Architectural animation is higher than the typical still image visualization to help introduce and pitch a project to clients and investors. It gives architects and marketers, in general, the chance to present development through a virtual medium in the most realistic way possible. Animation is essentially a walkthrough with which viewers take a tour to see the exterior and interior designs of a building and the surrounding landscape and environment. Proper lighting configuration, visual effects, and background noises intensify the realism factor of the walkthrough.
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CGI builds every visible object and element in the animation. When a developer tries to convince investors, the animation may showcase a building that does not exist in real life yet. The animation gives a clear overview of the plan and architectural approach before construction begins. Real estate agents, too, sometimes use animations to market properties.
Much like most things in life, you get what you pay for when buying an architectural animation. You cannot expect to pay minimum dollars and get something premium. Animation studios (and freelancers) with experience will charge more than their younger competitors. Creating an architectural animation is far from the easiest task in the world. It takes time, expertise, and expensive equipment to produce a high-quality realistic representation of the physical world in a digital format. The average price for a “still image” photorealistic 3D architectural rendering in the United States is between $1,000 and $2,000; the cost may go up to $3,000 or higher for a complex project based on the specification requirements and specific challenges.
Animation is more complex than still images. A minute of a “standard” quality architectural animation can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000. Standard quality usually means 720p resolution, completed within two to four weeks. At HD resolution (1080p), the cost can easily reach $15,000 or more per minute. To cover all building areas (including the surrounding landscape and neighboring buildings), at least three minutes of animation is necessary. Prices vary from one animator to another, but everyone charges more for a longer video.
Most animation studios do not provide their price lists upfront. Clients need to submit their work email addresses and request a quote. The studio may ask for details about the project, such as length, complexity, and timeline, before they can gauge the scope of work and determine proper pricing. There is nothing wrong with such an approach simply because each project is unique and has its challenges. Since the rendering requirement also varies, the price for a project changes accordingly, and expedited delivery adds to the total cost.
A freelancer will charge less than established 3D animation experts. Understandably you do not want to hire Pixar or DreamWorks for the project (unless you have the means to do so), as even small studios and experienced animators can handle the workload just fine, come up with great results, and for much less money. Freelancers outside the US, Canada, the UK, and Western Europe are known to offer their services at affordable rates.
In countries like China and India, where labor is not as expensive as in the western hemisphere, you can probably get a minute or two of architectural animation for around $500. Not every animator in those countries produces poor quality work; choosing an overseas animator based solely on an online portfolio can be risky. The guarantee of quality is almost non-existent. If you have to work with overseas freelancers, only choose those who work through reputable freelancing platforms. When you don’t get assurance from freelancers, the platform delivers good services.
Factors Affecting Price
You don’t have to pick the most expensive freelancer or studio to get high-quality 3D architectural design. Multiple factors affect the total cost, and you may not need all the best things in one package. For example, if you want detailed 3D modeling in the animation, you can reduce the cost of the animation does not cover a large area in the surrounding environment. It is also possible to minimize the length and resort to simple weather settings for an affordable package.
3D Models Complexity
One of the most expensive cost factors in architectural animation (or any animation for that matter) is the objects’ number and level of details. A small cabin with few furniture pieces and artificial lighting will cost less than a medium-sized house with numerous decorations and ornaments. A sophisticated architectural style featuring intricate superficial details should be even more expensive. Every object visible in the animation is a work of CGI; it is a 3D model design representing an actual item.
You can reduce the total cost of animation by providing some already-made 3D models for the objects. Given the assets have enough details, the animator doesn’t have to start from scratch. Instead, they can modify or optimize the existing support for the new project. Recycled 3D models are acceptable or better than generic free-to-use assets, and more usable assets translate to more significant savings.
The area surrounding the main building takes a lot of effort, and a good animation must showcase the smooth motions of natural objects like water, trees, leaves, clouds, animals, and humans. A landscape filled with decent greenery and a quiet street shouldn’t be much of a problem, but an urban jungle takes a real effort due to the complexities of the atmosphere. An experienced animator can tackle the most complex environment, but it would cost you a lot of money.
An easy way to cut a big chunk of the price is to use aerial footage captured on a drone. A 3D aerial rendering service can be used for many industries, including architectural designs. Consult the animator regarding the required resolution and frame rate of the recording, so it doesn’t conflict with other details in the animation. Although the method does not entirely remove the need to render the entire animation sequence, at least the animator doesn’t have to create 3D models of every object in the surrounding environment.
Although freelancers or studios give a per-minute pricing, they determine the cost by the second. Sometimes it is better to showcase only the selling points of a building rather than the whole structure. Choose the views (camera path) carefully to highlight the best features necessary for the 3D architectural presentation. Discuss the matter upfront to avoid paying for long videos only to have them shortened later.
Stylized visual effects and camera movements add to the complexity of the job. Changes in speed and fancy viewing angles in between the scenes create fascinating entertainment, but at extra cost. Every artistic touch makes the animation more challenging to build and render. If the budget is restrictive, avoid elaborate visual effects and focus on the essence of the presentation. Visual and sound effects are mere icing on the cake. Your audience can certainly appreciate informative delivery without unnecessary elements. You will not get a positive viewing experience, but you can keep the cost reasonable.
A sunny daytime setting is the most popular option for 3D visualizer designs. It is bright and precise, allowing the viewers to inspect every detail quickly. An animator can configure any lighting options you need, such as a nighttime setting or a combination of natural and artificial lights. An overcast night sky makes for an excellent background to highlight the aerial view under the bright moonlight.
Artificial lights are inevitable when the animation displays the interior view. The placement of lighting is crucial as it affects shadows and reflections. Using both daytime and nighttime lighting increases the cost of animation. The transition between the two configurations cannot appear unnatural; it must be gradual and smooth to be realistic. A daytime-only lighting setup is a good choice when the cost is a hindrance.
It is always pleasing to see how the building looks during different times of the year through all four seasons. Each season makes for a unique background, which means the animator has to add more objects to accentuate its distinctive elements, such as snow, water, leaves, and blooming flowers. The lighting setup must be reconfigured for the seasons too. Multiple sceneries increase the complexity and subsequently the cost of the architectural animation. Disregard the weather setting and use a single view instead to stay on budget.
Most animators allow clients to ask for a limited number of revisions to a project. Every correction before the final 3D render design is usually included in the initial price, but anything extra comes at a cost. It is good to set several milestones during a project; to reach a milestone, the animator has to send deliverables like 3D models, lighting configurations, and preliminary low-resolution render.
Every revision pushes back the completion time to a few days. The most effective way to reduce the number of corrections is to provide a clear project brief, to begin with. Be as detailed as possible and include any material the animator may find helpful, such as 3D assets and a reference animation. Determine the budget early on in the process and have reasonable expectations.
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