How Much Does Animation Cost?
What’s the damage?
Your first question when thinking about commissioning animation is mostly likely about the cost. Is your shiny new animation going to bankrupt your company or can you get it done for peanuts?
What factors affect your quote?
Unfortunately due to the unique nature of your project there is no straight forward answer and there are a number of factors that an animation company will consider when producing a quote, such as the script, storyboard, style, audio and the schedule.
Writing a thorough script will force you to think about your animation idea in detail before a single penny is spent on production. Want to scrap that expensive and irrelevant scene with the space battle? Now is the time to do it! If the planning stages of your animation are perfected before production starts, the chances of any costly changes being made in the future will be greatly reduced.
All good animation companies will offer a scripting service but if you already have a script prepared, or a very clear idea of what you want, you will most likely save both time and money. After all no one knows your product or service better than you.
The storyboard is a vital visual map of your ‘story’, which should always be developed for any animation project. When creating storyboards, questions and problems tend to pop up that weren’t immediately obvious from the script. By planning everything on paper, animators are able to solve any big issues and can get a much better idea of schedules and costs.
Visualise your idea
Thankfully you don’t have to be a world renowned artist to create your own storyboards and most animation companies will welcome your visual ideas, even if they are just scrawls on the back of envelopes! The most basic drawings can be much more intuitive than words and the more refined your visuals are, the less design work will be required by the studio you commission.
Content is king
Simply put, the more complex your subject matter the higher the cost will be. For example a 10 minute scene featuring an extremely detailed, fire breathing, photo-realistic dragon surrounded by gold coins (as seen in ‘The Hobbit’) is going to cost millions to create, but a simple 3 second clip of your logo on a spinning cube with a white background could be done for just a few hundred.
Time is money
The length of your animation will also affect the cost; the longer the animation the more it will cost! However there are ways to create large scale projects more efficiently, for example repetitive elements can be created in bulk meaning that production will become cheaper per second or minute.
There are a huge, perhaps even unlimited, number of visual styles available to animators and each has it’s own unique production process, which will have a knock on effect on the cost.
A more affordable style
Generally the more two-dimensional or cartoony a style is, the less expensive it is. These styles tend to be more simplistic and make use of clean flat backgrounds. If you don’t need super realism and want to focus on clear communication of your concepts, then these styles are a great way to save money.
High end 3D animation
Three dimensional, photo-realistic and highly detailed styles contain much more visual information and so require much more time to produce, which means that they do cost more. The most expensive animation styles often feature a combination of both live action and CGI, as they require a camera crew and an animation team to work together to solve a unique set of challenges.
A voiceover can be a brilliant aid for storytelling, but it will mean additional costs. You could commission a recording from a famous hollywood star, which could end up costing a huge amount, or you could hire a specialised freelance voice actor, which would be considerably less!
Using music in an animation will add more onto your total cost, and this will be completely dependant on the quality or exclusivity of the audio. You could arrange for John Williams and his orchestra to compose a bespoke score but this will be much more expensive than if you licensed stock music from sites such as audionetwork.com.
Sourcing sound effects and sound design doesn’t have to cost the earth anymore, there are hundreds of excellent quality stock SFX clips available that are extremely affordable but it is important to bear in mind that it is an extra cost.
A planned approach to animation production will save you money, as everything will be mapped out in advance. But if the timeline is short it could be more expensive to produce as more animators with more middle managers will be required to work quickly.
Your chosen animation studio should be able to tailor their work to your budget to ensure that you are spending your money in the right places, delivering the best results for your money.