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Producing Animation: An Animation Budget Template

Animation isn’t just for those who can afford it: These days, it’s available to the rest of us, too. What was once the exclusive domain of high-end animation studios and producers is increasingly being driven into the mainstream as the tools become ever more powerful, affordable and accessible.

As today’s mobile-centric consumers shift their consumption habits toward smartphones and tablets, what they consume and how they consume it is changing, as well. They’re reading less and viewing more, meaning audiences want to be shown and not told.

With the right tools, any company – not just large and tech-capable organizations – can take advantage of today’s increasingly capable and affordable animation tools. No need to be an animation expert.

Animation Budget Template

This template provides the line items that you should include when building an animation budget. Simply create a subtotal for each budget category, and add all of the subtotals up at the end to come up with your complete budget.

Category: Story Fees & Script Development

  • Options/Rights Fees
  • Writer Fees
  • Script Fees
  • Editing Research
  • Research and Reference Materials
  • Other story Fees

Category: Staff Fees

  • Producer
  • Director
  • Other Roles

Category: Storyboard

  • Supervisor
  • Artist
  • Supplies & Materials
  • Other Storyboard

Category: Audio

  • Song Fees/Rights/Copyright
  • Coaching
  • Production
  • Musicians
  • Instruments
  • Rentals
  • Session Fees
  • Travel and Accommodation

Category: Animation Direction

  • Editor
  • Assistant Editor
  • Dialogue Editor
  • Editing Equipement
  • Supplies and Materials
  • Overtime
  • Travel & Accommodation
  • Other Fees:

Category: Transportation and Shipping

  • Messenger/Courier Services
  • Mileage and Fuel
  • Freight Charges
  • Customs/Brokerage Fees
  • Supplies and Other Materials
  • Other fees:

When to Choose Animation Over Video

It’s a tough decision for any company:

Do you shoot a video project using conventional live-action video? Or do you use animation?

There is no single right answer for everyone. The direction you take ultimately depends on the needs of your given project, the capabilities of your team, and how much time and budget you’re working with. To help you decide which approach is best for your specific needs, keep the following questions in mind:

Discover Who Your Audience is for Your Animation

Animation isn’t just for kids. Viewers of any age will likely appreciate, and engage with, a creatively produced animation, and today’s technologies give you unparalleled options to hit the right message and tone. Whatever style the animation takes – 2D, 3D, stop-motion or whiteboard – it gives you ultimate control over addressing the needs of your particular target audience.

Select a Subject for Your Animation

Topic choice can strongly influence whether a project is shot using live action of animation. Animation is particularly useful for introductory- or explanatory-type messages. Animation lends itself to simpler, step-by-step storyboards.

On the flip side, there may be instances where a real person might be more relatable. For example, a political video or business-focused message, where more serious emotion and/or trust may need to be prioritized over more routine information-delivery, might be better delivered by an individual instead of through animation. That doesn’t mean animation doesn’t have a place, as the right voice over, paired with the right animated elements, can be just as engaging. Just give yourself the opportunity to explore both avenues before making the final call.

Leverage In-House And Outsourced Skills for Your Animation

Core competency is critical in deciding between animation and live-action video. Do you have animation skills on-staff? Or can you work with local third-party animators to bring your idea to life?

Similarly, do you have relatively skilled camera operators or videographers either on-staff or available via outsourcing or contract agreement. Is the equipment – cameras, lighting, props – already in inventory or does it need to be rented? If you’re using actors, what are the arrangements for engaging them, and do locations need to be scouted and secured?

Make sure you understand what is and is not available for your production needs, and what the costs might be for the resources that aren’t directly usable or solidly in-house. Even if a videographer’s time, for example, is supposedly “free,” consider the opportunity cost of not having this resource available for other work.

Create an Animation Budget

As much as we hate to admit it, money often determines what you can and cannot accomplish. A relatively low budget could force some tough decisions around what equipment, facilities, and locations to use, what resources may be purchased or rented, and how much production time you can afford before the resulting animation needs to go live.

