10 Steps To Budgeting Your Animation – part 2

Nimble Collective - Gold

(hopefully you caught Part 1 of the blog post)

6. Complexity:  How Many Assets Need to be Created?

The total number of unique characters, sets, and props (known as assets) that have to be built have a direct effect on the budget.  Do you have two characters or a group of ten?  Are they trapped in a single prison cell, or do they travel to many wonderful, lush locations? Knowing exactly how many assets need to be modeled, surfaced and rigged can give you a better idea of cost.  Start by making a list of every character, set and prop that appears in the script.

7. Complexity:  Are There Effects?

Does your piece require animation of natural elements such as a vast ocean or a raging tornado?  Assets such as fire, dust, smoke can be essential to the storytelling.  There are a ton of different software solutions.  Some development time may be required to achieve the exact look or motion that you want.

8. Complexity:  Lighting & Compositing

Developing the look, feel, and shading in your animation can have unlimited possibilities.  Do you want a lush Pixar look, or can you render flat shaded which saves money and time?  The best way to keep lighting costs in check is to budget time to experiment and test render.  By reusing camera angles, you can leverage off of existing lighting setups.  Limiting the number of unique locations and times of day can keep your budget on track.

9. Audio:  What do I Want it to Sound Like?

Sound is extremely important in animation.  Do your characters speak? Is there narration throughout the whole piece?  How about music?  Do you want to use an existing song, or have one composed?  Great sound can elevate animation to a whole new level. And, as you guessed, it can elevate your budget as well.


High-quality dialog recording requires the use of a recording studio, an engineer, and voice talent.  Will you be using a professional voice actor who is a member of SAG-AFTRA?  Or will you be recording your Uncle Bobby who will work in exchange for a case of Bud Light?  Either way, once you are happy with your script, recording the dialog is a key first step.

Sound Libraries:

There are tons of music and SFX library sites out there that are quite cost-effective, even free.  Typically, there are licensing fees associated with using these, so please read the small print carefully for the full terms of those agreements.  Music composed specifically for the tone and timing of your animation (scoring) can give you the greatest flexibility.

Sound Design:

Leaving sound to the professionals can add tremendous value to your production. A talented sound designer can create and manipulate sound to your exact specifications.  They have vast libraries of sounds to choose from and layer to get exactly what you imagined.

10. Contingency – Do I Need A Financial Safety Net?

Yes. Yes. Yes.  I always factor in 5% of the budget in contingency.  Surprises happen.  People drop out.  New ideas come to light.  A contingency allows you to address those last-minute things and sleep better at night.


While answering these questions won’t completely crack the mystery of cost, they give you a better idea of the parameters that can make or break a budget.  By determining what is most important to the story, and clarifying the areas where you can be flexible, you can truly get the most bang for your precious buck.

You can download the entire ’10 Steps To Budgeting’ list right here!

*submitting your email also signs you up for our mailing list. No spam, just Nimble News and the occasional promotion.

Jen Dahlman
Jen Dahlman
With 20 years of experience deep in the bowels of the animation process, Jen has experience in all aspects of production. She has worked on features such as Shrek, Madagascar, and How to Train Your Dragon. She is currently Director of Content Services at Nimble Collective.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Request a Demo

Copyright © Nimble Collective – Privacy PolicyTerms of Use