There’s no denying it … animation is a great way to communicate in a unique, engaging and entertaining way. Harnessing the power of visual storytelling, animated videos can be used to educate, excite, inform or . However, as a professional animation studio, one of the questions we often get asked is: how much does animation cost? It’s a great question. And if you were to Google for an answer, or even reach out to various animators or studios, you’ll more than likely find a whole heap of different options. They might range anywhere from $300 to $300,000 per minute.
When it comes to animation, even if it ‘looks’ simple … there’s a lot to consider.
If you’ve ever considered getting an animated video about your brand, product or service, one of the first things that you’ll have thought about is how much it might cost.
We all know the benefits, but…how much should you expect to pay?
Unfortunately, ‘cost’ is an issue often shrouded in secrecy in explainer video land. You’ll generally need to spend a lot of time reaching out to a variety of different companies to gather benchmark cost data, because most studios want to talk to you to find out more – and get a chance to make their sales pitch directly.
That’s perfectly understandable, but, for customers, shopping around the market for pricing data can become confusing and time-consuming, with endless hours spent on phone calls and answering emails.
So, we went ahead and did some of the hard work for you!
We recently reached out to 70 different explainer video companies and asked them a few simple, uniform questions to establish how much you should expect to pay for a 60 second explainer video.
To make it a fair test, we gave them the same 3 examples so that there was a clear direction, and all the studios knew the level of work required. Those examples can be seen here, here and here.
You can see our full findings here, but in this article, we’ll cover a few highlights.
A quick look at the distribution of answers tells a clear story. It demonstrates that nearly half of studios charge between $2,501 and $10,000, with another healthy chunk selling between $10,0001 and $20,000. As you’d expect in any industry, there are a few outliers coming in way above or below these numbers, but you’d have to really scrutinise their work to make sure the price was justified, and/or the end product would be up to scratch.
Sounds expensive? The important thing to remember is that video production is a decidedly multidisciplinary task, brought together by a team of creatives with a diverse range of skills. Animation studios excel at bringing these disciplines together under one roof with one consistent project vision throughout.
Of course, each of these studios will have their own specialisms, product offerings and packages – so make sure to do your homework. Cost, after all, is only one consideration when it comes to choosing the perfect explainer video partner.
You should also ask about any hidden costs that may pop up as your project unfolds. The prices we’ve discovered are ‘starting point’ prices, but we can’t be entirely sure that they represent the full extent of what you’ll pay. For example, if a studio charges for each round of feedback and changes, the cost can quickly rack up. So make sure to ask!
What makes up a video?
Although your ‘video’ represents a single end product, it’s made up of a number of diverse processes. Each of these stages comes with its own level of expense!
You’ll start out with a brief which is an initial statement of how you’d like the video to go – what features to include, how you’d like it to look, and more.
Based on this, the next stage will be a script, which sets out the voiceover for your video, and the action that will take place on the screen.
Next, you’ll need to get your characters and graphics illustrated. Perhaps you’ll also include some stock images.
You’ll obviously need to think about animation, the process that actually makes the graphics move and come to life.
You’ll need to add a voiceover, any sound effects and of course your soundtrack, whether you plump for royalty-free music or the latest One Direction hit.
The final version of your video will need to be rendered, before finally being uploaded and delivered.
Along the way, you’ll need to consider the impact that any meetings, phone calls and e-mails will have on your resources.
And, of course, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be happy with the first draft at every stage. You’re probably going to need revisions along the way, and many companies and agencies charge for this too.
Of course, this data assumes that you’re enlisting a studio to create your video. As the old saying goes, ‘there’s more than one way to skin a cat…’ and there’s more than one way to make a video, too!
While it isn’t the easiest task in the world, you may also consider assembling a team of freelance creatives to put your video together.
Which approach is better?
The studio approach
Letting a video production company manage the whole process for you is often a ‘less stressful’ approach!
Video production companies have valuable experience and expertise, leaving you to concentrate on your day-to-day work, and not get tangled up in the finer details and technicalities of your video.
So what’s the downside? Well, some companies are very expensive and you could find yourself with a bill more than £20,000 per minute of animation. Pricy!
Even more frustratingly, you might not even know how much you’re going to be coughing up until the bill lands on your desk when your video’s complete. With optional extras throughout the process, the price you end up paying can often be a whole lot more than the original quote you were given.
Revisions can be a problem, too. Many companies place a cap on the number of changes allowed, and some even charge you each time you tinker. If you’ve got a clear idea for the creative direction for your video, this obviously isn’t ideal!
With a number of other projects to occupy their time, you may also find that some companies are less than specific regarding when they’ll be able to work on your project. You need some element of certainty regarding the turnaround on your video. How long will the script take? Will it be done simply when Bob the Copywriter has a free moment?
For these reasons, it’s always best to do your research before you choose a video production company; do they offer fixed pricing? Are they reliable? Do they specify their turnarounds? And do they give you the power to make the required revisions without adding to the bottom line?
Doing it freelance
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to co-ordinate your own video production, you could always do it yourself, enlisting the help of freelance creatives.
There are a number of immensely talented freelancers who can help you with the various components of a video. The thing is…how many are you going to need?
Video production takes a dynamic set of skills, and you’re likely to need several different people to work on your project.
You’re going to need a freelance copywriter to create your script. Next up, you’ll be hiring a freelance illustrator to create your characters and graphics. And then you’ll need to bring in a freelance animator to make it all sing and dance.
You’re essentially assembling your own video production team. Will they all ‘get it?’ That is, will they all understand exactly what you’re looking to achieve? Will their work compliment each others to create a smooth and attractive end product?
