How Much Does Animation Cost?

In Animation, Production Process, Video Strategy by Denis MallonLeave a Comment

You’ve decided that animation is the right fit for your project, and have an idea what type of animation is best suited.

But how much will it cost?

At Stampede, we get asked this question at lot. And the answer is… “it depends”.

It depends on a whole bunch of factors that make it really tricky to give a quick estimate – even a ballpark figure – without knowing certain information.

So at this point in your animation project, it’s really helpful to go into detail about these factors, and how they influence the overall cost of the project.

Update: we’ve now introduced our Instant Quote Builder tool, which lets you generate a rough animation quote in just a few easy steps.

 

Duration

Animation is a series of images. One minute of animation, at 25 frames per second, requires 1,500 frames. Of course, not every frame has to be individually drawn. But every frame adds to the ultimate time of delivery.

The duration of an animation is perhaps the single biggest factor that contributes to the cost.

Think carefully about how long your video needs to be. Attention spans are decreasing all the time – could your message connect in less time that you originally planned?

A shorter video could be more cost effective and produce better results.

This stop motion animation from Califiafarms showcases a new product in a way that’s beautifully effective. And it only lasts a few seconds.

 

Complexity

Animation can be as simple as a few simple shapes, or as complex as a huge crowd scene with hundreds of characters moving individually.

The action that happens throughout an animation has a big effect on the cost. These animation features will all contribute to the complexity of your animation:

  • Detailed artwork: Do your characters and objects need to look real?  Do they need to appear in realistic environments? Or will a graphic representation work just as well?
  • Complicated movement: Will you have characters with complicated choreographed movements such as dance, acrobatics, or fight sequences?
  • Lip-synched dialogue: Will your characters have mouths that move in time when they speak?
  • High number of elements: Scenes with a lot of characters and objects can be time consuming to design and compose. Added render times are also a factor.

How many of these elements do you plan on having in your film? Often less is more. Could any of these be scaled back?

A simple approach can often communicate the idea more effectively.

This piece, created for a TedX event in China, is a beautiful example of simple visuals used to create a rich dynamic composition.

 

 

Sound Design

It pays to form ideas about your sound design as early as possible. Audio is a very important aspect of animation, and often neglected. Poor quality audio is all too noticeable, and can often appear unprofessional.

There are different audio elements that can influence the cost of your sound design:

  • Dialogue: Will you have characters, and if so will they be talking? Remember that each character requires voice talent.
  • Narration: In addition to any characters, you might also want a narrator. Again, this talent needs to be sourced, directed, and budgeted for.
  • Music: One of the most important ways of establishing tone is through effective use of music. The ideal scenario is to hire a composer, but stock music is also available if you’re on a tight budget.
  • Foley: Sound effects are perhaps less apparent than music, but an equally important way of establishing tone. Big budget projects will commission original foley effects, but stock libraries can also be used.

 

Good sound design really helps the perception of high production values, so make sure you invest in the highest quality sound mix possible.

This piece for Google and Mailchimp is great for all kinds of reasons. But in particular, listen out for the music track and perfectly balanced sound design, which combine to add even more richness to the slick animation.

 

Quality of Finish

Have you ever entered a restaurant, where you can tell immediately how expensive the food is from the interior? Every restaurant has walls, tables and chairs. But the finish of a high end restaurant in the city sets it apart from the local greasy spoon cafe.

The same applies with animation: it’s the high-end finish found in big budget animation that sets it apart from cheaper animation found online.

Often it makes sense to invest in the finish of your animated film. That way, you can offer a high quality experience, just like the interior of the high end restaurant.

This spot from Shopify is relatively uncomplex, and short in duration. But can you see how the lighting and texture have been carefully considered, subtly shifting with the tone of the messaging?

 

Turnaround Time

The final big factor that affects cost, this is all about how quickly you need the project to be delivered.

It may seem counter intuitive, but the faster a project is turned around, the more it will cost.

Think about ordering a package online. When you need next day delivery, you expect to pay a premium to get expedited shipping.

This premium fee reflects the fact that, on a quick turnaround, animators will have to work longer hours and hire extra staff to deliver on time.

Are you trying to deliver your video project in the most cost effective way? It pays to be organised and schedule a realistic lead time. Not only can you save money, but the final product will be better as a result.

 

Conclusion

Pricing animation is a complicated process, and to the untrained eye can seem like a dark art.

In reality, it’s just a case of considering the factors that influence the cost, and using these to build up a picture of the kind of budget you’ll need.

You can also do it in reverse… Start with the budget you have in mind, and make decisions about all the cost factors, working towards this amount.

Has this demystified the costing process for you? Let us know what you think in the comments below…

 

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