• I know that I don't have enough money to do what I want. How do I negotiate with a studio?

    What is the best kind of animation?


    Each animation technique has its own strengths and weaknesses. The best technique for you should be chosen based upon your needs, how best to communicate your message, and your budget!
    First determine exactly what it is that you are trying to communicate and how you expect the visuals to support your message. If you think of animation merely as "eye candy" then you won't get much value from it. Animation can and should reinforce your message on a level far beyond what just words can communicate.
    Resist picking a technique just because it's popular now. Not only do you close yourself off from potentially better options but it is very likely that you will limit the usable life of your project. Remember morphing?

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     What are the strengths and weakness of each kind of animation?

        If you want character driven animation, traditional animation techniques such as cel or stop motion can offer spectacular results with predictable costs and schedules.
    Each form of animation has certain advantages and requirements as well as cost/performance issues.
    Cel Animation
    Cel animation is the most familiar and accessible form of animation. It can be successful as just a sketchy line drawing on a solid color background, or have fully rendered characters with shadows and highlights like "Roger Rabbit" or "Prince of Egypt".
    It all starts with a talented artist drawing a succession of subtly changing pictures with a pencil on paper. This simplicity of technique is what makes it so flexible and accessible. You can do anything that your animator can draw.
    The labor costs of hand drawn animation is cel animation's weakness. Talented animators are neither plentiful nor cheap.
    Cel animation has a linear cost per second. Aside from economies of scale (which don't kick in until you do very long form productions) doing 10 minutes of cel animation will cost you 10 times what doing one minute of cel animation will.
    For industrial and corporate work, cel animation is ideal for short projects consisting of under a minute of animation.
    Stop Motion Animation

    If you are looking for longer form character animation projects, we always urge clients to consider stop motion or clay animation. One of the reasons that stop motion animation is appropriate for longer form is that it's costs are very non-linear. The longer the project, the lower the Cost Per Second becomes; until CPS plateaus at around 10 minutes of animation. This non-linear cost per second is as a result of the start up costs associated with having to manufacture everything that ends up in front of the camera. Every prop, every setting, all of the character puppets; indeed, the entire world that the animated characters will inhabit must be manufactured. We call these the "threshold costs" of doing stop motion animation. All things being equal, the threshold costs are the same for a 30 second animation as they are for a 3 minute animation. Once the threshold costs have been paid, the cost of producing longer animations is merely film footage, the animator's time, and the cost of the support staff.
    Over the last nine years we have done a lot of "Clay" animation for corporate clients. Three minutes in length seems to be the "sweet spot" in terms of price/performance and audience attention span.
    Computer Generated Animation

    Finally, there is computer generated animation. We feel that computers are great tools for fixing or augmenting images created elsewhere. Computers are the really facile optical printers of our era.
    From our perspective, for everything other than technical animation and logo animation, CG is the least cost effective form of animation.
    CG requires all of the planning and "manufacturing" steps of traditional forms of animation and large numbers of animators who are skilled in traditional animation, with the additional requirements of highly specialized and well paid technical talent and a large debt load in equipment that must be amortized at your expense.
    CG character animation is extremely difficult to do well (as the plethora of really awful computer animation should prove). Only a handful of studios have achieved artistic success with CG character animation, and even then, at a cost comparable to or greater than traditional methods.
    In short, you get what you pay for--especially with computer animation. "Toy Story" didn't cost 30 million dollars and take 5 years to make for nothing!

    Lest you think that we are grinding an axe, read this interview with three Oscar tm. nominated animators in Digital Content Creators Magazine

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     How much does animation cost?


    Animation is usually figured on a "per finished second" basis, although productions are usually flat bid.
    To some degree, how much animation will cost you is up to you. What are your needs and what is your level of sophistication?
    We do quite a bit of animation for corporate communications in the $250 to $500 per second range. Animation for interactive use can cost even less.
    By way of comparison, an animated movie like "A Bug's Life" or "Tarzan" is in the $7,000 to $8,000 per second range. A television series like "The Simpsons" is in the $500 per second range. Commercials average in the $3,000 to $5,000 per second range.
    Until recently, the average price of any animation that would be considered professional was about $1,000 per second minimum. Television shows like "Dr. Katz" have shattered conventions as to what constitutes acceptable animation and lowered the per second costs (and standards) accordingly.

