You know explainer videos, right? They’re those short, engaging online videos that a lot of companies are using on their websites these days. They’re typically 60-90 seconds in length and they explain and promote a company, a product, or a service. They come in many forms, the most popular being “animated”. There’s a lot of confusion about pricing and what all goes into an explainer video. If you begin to research it you’ll see an overwhelming range of answers. Everything from $350 to $35,000. And with such a vague answer I’m sure you begin to ask yourself “But where do I fit in? What’s the best option for if I’m on a budget, but still wanting high quality? Should I choose an animated, whiteboard or live video?”, as well as many other questions.
In this post, I will break down what goes into an animated video production and provide you the ultimate answers to the questions everyone is asking.
- How Much Does An Animated Explainer Video Cost?
- The Video Animation Production Process
- What To Look For In An Animated Video Production Company
- Different Styles Of Animated Explainer Videos
To start things off, I even made a video just for ReelSEO all about Explainer videos:
How Much Does An Animated Explainer Video Cost?
First and foremost, my disclaimer: You get what you pay for. If you really want people to watch your video and react to it (whether it’s buying, understanding, talking about or signing up for something), you have to produce one that is worth watching. Take a look at companies that are doing great things like Apple, Salesforce, etc - they’re not skimping on the budget of their productions because the somewhat small investment (in the grand scheme of things) makes their brand stand out, you respect it and buy from them.
If you’re working with a reputable animated video producer, expect to spend $5,000 - $10,000 per minute.
You’re probably thinking, “Did I read that right?” Yes, you did. At first, there can be a sticker shock, but when we start to break down the all-inclusive price into hourly rates (how big agencies usually charge) you’ll start to see that the pricing is very fair for what is being produced.
Now let’s break down each step of the process. Behind each explanation video is the hard work of a talented, dynamic team of creative professionals including script writers, illustrators, designers, animators, voice talent, sound designers and more. Each producer’s process may differ a little, but I’ll try to provide a clear general understanding of how the process works.
The Video Animation Production Process
Expect the entire process from hiring to finished product to last anywhere from 4-8 weeks. This is the optimal amount of time the producer needs to get through all the writing, design, and revisions efficiently. Rushing this timeframe is possible, but it will likely cost you extra as the team will most often have to work overtime to finish it, generally on weekends.
Research & Kickoff (1st week)
The producer digs deep into your brand and your goals. With all this insight, you typically meet to agree on a direction for your video and discuss the process and plan for your production.
Script Writing (1st week)
In order to really engage the viewer and accomplish the goals you’ve set for the work during Kickoff, you need to have a killer script. It usually requires revisions and some back and forth to get it just right. This is, hands-down, the most critical component of your explainer video. If you’re script doesn’t work, you're dead in the water. Make sure the producer takes time to write an engaging, powerful script that works.
Storyboards & Styleframes
With a final script set, the artist creates a storyboard. This is typically a sketched (pencil or digital) representation of every single frame of your video. It should give you an idea of how your story will flow visually. Along with this, they’ll present a couple static renderings of what your video should end up looking like. This gives you an idea of the colors and feel of your video. Make sure it’s on brand!
Based on the script and branding information, a professional voice artist will get into the studio and record a read-through of the script. Some companies have voiceover artists at the ready, and others might sift through hundreds of auditions to find the right one. Be careful, some studios are OK with using subpar, non-professional voice artists that may not represent your brand well, but remember - audio quality is hugely important.
Design & Animation
The artist will continue to design out all the frames of the video for the animator. Once they’re complete and the voiceover is recorded, the animator will break every layer (sometimes numbering into the thousands) apart and meticulously animate each piece to match the voice recording. From here any changes to the script, storyboard or style could throw a huge kink in the timeline and incur more costs.
What is a video without sound? Boring! If you used a reputable producer, you’ll likely have sound design included. A professional sound designer will want to make sure the sound tells as much about you as the rest of the video. They’ll layer in custom sound FX to represent the movements in the video and either produce a completely custom music track or choose and fit a great track that’s royalty-free.
An editor will mix all the scenes with the final mixdown of audio from the sound designer, render and deliver your video in the applicable formats.
What To Look For In An Animated Video Production Company
To get the most you can from the experience and video, look for a professional studio with a real in-house team that’s interested in a relationship with you. You should be able to talk directly with the founders and be involved in the process as much as you want.
A Portfolio You Like
Do you like the work you see? Don’t worry so much about price, rather the quality and return you can get. If you get an increased conversion of 20%, it could pay for the video in a month or 2. Another thing to think about is - are the videos in their portfolio entertaining? Do you like their illustration or design style? No matter how good the messaging seems to be, if you end up with ugly characters and design its going to hurt your brand image. And how effectively do they convey the message? Represent the brand well? Are they cookie-cutter or original?
