In this series of 3 articles, I have been exploring 3 main areas that affect the price of an animated video. If you have the time and want to know more about these topics, then please read more about how ‘Art Style’ and ‘Animation Style’ can impact the budget. Here I aim to explore how the number of assets and amount of animation play their part when planning a video.
What I am about to describe probably sounds obvious, but surprisingly gets overlooked when being presented with a draft script or concept for a video. On more than one occasion, we have been presented with a detailed description of what needs to happen within the video, statements like, a crowd of people walk into the scene, or; we need to show diversity so we want to show young, old and a mix of ethnicity. This all sounds great but when I first read these sort of statements I am immediately thinking of how much artwork and animation will be required to make these look good on screen.
Sometimes a statement like; ”it can be kept simple”, but then throwing in a line that says “but they need to walk into the scene”, is a contradiction to keeping things simple. Of course we appreciate this is often down to a lack of understanding of what is involved, which is why I hope these articles are useful.
But focusing on the amount rather than the style which has been covered in previous articles, it should go without saying that having 1 character, or 1 asset in a scene is always going to be cheaper to produce than having 5 characters or 5 assets. The more ‘stuff’ we cram into a scene, means the more things we have to design, move around, position and animate.
It’s not unusual within a 1 to 2 minute video, we can create around 200 individual moving parts, or assets as us ‘industry folk’ like to refer to them as. Especially when you consider a character may be broken down into multiple moving parts, like legs, arms, eyes and mouth. And a room scene may have desks, chairs, clock, paperwork, doors, lamps, plants and so on. An icon that you see animating into the scene may in itself be made up of 5 or more moving parts depending on how it builds itself into the scene.
So how we structure a scene is also important, if we look at a background to a scene for example, this can be approached in several ways. A simple method is to create the background as one fixed drawing / asset. This then just requires one piece of artwork dropped into the scene and we avoid the need to worry about any moving parts to make this look right, it is what it is.
The alternative method is to create the scene made up of different parts, for example, in a countryside scene, we could have the foreground hills separate to the background hills, along with distant hills being separated again, then individual trees and bushes all being individually created so they can be positioned within the scene rather then being fixed.
The second approach has the benefit that we can use what is called a parallaxing effect within the background to create more depth to the scene, which adds that extra level of animation. Plus this allows us to interact with the scene more, so rather than a character or object moving solely in front of the background, we can now have them move between background elements, for example; a car travelling over the hill and disappearing over the horizon. It also allows us to move the camera around and for the scene to have more realism as closer objects move more than those in the distance.
So although visually at first glance the scenes may look identical, one is far more complex and time consuming to create than the other, and therefore costs more to create. But has the advantage that it can be re-used and moved around to be more flexible and importantly bring more animation to the scene making it far more engaging and less static.
So this is where there is always a balance of how far to push the creativity within a given budget. As animators, we naturally want to push the limits of creativity but appreciate the commercial implications and that ultimately the client will have a certain budget they want to keep within.
This is why when looking at a draft script, all the factors discussed in these 3 articles are taken into consideration, it is never one or the other, there is no right or wrong. It is just question of balancing expectations, pushing the creative boundaries and being realistic of what is achievable within an agreed budget.