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    I know that I don't have enough money to do what I want. How do I negotiate with a studio?


    All studios have to deal with clients who have bigger ideas than they have budgets. We back into client budgets all the time.
    Just be straight with your (potential) vendor at the outset about your needs and your budget. If your expectations are not totally unrealistic, most studios will suggest ways to address your needs that can fit your budget. Just try to be open to unexpected suggestions.
    You will have more leeway if you have a long lead time before you need the project, if the project will be seen in prestigious circumstances, or you just have a very cool idea that the studio wants to do.

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    Now that everything is digital, isn't animation all done by machines?


    Let's deal with the "D" word. All animation techniques have been changed by the "Digital revolution." At our facility, all animation goes through a digital stage at some point, whether it's Digital Ink and Paint for cel animation, Digital capture for stop motion, or digital compositing for effects.
    While digital technologies have streamlined much of the mechanical and technical aspects of production, animation itself remains steadfastly a hand done process, regardless of the tools.
    There is a truism that states that computers don't make doing anything faster, they merely make re-doing it faster.

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    How long does it take to create animation?


    If your animation is just flying logos around you should allot a couple of weeks to the process - primarily so that there is time for client input.
    An ideal minimum for animating anything to do with characters, no matter how short, is four weeks (although the technique chosen to execute the animation will also impact this time frame).
    Why? A short project has all of the same steps and procedures as a longer one, and shortcuts don't pay off.
    Despite the time saving impact that technology has had in many areas of the production process, humans haven't been made any faster.
    Part of the charm of animation, what makes it worth doing at all, is the artist's ability to surprise the viewer and interpret content in unexpected ways. In a crunch, it is this creativity that gets sacrificed to the production process just to meet an unrealistic deadline.
    Needless to say, we do plenty of projects under less than ideal circumstances.
    We suggest that to get the most value for your money you leave an adequate amount of time for the actual production of the animation. Be sure to factor in how long that it will take you to get approvals from within your organization for production milestones.

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    How come I've never heard of Animation & Effects?


    Although we have been in the animation business for over 20 years as individuals, and doing business under the name of Animation & Effects for nearly a decade, most of our clients are other producers and production companies, not the end client.
    While we have worked for many Fortune 500 corporations and Hollywood giants, our contributions to projects remain largely anonymous to the general public. If you are one of those folks who watch end credits, though, you may see our names. Lately, we have been involved in a number of long form projects for Sony and Hallmark; so we have been disappearing off the planet for a year at a time.

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    How should I pick an animation company to do my project?


    Contrary to what pundits may tell you, animation is not about technology, its about talent and relationships.
    If you are new to producing animation, most of the process is going to be mumbo jumbo. Pick a studio whom you trust, because in the final analysis you're going to have to operate partially on faith.
    Also, pick people with whom you have some affinity. You will have to deal with these people for weeks on end so you better feel good about them!
    When you look at a studio's work, ask them about what kinds of communication problems that they were trying to solve for the client. Lots of studios have flashy reels, but if they can't address your communication needs successfully, what good are they?
    Look at their demo reel with an eye not only for whom they have worked but also under what constraints they have worked.
    Budget does make a difference! If a studio's reel is chocked full of clients with deeper pockets than yours, be prepared for sticker shock!
    Your best choice may be a studio that has worked with smaller clients or smaller budgets but can deliver a lot of bang for the buck.

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     What should I expect from a production studio?


    Expect a studio to offer you these basics:
    First, they should be willing to explain the production process to you and they should detail how they intend to do your project.
    Second, if you have defined your expectations clearly and are willing to stand by your decisions, the studio should be willing to give you an exact figure for your completed production (a flat bid).
    Finally, a major part of choosing one studio over another has to do with their design sensibility. As part of the production fee, the studio should produce finished storyboards that communicate their vision.
    Sometimes it is necessary to storyboard a project in advance of awarding it in order to get a firm bid. Expect to pay for storyboards as part of a pre-production fee.
    If the studio chooses to board your project for free as part of their bid, etiquette demands a payment of a design fee should you decide to produce their idea with another studio.

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