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Why does animation vary so much in cost

Why does animation vary so much in cost per minute?

In this article, we cover the common question about animation costs per minute, and why they vary so much. 

By the end, you will:

  • Know key differences between motion graphics, 3D, and frame-by-frame costs. And why.
  • Understand behind-the-scenes work that is increasing your video production costs.
  • Discover why from $50 to 50 million could be a “reasonable” budget.

Video production and the point of diminishing returns.

A common question that clients ask about the video production budget is why the cost varies so much to produce animation.

The short answer is: the point of diminishing returns comes really quick with animation.

In fact, if you want an easy and affordable video - just use your phone and do a voiceover. There you have it. Little time investment for a relatively high-quality video (thanks to technology).

That being said - to do the same thing professionally is going to require days or work, which immediately increases the cost while the end result may not be that much different.

I.e still a video, and sometimes even less effective than the ‘simpler’ counterpart.

What kind of factors influence video animation pricing?

There’s an important concept to understand which is “keyframes”.

Back in the good ole’ days of animation - everything was drawn by hand. About 24 frames per second.

This led to very lively and dynamic animation, but, with digitalization more of the process because automated with technology. 

A key part of this is “keyframes”. Which is the start/finish position of what you want to happen. With animation this requires “rigging” or clicking on each position.

The more positions there are in between key frames the more smooth it becomes. Of course though - it requires more clicking. And a taste of where, and how to place the rigs - as to mimic natural and organic movement via a digital format.

This is one of the biggest influencers of animation cost in general. But.. each type of animation faces it’s own difficulties.

The costs associated with motion graphics, 2D animation, and typography

Let’s start with the more simple types and styles of animation. These are things like whiteboard, motion graphics, 2D animation, screencast and typography.

All of these fall on the lower end of the complexity scale to varying degrees. That’s because you can use many modern “tricks” to cover up the need for a real artistic approach.

Here effects, transitions, animations can do enough. Even just mixing typography, stock footage and some solid editing can go far. Because of this - these will be your cheapest videos.

Costing as low as $50 on Fiverr. 

Around $6000 via our pricing packages page, or around $2500 for volume/bulk video production.

Costs of frame-by-frame animation

Frame by frame looks beautiful. It’s natural. Organic. 

The barriers though are that it’s not quick to make, it requires artists with lots of skill, and it takes a fair bit amount of time.

There’s no real easy way to lower the costs on frame-by-frame animation.

Today it’s a great idea to blend vector-based animation styles with some frame by frame to give the animation more life. This is a common technique that we use in some of our more high-end videos. 

To give a general range it starts to get into 10-15k per up to 30 seconds of frame by frame animation. In most cases, we end up doing 10-20 seconds throughout the video in parts to add a bit of love and life. 

It’s rare that clients will come looking for full frame-by-frame animation production.

3D Animation Costs + The Associated Complexity

The worst culprit when it comes to cost is 3D. Even something simple, basic and almost boring can incur huge costs.

Why?

1. There’s the concepting, sketch, ideation
2. There’s the modeling component, which is extremely labourous 
3. There’s texturing, adding details 
4. There’s the model texturing
5. Then there’s animation, VFX
6. Finally lighting
7. And rendering

More on our 3D process over here.

This whole process takes a lot of R&D. Experimentation. And worst of all: renders can take from hours to days depending on how complex the 3D techniques being employed are.

A way around this is to use 3D render farms where you pay an additional fee to use cloud computing to speed up render times. Which is great but can add an additional 50 to 500 per render again depending on the visual complexity.

Great 3D takes budgets of 20-30k minimum in most cases for a minute of animation. This obviously is lower but even then, most of the costs are in modeling, texturing, and rigging - which means that even a short video can end up costing a lot.

3D is great for some industrial products, architecture, and other niches where it’s important to show the real thing - but for most purposes, live-action or animation is a more budget-friendly option.

Ultimately video production package pricing is a creative exercise

It’s based on what the market will pay, the reputation of the firm and the clients perception of how likely they are to deliver on their criteria (which may be incorrect, or not even necessary).

That being said, you will find price ranges with EXTREME fluctuation. Don’t be alarmed.

Some creatives charge $800 to $1500 as a day-rate, while our video production agency day rate is $500 per creative. This is a function of how skilled, talented and in-demand they are.

But, this doesn’t mean the video they make you will outperform other creatives by 2-3x, in fact it speaks nothing about the performance of the video… only about the economics behind why some videos can cost more than others based on supply/demand of artists.

The best way to get a good price: is to know exactly what you want. Send links. References. Create a video RFP. Put your best foot forward and you will get more honest quotes.

Or go with a company like us, that just shows all it’s video & animation pricing upfront :-)