This post covers 3D product animation costs, design service rates, and pricing for companies. Every manufacturer wants a successful product, and marketers must communicate the product’s value and justify its pricing to potential buyers. Consumers want a clear explanation of the product’s features, how it works, what problems it solves, and how it improves their lives. A comprehensive overview might not be much of a problem for a simple product, but being concise and detailed can get cumbersome when describing a sophisticated one.
Instead of a lengthy technical introduction, a 3D product animation created by an experienced 3D animation service helps keep the interaction engaging and sends the right message to your audience. An animated video gives a 360-degree view and realistic disassembly to reveal the product’s interior in seconds. High-definition animation delivers stunning lifelike visual treatments to draw viewers’ attention.
3D Product animation costs
There is no standard pricing for 3D product animation. Various factors, such as duration and the professionals who build it, come into play. A 30-second video takes much less effort to produce than a minute of animation; an experienced team of professionals will charge more money than an amateur enthusiast. The cost starts from zero dollars to whopping hundreds of thousands per minute. The price range can be divided into several tiers:
Cost per minute: $0 – $100
With a computer and internet connection, anybody can create an animation using free online tools. Some platforms come with a zero-dollar subscription cost. You will save money here, but the time and effort required to develop quality 3D product animation easily outweigh the saving. There will also be many limitations to what is possible with free tools. Open-source CAD software like Blender also comes at no cost. Blender is professional-grade, equipped with nearly every 3D tool necessary to produce quality product animation.
However, compared to an experienced blender 3D modeling service, it takes months (if not years) for a casual user to master the software, especially when creating complex 3D animation. Hiring a non-professional animation enthusiast might seem like a good idea for small businesses. However, while it may cost less than $100, there is a possibility that you will only get generic animations from ready-made templates. Animation effects are poor, and the result has no originality value, and such quality very rarely helps a product marketing campaign.
Cost per minute $50 – $3000
There is a good reason for the big gap in the price range. Some freelancers are amateurs, while others are 3D product animation professionals with impressive portfolios and stellar track records working with well-known brands. In between the two categories are advanced animators, skillful enough to produce quality work. Their services are not overly expensive because of very few shortcomings, either in versatility or general expertise. At the bottom end of the spectrum, you’ll come across freelancers still at the beginning of their ventures.
They lack experience, but there can be a handful of well-trained and educated animators. A few offer low prices to attract clients because their delivery is of poor quality. A freelance animator can make around $3,000 per minute, primarily thanks to low overheads such as office rent and employees’ salaries or benefits. The freelancer works alone, either from home or somewhere they don’t have to spend money to use. You pay for their time and expertise; the cost also should cover work-related bills such as electricity and software subscription fees.
Regardless of the pricing, working with a freelancer means the project is likely handled by an individual professional. A freelancer who is a 3D modeling design expert and excels at animation might not be equally adept at scriptwriting or voiceover. You may have to find other freelancers specializing in different elements of 3D product animation. Some may offer turnkey services—where the freelancer hires other professionals to complete the piece—for an additional cost.
Small animation studio
Cost per minute: $3,000 – $7,000
The internet is full of small-sized animation studios specializing in 3D animations. A small studio typically comprises two to three professionals with a respectable amount of combined experience and expertise. They can produce quality animation, but their small scale makes it difficult to handle multiple projects simultaneously. Say a minute of 3D product animation takes two weeks to complete; there can be a lengthy waiting period until the studio considers taking your project.
Another thing to consider is that a small team often hires third-party services to tackle a challenge they can’t handle. The money you spend also covers the additional cost incurred, but the problem is that you don’t always know who provides the extra services and how much they ask.
Professional animation company
Cost per minute: $8,000 – $25,000
A step higher than a small studio is a professional animation company. The crew here is a complete team capable of developing an entire 3D product animation project in-house. An animation company at this level handles all the scriptwriting, storyboarding, illustration, 3D product modeling services, rigging, animation, rendering, and sound effects with little (if any) technical input from a third party. A project manager probably controls the workflow and communicates with clients.
In every development phase, you will be involved in the decision-making process. You have every right to approve or reject deliverables and give feedback as necessary. The result is a 3D product animation personalized to your specifications. There will be limitations to the number of revisions allowed: in other words, you must provide a clear project brief right from the start. Modifications beyond the requirement of the brief come at an additional cost.
Movie production company
Cost per minute: $25,000 – $100,000
Sitting in the highest place is big-budget film production companies. At this level, you’ll come across animations of similar quality to that of a feature film. Top-tier studios have more than enough 3D animation professionals on the team and some serious gear to tackle even the most challenging animation project with multiple characters, complex lighting, and exceptional realism.
