Everyone Calls Me Stu
Freelance designer Brisol

ecmstu BLOG

My blog on all the things I find interesting in the world of design and motion graphics.

How long will my animation take to create?

So you want to commission a video but aren't sure how long it will take? 

Perhaps I can help.

Video and in particular animation can be a tricky thing to budget for. When commissioning an animation it's easy to think because something is short, say 30 seconds, that it can be created quickly too.

However, there are many steps to consider and given the quality of work being created today its essential that you give your animation the time it needs. Nothing is cut and dry, but I’ve tried to detail below some of the things an animator will consider when creating a quote for you.

Caveat: This is based on an infographic style animation, other forms of animation can and will take longer.

(Note: these are all estimates, which I use when calculating the length of a project. There are always variables that can add / save time, so be sure to speak with your freelancer or design agency first.)


How Long?

In a nutshell, when I approach a 2D animation I follow this formula:

For every 5-10 seconds of animation, you will need at least a day (7.5 hours) of someone’s time.

(your animation might go through a large studio quickly, but that is because multiple people may have worked on it at once)

Therefore, a 1 minute animation: 60 seconds = Between 6 to 12+ days

You should also assume that an animator will work extra days into this to allow for:

  • Storyboarding
  • idea generation
  • design/illustration
  • Amends
  • render time (getting the animation out of the software)
  • Final edit
  • Conform
  • or any bumps in the road.

Personally, I would give myself maybe another 7 days for a 60 second infographic animation bringing the total up to 13-19 days. Also, the longer the animation, the longer the contingency.

Bear in mind too, that there is a sliding scale when it comes to quality. If you want an animation like example A, it is going to take longer than example B.

A: 

B:


How does my time get used?

Here’s a little animation I made for Aspect Film and Video that gives you a flavour of all the steps involved in creating an animation:

 

If we take our 60 second animation as an example, here is how the time would be broken down.

1-2 days - for ideas and concept generation (+amends)

1-2 Days - for Storyboarding & animatic (+amends)

3-4 - design/illustration

5-7 Days - for Animation

1-2 Days - for Amends

1 Day - for Sound design.

1/2 day - Final edit

1/2 day - Conform

= 13-19 days.

Note: You will also need to consider, getting a voice over recorded (if your video has one), music licensing and delivery of the final animation.

A larger company will also need to factor in time with account managers, project managers, and creatives.

Therefore, a well produced 60 second animation can take over 2 weeks.


The production schedule triangle.

When commissioning a video always have this diagram in mind. No matter what you do, your animation will lean toward one side or the other and there is no middle ground.

production_triangle_by_animatorrawgreen-d7n7a90.png

Let’s try some examples:

1. You want to save time and need your animation delivered asap, however it still needs to be at a high quality.

Fast + Quality = Expensive.

Why? Likely, there will be some late nights and people may have to be pulled off other projects to work on yours. If you have a hard deadline then it will come at a cost.

 

2. You want it fast and Cheap

Fast + cheap = low quality animation

Why? If you don’t have the money to throw at something then quality will have to suffer in order to get the animation out in time.

 

3. You want great quality but don’t want to pay lots

High quality + cheap = long production time

Why? Maybe this is a project that people want to work on so don’t mind the low cost. Or perhaps you’re saving money by having a loose deadline. Either way, your project will always get lower priority and will take much longer to deliver. Also, you may need to be prepared to go with the decisions of your animator, as having more creative control is the trade off for a lower fee.


Lastly, other considerations

Having covered the main bases here are some other things you should consider.

Skill sets:

Do you need a character animator or typography specialist? By picking the right animator for the job you may save yourself a lot of time.

** However, animation that requires more advanced skills (e.g. characters) will cost more.

Animation / Edit:

Is your video a bit of a half-way house? Do you have what is essentially an edit with lots of titles? e.g:

If this is the case you might save time in animation but then you need to consider where the footage is coming from? Is it stock that needs downloading and paying for, or do you already have it in your library? Either way, your video may end up taking just as long.

3D:

This is the big one, is your animation going to be fully 3D or have 3D elements in it? If so then you’re going to need to up your budget by at least a factor of 3. The sky’s the limit with 3D animation these days and there are many technical hurdles to overcome. So make sure if you’re going down this route you’ve got plenty of time and money budgeted for and always seek advice from the studio or freelancer you approach to do the job.


In summary

I hope this rough guide was helpful. If you’ve never worked with animation before it can be hard to know how your time is being used and all the steps involved. Hopefully, now you can see why 5-10 seconds of animation can take at least a day.

Animation is a fantastic way to grab people’s attention and get your message across. However, make sure you’ve given yourself and your animator(s) the time it takes to make something truly amazing.