Putting The Hours In

Last Saturday I was asked by a potential client how much five minutes of animation would cost. – Which is, indeed, a difficult question since the costs of an animation is a complex topic.

When I calculate the time I’ll probably need to finish a creative project, I either use my experience or a handbook for designers on pricing in German (or a mix of both) as reference.

Sometimes it’s rather difficult to convince your client why something is worth all the money, make no bones about it.

Luckily, today I found a lovely piece of animation, in which the whole animation process is explained and where the team did a great job on that explanation. The video was aimed at potential clients, but it’s also helpful to other people who work in animation:

The Story of Animation

The Story of Animation by director David Tart at vimeo.com

I highly recommend to read David’s description of the project (see vimeo link above) and to check out the project’s website at thestoryofanimation.com for more information.

Back to Pricing

My handbook says that one minute of animation per character takes 16 to 32 hours to complete. It doesn’t say a thing about what kind of animation (stop motion, drawn, CG or cut-out animation e.g.) is used, or about how complex the preproduction process would be.

Storyboarding is calculated shot by shot, and they suppose that you’re going to need 4 to hours to complete each sequence.

That’s all the book says about the pricing of animation. Experience is a good reference as well even though it’s much harder to get than a handbook.

To give you two more ideas on how much time it could take to animate I’ll show you two of my projects:

My Bristol Showreel

In 2008 I went to Bristol to learn everything about character animation that is possible. Over 11 weeks I created my first professional showreel:

Bristol Show Reel 2008 – See full description at vimeo.com

I worked on this 2:49 minute piece every day for eleven weeks, from about 9 in the morning to 8 in the evening. That is eleven hours per day for 55 days, or 605 hours. The work included developing concepts, storyboards, animating test and final shots as well as editing and sound-design. It doesn’t include major parts of puppet making or delicate set-building.

The second example I’d like to give is from last year:

And what if…

was an animated installation I created for a shop window galery last year. The whole animation (including making the character and the props) took me about 32 hours. The animation is much rougher than the animation for my show reel which is why it took my less time to animate the 2 minute piece:

And what if – See full description at vimeo.com

You see, it’s difficult to price a project objectively. And it’s much more difficult with personal projects. I simply can’t tell you how many hours I put into this project…

Now you’ve got a general idea about how time intense animation is, I’d like to recommend an articly by Jessica Hische about the dark art of pricing design work which is really helpful.

You have to decide if you want to get rich, to make a decent living or to do it just for fun. I go for a combination of all them, depending on the project. Probably you like to share your model in the comments and how it works for you?

Lots of love and support to you,
Jessica ♥

05. March 2012 by Jessica
Categories: Stuff | Tags: , | 3 comments

Comments (3)

  1. the last time I did creative work for money

    to keep things short -because this is quite embarassing:

    ‘They’ wanted me to do assemble of some text and images into a folded handout/flyer/brochure (zig-zag folded so you have six sections).
    The text was the same, only in four languages. The layout was half-hearted fixed, the images were, well: smartphone/cellphone shots with way too much light, way too little resolution and all in all the definition of what you don’t want to use. I had to fix this all.
    The cover motive – I found out quite late – was a rip-off: some randon logo over nearly half the front page, all blurry and stuff and I had to fix that too. Which took the most time.
    Beside that, I was working more than thirty hours a day. And had to work a whole friggin extra day – so the work on this ‘thing’ took all of my free time and most of my resting time.
    I worked on a very old PC which was too old for even playing a video properly, but Debian Linux and GIMP saved my a… day. Anyhow. Most of this time I was waiting for simple tasks to be fulfilled.
    After more than half but far from all the job done in the time promised I delivered this … thing … having worked ten times more than I was paid for and sent this into oblivion.

    So I burned the whole job pretty bad. Main reasosn were: the source material was pure dung and should have had the heart to tell them that I wish them all the best in finding someone who will do this work for the money they offered. But I thought I should give it a try – and overdid my work completely. They would have been happy with some stuff hammered, glued, bolted and whatever worked so it looks halfways what it should look like (average) – and I put much too much effort, love and heart into this whole thing. It was a stillbirth.

    I should have dropped the whole thing when I told them how much work I put in recovering actual images from the clouds of colours the gave me – and got a half-absent, ‘yeah, nice, whatever’.

    So what did I learn from this: one should quickly get the hang of how much s/he can/must charge somebody for the work to be done. There are those willing to pay you fair but not having the money, and then there are those who have actual money. Charge them – they are used to it.
    This might sound like cold-blooded crowbar politics – but setting the marks high and fighting a tough reargurad battle can in the worst case cost the whole project. But what I learned: I will do my best and I know that I will overdo it until I get the best possible under bearable circumstances (the stage wher the skin feels rubbery and the brain is two rooms away and you haven’t heard from your feet a while… sleep deprivation can do ugly things to your body and soul and is a common torturing method!). So I do deserve it. I do deserve to be paid fair!

    And I deserve that people at least try to respect my work. When I processed more than 200 raw images in fine into fine photography prints (in a few days) and got a ‘yeah, nice. whatever’ – then I realized that a smartphone would have been sufficient. What was needed were images of evidence of a concert. ‘They – There’ and nothing else. What I did was twaeking out the best imaged. And overdid it. For krissake. Happend again.

    So: I will try to be my money worth. The question is: what do people think that my work is worth. And the conclusion is to meet at some point. Don’t rip off friends. And be sure who is a friend and who’s not.

    My lesson.

    So a quite overlenghty comment. Maybe someone learns from my faults.

    Cheers, you all out there. Suffering without compensation is not always art.

    Jessica: what a hilarious and wonderful video (the one about producing a animated short).

    And cudos and deepes, heartfelt respect for you showreel(s). This is fantastic. And very comforting to see you creations in open spaces. All the best

  2. Michael, a long comment, indeed!

    I know how difficult the whole pricing thing is. It’s a learning experience though and I suppose we all have to find a way that works for us and our clients…

    Keep on trying! ;)
    But also be aware of what ever you don’t want to do. This is the most difficult part when your fridge is empty.

  3. ‘the empty fridge experience’ – nice name for a band/combo; I’ll keep that in mind!