Saturday, June 26, 2010

Animation Budgeting - Part 4 "Prep"

As I've noted in past posts, our budget process comes from the AICP (Association of Independent Commercial Producers) guides.

Those are geared explicitly for live action.  Their budget only contains a single line item for "animation".

In expanding that line item, we took our cue from their budget form which has categories "A" through "K" (plus director as "L").  Animation is complicated process, but it's hard to break it into that many smaller pieces.  Drawing based animation, at least.  Mixed media projects, stop motion, under camera techniques all require varying amounts of alternate costs.

So here's our "Category B" PREP/RECORD

You'll note there are blank budget lines.

It's hard to predict what costs will come into play, there's often something completely unexpected.  These can fill with those.   Usually we'd rewrite this section for stop motion fabrication on those projects.

More often these lines will fill with multiple artists at the same position.  For instance, 222 and 223 might both be for "Layout Artist".

201 Casting:  A casting director typically gets a flat fee.  They'll read the script, give you a cost.

From there you discuss your casting thoughts.  They give you theirs.  Typically you'll cast by "types" -say, "For the lead I'm thinking someone like Bruce Campbell."   A casting director will usually call Bruce Campbell ('s agent) and see if he wants the part with all the caveats.

Very often "celebrity" talent will say yes.  Animation voice work is viewed as pretty easy by most actors.  It's seen as a cool part of childhood's magic by even more.

If your actor doesn't want the job, the casting director will bring in others with similar styles to audition.

You can always do the casting yourself.  Post an ad on various casting sites, call up talent agencies, scout local comedy clubs, or even have your friends do all the voice work.

Even if you do the casting yourself, it's still a cost.  It's your time -which is considerable if you conduct a thorough hunt.  The cost is less than professional, but sometimes the results can be less than professional.

With "name" talent you often can't ask them to read for the part (unless you're doing a big budget/high profile profile production).  You offer them the part and that's it.

Once you've got your talent cast, you've got to pay them.

202 Voice Talent.  This is one of those lines that typically expands into several.  Actors' rates are determined by their guilds: SAG and AFTRA and their respective agreements with producers.  Their rate tables can be found on their websites.  SAG is the screen actors guild, AFTRA is TV and radio.

Even when paying the lowest rate ("scale"), the cost is usually scale plus 10%.  That 10% goes to the actor's agent.  No, you don't HAVE to do that.  It's just customary and makes working for the minimum more palatable.

If you're Joe Schmoe animator making a film you won't actually be able to pay your actors.  You'll need a "signatory" to SAG/AFTRA agreement to be your paymaster.  There's a lot of paperwork involved with paying union workers and you need be able to pay into their fringes (P, P&W).  Also union actors need to demonstrate a certain amount over work over a period time to keep their benefits.

You can always bypass all the guild stuff and hire non-union talent or ask a professional actor to do the job as a scab.  Many voice actors will have stage names that don't appear on the union register for this purpose.

203 Voice Director.  It could be you.  It could be a professional.  Either way, somebody's got to be in there with the actors letting them know what to do.  It's not unheard of for someone besides the animation director to devote themselves to getting the right voice performance.

Actors are like animators.  They have their own language and methods of achieving their goals.  Sometimes a voice director is the best idea to help them get to the right performance.

205 Sound Editor.  The person who strings together the best takes.  Sometimes animatic editor will do this.

207 Animatic Editor.  This is the "creative" end of editing animation.  Timings are determining, shots deleted, recalled, rearranged.  After this is all file management and fixing mistakes.

210 Track Analysis.  Frame by frame reading of the track.  We used to pay by the foot -different rates for lip sync vs. soft sync.  It's been a long time and I'm not sure what the rates are.

It takes me about an hour to lip sync :60 (in English).  I'm fast.  So I base our costs on that.

211 Sheet Timing.  This is really for overseas animators.  We'll do it a bit, but it's usually just transposing things learned from the animatic onto the exposure sheets.  It's generally the director's job, but will often be handed to a specialist.

212 Storyboard Conform.  Somebody's got to make sure the video board in the animatic exists on paper.  I've heard rumor of software that does this, but I don't believe.  It's the worst job on earth.

214 through 216.  Fairly self-explanatory.  You can add prop designer too.

218 Designer. This is DESIGNER, designer.  Like the guy who nudges it a bit and changes all your default Arial to default Helvetica.  Yes, he may be a monster -but sometimes his talents are needed to capture Troy.  Like making logos and presentation books.   If anyone is overpaid in production, it's this line.

220 PreVisualization Artist.  When an animatic isn't enough.  These are mostly used in 3D projects.  In 2D it's an expensive intermediary step before actually animating.  In 3D its an inexpensive way of figuring out logistics.

222 Layout Artist.   Layout artist

224 Researcher.  This is the fun part of any project -digging up the material to base the film on.

225 Photography.  For reference.

226 Reference Models. If you need to hire figure models.

228 Roto Shoot.  Rotoscope preparation falls in pre-production.  Roto artists are in the next catagory.

On the right side we'll just pull a few specifics and discuss generalities.

This deals mostly with recording and music.  You can break these line out in the left hand column if you're doing the recording in house.  We typically subcontract recording and music.

251 Scratch Track.  Did you read the track into Final Cut so you could get timings?  Congratulations you recorded a scratch track!  How much time/equipment did it take?  That's your cost.

252 Record.  Ballpark $300/hour for a professional studio and go from there.  You can get something as low as $75 in New York or as high $500 -especially if you need fiber optic connection from another part of the world.  Book rates for audio facilities are usually negotiable especially if you're flexible with your time.

260 Style Guide.  If you're in the world of licensing, you'll need to make a style guide for how the characters are used.  Often design firms like Landor or Pentagram will do these.  It can be pretty well paying.

261 Character Bible.  The practical version of a style guide.  Animators will use it.  The expense of producing it is always far less than the expense of not having it.

270 Permits.  New York has recently announced permit fees for shooting.  Many other cities have these costs.  If your doing outdoor shooting -reference, roto, et c.  you'll need to keep this in mind.

272 - 278.  These are "pre-production" music costs.  Rough mixes, stock, sound effects.  Audio costs come up again post-production

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