I'd like to chat a little bit about what to consider when shopping for animation. Often you know your budget and you may know what you are looking for, but how can you differentiate between, and choose the right animation studio for you. And is bigger always better when it comes to animation studios?
Animation studios have strengths and weaknesses.
Most animations have a speciality, a way they got started, a style of animation they are renowned for or simply a trademark type of animation. Aardman, for example, are world renowned for plasticine animation. So if you’re a marketeer with a big budget and a need for a stand out style, you would start with them. My own company is well experienced and equipped to produce 3D computer animation, for corporate purposes or for entertainment and we also have a strong infographic portfolio. You wouldn’t go to Aardman for high end photo realistic animation (the likes that WETA digital champion) and you wouldn’t come to us for a full scale motion capture film project unless we specifically offered it. It really helps to know roughly what you are shopping for, so do a bit of research and look for a studio that has a range of experience in that particular style.
Pick a studio close to home.
Strange as it may sound, picking a studio close to home is a wise choice. Animation is a creative process, excellent for communications and marketing, but very, very bespoke. Picking a studio closer to home means you can stay involved with the process (if you are so inclined). You can pop into the studio to join the creative discussion, you can look over the shoulder of the artists and see what they are doing and you can influence the project in a way you simply cannot achieve via phone or email. Some clients pay us to solve their problems and deliver a finished piece, which is fine, but other clients benefit greatly from being just down the road from the studio they've hired.
Don't fall for the cheapest deal!
Animation is not priced the same way as any old commodity. You are paying for the time a studio can spend on your project, which has many variables, i.e. number of people, number of hours and ultimately the quality they can achieve. So when you barter with price you are ultimately bartering on quality too. We never discount costs, we'll simply tailor our service to fit a budget, so come with an established budget and we'll give you realistic options. Often youngsters can offer incredible low prices for animation because their overheads aren’t very high yet and the experience is more important to them. Sometimes video production companies offer cheaper animation as a side service, but this too will normally be outsourced to a young startup studio or a freelancer, which may be fine for quality, but is unlikely to buy you great customer service.
The London premium.
The London premium price is a strange phenomenon, where by you pay a London company a much a higher price than you would pay an equivalent company based elsewhere for the exact same time and service. This is of course down to overheads and liabilities being much more expensive in London, but this shouldn’t really influence a client's choice of studio, yet it does. Well I am here to tell you that buying animation in London, simply because it is London, is the same as paying a premium to buy River Island Jeans instead of shopping around for a reasonably priced pair of jeans. Yes, London is essentially a brand in itself, but like most brands, bigger isn’t necessarily better, but its always more expensive. Big companies are notorious for being rigid operators, time is money and creativity can be suffocated by the strict schedules and multiple projects a bigger company has to juggle. Which brings about another disadvantage, if you’re one of many clients and if they have bigger budget projects than yours, you won’t necessarily get that personal service a smaller business can offer.
The personal touch.
A personal touch can really make a difference, (which is why so many brands strive for personality in their marketing) so judge a studio on just that, the personality of the people you are dealing with. Are they prompt? Are they well presented, professional and do they do what they say they will? In a large company this can be emulated well, but in a smaller studio the people are the business so you can really can judge a business by its people. When buying animation you often aren't just looking for a one off video that looks flashy, you probably have a marketing plan. Animation is a long term game plan and so will probably require multiple videos as time goes on, which means it's a good idea to think about the relationship you’ll have with the studio and its people, and not just the video at hand. Find a friendly local animation studio that can create what you are looking for and who you think you'll enjoy working with time and time again.