As a motion designer, I often hear many of my customers and potential customers ask me why is this stuff so expensive? And I used to get really annoyed at that question, because for me it is obvious why, but after speaking to a few of my customers, who over the years I became friends with, I realized why there was this perceived notion that motion graphics, like graphic design, are easy to do, that the computer does it all for you and that all it takes is just technical know-how. Either that or “Hey, you are an artist, buddy, come on, it’s like fun anyways, right?”.
But why are motion graphics so expensive? Well, you are in luck, ’cause today I’m going to talk just about that! Hit the break to read more.
In my personal case, I’ve grown so accustomed that I generally just brush these comments off and carry on with my day, but as a motion and graphic designer, I find this sort of customer behaviour damaging for the industry, and I’m gonna tell you why: You see, some of us, when we are starting in the business and hear this sort of things we kind of buy into it, bite into it and sell ourselves short because we don’t know any better, because we think it’s not worth that much. So now people are buying motion graphics or graphic design or whatever for cheap and they get used to it being cheap. And now, motion designers or graphic designers who actually know the true value of their work and try to charge fairly can’t do so, because the whole industry revolves around this idiotic delusion that motion graphics and graphic design should be cheap and a bunch of ugly things happen along the way; First, the beginner who knows nothing about the industry thinks that it is okay to charge peanuts. The beginner, who now knows a lot more about the industry can’t raise their prices and the profesional/veteran who’s work quality should be higher than the beginner’s and intermediate is under-priced and it all becomes a vicious circle where the only one benefited is the customer. Right? Right…? Uhhh…. not really. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. But why? Well, you see, the beginner who knows nothing about the industry charges little because he’s inexperienced and it shows in his or her work; the quality of their work is lower and on the other hand, the other two groups (the advanced beginner and the professional/veteran) know they can’t do a ton of work for peanuts, so what do they do? They downgrade the quality of their work to fit the customer’s budget, who in turn, ends up getting low quality work anyway, thinking they are getting top-notch. The result? A market flooded with mostly mediocre, low quality, cheap content. You get what you pay for.
But that doesn’t answer the question. Not by a long shot.
Why are motion graphics so expensive?
- Bills, Bills, Bills! Nothing in this world is free and a motion/graphic designer knows it. During the creation of that masterpiece you requested the motion/graphic designer needs to pay bills. Particularly electricity, which allows them to keep the computer on. And if they are working remotely, add Internet to that, too. Food? Definitely. And we’re not even factoring snacks here, ’cause after hours behind the keyboard you get hungry! Coffee? Don’t mind if I do! (2 sugars and so black that not even light can escape it!) There’s also water, because we also have to drink and wash ourselves and let’s not forget computer maintenance, which I am going to talk about later. And some of us are married and have children, elderly parents, people who depend on us!
All in all, a motion/graphic designer who does this for living needs to pay all this and more. Now, if an animated logo or an intro takes them 2-3 days to finish, even on a minimum wage salary, the 50 bucks that most people are willing to pay are just not enough.
- Processing the Graphics. This is a tricky bit to explain, most people think that it all works out at the click of a mouse button. No talent required, just powerful software, everything quick and easy. Like on TV. But the sad truth is that technology has not advanced far enough to automatically and intelligently differentiate between a background and an object, a program can’t just add shadows to something, or photoshop someone in or out, it can’t tell the difference between an arm or a leg. Most of this work has to be done by hand. Trimming out objects to later animate them, processing these graphics or even generate them from scratch, whether it’s 3D or old-fashioned 2D, it all takes time. And time is money.
- More Power! So, processing graphics does take a lot of time, most of us know that by now, but did you know it also takes power? Processing power, that is.
The more complex the graphic, the harder it is for the computer to process it. The more RAM it needs, the bigger/better processor it needs, a bigger motherboard, graphics card, etc. All this sucks electricity. LOTS OF IT! So the light bills get more expensive with more complex graphics. You know what else increases in price? Computer maintenance! This a little known fact that seems obvious at first sight but nobody thinks about it. The computer fans work harder to keep the equipment from overheating, they suck more dust in, which in turn needs to be cleaned out, the components deteriorate due to heat (yes, no matter how good your cooling system is), the processor, the motherboard and the graphics card slowly burn out and have to be replaced. Motion graphics slowly kill our computers and it’s hard to fix them on a low salary.
- It All Boils Down To Complexity. Complexity is a word I throw around very liberally when talking to customers but it’s the number one factor that drives prices up or down. It all boils down to complexity. Whether it’s the complexity of the animation or the complexity of the graphic or both. The more intricate a graphic is, the more steps it takes to create it and the more difficult and time consuming these steps are.
- But, it’s Fun… Right? Well, not really. Sure, we do enjoy doing what we do, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it, but usually we are not doing what we want, we’re not working on our own projects, we are not working on our own ideas, we are not working on our own passions. We’re working on yours. We are bringing your ideas to fruition and while that may or may not be fun to certain extent, it’s our job, not our hobby to do it.
Now, with all the above said, all this doesn’t mean that if you don’t have thousands of dollars you won’t be able to afford top quality motion graphics. Most motion designers, myself included, have packages and options that can adjust to your budget, but these options are generally lower quality than their top-notch counterparts, which still seems like you’ll be getting a low quality product for your hard-earned cash. But wait! Not all is lost. There is still a way in which you can get motion graphics that would otherwise cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to make: Stock footage. Of course the downside is that it gets sold over and over to many people, but once you customize it, you get your own, one-of-a-kind, expensive-as-hell motion graphic for a fraction of the cost. Now, just to get you started, here are some resources for you:
These are two websites I use and recommend, I have portfolios in both, in case you want to check out my work you can do so in the following links:
So there you have it, Folks, next time you get a quote from your motion designer, don’t be so quick to dismiss it it as a rip-off. And if you are a motion designer yourself, do yourself and the industry a favor and stop charging peanuts for your hard work! Those hours in front of the computer are not coming back, I promise. Neither is the health of your eyes, nor the varicous veins/hemorroids you’ll get for sitting on your butt, working for hours. That computer is not going to get better by using it more often without maintenance. And those moments you didn’t spend with your loved ones are never coming back. So the next time you are faced with a quote, think about it and decide if it’s really worth it.
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