Category

Animation

The cost of producing animation

First things first, animation is expensive. This is because it requires the input of a lot of hardworking and talented professionals.

That being said, the cost of animation in Nigeria is about N3m ($8,000) per minute. This is not a fixed figure however and could be even higher or lower depending on the following factors.

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Time.

The faster you need the project completed, the more it’s going to cost. This is primarily because a studio will need to hire more artists and overtime dues will need to be payed to these artists.

Duration.

Probably the most obvious factor, a 1 minute animated video will cost significantly less than a 1 hour long video. This will almost always be true when comparing the costs of two videos with the same style of animation and the same storyline..

3D gold bars

Quality.

I will be quick to point out that what we sometimes refer to as bad quality is simply a different style of animation. Quality here is more than just the visual fidelity but also the execution, pace, timing, and sound design.

The saying ‘soup wey sweet, na money kill am‘ is especially true in this case. Making something taste good (or look good, in this case) requires some processes that just take more time, talent and money.

3D shoes

Style.

There are different styles of animation and each of them come with different production processes and hence price tags. For a given duration, the animation on the left will be cheaper to produce than the one on the right. You can read more about types of animation here

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Location.

The cost of animation is also influenced by the cost/standard of living in any location, government influence (taxes and industry support), value/demand and industry maturity.

All these factors contribute to why it’s cheaper to produce animation in Ibadan than it is in Abuja.

Story.

In the end, animation in itself it simply a means to convey an idea, share a story or message. The most important thing is the actual story behind the animation.

Naturally, a story having just one character seated on a chair will cost much less to produce than a story with a character navigating through a busy market place.

The animation process

Animation process flowchart

Pre Production

In the pre production phase, all of the planning and structuring is done. At this point, ideas are still being formed and it’s okay to experiment. Assuming we wanted to make a salad, now, we’d be heading to the grocery store with a checklist of items we want in our meal. The number of servings will determine how many cabbages or carrots etc will be needed; we’ll need to decide what kind of salad cream we’d like; if we wanted to add in eggs or not e.t.c Ultimately, our budget will dictate how ‘crazy’ we can go in our shopping.

The story/idea.

The story or idea is the very purpose for which the film exists and everything in and about the project revolves around it. If an idea is a seed a story is its fruit.

Script.

This script is a structured and more detailed rendition of the story. It chronicles the precise progression, dialogue, feel, and content of the whole story shot by shot.

Visual development.

As the story is being developed, visual development team works closely with the writers to provide a visual representation of the contents of the story. This way the characters and environments are gradually refined until the story is finally signed off. This division is made up of character development and environment concept artists.

Storyboards.

The contents of the script is then laid out in panels with texts of dialogue, camera action and shot description.

In this form, it’s more comprehensive for the layout artists and animators to work with as opposed to having to read many pages of text.

Voice Acting.

Unlike God, the characters we create would be unable to speak. Since filming is about sounds and sight, we must employ the services of voice actors.

Color Script.

The color script defines the lighting and visual mood of each shot. It’s also an aid for the writer to better visualise and improve upon the story.

Production

The production phase is where we get our hands dirty. Or clean if we were making our salad. We’d be washing and cutting the carrots and co by now. If at this point, we felt the desire to have a different kind of salad or we had to make 5 servings instead of the original 3, then we’d need to go back to the grocery store. This will cost us time and money and so it’s always important to patiently go through the pre production stage to minimize errors along the project.

Asset creation.

Here the word is made flesh (or mesh) and sometimes a drawing. The output of the visual development process all the characters and props  ( buildings, weapons, vehicles, etc) will be created in 3D and made ready for the artists and animators to use.

Animatic.

The animatic is like the yam before they pounded yam.

The storyboard panels are roughly animated in 2D with test voice overs and some sound effects to give a closer representation of the final film.

This stage is vital so we can review the story with respect to time.

Layout.

The characters, props and cameras are arranged to match the storyboards description as closely as possible in 3D..

Previz. (3d animatic).

Once the layout is completed, again the cameras props and characters are roughly animated to see what’s the animatic looks like in a 3D space..

Animation.

The animators then make the characters live and the props move as described by The Script. It is the visual presentation of the content of the script and must convey the exact idea the writer intended..

Effects.

Splashes, cloth simulations, explosions, dust, water simulation, Wind, Fire and so on are added in to the already animated shots as required.

Lighting.

We need lights.The lighting artists light (obviously) each shot based on the color script done earlier.

Sometimes the only difference between a good and bad film could be lighting.

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Rendering.

Here, all the shots are given to the computer to meditate on and then spit out a sequence of images from the 3D file.

Depending on the complexity of the shots and the rendering machine, a single frame could take anywhere from a fraction of a second to a whole day or even more to render. 

Mistakes discovered at this stage are extremely costly.

Post Production

If everything has gone well up till this point, then we are ready to start serving and dressing our salad. We’re going to be making it as presentable as possible for our guests to eat. They don’t need to know how many cabbages were harmed in the process and our job here is to prevent them from knowing that.

Compositing.

Color grading, Depth of Field, lens flares, camera distortion e.t.c The frames from the render are brought in and the editor can tweak the various shots to make them consistent and more pleasing to the eyes..

Sound Design(Score)/Sound Editing.

The voice overs a finally mixed in with the video along with a musical score/soundtrack, sound effects and background music..

Final edit.

The film may need to go through one last editing pass..