The Incredible Amount of Work Behind Kurzgesagt's Beautiful Animated Videos

The Incredible Amount of Work Behind Kurzgesagt’s Beautiful Animated Videos

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With over 21 million subscribers on YouTube, Kurzgesagt is one of the most popular educational channels that covers science, technology, and philosophy topics through gorgeously animated videos. Their distinctive minimalist art style and relaxing narration make complex concepts surprisingly easy to understand. 

But have you ever wondered what exactly goes on behind the scenes to make one of their 10-minute masterpiece videos? As it turns out, an incredible amount of work from a team of talented people is required!

Step 1: Pick a Meaty Topic and Immerse in Research

Every Kurzgesagt video starts with choosing a topic. Their potential topics list is endless, covering everything from immune systems to exoplanet colonization. The Kurzgesagt team simply picks whichever subjects fascinate them at the moment, whether serious science or even “really stupid” ideas! The variety of topics is part of the fun.

Once a topic is chosen, the hardcore research begins. For science videos especially, understanding a subject fully requires diving deep into papers, books, and expert sources. The team reads extensively to build a fact-based worldview on the topic. This phase can take anywhere from a few weeks to multiple years depending on the complexity of the material! As they research, they also bring in advisors and experts to point them in the right direction and provide feedback.

Step 2: Craft the Script Over Many Painstaking Revisions

After absorbing tons of knowledge on the topic, it’s time to distill that research into a script. This is where the bottleneck happens according to Kurzgesagt. Writing and rewriting a logical, easy-to-understand, yet comprehensive script is extremely time-consuming.

It takes significant effort to structure the narrative so viewers can easily follow along with complex concepts. The script also goes through many rounds of edits and revisions within the team. They constantly tweak the wording to find the right balance between simplicity and accuracy. Once a solid draft is done, they also send it out to experts again to double-check for errors.

The scriptwriting itself can take anywhere from weeks to years depending on the difficulty of the material. But it is time well spent – the script forms the foundation for the rest of the video production process.

Step 3: Storyboarding and Illustrating Hundreds of Custom Assets

With the script polished and approved, the design work kicks off. The Kurzgesagt team first storyboards the whole video, planning out the flow scene by scene. This allows them to think up visual metaphors and transitions to represent the script concepts.

Next, their team of illustrators creates the sheer volume of custom artwork required. A typical 10-minute video contains around 200 unique illustrations, icons, characters, and assets. While they do have some existing artwork and animations in their library, most assets are crafted from scratch for each video.

The illustrations aim to elegantly and clearly explain the script concepts, while also being interesting visuals. The creation of all assets takes 2-3 illustrators around 8-12 weeks of full-time work.

Step 4: Recording the Perfect Narration

With the video fully illustrated, it’s time to record the narration. This happens in a small recording studio using a high-quality Neumann TLM 103 microphone and Pro Tools software. The narrator is Steve Taylor, who has narrated Kurzgesagt videos since 2013. His calm, friendly voice matches the tone of their videos perfectly.

Recording good narration requires multiple takes and revisions. Steve goes through the script several times, re-recording paragraphs and sentences until the pacing, enunciation, and emphasis all work together flawlessly. The final narration ties the visuals and script together into a cohesive story.

Step 5: Meticulously Animating Each Scene

The illustrated scenes and recorded audio get imported into After Effects to be animated. Recently Kurzgesagt has also started experimenting with Cinema 4D for 3D animations.

The artwork gets broken down into hundreds of individual layers and assets. The characters are rigged with joints so they can be moved smoothly and naturally. Bringing everything to life frame-by-frame is an extremely meticulous process done manually by their team of 2-3 animators.

They carefully time out and sequence each micro-animation across hundreds of scenes to result in the smoothly flowing final videos we see. The detailed animation work takes another 8-10 weeks per video.

Kurzgesagt is also known for its beautifully animated infographics that explain complex topics elegantly. The animators work meticulously to bring the illustrations to life and create flowing, easy-to-understand animations.

Step 6: Scoring an Impactful Original Soundtrack

As the visuals come together, the Kurzgesagt team composes an original soundtrack for each video. The music is created by Epic Mountain Studios to match the pacing of the visual storytelling, highlighting important parts and setting the mood.

They also add intricate sound effects you may not consciously notice, but subconsciously add to the immersion. Sounds like soft background tones, deep booms on key words, and futuristic effects complement the visuals. These sounds are designed by Max Frisch, who has worked with Kurzgesagt since 2017.

You can listen to all of the custom music and sounds for each video on SoundCloud and Spotify. The audio is key to bringing the videos to life.

Step 7: Tying It All Together

All the above steps happen in parallel, with constant reviewing, feedback, and polishing until every second of audio and video conveys the core ideas clearly. Only after many iterative rounds of tweaks and improvements does each scene get finalized into the complete video.

The Grand Total: 1200+ Hours Per Video

After tallying up the extensive research, writing, illustrations, laborious animations, soundtrack composition, and constant polishing rounds, Kurzgesagt estimates a single 10-minute video takes a monumental 1200+ hours or more to create!

And with a team always working on multiple videos simultaneously at different stages, it’s easy to see why each Kurzgesagt video takes many months to go from the initial idea to the final upload.

The end products of this long process are breathtaking science videos that make learning about the universe an enjoyable experience. Kurzgesagt’s brilliant combo of compelling writing, distinctive artwork, smooth animations, and immersive music turns complex topics into simple, beautiful stories.

Funding This Ambitious Project Through Fan Support

Creating these videos involves thousands of hours of skilled work, yet Kurzgesagt uploads them to YouTube for free. They’ve tested various approaches to fund their ambitious project over the years:

  • Commercial work for NGOs, startups, or corporations
  • Sponsorships and grants by companies or organizations
  • A deal with Funk from German public broadcasting to revive the German channel
  • A deal with Wix to start a Spanish channel
  • Revenue-sharing deals with platforms like YouTube and Spotify

But their main source of funding comes directly from viewers like you. Kurzgesagt depends tremendously on fan support through Patreon backing, merchandise purchases, and donations.

So if you appreciate their videos and want to help the project continue sustainably, consider supporting Kurzgesagt directly through their Store or Patreon page.

Of course, simply watching, liking, and sharing their videos also helps tremendously! Kurzgesagt’s dream is to create educational animations full-time and make the content accessible for free worldwide. With your support, they can keep perfecting their craft and producing more of their signature blend of knowledge and beauty.