Thursday, July 8, 2010

Animation Budgeting - Part 5 "Animation"

The "animation" section of the animation budget should be the easiest part.

In generic form, it is.  Most of the variables will fall into other categories.  Here you just have the costs of the men and women who make the pictures move.

As a rule of thumb,  I try to get this section to account for 30 to 40% of the line entries.  So if A through E total $100,000, Category C - Animation -will be no less than $30,000, no more than $40,000.

Why this sizable percentage?  First, it's the most important category.  The animator should be the most skilled, most talented person on a project.  Second, the animation department can get pretty big -animators, assistants, co-ordinators, effects animators, the various CG artists.  Third -and least important in most senses but very important in a philosophy/business sense -a client is paying for animation, that's where the want to see the money being spent.  Concurrent with that, chances are they don't understand animation so this is the budget section which can most easily be defended against "cost analysis".

Anyone can look at a budget and say "$1000 a week for a receptionist?  That's not our responsibility.  We don't want that."  or "Our bookkeeper gets $15 an hour, that's what we should be paying." Cost consultants have come up will all sorts of arguments to save their clients money on production expenses (of course, the clients would save even more money if they didn't hire the consultants in the first place).  If someone says "$20 an hour for an inbetweener!"  The response is simple: "Yes, that's what they cost -plus P&W -and we'll 2 for two weeks if we want to get this done correctly."


This budget lists "Supervising Animator" and "2D Animator".

For our purposes, this has always been a tier distinction.  They might do the same work, but "Supervising Animator" is usually better.  These are Doug Comptons, Tissa Davids, Ed Smiths of the world.  Whenever possible, I like to pay these folks higher rates.

Generally these two positions get paid by the foot.  1 foot = 16 frames.  Footage rates fluctuate wildly based on the project.  We've gone as low as $20 per foot and as high as $200.

There are (of course) several reasons for this.
• Most animators can rightly be considered independent contractors.  One of the criteria for being an independent contractor is working to a fixed fee, not hourly.
• A footage rate gives the producer a known cost quantity.  15 feet @ $100 = $1500.  There will always be variables in real costs, it's best to have as many solidly grounded as possible.
• The lower the footage rate, the simpler the animator will make the animation.  This has cost implications throughout the film.  Basically, fewer drawings =  cheaper art production.

Other animation personnel are typically employees and are paid weekly or hourly wages.  Sometimes you can work flat rates/independent contractor deals on these too.  That typically happens when trying to make a film for very low budget.  There's no reason to go cheap on this positions when a production has the money -many times (and I mean MANY times) these artists will reciprocate by taking lower rates when you need them to.

We've paid CG artists as employees and as independent contractors.  They can break down in similar ways to traditional animators with the rigging, modeling, lighting, et cetera artists being the equivalent of assistant animators.

Also note in Section C1 there are lines for computer platforms.  There is also a line for software.  These can be expanded to list specific pieces of hardware/software needed for a project,  for instance, if you need to buy a specific plug in or software extension.

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