What Factors Affect The Cost of Animation?

As a buyer looking to get a new animated video production or explainer video for your company, when browsing online you can see such a variety of animation costs, from £150 (uh oh!) to £20,000+ (eek!)

Here are a few reasons why the price of animated video can range so much, and how to make an informed choice when it comes to specifying the work.

The length of video matters

A longer animation means more work. For example, A two-minute video literally has twice as many scenes as one minute video, and they need creating and then animating.

There are not that many economies of scale, as the work, is usually bespoke to each project. Sometimes if you have a video series, some savings can be made through the series by creating assets that can be shared, but within one video, and your first video perhaps, no sorry.

Being concise with your words in the script is integral to making sure you don’t waste money here. We estimate a 1 min script is around 130 words, so it’s often less than you think. If you can say your message in 90s, rather than 2 minutes or more, you save money and time. Here is an example of a 2.5-minute storyboard video, hopefully, it shows just how much work goes into each scene.

A long storyboard for animated video production

This storyboard is about 2.5 min video. Which is slightly on the long side for an Explainer type web video. You can see just how much work and frames that needs. A shorter video could be half these number of frames.

Inclusion of 3D Animation

3D animation can pop up in 2D animated videos quite often, and to the inexperienced, it can be undetected. Not seeing the line between 2D and 3D is fine if you’ve not even noticed, it wants to blend in seamlessly and just add some extra oomph.

Including 3D elements adds background and literally another dimension to the movement and view, so it adds more interest- instead of the same front-on view you see so often with animation.

It will often be composited and be the same design style, but it gives a variety to the scene, it’s not just flat facing.

But all this means, additional specialised skills in 3D software, modelling and lighting, and then compositing – to make it look like the rest of 2D video.

See the buildings in their video have been created in 3D space, allowing a camera to pass around as it rises. This is much more interesting than a generic pan up, with a completely straight-on looking street.

Using Animated Characters

Including characters can add a much-needed human touch to animation, which if you’re selling or teaching people can help dramatically which is often the case for exapliner videos.

Using animated characters is a great way to act out scenarios to show a real user experience and convey emotion.

However, to get them to move in an organic and realistic fashion – to be likeable – takes time to draw, rig and animate.

Low-end videos that have characters will move in a jerky/ stiff way or just not much movement at all. Or worse still, they stop dead for seconds at a time or barely move at all. All the illusion is lost.

This very low budget option kind of defeats the purpose, as you lose a lot of the human connection and relatability that a person brings.

Video Illustration style varies a lot

A 2D flat colour video using vector simple shapes, most likely, will take much less time to design and animate than a hand-drawn, and highly textured frame developed in Photoshop or Procreate, as two extreme examples of stodyboard design for video.

Being so visual, saometimes it’s difficult to fully describe drawing and illustration, so here are a few styles to show what I mean.

You can see the difference between these few images, they show a clear difference in the work and time that went into them.

The 2 on the bottom are much more detailed, one including natural textures and use of shading and light, the other using 3D to create a complex layout, compared to the top 2 that are more simple in nature and are line illustrations or solid colours.

Simple design in animation
Simple design
Why pick animated explainer video over live action video
Design with 3D elements
demo video
Simple design
Textured Design for Animation
Highly textured detailed design

And if a scene took longer to design, then you guessed it, it will more than likely need increased time to animate it. 

The quality and style of the drawings will very much depend upon your story, who the audience is and what you want them to feel.

There are diferent Quality levels of Animation

Again the quality is down to time, in general, the more time your animator spends, the better the quality of the final piece.

A cheaper (quicker to produce) animation will generally be flat and move less, and there will be fewer scenes. And elements within scenes or whole scenes will be reused.

A low budget animation will also have very basic transitions from scene to scene (one thing exits, and another enters, or even a cut). High-quality animations tend to have more thought-out transitions so that the video flows more seamlessly.

Reusing assets, fewer scenes and fewer elements on the screen at one time all save time, and it may get the job done, but it won’t be as exciting, it’s less relevant, and it’ll be less stimulating, the viewer is more likely to switch off.

So there is a balance to be struck. Most animation studios will be able to show or demonstrate a few levels of animation quality so that you can see the difference for yourself and make an educated decision. For a quick video that has a short lifespan, then you may need a simpler idea. But if you want to impress, then you may need a higher quality.

Custom Animation vs Templates

The cheaper sites providing animation generally offer template style make your own video. So you pick from some (often poorly) pre-designed and pre-animated elements that you can pop together into a story.

It’s very cheap, but of course, it’s massively limited… and who knows how many other people are using the same elements in their video?

It’s also unlikely to fit with your brand or company tone of voice very closely.

And of course, some lower-end studios will be using templates in their work without telling you. You can see a lot of the cost comes down to custom assets, length of video and time taken.

So, in general, a higher-cost animation is simply a higher quality product. Hopefully, this helps for next time you need an animated video for your business, and you can see what you’re paying for clearly and make a informed decision.

To see a range of animated explainer video styles head to our portfolio, or to read more about what we do and what goes into our work, see the animated video production page and if you have an idea you want to chat about, contact us!