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How Much Will My Animation Cost? The Real Price You Pay for Quality Work

October 9, 2018

Here’s the bad news: If you’re planning a project that involves animation, you’ve got some difficult decisions to make. But here’s the good news: There’s a smart, simple system called the “Project Management Triangle,” that can help you identify specific constraints, which in turn shape decision making process.


Understanding this triangle and how to apply its principles will help you plan more efficiently, communicate your priorities more clearly to developers, and most importantly, get a better final outcome—no matter what you’re working on.


Here’s how the Project Management Triangle works:


There are three key points: good, fast, and cheap. Your project can be any two of these but never all three…which means compromise will always be inevitable. Let’s put this theory to the test:


Cheap + fast = lower quality work


Fast + good = expensive


Good + cheap = unrealistic/doesn’t exist


Ok, what now? Break the triangle down based on your priorities and consider the following:


If getting the final product faster is your priority:

  • Be clear about what you want and avoid deviating from those plans. Have you given the big picture enough thought before kicking things off?
  • Know your hard deadlines and separate ‘real’ work from nonessential tasks that you have created. A false need to rush causes unnecessary stress. Can the deadline move back? Work backward from the ultimate due date and create a cushion of additional time.
  • Fail quickly. Ask questions and learn from the start rather than making assumptions and bigger mistakes along the way. Generally, doing the latter creates more work at the end. It creates frustration and is an exercise in inefficiency.
  • What is the minimal viable product (MVP) you can build? What functionality do you absolutely have to have and what could be lost? Be brutally honest.


If you need the animation to be cheaper:

  • Plan as far ahead as possible and create a work schedule with generous lead times. This can sometimes be used as an attractive bargaining chip.
  • Look at making a long-term financial arrangement with the creative firm/developers you’re working with; for example, if you agree to produce a series of five animations for various campaigns over the course of a year, you might get a price reduction—basically, you’re buying in bulk.
  • Try to find external funding through outside investors to increase the project budget.
  • Have an honest conversation with your tech partner about the cheapest route.

If you need the animation to be better:

  • Invest heavily in planning. Collaborate with skilled animators who can help you gain clarity on why you’re working on this project in the first place and break it down from there. Small uncertainties at the concept stage will ultimately diminish the final product’s quality, creativity, and messaging.
  • Be really clear with your developers about the objectives of your project to ensure their creativity produces a return on investment (ROI) for you.
  • Ask for help and ask lots of questions. Unbeknownst to you, there are often easier ways to accomplish what you’ve outlined using systems you’re unfamiliar with. The advantage of working with a professional team of developers/animators is that you have a knowledgeable, creative team of professionals at your fingertips who know how to bring your vision to life and can answer all of your questions along the way.


The Exception to the Project Management Triangle


The big gap in the Project Management Triangle is that it’s built on the assumption that you begin the process with a perfectly clear idea of what your finished project needs to look like (also referred to as “waterfall delivery”). In most cases, this simply isn’t true. So what’s the alternative? The “Agile Process,” an approach to workflow that acknowledges we’re all human and we have to allow room for error, indecision, misunderstandings, deviations, and new project developments. As this process unfolds organically, a more authentic interpretation/message is discovered, leading clients to find that the final product is nothing like their original vision—it’s better!

To learn more about our pricing, click here. 

Mike Doyle, Video Animator

Frustrated that people don’t “get” how your company helps them?

Since 2011, drive 80 studios has created close to 500 animations that simplify complex messages in a fun and memorable way.

Make this the year everyone clearly understands what you do, in less than 90 seconds.

~Mike Doyle, Owner