Your End-to-End Guide to Budgeting for Your Next Animation Project
“How much can I expect to spend on an animation project?”
That’s the single most common question we hear from early-stage prospective clients. And we get it. If you’re going to partner with a studio and embark on an animation project together, you need to get a sense of the level of investment required.
Here’s the challenge: Pricing an animation project is anything but straightforward. There are so many details that impact the price of an animation beyond just creating the video. Without understanding all of these details, it’s difficult to determine a proper budget — let alone predict the actual cost.
To help, we’re setting the record straight on what goes into pricing animations as well as the final product you can expect from specific tiers of investment.
3 Misconceptions About Pricing Animation Projects
Maybe this is your maiden animation or motion graphics voyage. Or maybe you’ve worked with freelancers on animations before. It’s also entirely possible you’re a pro when it comes to working with studios, but your next project’s scope is unlike anything you’ve attempted in the past.
No matter what position you find yourself in, there are three shared misconceptions about what goes into the cost of animation:
1. Cost vs. Investment
If the starting point of making an animation comes from just following what a competitor did or because it “may look nice”, it probably won’t be a money well-spent and your resources should bring better results allocated elsewhere. However, if you approach a motion graphics project as part of your marketing strategy, with an understanding of the metrics you’ll use to measure success, it’s an investment worth taking. Getting clear about what you want to accomplish
is helpful as you review animation project pricing.
2. Simple vs. Cheap
There’s a mistaken belief that selecting a simple visual style will result in a lower overall price for your animation. But simpler doesn’t always mean cheaper, because simpler doesn’t always mean easier.
Just think about baking your grandmother’s key lime pie from the recipe card she gave you. In theory it’s easy; you have step-by-step instructions, after all. But in practice? It’s a homemade pie. Even with the written recipe, baking from scratch is a time-consuming, nuanced process.
The same goes for crafting an animation.Creating something minimalistic that’s also highly effective is often much more difficult than just cluttering a design with tons of high-tech components, for example. Triggering your audience’s emotions and sending them a clear message tends to be harder when you’re working with fewer design elements as there’s less room for error.
Besides, visual style is only one of the many factors that influence the price of animation. More on that later.
3. 2D vs. 3D
Prospects sometimes think 2D is merely 3D’s lo-fi, low cost cousin. It is theoretically true that 3D animation requires more computer processing power and longer rendering periods than its 2D counterpart. But there are actually 3D solutions that are faster to produce and render than some 2D options. This is especially true these days; 2D animations simulating the tridimensional environment (using specialized software) are trending.
2D versus 3D aside, effectiveness is what ultimately impacts animation pricing the most. In certain situations, 2D will be more effective than 3D, so it warrants a higher production budget because it’s the best solution for your needs.
Animation Budgets in Action: Factors Impacting Your Level of Investment
With pricing misconceptions in mind, let’s look at what a typical animation budget range is for a small company or startup. The budget range at-hand is $25,000-$120,000. The factors discussed here dictate where in this range your animation project’s price is likely to fall.
The size and expertise of your team and the animation studio’s team greatly impacts project price.
If you’re spending closer to $25k, it’s likely that your team has its own experienced creative department. And this department only needs a specialized studiofor a short period of time to develop the video portion of your animation.
You can also prepare to spend at that level if your project only requires a small number of people (say one illustrator and two animators) to handle specific aspects of the production (like illustration and animation, but not script writing).
On the other hand, you’ll spend closer to the $120k mark if you have to bring in a studio like MOWE to handle every step of the process — from the script to sound design all the way through to production. In this case, your project calls for additional artists and creative professionals, including director-level individuals, as well as extra production steps.
Your project can move faster (or at least at the same speed as the prior lower budget example, despite it being more complex) since you’ll have dedicated designers working on parts of the full piece. But this enhanced speed and attention also influence the price.
Another factor that plays a big part in the price of an animation project is the level of sophistication of the technical components.
For example, including characters in your animation will most definitely increase the price. It’s not that animations without characters aren’t as effective. It’s that characters level up the complexity of a project, requiring additional feedback loops, highly trained professionals, and more overall production time. That’s partly due to what we call the “character factor,” which describes how different projects with and without characters can be.
At $25k, you might be able to include characters in your animation. But not at the level that a higher budget would allow. At $25k, you can also expect your motion piece to follow a single visual and animation style. And the sound design will probably leverage stock audio and sound effects.
At $120k, the creative can lead the technical requirements instead of the other way around. Mixed styles (which are on-trend right now) as well as custom music and sound design are all on the table at this higher price point.
Distribution and Usage
Where and how long your animation runs is an often overlooked yet important aspect of budgeting for your animation project.
With a budget of around $25k, your video will probably get distributed exclusively on the internet — specifically on your website and/or social media — for a period of a year or less.
A bigger budget gives you the opportunity to use the animation on multiple platforms and even in different formats, such as on broadcast TV. At $120k, you might even be able to secure usage licenses for illustration outside of the digital world.
Number of Videos
As with distribution, the number of videos you receive as deliverables is an overlooked part of the animation budget equation. On the lower end of our budget range, you’d likely receive just one final video. And that final video would be a traditional 30-second spot made for advertising.
At the high end of our budget range, on the other hand, your possibilities expand. You might still end up with a single 30-second video, depending on the complexity of your project. But you could also explore 60-90-second videos. One of the advantages of these longer pieces is they can be broken down into shorter versions and adapted to varying social media platforms (think a vertical format for Instagram and TikTok and a horizontal format for Facebook).
Two rounds of revision on the final product is standard for animations. Honestly, you won’t get much more than that with a $25,000 budget. And that very well may be all you need!
If you want more in-depth feedback opportunities, a higher budget is the way to go. You’ll still likely have two rounds of revision, maybe three. But these rounds won’t just be on the final product. You’ll also have the chance to provide feedback at key project phases. This could look like three rounds of script edits, two rounds of storyboard revisions, and so on.
Your Animation Budgeting Shortcut
Clearly there’s no shortage of factors that impact the kind of investment required to get an effective final animation. And each of these factors is important to consider in its own right. If you’re still at a loss for how to plan for your animation budget, there’s a formula you can play with to arrive at an appropriate figure that gets you the most value for your investment.
Start by considering your entire media budget. We tend to see companies investing 30-60% of that number toward creative assets needed for a campaign. The remaining 40-70% goes toward distribution. Therefore, if a campaign includes a total of $200,000 for creative development and distribution, you can estimate $60,000-$120,000 of that should be used on creative alone.
How your budget will shake out within the range depends on a few details. For one, the status of your company predictably impacts the budget. The budget range of established companies are way higher than the ones we presented for the startup and small company scenarios above, for example. How your brand generally invests in advertising can also impact what percentage gets put toward creative vs. distribution.
The Stakes Are High. Ask for Animation Pricing Help.
Animation budget choices matter. Allotting too much money toward the distribution of a not-so-stellar animation or sinking money into the creative with no way to share the final product are both potential pitfalls. Not to mention the many pricing misconceptions and budget-impacting factors you have to bear in mind.
The good news? An experienced team can help you navigate the misconceptions, evaluate the factors, and ensure you get the most value for your money. The even better news? A properly set budget is one of the building blocks of a successful animation that truly strikes a chord with your audience.