Also, don’t forget that you’ll likely be paying freelancers by the hour. Any changes? They’re gonna cost you. Wholesale changes? Get ready for costs to start spiraling quickly away from your original budget.
Freelancing is a good way to retain an element of control over your project, but ultimately there’s no certainty over the price you’ll pay, and the whole project could end up turning into a white elephant.
We know how important it is that you know when your video will be completed, which is why we offer you fixed turnarounds for each process, so you’ll know when your script, storyboard and completed video file will be with you for review. And we’ll make sure we deliver on that, too.
And it could be much lower than that. Just take a look at Fiverr, you could find some freelancers that are willing to do the work for just $5-10 per one minute of animation. It is shockingly affordable since a professional studio would charge you at least 200 times more that. However, what can you expect from $5 work? Slobby stick figure? Slideshow kind of animations with dozens of pictures moving around? In fact, you would be surprised that they could give you an animated video with characters and full detailed background, just like this.
So what is the secret behind the $30 animation?
The price is charged for the illustration and animation part only. That means you would have to work on the script and the voice-over. Then you have to do it yourself, hire another freelancer or pay them for an extra task. However, I think it would be better to write the script on your own. You are the one who understands your course the most, then you would know what is the best fit for your students. Moreover, it is not like you are pitching the script to any movie producers, just write however you want in whatever style you like. As long as you stick closely to the learning objectives, you should be fine.
The freelancers are most likely to use a cloud-based animation software. The software would only charge you a little for an access to a huge library of animation assets. Everything from character design to background layout and movement have been pre-designed already. What you need to do is to come up with a brilliant idea then drag-and-drop to progress your story. It is so simple that it makes a $5 animation reasonable. However, such price is charged for a very basic animation. If you want more, like special effects or music, then you would have to pay more. The biggest drawback of $30 animation is that it limits your options. Let’s say you are producing videos for a healthcare training course. If your animation is about two nurses discussing some disease symptom, it should be okay. However, if you want to show your students what the symptoms look like and how the nurse actually treats them, then you would have to consider a more expensive option. These custom details require the animators to spend a lot of time and effort in research, illustration, and animation.
$150 animation from a small studio
Then if you want to step up the game and produce more authentic materials without spending thousands of dollar for one minute of animation, you should consider contacting small studios. Those studios would charge you from $100 to $200 per one minute of animation, depending on what type of animation you are looking for. There are many factors affecting the overall price of an animation project, however, just keep in mind that the more complex a video is, the pricier it gets. For example, character animation or hand-drawn animation could be much more expensive than simple whiteboard animation. Nevertheless, it is still 30 times more affordable than reaching out to a professional studio. You get what you pay, however, it doesn’t mean that lower prices result in worse quality.
What could you expect from a small studio?
Authentic artwork: There is no cloud-based software, which means you would have unique animations that follow the branding guideline closely. Everything from the color scheme to the character design is customized as your request. If you are a teacher who just wants to create fun animated teaching materials, then branding is not likely your concern. However, if you are working for a training company or educational institute, you would want something that not only engages your audience but also represents well the company’s culture. End-to-end service: The problem of hiring individual freelancers is that they are mostly specialized in one aspect of animation only. You would have to hire a scriptwriter, a storyboard artist, an illustrator, and an animator separately. However, when you are working with a studio, you just need to communicate with one person. He/she is supposed to be a producer that is in charge of the whole team. This makes the working process much smoother and saves you time and money. To sum up, such studios could offer you high-quality animation just like any other professional studios.
Then why is there such a large difference in the price?
They are from countries with lower cost of living. The average income of a developing country is likely to be much lower than a developed one. For example, the average income of United State annually is $56,810, which is about 30 times higher than that of Vietnam or India. That’s why studios in developing countries could offer animations with the same quality but more affordable price. In fact, lots of professional studios in US-UK outsource the animation services in developing countries also. They would benefit by cutting operational costs and get the same work done with a lower price. On the other hand, the studios in the third-world countries get more projects and more profits.
$3,000 animation from a large studio
$3,000 animation, this is such a leap in price. However, if you are considering working with a professional studio, especially those based in US-UK or AU, keep in mind that it should be the minimum value. A 60-second 2D animated video could cost from $3,000 to $50,000. 3D animation is much pricier, starting from $10,000 with basic models. Most studios don’t just put up their price on the websites. Since everything is tailored, so is the price. You should contact the studio, tell them your budget, your ideas, your style reference, then they would provide you more exact a quote.
Professional studio – high quality of animation
There is no doubt professionals have experiences and expertise. You could get the best quality out of animation with fine details. The cheaper options are mostly from the other side of the world like India or Vietnam. If you choose to cut cost by working with them instead, be ready to face the time zone or geographical barriers. Then leaving the work to professionals near you is much less a stressful approach. Moreover, the price is not always sky high. One minute of a stand-alone video is much higher than one-minute of a series. Since they do the asset and style frames already, the price could be lower a little bit.
You must have understood the reasons behind the price gap in animation production now. If branding and styling is not your concern, I recommend you hire a trustworthy freelancer that could deliver the work quick and nicely. You could even do it yourself! There are various tools to support you – the newcomer in animation industry! However, if you want to create animations on a tight budget, consider contacting a small studio. They are a perfect choice for a long educational animated series. If you have a larger budget, or you have high – Cartoon Network standard of animation, you should contact a larger studio. Whatever your choice is, you should start by sending them a quick brief of your eLearning project. Then they would be able to consult you on the best types of animations for your course and a proper pricing plan.