Quality, not quantity, business model
There are so many animated video studios out there now that are pumping out hundreds upon hundreds of videos a month. If they’re able to do that much video (keep in mind, these things take weeks to produce), do you think they’ll spend enough quality time on your message? Avoid studios producing low quality videos and/or are outsourcing the entire production. The money you might save by going with such a studio is not worth the irreparable damage a below-average video could do to your company or brand’s image.
Process & Expectations
Without this, you might as well work with a freelancer where you end up doing all the project management. The problems you run into are deadlines aren’t met, you get frustrated and you have no answers for upper management. It likely means the producer doesn’t have a good working knowledge on how to produce successful videos. Steer clear!
How Quickly They Get To The Point
Does it take up to a minute to get through the “problem” the customer is facing on to the solution? The customer/viewer needs the problem to get them to connect emotionally to the video, but the video needs to get to the “solution” before they decide to click the little ‘x’ in the browser tab.
Not Promising Viral Reach
Pay close attention if a producer is promising you a “viral” video. Most explainer videos don’t go viral and, in all honesty, you don’t really want them to. A million views with no sales leads or increased conversion is close to pointless. Plus, the time, effort and budget required to make something that is truly viral and people want to share could be astronomical and virality is unpredictable anyway. Focus on the traffic to your site and optimize your landing page to turn visitors into customers.
Worked with at least one global brand
They’re big time. Their work has spoken for itself and has spread across the world. It’s a good sign you’re working with a thriving, successful producer.
You need to find a studio that has your best interests in mind. With that, they'll dive deep into knowing your audience, your product, its benefits, and the result you want. They’ll push you to keep your script under 2 minutes (~300 words) and whether you present a rough outline or not, they’ll produce the final script that tells your best story in the most engaging way.
Quality Sound Design
I can’t stress this enough. There are way too many videos out there with either low quality voiceover or it was recorded too loudly or both. This is off-putting for any viewer and is a great way to lose a potential client. A business that puts out a low quality product should give you a good idea of who you’re working with - trouble! A few more things to think of:
- Are they making you write your own script or do they have a team of professional copywriters that know how to effectively engage your audience?
- Are they providing you high quality music or cheap low quality stock?
- Do they have a professional sound designer?
- Will your video include Sound FX? Try to get this. It adds an extra dimension to the piece and makes it more engaging and memorable.
Different Styles Of Animated Explainer Videos
To help bring some clarity to your understanding of what the different styles are, here are some examples to review:
Note: The terms & definitions are ambiguous at best. Each producer mixes and matches styles as they see fit.
Corporate Explainer Video
This is a great, high-end, professional way of sharing your message.
Motion Graphics Animation
The best way to describe motion graphics is non-narrative based visuals that are in motion. These can include video, film, animation, illustration, photography, etc. Think of promos, film title sequences, animated logos, kinetic typography, etc.
Cartoon Style Animation
Cartoons are great because you’re telling a story with a format that we’re already conditioned to associate with childhood, make believe, and other fun things. There are many different kinds of cartoons, some not as lovely as others, so make sure your brand is not poorly represented by the cartoon style you choose.
The story is drawn on a whiteboard and sped up in post-production so the drawing matches the voiceover. These are great if you have a speech or message that requires more than 90 seconds to tell the whole story or you need to explain some pretty complex stuff.
Kinetic Type Animation
Kinetic type mixes text with motion. It is often used to emphasize or illustrate a vocal message that coincides with the visuals. This format is often chosen for illustrating song lyrics or movie quotes.
Live Action (with motion graphics)
This approach is a great way to go but can be costly. Nowadays pretty much anyone can shoot a video for you, but unless they have a real background in production you’ll likely end up with poor quality video and audio. Stay away from anyone selling you live video at 5k or less.
We’ll go more in-depth on this in the next post.
As you can see, there are a lot of different styles, animated video production companies and prices. Hopefully you now understand the amount of work that goes into each of these videos and walk away with a different perspective so when it comes time to buy your own, you’ll know what to look for in a studio/producer. For a complete list of the Top Explainer Video producers, check out this great post on Quora.
There's a good reason why the best companies charge a higher premium for the videos they create. When you purchase an explainer, you’re not just simply buying a video, you’re paying for a proven, effective process. To put it even more plainly, you’re paying for the results you’re going to end up with. If you hire a company based upon their “cheapness”, you’ll unfortunately get exactly what you paid for...a cheap-looking, non-converting video. Look at the quality of their previous projects, read their case studies and you’ll be able to easily tell what you’re getting.
Tell us what you think! Any surprises here? Have you had a different experience somewhere else? Let us know in the comment section.
Credit: Our Explainify Explainer Video used Music from Tunefruit