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How Much Does Stop-motion Cost?

Nikki Hildesley Feb 03, 2022 Scroll to read in 6 minutes

At our animation production company, we love making fun, eye-catching films using stop-motion animation. We must be doing something right, as on the 5th May 2022 we will be proudly celebrating our 15th year of producing animated content.

When we meet clients for the first time, we are always asked two questions. Is stop-motion expensive and, how much does stop-motion cost? In this blog we will answer these questions and share our best tips on reducing costs in stop-frame animation.

The magic of stop-motion

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Stop-motion is a brilliant and unique form of storytelling that’s proving to be just as popular today as at any time in its long history. Stop-frame enables you to take any object and bring it to life frame by frame. We can give life to products, toys, paper, even grains of salt! When it comes to stop-animation there is almost nothing that can’t be injected with magic and personality.

Ok, so why isn't everyone shooting stop-motion?

Well, if you were to ask us, they really should be! Obviously the answer is that stop-motion suits certain mediums better than others. It's perfect for narrative stories in films as well as for promoting products within commercials, it helps us to connect with the inner child in us all. Our experience has taught us that it is incredibly effective in advertising products and there are several ways in which we have shown this; Claymation, Paper-craft or Pixilation (animating human beings). There really is so much scope with near limitless possibilities.

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Is stop-motion more expensive than CGI?

Hang on, isn't shooting stop-frame animation really expensive? Well, No!

There is a common myth and misconception that it’s the most expensive form of animation, with many assuming CGI is cheaper. But in fact, stop-motion is no more expensive than CG animation and in some cases, can even be cheaper and quicker! Many CG artists try to replicate a realistic handcrafted look and feel of stop-motion, which is more time consuming and costly than if shot in stop-frame. Of course there are many factors to consider for stop-motion animation, which can and do affect the budget. An animation with puppets is going to be a lot more expensive than an animation involving a product for example. But it’s only when you take into account all the different components that you really get a grasp of what your idea might actually cost.

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Reduce the costs of stop-motion animation

When working in our animation studio, we help support clients & partners throughout the process as we know not everyone has made an animation. They are key choices that can be made before shooting that can reduce the cost of stop-motion animation including; how many characters/puppets, the amount of sets, the level of detail, the action and the duration. We help guide our clients through the choices making the best decisions according to their budget. As with all productions, it is critical to keep a close hand on all the moving parts.

Let's look at a low, medium and high budget range of productions to give an idea of how to approach a stop-motion production;

If a short stop-motion film is required for social media, it will probably be a low-budget production. There are several options to reduce the cost and still create a beautiful piece of stop-motion content. We suggest either product animation (e.g. your product is the characters) or simple characters such as a paper cut-out. Use simple backgrounds such as colourful paper colorama, limit props and keep the duration as short as possible under 15 seconds. This could be considered as your entry level of spend.

If you’re looking to scale up your production, here’s some more choices to take into account: you can upgrade the amount and style of the characters (e.g. choosing sculpted plasticine models). You can introduce custom-built sets, more complex animation and raise the duration to 30 seconds.

If the campaign is for television and the budget is in the high tens, if not hundreds, of thousands then options become a lot wider. For budgets that are on the larger side we can create several highly detailed, fabricated puppets. They can even have replacement mouths made, which have lip syncing capability to make the characters talk. We can create multiple bespoke sets with lots of intricate props and details. The animation involved can be more feature film quality and the duration can be extended above 30 seconds.

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How long does stop-motion take to make?

The short answer is it all depends on the detail and duration in the film. We've produced films in three days (with a lot of coffee!) like our film produced with LEGO, which was a Covid information film. We’ve also worked on productions which have lasted four months, which included lots of sets and multiple puppets being produced. The more complicated the idea, the longer the process. The more we can arrange and details upfront, the smoother the process becomes all around.

We aim and schedule to film 2-10 seconds a day, which is all dependent on the complexity of the frame-by-frame animation and the number of characters. Don’t worry if your schedule is tight, there are ways we can help you save time by doubling up on sets and characters to enable several animators to work at the same time. This means effectively running two shoots at once (which will naturally increase the budget) but produce the animation in half the time.

All production services offered in-house

At A+C we are able to keep the cost of stop-motion production down by keeping all costs in-house, employing all of our own full-time crew and shooting in our studio spaces with our own kit. Offering all of this under one roof means we reduce the cost of expensive equipment hire, high freelance rates and high priced London studio rent. This means we can pass on savings and value to our clients.

We offer other services in-house such as, storyboarding, design and post-production. Again, keeping costs down as well as ensuring an agile approach and keeping all clients up to date throughout the whole process.

We also have created our Guide to Stop-motion for clients to understand the process of stop-motion to get the most for their budget and how good preparation can help prevent unnecessary charges once in production.

So, when you choose to work with A+C Studios, we’re flexible with your budget and we’ll help to put your spend on the screen and not spread across a number of production agencies.

Hopefully this blog has helped to address the cost of stop-motion and broken down any preconceived stop-frame myths. If you have an animated commercial that you're planning to create, feel free to get in touch to discuss it, we’re happy to discuss productions at all stages.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, there is more detail about stop-motion production in our other blogs such as What equipment is needed for starting stop-motion and How we produce our own animated commercials.