Starting an animation studio: is it worth it?

Hey guys. Want to start a discussion here. Is it worth it to start a small animation studio from scratch?

I have a small design studio, and have been learning 3d for the past 6 years. I have had lots of services in which i had fo use 3D, such as package design and product design. Had one or two animation services. The scenario is that here in Brazil we have, in some regions, a gap… so there are not a lot of 3d animation studios. I have been developing an animated series alone and I am trying to change my studio, from design studio to animation(emphasis on content marketing, branded content and so on). Do you think iits worth it? Considering how much effort animation needs to get done? Is it worth it for small studios?

Anyway. I would like to share experiences . If anyone has or had an animation studio… I think this topic could be helpful, so that people could share their experiences, by answering the question on the title… So guys…

Is it worth it to start an animation studio? Why? Why not? Tell me about your experiences.

I think animation in general is about 1000x more time consuming than creating content. To do it well that is. For a small studio, investing in a good mocap solution would pay for itself. The last large animation project we had, we used mocap. And even then it was time intensive.

I can’t say my studio has really moved ever fully into the animation side of things. And I have always had more success with content.

I have noticed that budgets for animation rarely are realistic. That is just my experience. I know it can happen with content as well. But I do think on the level of a small studio, you would have more difficulty with finding clients that have a budget to properly handle animation. And usually studios that do a lot of animation have enough animators to handle it.

I think the gap you speak of is for this reason. Advertising agencies with a proper budget for animation will go to an established studio with a lot of animators.

None of these are reasons to not start a studio from scratch. I just think you have to go into it knowing what you will be up against. And the main thing to focus on is how you can offer a better more specialized service and do it faster and cheaper.

Presently right now, I am budgeting for and pricing out some higher end Mocap suits. For me this is the only way I can conceive of doing some of the projects I want to do in a reasonable time.

And I think if you had a great suit and someone who could act well in it, you could carve out a niche.

Aside from that would be your target potential clients, which from my knowledge is going to be advertising agencies. And for that having a great demo reel will be a must.

In general, if you can find a way to make it work and compete with larger studios, it is a good time to be into animation. I think the trend is going in the right direction, such as this short made for Intuit by an award winning company in LA:


Nice point of view. About budget, its a crazy problem, you usually get to a point in which you do it for “love”. Because all other services are made in less time. Clients often dont understand how much work is put into animation. Besides their parameters will aways be Pixar… it’s the main reference. So if it’s not good as Pixar stuff, its not good enough. It’s an unfair comparison, but it happens.

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Is your only experience technical? Starting and running a studio is an administrative exercise, not a technical one. Despite being looked down upon management tasks such as HR, accounting, marketing/client relations are necessary. Not to mention planning for recurring costs like software licensing and hardware replacement.

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I have this studio for 5 years now… but have been working only with design since then… animation is the new thing here… The main problem in animation is the standards people have… Right now i am facing an issue with an animation… client expecting some pixar quality work… when in reality the project has a very low budget.

I would say it is both. And I would say it is more technical than administrative for the simple reason that anyone can hire employees and do the books and budget. But can you do that, and understand the technical aspects required to run an animation or game content team? If you can’t it won’t matter how good you are at IT and HR. On the reverse, if you are brilliant at the technical side and know now to deliver a product, chances are you can sling enough brain cells together to figure out the rest over time.

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This is the main hurdle. It is interesting that this is the reason behind the question because it is quite true.

And since I have not totally cracked this, honestly over the long term, I can not be an authority. But I can speculate that the answer would be similar to what got me going with being able to produce some animation content and build a studio based on that years ago. It went more or less like this:

  1. Having a kick ass demo reel.
  2. Laying out a realistic cost estimate (time and budget) for projects
  3. Finding the clients who can pay what it actually costs

Getting to 1) the first time around is going to be a freebee. That is you do an in-house project. Or you find a client who does not have a high budget, and you agree to work with them - only as long as - they allow you to set the standard of quality and are more or less able to allow you to set the deadline based on what you think it will take. I have done this before. I got a small amount of pay that at least put some food on the table while I worked. At the end I had a kick ass reel that got me more work.

Over the long haul from there it is a numbers game.

I think probably 1 or 2 percent of the jobs you come in contact with will be the ones that can pay.

Full disclosure however is that the animation stuff did not work out over the long term. I always seemed to do better with only content.

I think it can be done. But it will take a lot of work and patience to eventually get the good clients.


I do think that technology such as Eevee will help to push costs down, but the costs are still very considerable. Customers see “Pixar movies” every day, and don’t bother to look at the endless stream of credits at the end of the show – every one representing a person who had to be paid, sometimes to do just one specialized task. If I were running a graphics studio, I’d probably keep it as a graphics studio and selectively offer 3D animation services as an adjunct to that, “for those who can pay.”

But, you’d better put some pro bono experience under your belt first, even doing “hypothetical projects” on-the-side, so that you can gain knowledge about what this-or-that kind of project actually costs you to do, and how much time it takes. It is extremely easy to under-bid a project on both points.

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