Fortunately, advancements in technology are making it easier to deliver professional-looking animation on a relatively modest budget. Just use the template above to build yours!

Account for the Amount of Time to Produce an Animation

A video project requiring freshly shot, on-location content requires advance planning, and in many cases could take longer than a simple animation project involving ready-made materials. Similarly, if the message changes after shooting, it may not be feasible to arrange a follow-up studio or on-location session. While animation provides a greater degree of flexibility to adapt the message later in the game, it might require additional development time, ramp-up and training, depending on your baseline capabilities and available resources.

How to Plan Your Animation Project

Increasingly, it’s for any business that wants to deliver crisp, effective messages that stand out from the crowd. But how do you get started? What tools do you need, and what does success look like? Before you can integrate animation into your marketing toolkit, you need to ask the right questions – and get the right answers. Here’s a checklist to get you started:

1. Set a Clear Business Objective
2. Define Your Audience
3. Narrow Down One Key Message
4. Create a Budget
5. Identify the Core Concept
6. Determine the Distribution
7. Create a Storyboard
8. Identify Resources and Approvals
9. Create a Schedule

1. Set a Clear Business Objective

You can’t produce anything until you’ve decided what you hope to accomplish with it. Clear business objectives make it easier to create focused content. Will it drive traffic? Sign-ups? Revenue? Or is the goal more organic, less quantifiable – like greater awareness, or influencer engagement? Ideally, what should happen after a customer or prospect views the planned animation?

2. Define Your Audience

Outline who the animation is intended to reach. Use demographic and psychographic – values, interests, opinions, lifestyles, etc. – analysis to narrow down who you’re ultimately aiming for. Knowing your target audience helps you understand why they’ll care about your message, and about what you’re trying to sell.

3. Narrow Down One Key Message

Before you create the animation itself, you need to know, at a fundamental level, what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Narrow down the one key message you want to drive home, as well as any supporting or secondary messages. Keep it simple to avoid confusing your audience. What is the one problem that you’re trying to resolve, and what’s the best way to explain that problem’s solution?

4. Create a Budget

Knowing what you can and cannot afford will, often more than anything else, help refine your project and drive key decisions regarding what is and is not in scope. Include financial as well as other non-financial resource constraints that could impact your project. Study other projects to get a sense of whether yours is in the ballpark.

5. Identify the Core Concept

What is the core idea that will form the 30-second elevator pitch for the animation? How will that message be structured? The concept takes the message and gives it life. It also fits it into the available budget: You may want to create an animation that requires 18 months of animation rendering time on the world’s most advanced supercomputer, but the budget limits the concept to something a little more modest that will fit on your two-year-old laptop.

6. Determine the Distribution

How will your audience get to see the animation? Via your website? YouTube? A mobile app? Broadcast? How will it be promoted? Understanding distribution helps shape the production planning process.

7. Create a Storyboard

This takes that 50,000-foot concept and makes it a detailed piece of work. In addition to fleshing out the story, storyboards provide details on the type of animation, voice over, music, graphics and related resources that will be required. Tone, flow and length are also defined here.

8. Identify Resources and Approvals

Who is accountable for what? And at what point is their input and approval required?

9. Create a Schedule

Animation projects can be tremendously detailed initiatives. Ensure every task, dependency and meeting is visible. Resources and approvals should also be scheduled to maximize visibility for all.

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  • Avatar for Kamusu H Koroma
    Kamusu H Koroma
    July 18, 2018, 9:02 am

    This article is really helpful, I appreciate

  • Avatar for Getaneh
    July 30, 2019, 9:57 am

    You guys are amazing. Thank you for this clean and clear article.

    • Avatar for Tanya
      August 13, 2019, 9:52 am

      Thank you Getaneh! 🙂

  • Avatar for Richard hone
    Richard hone
    November 12, 2021, 10:52 am

    Do you have a template?