Why Safety Animation Video is Better than Live Action Video in the Construction Industry

Background

As a safety adviser or project manager, you’ll know the construction industry has long been a big user of safety video, whether as bought-in modules, or custom-made video productions.

Construction by its very nature is more hazardous than, say, factory work, as a factory is a single site, full of repetitive local activities, with the same staff, that can be managed & controlled from one place.

Now compare this to construction where teams of trades operatives travel from site to site, with each site different, and each team different in its makeup, not to mention the difference in hazards from site to to site, always presenting fresh safety challenges,

Safety video works equally well for civils, construction, tunneling, home building, rail, big engineering contracts, in any country, in any language. Any aspect of the built environment is a candidate for animation.

But as you probably already know, there are many difficulties in getting the correct safety information to the point of use, ie, to the teams on the ground who have to deal with the hazards.

Because construction sites are so different, off the shelf videos frequently don’t cover the risks, or go into enough learning detail to deal with the situations the operatives in the ground are presented with.

Additionally the larger constructors have developed their own sophisticated safety cultures, which are not covered so well by library videos.

Custom made safety videos have been happily solving these problems for a long time, with all the major constructors producing custom safety videos for many years, and some, like Carillion, even having their own in-house video units running very successfully.

But making video on a construction project site has never been easy.

For a start, it’s slow and expensive, and it takes a lot of organizing, especially if actors or presenters are involved, especially for critical procedures, such as working near traffic or live carriageways in civils jobs (moving vehicles), or up on the 10th floor of a high rise building (working at height)

Which is where animated safety video steps in – 2D cartoon style animation.

Animated safety can often be produced for around the same cost with far less hassle, and arguably greater effectiveness, ie, reduced accidents and increased safe behaviours.

 

12 ways to compare live action with animated safety video

Compared to traditional camera filming, animated safety video has huge benefits for the constructor. Here’s a list of pros & cons:

1: No filming: It’s always intrusive to film on site, having a video camera crew wandering around a relatively hazardous work area. With animation there’s no need to film onsite which is always intrusive, especially where you’re a subcontractor working for a touchy principal.

2: Less organizing: Planning to arrange video crew site visits is a lot of work for the safety adviser. Animation eliminates this at a stroke.

3: It’s easier to show what you want: Often, a particular shot is only available for a day, or otherwise short window, eg, craning up a pre constructed module, early groundworks, interior fitting, as-you-go cladding checks, rail possession, fitting into shifts, tunnel maintenance, and so on. But when the scene is drawn and not filmed, there are no such constraints. Animated safety video lets you show what you want, when you want, especially interpersonal skills, such as explaining non-offensively to a work colleague why they’re working unsafely.

4: Recreating special hazards: Incidents & accidents can be easily simulated with animation, eg, an excavation safety video can show someone unconscious being dragged out of a tank, or confined space, This generates a lot of strong audience impact, without appearing to be show negative safety messages, ie, that a real individual with a home and family has been been seriously injured, possibly for life.

5: No need to tie up contractors or own staff: Filming onsite means getting subcontractors to help out by letting themselves be filmed. Yet on a fast track project, with carefully planned sequences & logistics, contractors don’t have a few spare hours to help out with video. And when they do it’s often seen as a big chore, or necessary evil to please the principal contractor, who’s usually the one paying for the video.

6: Greater impact: Animated safety video can have oodles of imagination & motivational impact. Apart from the fact that it’s different & fresh, the safety messages are often more simplified & stylised, more direct & clearer to understand. This applies equally whether the video is explaining a hazard/procedure/attitude, or fostering a new level of development in your evolving safety culture. It gives a lot more bang for its buck compared to many filmed videos which are often extremely boring, and more likely to put audiences to sleep rather than energising them.

7: You can say what you mean better: Safety advisers are often torn between wanting to show only the good, the positive side of safety, and yet also need to show the consequences of poor safety. This is much easier to show with animation than filming.

