How Much Does Medical Animation Cost: Things to Consider


Whether you are looking to have a medical animation created as a client or are a medical illustrator looking to price your work correctly, the question of how much a medical animation costs is an important one to carefully research.

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In this article I will break down step by step the factors affecting price of an animation, how to calculate it, and what to look for.

Medical animation pricing is not black and white, and in the following article you will discover why. There is a wide range of prices with 30 second movies running anywhere between $4000 and $25,000, and even beyond.

The price is affected by a number of factors, including type of animation, length, work involved, customization, expertise, license type, assets required, output, deadline, etc.

Deadlines

An animation that needs to be created quickly requires more manpower and resources.  This takes away from other pieces to be completed that are in the pipeline.  It will cost much more as any other rush job.  Keep this in mind as animations at a regular rate may take anywhere from a month to half a year to complete, depending on the project.

Custom vs Existing Animations

Existing animations are like stock footage or photographs.  Although they may have taken much longer to create originally than those two, they no longer require any work.  There is no planning, previsualization, going back and forth with the client or any of the multitude of steps used to create a medical 3d animation.

Custom animations on the other hand require all these steps in addition to research and expertise from a medical illustrator who likely has a degree from a medical animation program (gross anatomy, pathology, histology), possibly a science degree and has experience in communicating with medical professionals.  This is time consuming and therefore expensive.

It may take weeks or even months to complete based on the requirements.  The process starts with storyboarding and at each step requires client revisions and approvals so that everything is done according to plan.  With scientific pieces, they also often need to go through approval by regulatory bodies which may take weeks.

Custom Assets

Assets take time to create and medically accurate assets take longer.  Assets created with real data from 3d reconstruction have many extra steps that need to be performed.  If an asset already exists in the company’s library or somewhere on the web, it may be purchased to save on creation time.  Of course the cost of the asset needs to be taken into account.  Some accurate assets such as body systems (ex. nervous) may cost over $20,000.

Types of Animation

Pricing may vary depending on the amount of 3D and 2D in an animation as well as the style of the animation.  Photorealistic or lifelike animation take more time to create and more resources such as rendering time due to raytracing etc.

2D animation is usually quicker to create, takes less time to render out, and less computer resources.  It can still cost much depending on various factors.

A final movie may have 3d animation, 2d animation, live footage, and other elements.  These can all determine the price.  This would be the case in a movie involving patients undergoing a procedure.

Interactive pieces for the web or desktop require programming in addition to content and asset creation and are usually a mix of animations, possibly footage, and models which have to be modified or even built differently for realtime viewing.

In general if the client needs a specific style it will take longer to produce than if style is not as important.  The creator may also specialize in particular types which would likely take less time to create because their workflow and pipeline may be already established and optimized.

Purpose of Animation

Price may also depend on the purpose of the piece.  Is it going to be part of an E-learning platform?  A commercial?  An element of a film?  Mode of action of a drug?  Explainer for how a device works?  Marketing for a company?

Studios may determine price based on your budget and possible reach/potential of the animation.  This is one of the reasons you will be asked lots of questions during the consultation, the other reasons being to figure out amount of work needed and resources.

License Types

Just like with other types of original content, it is important to note what type of license you are purchasing or offering as a creator.  For example, an unlimited, perpetual license may give the buyer the right to use the animation, its parts, and stills from it any time for any purpose.  This usually does not include the right to resell any part of the animation, although there may be an option to do so for a fee.

Minimum Animation Length

Some companies have a minimum project length, for example 30 seconds. If 30 seconds is out of your budget, you need to rethink your project.  One way to estimate your animation length is to create a recorded script for the movie.  Even a written script can help.  Then you can walk through it and figure out the length.

Freelancer vs Company

Both will require the same steps in the production of an animation, where a company may have multiple people working on it.  A company may have a larger library of existing assets or some volume/scale discounts including resources available which may bring the cost down.  Some companies may outsource parts of the work while overseeing that it is accurately made.

You need to be sure that whoever you hire is able to complete the work.  With a reputable company you are likely to pay much more, but in addition to accuracy you are much more likely guaranteed a good outcome and a finished project on time.

For a medical animation, you would not go on the Fiverr platform and have someone with 3d skills create a piece for you, since it takes many years of study to learn the technical, artistic and scientific aspects needed.

Country

Getting an animation completed in NYC locally if you live close, where you are able to visit in person and discuss progress is not going to cost the same as getting it completed in a country with a lower cost of living, and this may be a difference of 10x the price or more.

Of course the things that keep in mind with a long distance project are language barriers and communication issues.  This is similar to other types of content projects done across the border or even programming, but in this field its even more important to be careful because of the accuracy required.

Unit Price

Many companies charge per second for a final output animation.  Let’s take for example an average price of $300 per second of animation.  Thats $9000 for 30 seconds and $18,000 for a minute.  Another option is a flat rate price.  This can be the case if the animation is to be very long or if you are looking to have several animations made, such as for a website or interactive platform. Flat rate prices vary.

Number of Experts And Qualifications

Does your animation require scientific experts beyond a medical animator or will you provide your own? Is a mircoscopy or 3d reconstruction expert needed?  Does an MD need to be consulted?  These can dramatically change the price.

Budget

Your budget is important when looking for a 3d medical animation.  It will determine whether you can afford a custom one or a stock one, as well as what style of animation can be completed within your budget- for example 2D vs 3D, simplified vs photorealistic, etc.

Just as a side note, here is an interesting article on the cost of 3D animated feature films with a per second breakdown, which of course had other expenses such as famous voice talent, etc.

What To Look For

If you are planning on having a 3d animation created, you should do some research on the company you are considering using.  Some questions you might want to ask are:

Who are their clients?

Previous work done?

Where are they located?

Are the 3d models validated and accurate?

What education do the individuals who will work on the project possess?

This is only a partial list.  As with any content creation project, there are many factors to look at.  With medical animation studios you will not get a price until after an initial consultation (often free) to determine needs (and if you do I would be careful).

Resources

Below are some general resources to help you:

3D Animation Studios Rates-filtered for 3d and educational content

Animpricer– an online tool to estimate animation costs

Nanobot Medical did a survey about the cost of animation from various medical 3d animation studios.

Here is a video that covers some aspects of what to consider when figuring out animation costs:

And here is one about negotiating prices:

Conclusion

Just to reiterate, pricing of medical animations is not simple due to the complex nature of the work.  Sorry if you were expecting a simple answer.  I hope that this guide has given you a better understanding of what goes into the creation of an animation and what factors need to be considered when pricing a finished piece.

Stay tuned for more articles on the business of animation.  In the meantime, why not have a look at this article on why 3D rendering takes so long.

Dr. J

Dr. J has worked in biology all his life and holds several advanced degrees and certificates in biology, anatomy, scientific illustration, 3d animation and motion graphics. He has always had an interest in teaching others the wonders of biology using the latest advances in graphics, including visualization, digital microscopy, animation, illustration, VR and interactive media.

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