While their work is commendable in every possible way, the high price range makes them only suitable for more prominent companies and established brands looking to strengthen their reputation in the market and outperform comparably resourceful competitors. There are more expensive studios, such as those behind popular animated movies like How to Train Your Dragon, Ice Age, Toy Story, and The Lion King, among others.
For example, the 94-minute-long Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs required a budget of $90 million; based on the duration alone, it took more than $15,000 per second to make. The budget also covered the cost of voice actors, sound effects, the editorial team, and marketing. However, at a conservative range of $5,000 per second, the animation cost alone would be $300,000 per minute.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2021 median pay for Special Effects Artists and Animators is close to $79,000 per year or about $38 per hour. The lowest ten percent earn $46,000, whereas the highest ten percent earn an impressive $131,000 annually. Nearly sixty percent of professionals in the sector are self-employed workers (including freelancers). Most work from home with a regular schedule, but they can also handle working nights and weekends.
Not every special effects artist and animator can handle 3D product animation. Some specialize in visual effects, architectural renderings, and design scenery, while others focus on gaming content. Each works in specific media, so hire a professional with a track record in 3D product animation. CGI is a vast industry; specialization is what you’re after in every project.
Factors affecting price
There are five major factors affecting the price of 3D product animation:
- 3D models
- Delivery time
- Detailed project brief
Another relevant factor, which may add to the total cost, is the number of revisions. A comprehensive project brief prevents the 3D product modeler from straying too far from the intended goal, leading to minimum corrections and quicker completion.
It takes time for a specialized 3D photorealistic rendering company to create a photorealistic 3D image, and an animated video requires much more time to generate than a still image. Every frame in every second must be rendered to build a sequence of images, creating the perception of animation. In the old days, when photographic films were commonplace, 24fps (frames per second) was considered the industry standard. For the last century, animated films comprised hundreds if not thousands of photographed drawings, hence motion-picture. Now, most animators aim for at least 30fps to produce an acceptably smooth animation.
Most high-quality animations use 60fps; the animator has to render 60 different frames for just one second’s worth of animation. Assuming each frame takes just ten minutes to render, a single second of animation requires 600 minutes of rendering time. It is a ten-hour job for a one-second sequence. To produce a minute of high-quality, smooth 3D product animation, you need 3,600 frames. The entire series takes 36,000 minutes (or 600 hours) to render. Fortunately, render farms help speed up the process for an additional cost.
3D model complexity
To gauge a 3D model’s complexity level, animators typically use three criteria: the number of polygons, texturing, and product details. A polygon is the building block of 3D modeling services; many polygons translate to a more photorealistic object. You want to avoid low-poly models to showcase the product in all its glory. Texturing also plays a significant part. A product made from many materials has unique textures, colors, and surface characteristics that affect lighting configuration in the render process.
For a 3D model to appear lifelike, it needs to mimic the textures of the real object. If a product comprises various components, each with a unique texture, the animator has to make sure viewers notice the difference. The complexity of the product affects the price as well. For example, a 3D furniture rendering expert creating a table or desk animation involves less work than building an elaborate mechanical toy with numerous small details.
A desk probably has drawers, pull-out cabinets, and other ornaments. Still, a mechanical toy (such as an action figure or robot) features multiple points of articulation and apparent facial features. The animator can use the same assets if a client has 3D models for products, either made by an in-house team or files from previous projects. Readily available 3D models significantly reduce the amount of work and lower the animation’s cost.
If the frame rate is the number of images that appear in one second, a resolution is the amount of detail present in a single frame. Ideally, you want a high frame rate and high resolution in the same animated video. It will take longer for the video services designer to render high solutions like full HD and 4K than their lower-quality counterparts (SD and HD). Now that even small devices (smartphones and tablets) come with a screen that displays full HD, a “safe” resolution is 1920×1080 pixels.
There is no technical factor here. Like any other service, a quicker delivery time comes at a cost. If a project typically takes a studio two weeks to complete at standard pricing, expedited completion of one week requires the professionals to work extra hours, perhaps on weekends, to meet the requirement. Any work done outside of the regular schedule must be compensated.
It is advisable to devise a reasonable timeline for every project depending on the complexity level because it can affect the final quality. A short 3D product animation may take a week or two to finish, but you should give the product and concept professional more time to handle a complex project.
An animator can work with confidence if they have a detailed project brief. You can include things like your preference of style, art direction, level of detail, and overall theme/scenario for the project, including a list of materials (such as 3D assets) and video samples as references are helpful. It is best not to leave everything to the animator, for there is a real risk that they could take a different approach, leading to numerous corrections.
How Cad Crowd can assist
At Cad Crowd, we have a network of professional animation freelancers to help with any project. If you need help with a project, get a free quote today.