As one of the original creators of animated explainer videos, it was difficult to initially figure out how to price them. At the time it was a whole new way of explaining and a new process for us. Do we price per minute or per second? Do we include scripting, voice-over, and licensed music? So many variables at work.
We settled for pricing the 60 seconds as one then every 30 seconds after that. However, after working on a few good projects, we realised that if we went over by 3-4 seconds we ended up absorbing the cost. Over a hundred or so animations like this equal 5-7 minutes worth of unpaid animation. Also, it occasionally encourages some clients to squeeze in too much which ends up dropping the engagement rate of the video. However, we didn’t realize this until we signed up for Wistia in 2015.
After using Wistia we quickly realized that global engagement rates were on the decline. If we kept our animated explainer video pricing structure, we would not only be losing time, but we would be doing a disservice to our clients. A video should only be as long as it needs to be. So we changed our animated explainer video pricing structure to per second. This started at about £18 per second and included scripting, voiceover, limited storyboards, animation and music.
But where did £18 come from? By the time 2015 came around we’d made around 1,800 animated explainer videos so we had a fair idea of the time it took to create one. Let me break it down.
Scripting is the most important factor in any video. It’s the foundation of a great explainer. If you have a strong foundation then you will have a strong video. If it’s weak then it doesn’t matter how good the animation is, it will always be weak. To write a minute of video will take around 8-12 hours depending on the complexity of the project.
Synchronizing the visuals with the script is extremely important. They have to match what the voice-over is saying 100%. There is no real room for metaphors or tangents. Script and visuals are a couple. They need to complement & work together. Stage directions are just words describing the intended visuals. It’s a stage we added as going straight to the storyboard meant things could come as a surprise to our clients. We don’t like surprises here. Again, this stage takes around 6-8 hours to complete.
Concept and Storyboard
Once the stage directions have been approved multiple concepts are developed and pitched. We use the company brand guidelines for these to ensure the visuals match the brand 100%. Once approved we take the chosen design and illustrate a full storyboard. On average a 60-second video would have 25 screens. Before changes to this were limited but now we offer unlimited revisions because it’s better to offer unlimited revisions to illustrations than charge for alterations to the animation.
We’ve found that by offering unlimited storyboard revisions, once we deliver the animation very few changes are actually needed. And the animation is where all the time is in these projects. Our goal is to streamline the process as much as possible. This change made the biggest impact. Concepts and storyboards take around 24-30 hours for a completed minute of animation.
Whilst we don’t use frame-by-frame animation, it still takes an age to create movement. Around 35-40 hours for a minute of animation. I’ve seen myself animate for an entire day and only animate for about 6 seconds. Why does it take so long though? Like everything else in our process, everything we create is bespoke. I do use a few plugins to speed up the repetitive processes but most movements are all created manually and it unfortunately takes time. Even though I’ve animated more than 2500 explainers I still love every minute of it. You just need patience!
To make life easier for all involved we also include voice-over and licensed music in our animated explainer video pricing. All we need from the client is their feedback.
All of these stages add up to 90 hours of work for a minute of animation plus voice-over and music. Since offering per-second pricing way back in 2015 we’ve changed quite a bit. As of June 2022, our per second cost is £30+VAT (for UK customers) or $38 (for our external customers). This makes a 60-second bespoke animation £1800+VAT/$2280 which is still amazing value.
If you’ve ever looked at animated explainer video pricing on other websites you’ll see it can range anywhere from £500-£30,000 for a minute of animation. I mentioned this in another blog; when I quote for projects there are two main questions I am asked. ‘Why are you so cheap?’ and ‘Why are you so expensive?’. I don’t think of us as either, we are priced perfectly for who we are and what we are offering.