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How Much Does an Explainer Video Cost?

The number one question we hear from people is “how much does an explainer video cost?”

Which makes total sense! Corporate video (tv ads and video presentations) was out of reach for small and medium sized businesses until recently.

Since 2006, two developments occurred to make video marketing viable for even the most budget-constrained company.

  1. The arrival of YouTube.
  2. The proliferation of animation software products and graphic designers who learned how to be animators.

Now, even the smallest of marketing departments and start ups can invest in video.

For our purposes here, we’re focusing on a 60-second animated explainer video. This is a budget friendly type of video for a huge range of different business types.

As you’d expect, you can find a wide range of prices out there, anywhere from $500 to $20,000 (and up). But, if you’re working with a reputable producer, expect to spend between $2,000 and $10,000.

The Fruit Basket of Video Costs

We tend to think of video production costs as like a fruit basket. In a fruit basket, you have many different types of fruit. Each fruit type that you include in your basket is another choice. There’s a range of price that you can spend (green grapes versus organic red globes).

The price of an animated video is similar. There is no hard and fast video cost breakdown that we can share.

The amount charged includes a wide number of production steps. For each step there’s a range of prices charged based on the customization and detail, experience level, and how busy or “in demand” the producer is.

Are you surprised that video pricing is such a wide range? You’re in good company. Shock is common when someone first hears how much an explainer video can cost.

If you don’t understand the amount of time and effort that go into producing a video, it’s hard to wrap your head around what you’re buying.

Here’s a run-down (including samples) of the video production process.

What is the process for creating an explainer video?

The typical project takes 4-8 weeks to complete and involves 6 stages. Let’s take a closer look at each.

A typical 6-week production schedule.

Stage 1: Research and scripting (week 1)

Video scripting is not MadLibs.

Boring Script for App Template:

Meet {insert generic customer name}. He/she finds {standard daily task} frustrating because of {3 common complaints}.

A well-written script is the foundation of a great video.

Your scriptwriter needs to take time to understand your company and product or service. Your key differentiating features from competitors. And, most importantly, your target buyer!

Besides nailing those, each video requires a creative direction and storyline. Determining that can take time for all parties to agree upon.

Once you settle on a storyline, your scriptwriter gets to work crafting a story that stands out to viewers. After revisions, your message synthesizes into 150 words. As with any content piece, that process in itself requires several revision periods to get it just right!

Cost factors for scripting are generally related to the relative skill level of the person or team writing the script. If you have a strong marketing language already developed this process can take less time.

Stage 2: Style and illustration (week 1)

Video producers have a variety of different names that they use for this stage. Regardless of the name, the goal at this point is to determine the actual look of the assets used in your video.

Each video will need different assets (another part of the fruit basket)! Assets include character designs, fonts, background environments, icons, etc.

In most cases, all the characters and assets in a video are illustrated by hand, scanned into a computer, digitized, colored and so forth. Some illustrators like to do everything digitally with a tablet.

During this stage, you should receive a couple of different style options. For example, different wardrobe, accessory, and body style choices to choose from.

An extra factor to consider during this stage in regards to cost is the level of detail included in your assets. The more details in your character, the more there is to manage throughout the animation process.

Style Frame Example from Video
An example of a main character’s style illustration from a video.

Stage 3: Storyboarding (week 2)

With a final script and style in place, the illustrator assembles a storyboard. The storyboard is a static sentence-by-sentence representation of the video in its final, animated form.

In a very detailed storyboard, you’ll also see notes of the animation action in each scene.

Cost ranges for producing a storyboard are also heavily influenced by the number of assets and the level of detail provided in each scene.

RIVS Storyboard

Stage 4: Voiceover (week 3)

Based on the script, a professional voice artist will record an audio version of the script. Artists provide multiple takes so the sound engineer has options to work with.

Different voice artists charge different rates. Also, they might charge a flat fee or charge for the amount of time it takes to complete the recording.

Stage 5: Animation (weeks 4-5)

The most time consuming and work-intensive part of the process is the animation.

At this point, an animator is taking all the finished assets and importing them into a piece of software like Adobe After Effects (AE). Once in AE, the animator spends hours assembling the assets for each scene and making each movement just right.

Each scene might use simple isolated movements or a wide range of movement in many areas within the video. Here are 2 15-second clips to illustrate the difference.

Unfortunately, there’s no “Auto-Animate” button…yet.

Stage 6: Music and Sound Effects (week 6)

At this point, you might think the hard work is over. Videographers know that’s sadly not the case.

A typical video has at least 3 tracks of audio layered in it. The first track is the voice over (which usually involves selecting the best take of each line of the script). The second track is a licensed score. Finally, sound effects get added at appropriate points to provide a sense of ambiance. They also emphasize key moments in your animation or voice over.

Nothing ruins a video like poor sound quality, so never underestimate the importance of a professional audio track.

As with many of the other steps we’ve discussed a big factor in the range of cost for this step is the level complexity. Yet, this is one of those elements where you’re also paying for instinct and experience as well.

You want to find the perfect sweet finishing element to the fruit basket you’ve built, not overwhelm it.

So there you have it. If it seems like a lot of work, it is. And that doesn’t include the hours of meetings, calls, emails, revisions, renderings, uploads, and more.

Custom videos take 60 – 80 hours to create, if not more.

What’s the Right Amount for You to Spend?

We wish we could give you one-size fits all answer!

Tangent moment! One hard and fast rule we have is that producers available for less than $1,000 aren’t worth that investment. There’s no way to put in the time it takes to create a custom video that speaks to your target audience for that amount of money. Too many corners are cut and you’ll end up scaring potential customers away with a bad video.

Now that you’re spending more than $1,000 here’s how to figure out how much you should spend.

It comes down to having a solid understanding of your competitors. And seeing the videos they’re using to market to customers. Mixed with a reasonable assessment of your internal skills. And a solid understanding of your target market.

Let’s go back to the fruit basket analogy.

You might be trying to market to an audience that only receives a pen from your competitors. In that case, a low-end fruit basket will stand out. Or, the fruit basket is just the foot in the door because your product is really that different from everything else out there.

But, let’s say all your competitors are already giving out the generic fruit basket. Then, you want to offer something a little more high-end in fruit choice. Or increase the number of fruits included to stand out. Or if you know your target market really likes fruit trees, a very specific fruit basket.

You get the idea!

A generic fruit basket is the $2,000 ish to $4,000 video. It gets the job done in a clear and concise way, and might be all you need for your market. Above that point, there’s an increased level of complexity and detail that allows you to stand out or offer a unique element that will be specifically attractive to your target.

To recap

One final note. These budget ranges are provided for a 60-second video. The budget to video length ratio is a sliding curve. So, simply deciding to create a 30-second video doesn’t suddenly trim the cost in half.

For some other perspectives on explainer video pricing, make sure to check out the premium video products brought to you from the folks at Epipheo, along with these answers on Quora.

We want to hear what you think! Does the pricing and timeline surprise you? Have you had a different experience somewhere else? Let us know in the comment section.

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