Why is Animation so Expensive (And What Can Save You Money)?

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you’re not an animator (they probably know what’s more and less time-consuming already). This blog is going to outline, without the jargon, what can drive up the price of an animation, and how you can avoid this (or at least be aware of what you’re asking for and why it’s potentially costly).

What are we talking about when we say animation?

Let’s start by first getting to grips with what we (as in me, in this blog) mean by animation. Animation is an umbrella term for making something inanimate move, this could be you making your pen dance across your laptop, through to a full Pixar blockbuster. I’m going to be talking about 2D motion graphics, cut-out style, and character animation—these are the most commonly used styles of animation in explainer-type videos and online learning.

Let’s get to it, what makes it expensive and how could you save money?

1. Length

  • The longer the video, the more time it takes us to script/storyboard/animate. Our typical animations are around the 2-minute mark, then we generally add extra cost for every additional 30 seconds of video needed.
  • Be mindful that there will always be a “set up” time for any length of animation, but there are ways you can have long or multiple animations without driving up costs.

2. Characters

  • Using characters that require movement (e.g., limbs, hands, face, walking, lip-sync) can add considerable cost to animations, they require rigging and more complex animation techniques.
  • Each character used will drive up costs, so try to think about how you can share your message conceptually (better yet, get us to do that for you) rather than defaulting to character conversations.
  • If you are using characters but want to cut down costs, avoid complex movements, for example; standing up, walking, and elaborate facial expressions. Likewise, static characters with minimal or no movement (e.g., head bobbing) don’t add much cost.

3. Scripting

  • If you’re scripting the video yourself, don’t overprescribe the visuals, instead, ask the storyboard designer to tailor the visuals to your budget.
  • A good designer will still create something amazing. Remember the visuals should be able to speak for you, meaning not everything has to be spoken to get the message across.
  • Changes to the script after it has gone to storyboard can be a costly exercise as it can involve double work and extra voice-over charges. Most studios will have charges for changes after sign-off.
  • You can avoid this by making sure all your stakeholders sign it off—however minor tweaks or removing lines are usually acceptable.

4. Storyboarding

  • Different styles of visuals have different costs, generally speaking, the more objects there are on-screen to animate, and the more complex they are, the more expensive the animation.
  • Lines, shapes, text, and cut-out style photography are usually on your budget-friendly side.
  • Changes to scenes after the storyboard has been sign-off will generally increase the cost, again most studios will charge for this, however, minor changes like color changes, small tweaks, or text amendments are generally OK.

5. Animation

  • The fun part! There are many animation techniques, but generally speaking, the amount of “unique” objects there are to animate will drive up the cost, as well as how many items need to be timed specifically to the narration. 
  • Complexity also plays a role, for example requesting objects that morph into other objects could potentially drive up costs.
  • Once the animation has begun, it can be pretty time-consuming to make changes, this is why it’s important to take each stage’s sign-off seriously(?) to avoid rework charges. We have more on animation cost-saving measures at the end.

6. Voice-over

  • If a new voice-over is needed (e.g., change of actor), the extra hours will be minimal if the new VO records to the same timing as the previous VO.
  • If the new VO has a different pace then this requires re-timing the animation which adds substantial time.

7. Reviewing

  • And finally the reviewing cycle! This is where things can really get out of hand in terms of costing.
  • The more times you require a review and we implement feedback the more the project will cost.
  • We recommend one review and one sign-off cycle for each stage.
  • Most studios will charge you for additional reviews. If you’re worried you have too many internal stakeholders that will drive up your costs, consider consolidating all conflicting comments before giving the green light to the studio to proceed with changes.

OK. What can save money?

  • Repeating!
    Individual characters drive up the cost due to “rigging” but you can repeat the same character making non-critical changes—like hairstyle or clothing color—so they appear to be different while keeping your costs low.
    Having the same scene or actions over many different animations can greatly reduce the cost too, again you can make it appear different by changing minor elements like colors. Also reducing the number of different scenes per animation helps keep the cost low.
  • Bulk videos
    Creating many videos in the same style, and especially where we can share items, reduces the overall project cost.
    Many hours can go into the upfront styling decisions, but once this is set progress is swift.
  • Templates
    Finally, our secret sauce of cost-saving animations; a templated motion graphic video.
    This is where we create for you six unique pre-animated scenes, each scene is templated so we can re-use them over and over again but change the text, icons, and photographs to match the script.
    This can then half or even quarter the price of animations going forward, even for long videos! 
Feeling more confident in your decision-making?

Our goal is to empower our clients to make informed decisions that meet their needs, without feeling like they’re being taken advantage of. If you want to find out more, or commission an animation video, get in touch, we’re here to help! Plus, we’re pretty good at what we do. 

This blog post is made available by the author for educational purposes only and to provide general information. All views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever, to which they have been, are now, or will be affiliated. If you have a specific problem related to this topic and need advice, contact Construct Education directly.

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