpment used.
    The best and most detailed guide I’ve found so far, as the owner of http://www.whiteboardstories.com I will link to it to show my clients when they ask about the detailed process we take to create a whiteboard animation and why the rates (as its time consuming and requires good artists and experience)

    Thanks!

  2. Posted by Adam. on 08/04/2014 · 02:40

    WOW!, what a guide, its great that you share the details of the equpment used.
    The best and most detailed guide I’ve found so far, as the owner of http://www.whiteboardstories.com I will link to it to show my clients when they ask about the detailed process we take to create a whiteboard animation and why the rates (as its time consuming and requires good artists and experience)

    Thanks a lot!

2 Trackbacks

  1. By How to Produce a Whiteboard Video on 25/09/2013 at 19:52

    [...] camera with manual exposure controls and adequate lighting. If you don’t have studio lights, 400-watt construction lights are said to work — but I can’t verify this. I recommend lighting from three points with [...]

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