While animation studios like Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks may have noticeably moved on to 3D animation for their films, the 2D format is very much alive and thriving. Modern 2D animation is still used in all sorts of media – anime, cartoons, games, educational clips, what have you. Accordingly, animation services are still in high demand across the globe, but there are some looming risks.
One mistake often made by companies creating 2D media is a disregard for investigating the requirements of these projects. More specifically – how much does 2D animation cost? As a studio that provides 2D and 3D animation services on a regular basis, we are well equipped to answer this question for you and many others, too. With luck, our insights will set you on the path to smart financial planning of your animation project.
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Which is More Expensive – 2D or 3D Animation?
Most of the time, 3D animation is more expensive and 2D is more affordable. However, this all depends on multiple factors, such as the runtime of your clip, which characters/models are used and how often, and how detailed the models have to be. Sounds a bit confusing, right? Let’s untangle the 2D animation vs 3D animation cost in detail.
Much of the cost of 3D clips comes from the long time it takes to make 3D models behave fluidly. For example, if you want to animate a character in a realistic way, you will likely spend a long time making their movements look accurate from all angles.
On the other hand, 2D assets give you much more flexibility and ease in movement design, so you rarely have to worry about intricate things like minute changes in muscles, joints, and full adherence to physics. Still, if your 3D model animations are being reused many times, they can prove to be a thriftier choice.
When to use 2D or 3D animation?
If you still haven’t settled on a format, we recommend first formulating your expectations for the clip. If you want to deliver a high level of realism and detail, reuse certain sequences, you will probably be better served with 3D. As for 2D, it is a great choice for novice animators and time-limited projects, as well as those that involve some wacky physics/visual gags.
Want to know more about the differences between the two? Check out our 2D vs 3D animation comparison.
What is the Typical Budget for Animation?
It ranges from several thousand dollars to millions, depending on the project. Moreover, there is more than one way to look at a 2D animation budget.
The strictest definition is a sum that includes costs spent only on animating 2D assets. Some companies are looser with the term, also using it to include things like 3D modeling, VFX, and sound design. To get a feel for the scope of these budgets, let’s look at how they change from one form of media to the next.
1. Animated promotional clip
2D is used extensively in promotional and informative clips like those used in advertisements and Youtube videos (some channels like Kurzgesagt use it exclusively). The relatively low cost stems from the length of these clips, which usually do not exceed a few minutes.
Example: Funny Math
This animation cost approximately $15K to produce. The relatively low cost can be attributed to the cutout art style (one of many unique animation styles), which is not very complicated to put in motion.
2. 2D game animation
2D animation is an integral part of many games, even those that feature 3D content. It can make for great storytelling or accomplish simple things like giving life to UI elements. Without a doubt, it is used most often for in-game cinematics and 2D character movements.
Example: Shovel Knight
The animation work in this project amounted to an estimated $22K out of a total $328K development cost. Most of the animation work focused on sprites, which are quite easy to design.
3. 2D animated movie budgets
Movies are exponentially more demanding in resources to produce, so the budgets are understandably sky-high. Most animated movies run at a speed of 24 frames per second, so you can imagine the daunting amount of frames that need to be produced in a 2-hour movie. To cut costs, many animators have started using partial 3D content, especially for fast-paced action scenes.
Example: Treasure Planet
With a budget of $140 M and an approximate $80M spent on animation, Treasure Planet is definitely in the category of high-budget movies. The movie might not have made a profit, but it is breathtakingly beautiful.
4. Animated TV episodes
$100K - $2M
Modern TV episodes made in 2D tend to have a pretty long runtime (over 20 minutes) and pretty high quality of animation, and this makes them very costly to produce. Sometimes, the cost is even on the same level as producing filmed footage.
Each episode of The Simpsons costs about $5M to produce, and we can gauge that at least $1M of this goes into animation. We reckon that this massive cost of production is at least partly connected with the high cost of labor in the U.S.
How Much does It Cost to Hire a 2D Animator?
As you begin planning out your budget, you will inevitably come to the question of how to make estimates for animation work. Well, there are two main approaches out there for such estimates – you can pay based on time or volume of work. Sometimes, these approaches are interchangeable. This is explained in more detail below:
Average Salary: $58,228/year (U.S.)
Hiring full-time is a great choice when you have a constant need for animated 2D content. For example, if you are a game studio or have a permanent content production pipeline that requires a steady stream of clips. On the other hand, salaries for this position are quite high in Western countries.
Average rate: $10-30/hour (Upwork)
Hiring freelancers is most useful when you don’t plan to cooperate long-term, but need someone quick for animation work. While hiring is relatively quick, it can be pretty tough to keep these specialists focused solely on your project and motivated to do it quickly.
Average rate: $20-40/hour
Outsourcing firms offer rates on par with freelance portals, but with some added bonuses. You can hire experts from outsourcing providers relatively quickly and keep a closer eye on their work. These firms also make it easy to rapidly scale your animation team up/down and rehire even long after a project completes.
How much does 2D animation cost per minute?
The other popular way of assessing costs is by counting the length (in minutes or seconds) of content produced. For example, a 2D cost of animation per second of $800 adds up to $48K per minute. With that said, the ranges seem to be between $3K-$100K per minute.
Keep in mind that when you ask a provider about their rate per minute, they will probably not give you a universal rate, and first appraise the complexity of the work.
Additional Animation Costs
Even if you do not wrap the factors below into your animation budget, they will go hand-in-hand during production, so it helps to keep them in mind.
Scripts are usually not written by animators themselves, but this is a crucial preparatory step before they can begin their work.
Concept art design
It is not uncommon for animators to be provided with references like content art which establish an art style and help the clips better match expectations.
Audio, music, and voiceover
Sounds, music, and voice lines for an animation can be produced in-house, but more commonly licensed from actors/rights holders.
Modern animators have plenty of great 2D animation software to choose from, but some of the applications cost hundreds of dollars to use.
Hire 2D Animators from 3D-Ace
Our studio is proud to offer multiple talented 2D animators with competitive rates and flexible working conditions. Thus, you can quickly hire them for projects and end the cooperation when they are no longer needed. In addition to that, we provide a wide variety of 3D/2D art, modeling, and VFX services, so we might be able to help you with other aspects of your work, too.