8: People like cartoons: They have high acceptability, as we were all brought up with cartoons, The Simpsons, Sponge Bob Squarepants, Rugrats etc. Audiences like cartoons, and safety advisers I know say they’re very effective with, say, Polish subbies who need to understand safe behaviours.

9: Animation is generally quicker to produce: It’s not that animation is fast to produce. It’s more that live filmed safety video is very slow to produce, with all the logistics of filming, maybe across a few different sites, and the organizing of filming locations onsite, operative availability for camera, site permissions, and so on. Animation is miles easier as it’s backroom work rather than onsite work – with all its attendant complexities.

10: Training foreignspeak operatives: Construction worldwide uses migrant workforces. Indian & Filipino workers work for Arab principals in The Gulf, Poles & Estonians work for EU and UK contractors. It’s much easier to teach safety to people who speak English as a second language using cartoons than film. I’ve personally produced safety animation in languages as far afield as Vietnamese and Turkmen.

11: Updating later: When a live action video needs updating to reflect, say, a change in the law, or your corporate style, it can be expensive. Often this is less so for animation, which maybe only requires a couple of tweaks rather than a whole reshoot.

12: Showing ideas & invisibles: Anything abstract is always difficult to film. But not so with animation, as you can draw what you like. Invisibles can be anything from a process flow, a safety concept, something unseen onsite such as a hidden cable, or safety data about company LTIs.

 

But what about the costs

Animated safety video often costs the same as live action filmed video. But the costing principles are quite different. Please let me explain.

Live action costs costs are driven by the number of days the video crew is required for filming. Except for the shortest safety video topics, most filmed videos need 2 or more days of filming, with crews often travelling from site to site, filming and interviewing. So more crew days equals higher costs and more money from your budget.

By contrast, animated safety video cost is driven by the number of characters (the cast) & background scenes & sets that need to be drawn. More lifelike characters & scenes equals higher cost.

So an animated video with lots of highly detailed scenes & characters will come out more expensive. But a little bit of thought and pruning, the numbers of scenes can often be reduced. Ditto for the number of characters. The result is that less artwork/illustration is required. Or artwork from one scene can fairly easily be reworked to look different for another scene, which is quicker than redrawing everything from scratch. The same principle applies to drawn characters, and the complexity of their movements.

Scripting, voiceover and music takes the same time for animation. And while the storyboard visualizing takes longer, the onsite filming time is nil, so speed-to-delivery can often be faster with animation.

Onsite training delivery remains the same, ie, as DVD, or web MP4 video from your cloud drive, or as part of your HTML5 interactive eLearning package.

Budget around £1,000 GBP per run time minute for animation. But it can be more or less than this depending on the complexity, ie, the amount of illustration and video editing required.

 

When do need safety animation video

Here’s a list of examples where animated safety video can be used in construction:

> When you have a new initiative you need to promote.

> When you need to put new life into old messages.

> When responding to HSE pressure, or legal requirement.

> When filming isn’t practical.

> When you inherit a new overseas or non-english workforce.

> When audience impact & memorability is critical.

> When a more light hearted touch is more effective than an authoritarian tone.

> When you need to reconstruct an incident or event.

> When you need to demonstrate how seriously you take a particular safety, environmental, neighbourhood, or sustainability problem.

You can probably think of more.

 

Summary

Animation doesn’t work for every project or procedure. For example, an hour’s worth of method statements & permit rules that literally copy the Safe System of Work manual, set to animation, will come out prohibitively expensive.

But with a little thought, a project like this can often be compacted to 5 minutes of key issues, and therefore cost a lot less. How this is done is the subject of another blog. But your safety video production company or professional video producer can probably show you how.

The key point is that using animation is often more effective as delivered training, while taking up far less onsite time & resources.

And clients will respect your imaginative commitment to safety.

Use animation in construction. It’s better and it’s available.

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