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The cost of animation

Interviewer: Recently you wrote two blogs about reducing the cost of animation and increasing the cost of animation. It was about choosing the right level of animation quality for any project or budget. What was your thinking behind that?

Kevin: All right. Everything about animation is about how you cost it, and everything about how you cost it is invariably about time.

It's not about how much a bit of clip art cost you or how much it costs to put a piece of pre-animated film in there. It's just how many hours you're buying.
If you're buying originality, that takes ages longer than if you go to Toonly or Powtoons, where all the originality is done for you and, basically, you're just importing ready-made sections of animation and compiling them to meet your script. The time involved there that you have to pay for is your time. You have to do all the work.

Now, if you hire a Toonly producer or a Powtoons producer, they'll put in the time for you. Because everything is pre-manufactured, it's loads less time, and therefore, a lot cheaper.

Then you may consider, say, a middling standard of video company that provides animation. They may just be taking clip art and animating it in the way that you want because ready-made animation invariably doesn't do the things that you want, or the scenes need changing. They're going to take clip art and modify it, and that still doesn't take as long as originating. The price goes up, and it is a jump, but it's not as much.

You may want to go the whole nine yards and have something quite original because in your marketplace, competition is tough. You've got to stand out head and shoulders. You've got to be the thought leaders. You've got to be seen as the top guys in your industry, and so you think, "Right, we are original we need to show something that's original." Then you'll go to a video company or an animation company, who will get ideas boards going for you. They'll develop concepts. They'll go through a process of selection with you in developments until you get the core ideas that you like.

Then, when you've got the core ideas that you like, they'll start to ink in some scenes and backgrounds and say, "Do you like this kind of thing?" and you'll love it. It's a great process. It's really exciting because you've seen it grow. Then finally, you'll get an Illustrator storyboard, and that storyboard will show everything that's going to be in your video. How it looks, everything it shows of the movements, the captions, the look of your brand, how your brand appears in there, the backgrounds, are they accurate?

For instance, for some people, you might have a forklift truck in the background. If you're a food manufacturer, you've got a special kind of forklift truck. You don't want the wrong looking one in there. It's got to look right.

Or similarly, if you were in the glass industry, they've got specialist forklift trucks for shifting plates of glass. It's the same right across the board. How realistic is it?

Now if you're an IT company, it's okay, you're just using computers. Maybe you've got huge 32 inch twin-screen computers that your people use. You might want that in the backdrop. Now, these are just examples, you can think of your own easily enough.

How specific do you want it to look? Same way if you showed people at work. Are they going to wear your workwear or generic workwear? Are they going to need PPE wear compliance, and also corporate livery standard compliance. All these things need drawing and your costs shoot up, but you get what you want, that's the difference.

Having said that, if these things don't matter and you've got time on your hands, you can make it yourself for under $100, which is absolutely brilliant. Now, you won't have voice-over for that, you'll have to hire a voice-over. Now what you can also look for, is if you go to a Toonly producer, if you're not too bothered, if a generic look suits you, a Toonly producer is often the voice-over artist, who's learned to become a producer. They'll do good voice-over, although you'll be expected to write the script. That assumes that you know what it is that you want to say.

Now, again, this (scriptwriting) can be another area where you pay more, but fortunately, not a lot more. A professional script writer is going to just add a lustre. Unless you're really good, they're going to add lustre to anything that you write. Also, they're going to get to know who you're talking to and become the voice that speaks to that person, the specific kind of person that you're focusing on.

For instance, if you were talking to somebody in construction, it's a different language in a different manner than if you were talking to an IT director. They're just different. A real pro scriptwriter goes right into that voice, but if you can do it, you can do it. A lot of people like to have a go making their own videos, but they don't necessarily stick with it. This is something to their detriment. I'm not trying to fault them, but it's to their detriment.

I'll give an example. I've got customers who are saying, "We want original work or certainly stuff that starts with different clip art and is modified. We don't just want to use Toonly or Powtoons." They're not disrespecting these as media, but they feel they just get flooded with it. Their workforces, their customers, they tried it out, and it's got a limited life. They tell me that one of the problems is you're looking for something fresh, and while these automated online video systems are producing fresh material, everyone else is grabbing in too. You'll be producing something that's the same as a company in Delhi, or Hong Kong, or out in Boise, Idaho. You're just all the same.

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Now, if that doesn't matter, because your message is singular, for instance, twice the spec at half the price is a singular message, you can tell that anyway it comes and it'll sing well.
If there are small differences between you and competitors, then they won't be apparent, you'll all just sound like a general din. Five years ago, if you were making a video, or 10 years ago, you could just more or less say your sales pitch on the video and that would be fine, and then people would get in touch with you and say, "I'd like to know more about this, please. Can you help me?" Bingo, you've got the lead, your video works. Nowadays, it doesn't work that way.

For instance, I got an order this morning. It was for about £2,500 worth of animation, graphic iconic style animation, but the guy had made his mind up that he wanted to buy from us. He knew this in advance. He'd done tons and tons of research, and he'd selected us from what he'd seen on the website.

If I had just given him a generic video or something ordinary looking to look at, he wouldn't have picked us. We might have been on his top six that he's going to choose from.

What I'm saying is that 90% to 95% of research is done online. You've got to help people understand why you're different, and that means standing out, which means buying time, which means spending more.

Author Kevin Rossiter has been producing business video for 30 years, won 14 awards, worked in many countries around the World, and is a regular blogger on business video topics.

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