How We Used Animation to Help the Feds Help Veterans

Still image of two people from animationIt's a message from the federal government. About taxes. And labor rules.

How would you explain it?

"It" was the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, or WOTC "Watt-see"). WOTC could help veterans and other deserving people get a job -- if only they, and their potential employers, could learn about it in a way that didn't sound impossibly complicated.

Working with our client Social Policy Research Associates for the US Department of Labor, we at Boots Road decided to use animation and video to help make that happen.

Here's a one-minute animation we created. The goal was to motivate employers to take advantage of WOTC, while reassuring them that applying wouldn't be a big pile of paperwork:

Our creative concept was to take that scariest aspect of the process -- the paperwork -- and make it into something friendly. (It's a technique that often works: take whatever the worst part of your challenge is, and see if, by turning it upside down, you can turn it to your advantage).

If you look again at the elements as they go by -- letters, checks, forms, people -- you'll see that they're made of "paper." We play with flatness, lightness and folding all the way through.

WOTC animation in Adobe After EffectsAnd we play with the letters themselves -- using a style of animation known as kinetic text. It helps to guide attention and reinforce points that are also being made by the voice-over.

Although the result feels simple, there are a lot of moving parts in a production like this.

It began as a storyboard -- rough sketches that take the creative concept, turn it into a story, and serve as a guide to the animation to come.

It was produced using a program called Adobe After Effects, which gives the animator control over any number of virtual layers, including images, voice, sound effects and music.

The process is actually very similar to the way animation has been done since the days of classic Walt Disney and Bugs Bunny cartoons, except that back then, images were hand drawn, inked and painted, on layers of celluloid, or "cels."

Believe it or not, there are more than a hundred layers in our WOTC animation.

What we hope they all add up to is a few more good people saying, and hearing, "You're hired."

You can see this and our other videos at the US Department of Labor website.