Why Motion Graphics Can Be Expensive

May 29, 2019

Spoiler alert: motion graphics take a lot of time and resources to produce.

If you’re thinking about using motion graphics and video to promote your brand, we have great news — you’re on the right track!

Studies from Wordstream and Animoto show that marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video marketers, and Social media brand video ads are the #1 way consumers find out about brands. While you’re super excited and ready to get going on your brand’s next motion piece — you’ll soon find out that motion graphics can be pretty expensive to produce.

But why is that? The simplest answer would be that everything takes hours to produce. Many hours. There are a whole bunch of moving parts (no pun intended) to making motion graphic magic. It’s worth noting that the best way to ensure your project is handled correctly is by working with a senior-level team who can execute your vision. You can rest assured that they will have the required technical know-how, experience, crew,  imagination and artistry for making it happen.

Let’s look into a few reasons why motion graphics can be expensive.

The amount of animation and complexity directly influence the price


Most studios charge on by a per-minute basis — that means the actual length of your motion graphics will determine the scope of work and price of the project. Of course, the end result can range anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes, or longer. Regardless, you can be sure that whatever the length of the motion piece is, it’s no exaggeration to say it took thousands of times longer than that to actually make it happen. 

Another factor that determines the price is the complexity of the animation. Simple, linear animation without robust movement and creative transitions is much cheaper to produce. However, they tend to lack the refinement and powerful visual impact of higher-end motion productions, where the extra hours of work have been invested into perfecting the details.

But exactly what sort of work goes into the hours of animation, and what determines how complex it is? You may have a ton of questions, especially if you’re not familiar with the motion graphic creative process. Not to worry—let’s break it down.

“Creative planning is the secret sauce of motion graphics that separate the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

Creative planning — motion graphics is all about telling a story, not just making things move. It takes a team!


Unsurprisingly, motion graphics aren’t just about hopping on to a computer, creating and animating as you go. The most pivotal part of starting the motion graphic process is about crafting a cohesive narrative that explains your brand’s message in an clear and engaging manner. Messaging is key, and a poor story will make for an uninspired piece of animation. Great motion graphics are more than just making objects move, it’s about speaking to your audience in a way that matters.

Creative planning is the secret sauce of motion graphics that separate the good, the bad, and the ugly  — a proper narrative allows motion studios like ES Creative to carefully consider what happens visually, and also why it happens. It allows us to look at the piece as a whole and understand the visual flow, rather than working bit-by-bit and haphazardly trying to connect the dots at the end. By using a defined script and visual storyboard, we can ensure that everything will work, and all elements of motion act in harmony. Having a talented copywriter is essential, it’s the foundation that everything is built on. A good copywriter will find your brand voice and help shape the narrative and help determine if the content should be serious or more playful. 

“Having your assets created by a graphic designer ensures that your vision will be executed to your specifications, and the motion piece will feel visually consistent.”

Custom illustrations will make your motion graphic shine and stand out


This is what separates the majestic from the monotone. Unique, hand-drawn assets that are custom-tailored to your brand are the next step in making your motion graphics stand out from the rest. Of course, pre-made graphics on Shutterstock can be a cheaper alternative, but they come with major caveats — stock illustrations might be bland, limited or simply lack customization. The other issue is they will not be unique to your brand because they are open source and who knows how many organizations have used the same images. The organizations that use the same imagery may not align with your philosophy which can create brand confusion. 

It’s also possible that pre-made graphics might not be stylistically cohesive with other pre-made graphics. This causes your motion graphics to feel visually scattered, and detracts from your brand messaging. Having all of the assets created by a graphic designer ensures that your vision will be executed to your specifications, and the motion piece will feel visually consistent and will have continuity throughout. Of course, having everything custom made by a designer will increase the price of the animation, but the benefits of having something visually unique are tremendous.

Additionally, you can’t just create your illustrations, toss them in an animating program like Adobe After Effects, and start animating away. Files must be meticulously separated, sliced, layered, and prepared before animating. Much like baking a cake, you need to prepare your files using exact specifications, or something is sure to get funky (and not in a groovy way).

“In the end, the quality of animation comes down to “you get what you pay for.” You can get a very basic animation with stock graphics and iconography done pretty efficiently, but they may lack character, interesting movement, or that extra “wow” factor.”

Animation — it’s all in the keyframes


Making animation magic happen is no walk in the park. The majority of motion graphics operate by keyframing. Every layer of motion and illustration needs to be keyframed and timed out in a meaningful way with clever visual messaging. At the same time, they need to cleverly transition from one scene to the next in a way that makes it seem effortless. This where our imaginations take off as we think of the many visual metaphors that we can use to create awe-inspiring transitions. 

In the end, the quality of animation for motion graphics comes down to “you get what you pay for.” You can get a very basic animation with stock graphics and iconography done pretty efficiently, but they may lack character, interesting movement, or that extra “wow” factor. The less visually interesting it is, the less likely someone is to remember it. So, naturally, engaging animation is the key to keeping your viewers interested.

On top of that, animators need to ensure that our brains can understand and relate the movements made on the screen to real life in some way. It’s a matter of knowing the rules of physics, and also knowing when to break them. For example, imagine a bowling ball dropping on a hardwood floor. What aspects of the movement make it feel heavy? What about how it reacts to the surface it’s bouncing on? The considerations that animators make when creating motion graphics follows a long list similar to these questions. Making motion graphics may feel like a walk in the park but requires animators to run a marathon of keyframes. Our animators are generally working with hundreds of layers when we are producing sophisticated motion designs. 

“A common trait of good motion graphics is that the sound always supports and enhances the feel and emotional value of the project.”

Don’t forget about the sound!


Sound can make or break any animation — it’s not an exaggeration to say that the sound of a motion graphic is just as important as the illustrations or animation itself. Of course, one of the key points of sound design in motion graphics is the voice over. It’s very important to make sure that your motion graphic studio hires a professional voice actor who is clear, concise, and can convey the mood of the piece with their voice. Most voiceover artist will record your work in a professional studio with the best equipment available. We pay $350-$550 on average for good voiceover talent. The price can increase if you are going to run a national TV campaign. 

When it comes to good motion graphics, a common trait is that the sound always supports and enhances the feel and emotional value of the project. Whether it be the right soundtrack to go along with your motion graphics, or sound effects that support the animation and take it to another level. The sound always exists to support the emotional response you’re trying to evoke from the viewer.

Further than that, the sound effects and background music track should be mastered correctly to ensure there’s no background noise, distortion, or any audio artifacts that will disrupt your viewer’s experience. Nowadays, good audio is seldom noticed. Viewers now take it as a given. This is why when the audio is bad, it’s glaringly obvious — and studies have shown that even just average or lower quality, viewers are more likely to react negatively even if the visuals are high quality.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, we can see that there are a dizzying amount of possibilities, options, and considerations to make when it comes to creating motion graphics.

But what does that mean to the one paying for it?

Of course, great animation doesn’t always require every single bell and whistle, but it’s important to note that much like in a restaurant, the “add-ons” will, in turn, affect the pricing. That said, we always recommend that it is best to establish a clear budget for your motion graphic project. Most of our motion design projects start around $5000 and go up depending on the scope of the project.

Ultimately, the best way to determine what sort of motion graphic would fit your budget is by talking directly with a professional who understands the business and can appropriately diagnose what the best solution for you is. Here at ES Creative, motion graphics are something that we have been passionate about for the last 20 years. We’re always here to help by answering any questions you may have.

Lastly, if you’re still curious and want to get extra insight into what our motion graphic process looks like, you can check out our page here.


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Tampa, FL 33605

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