Explainer Video

What Does an Explainer Video Cost?

Shawn 03.11.2014

Explainer video is everywhere.

Crazy Egg boosted their monthly income by $21,000/monthwith an animated explainer, the New York Times used a beautiful series of them in Sochi, and DropBox became the biggest name in “The Cloud” with theirs.

In a climate of increased visual content and compressed attention spans, video is at the forefront of every marketing plan – especially for complicated products and services (a.k.a. everything these days).

Ok, I get it – explainer video is important. So, how much is it?

A 60-second explainer video costs between $5,000–$35,000.

And that number can get higher depending on the house and style you choose. LESS Films – one of the few studios with a transparent pricing model – starts quotes at $5k, but rates soar as high as $100,000!

And before the hate mail flows in – yes, there are cheaper options in the $2k – $5k range, including budget or freelance production (and even DIY software), but the results just aren’t comparable.

Amateur video doesn’t speak well of your brand – and in my opinion – if you’re not committed to quality, no video is better than a bad one.

Great explainer videos – like the examples above – convert viewers, plain and simple. A video is an investment – and like any good investment – input begets output. So let’s dissect the video production process to alleviate your sticker shock while giving you some best practices for choosing the right production house to make your video.

Every good explainer video goes through at least six phases:

  1. Research – The studio needs to understand what the heck your product does
  2. Scripting – This is where you hone your message, and identify your target and goals
  3. Storyboard/Animatic – The bones of what the final video will look like
  4. Voiceover – Capture the right mood and feeling of your “story”
  5. Design and Animation – You know…”The Video”
  6. Sound Design – The often-overlooked – but important – sound effects and music

Regardless of the style you choose (I’ll get into that later), the length you require (usually around a minute), and the studio you work with – these six steps will always happen (read “should happen”). What’s more, you should be involved along the way. Avoid studios that bar you from the creative process. They may be the experts – and you should listen to recommendations – but at the end of the day it’s your business and you’re the one paying for the video. Be involved.

A little imagination about the time and work that goes into these six steps, and all the qualified writers, animators, and staff involved – even for a boutique studio (1-10 people) – should explain the price tag.

Timing MattersSchedule Matters

When you need a video is almost as important as what it looks like – the two go hand-in-hand actually.

The average turnaround time for quality production is between 4-8 weeks.

This includes scripting and revisions. Be skeptical of studios that offer quicker results. There’s a huge difference between being “nimble” and producing sloppy work. Quality takes time.

So if your marketing team has a product launch date, let the studio know so they plan accordingly. Deadline shifts or compressed production times will result in expensive premiums and penalties.

A candid discussion of timelines, along with explicit project milestones will alleviate headaches and pricing concerns down the road.

Set GoalsSet Goals Before Style

You want what your competitor has. You know… the one with the thing that you saw all over YouTube. Great. You should have an idea of what your video should look like, but just because a certain style is all the rage, doesn’t mean it’s right for your business. Don’t try to “go viral.”

The best explainer videos are made with one or two specific goals in mind – and they don’t often include taking over YouTube or Facebook – especially if it’s for a new salad strainer. Form follows function.

Here are the most common types of animated explainer videos (live-action is more expensive and is a whole other thing) with a few notes about pricing. Enjoy.

1) Whiteboard (a.k.a. “Scribing”)

This is the cheapest option, but buyer beware. Tons of low-quality “studios” produce cookie-cutter videos that garner lukewarm results.

Whiteboards (or “scribing”) are the original “explainer,” and studios still use them today because they’re clean, simple, and infinitely recognizable. RSA whiteboards are an institution and UPS’s Whiteboard campaign made broadcast waves in 2007. Don’t be seduced by the lower price tag. Make sure this style suits your goals.

2) Motion Graphics

Motion Graphics refers to computer animation of primarily graphical elements (shapes) rather than characters. These videos range from simple shapes to elaborate productions involving hundreds of visual elements rendered in 3D. This is arguably the most flexible genre since animators can literally do just about anything, but be careful if budget is an issue as these productions come at a premium.

3) Character Animation

Ok, so that clip isn’t an explainer video, but no one does character animation like Richard Williams. You’re welcome.

Character animation takes many forms – including high-def 3D CGI rendering – but this genre often employs “classic” animation techniques and 2D character design. Don’t be fooled by their simplicity – the classics got where they are today because they work. A strong narrative, with a relatable character can do what technical specs and flashy graphics often can’t.

4) Kinetic Typeset

Few people narrate better than Ira Glass, so if you can book him – go for it.

These videos are a little flat, but when combined with the right voiceover and laser-focused content, as explainer videos they can be potent. Typeset videos are often best used to motivate or inspire rather than explain technical concepts, because of their lack of visual elements.

5) Stop-Motion

Stop-motion is my favorite style, and when done well – like the talented Rachel Ryle – it’s tough to beat. The main problems are simply time and cost.

Talented stop-motion animators are expensive and hard to book. Add glacial production times to that and you have a potential disaster. Communication between the animator and the client, and managed expectations are key when using this style.

Even 30-second spots can take weeks so allow for at least 50% more time for stop-motion productions, and be mindful that revisions are extremely costly once production begins.

The Takeaway

Quality explainer videos are an investment that grows your business. A cool look and feel are nice, but the end result of a great explainer is a measurable ROI through increased SEO results, in-bound leads, customer satisfaction, awareness, engagement, sales, or conversions.

Let us know what results you’ve had with your explainer video.

For more research on pricing models, take a look at the Quora Top 100 explainer video production houses with more than 100+ videos. Spoiler alert: IdeaRocket is on there.


Born in Southern California, Shawn grew up surfing, eating In-N-Out, and growing his hair long. After graduating with a Liberal Arts degree from CSU Long Beach in 2005 he left the crowded freeways behind and spent the better part of a decade traveling the world living for stretches in Rome, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and Brooklyn. He writes novels as well as copy, loves learning keyboard shortcuts, and plays his grandpa’s old lap steel guitar. You can hear his band at ponieswillbiteyou.com
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  • Well having must be costly, but the first thing you should consider is if its going to help before you decided to have one. If it is then have one. There are things you have to consider, the quality, what type of animation if its a testimonial type or animated or anything else you have in your mind. Also the content you have to assess it before recording cause it is one of the element that will help you endorse your service and product. So if you are done with assessing the service provider, bargain with them there are service provide who offers cheap explainer video with good qualities, just remember be conservative in choosing a good one.

  • Amateur film does not chat well of your product – plus in my view – if you are not dedicated to superiority, no film is well again than a terrible one.

  • Janny

    Amateur film does not whiteboard animation video services chat well of your product – plus in my view – if you are not dedicated to superiority, no film is well again than a terrible one.

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  • Anna Johnson

    Well there are number of different criteria’s for the cost of animated explainer videos. As we know that in this digital era online video marketing is the most important and emerging trend.

  • As a digital marketing expert I must say animated explainer videos are really making a new business trend now, as today every small or big business owner wants to spend in this area of interest.

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