An animated explainer video is a quick, engaging, video that explains and promotes your company, product, or service. They’re a fantastic way to explain what you do in seconds and convert new customers.
Needless to say, they’re popular. However, a lot of buyers we speak to don’t understand how the cost of their explainer video breaks down. So we thought we’d shed some light on just what goes into creating the animation and what you can expect to pay.
How much does an explainer video cost?
One of the most common requests we hear from buyers is ‘how much does an animated explainer video cost?’.
Now, we wish there was a quick and easy answer to that question. All explainer videos are different, you’ll never get two the same. Therefore they’re never the same price.
A common assumption is that because an explainer video is short (usually around 60 seconds) it should be quick, easy and cheap to create. This isn’t the case.
If we take the example of the 60 second animated explainer video, you can expect to pay anything from £500 – £15,000. The price depends on multiple factors such as; the experience of your animator, whether they’re an independent freelancer or a top-dollar agency, detail of the video and quality of work.
Our article on animation will tell you more about how to budget for animation projects.
That price tag may seem quite hefty to some, until you realise what goes into creating an animated explainer video.
How long does it take?
Every animation will be different, but for a simple digital animated explainer video we could be talking between 4 – 8 weeks.
Why does it take that long? Animating is a time-consuming, technical craft. It doesn’t happen overnight. Here’s a quick run down of the process:
Week 1: Research and scripting
Research lays the foundations for a great explainer video. Scripting is not something you want to skimp on. Your video needs an engaging and cohesive story. It’s harder than you think to explain your product clearly in 60 seconds or under.
Week 2: Style development
This is where the style of your animation is fleshed out. Characters will be developed, animations will be drawn, prototypes will be made. A lot of this work is done by hand. Then, if necessary, digital rendering is performed. During this phase there’ll be a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between all parties as the client signs off work.
Week 3: Storyboarding
Now we have a final script and a style in place, the animator can create a storyboard. Storyboards are a static, scene-by-scene breakdown of your video. They can be sketched out by hand or created digitally.
Week 4: Voiceover
If you need a voiceover, now’s the time to get it down. Usually, the voiceover artist will record multiple takes. This is so that the sound engineer has lots of material to work with to get that perfect edit.
Week 5-6: Animation
So, you can see that no actual animating starts until quite a few weeks into the project. This stage is by far the most time-intensive. The animator will take all existing elements such as the voiceover and illustrations and import them into their animation software (usually something like Adobe After Effects). They’ll then spend hours painstakingly animating each element of your video until it’s perfect.
Week 7: Special effects and music
The last stage is to add the finishing touches. A sound engineer will need to mix all the audio elements (voiceover, music and sound effects) so that they sound slick and professional.
So now you know what the basic process is, what about different types of animation – how does the style of animation you choose affect the cost of your explainer video?
Simple digital animations are probably the most popular form of explainer videos. Most animated explainer videos that you’ll come across are animated digitally, and opting for a simple 2D style helps to keep costs down.
Not including too much detail in your animation and illustration style is a good way to lower the budget. This style will be quicker and more straightforward to produce than a detailed 3D animation.
Twine member Anastasia Belenova creates digital explainer videos. Here you can watch her explainer video on explainer videos (sorry for getting all Inception for a moment there), which demonstrates a simple digital style:
A very popular style of animated explainer video is the sketch animation, where the animation looks as if it’s being drawn live on screen by a human. This can be on a notepad, whiteboard, blackboard or any other surface you like.
The digital sketch looks like a one-take video of a sketch being drawn out, but it is in fact, digitally animated.
This style of animation often involves live elements, such as hands or pens which need to move in time with the animation. These real objects need to be filmed or photographed separately, then edited into the video. Depending on what you want, this can add an extra layer of complexity which can add to your budget.
Here’s an example of a whiteboard animation, complete with animated hands:
Here’s an example of a blackboard animation:
For a simple black and white digital sketch animation, you should expect to pay around $700 per minute. For something more complicated involving separately filmed elements, colour or moving parts you can expect to pay around $1,800 per minute.
Stop motion animation is a favourite of many. When done well it’s hard to beat. But, unfortunately it’s the most cost intensive and labour intensive style of any animation. If you want to plump for a stop motion animation, add at least 50% to your timeframe.
Stop motion includes everything from claymation, puppets, cut outs or collage, object animation to live model animation. To make a stop motion animation, an object, or model is placed in various positions and and photographed. The photos are then sequenced together, which gives the illusion of movement.
Here’s a promo video Nokia created using stop motion animation and filmed on a beach:
Here’s another stop motion animation which uses paper modeling to tell a story:
Here’s a music video made using claymation:
Communication is key for this style, as revisions are costly once the animation has been made.
The cost of a stop motion animation depends entirely on the medium you’re working in. Custom puppets will cost a lot more than a simple object animation. Each stop motion animation is an individual entity and therefore impossible to estimate a rough price for. Instead, be prepared to pay significantly more for this style of animation.
However, it’s good to know that a lot of stop-motion styles and effects can be achieved through digital animation, which will be markedly cheaper.
Animated explainer video extras:
It’s very rarely the case that you’ll need just animation alone. Most explainer videos need some kind of soundtrack, voiceovers or motion graphics/VFX. These will all add to the total cost of your explainer video. Your animator may need to hire in someone else to do these parts.
Want more information? Take a look at this article which shows you how to create the perfect project brief for an animation project. Once your project brief is up and running, we’ll also help you through the process of hiring an animator.