Animation targets indicate how many seconds of animation you have to get done per week. Find out why it`s vital to know how fast you can animate. Learn five simple factors to estimate and adjust the animation targets of your projects to make sure that you will reach your goals. Watch the video or read the transcript…

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What is it?

If you want to be a real animator you can’t get around dealing with “animation targets”. Targets usually measure how many seconds of animation you need to get done per week, which can vary greatly from project to project. Today we will take a look at how this number is influenced by style, technology and other factors, and why estimating accurate animation targets might be your most valuable ability besides being a good animator. It doesn’t matter if you are working as a freelancer or in a studio, if you want to take animation seriously; you need to know about this!

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Animation targets are not unlike other production targets. It’s always about a certain amount of work, done in a certain span of time. But why is this so important to know? Well, most projects have deadlines. It’s obvious in the business world: Customers want to have their order done as fast as possible, studios cannot afford to pay workers for an infinite amount of time. They need results – final animation – that will bring in money.

A must for commercial productions

Being able to estimate your workload correctly will make you very popular in this business world. Studios, producers, film-funds, supervisors, customers, co-workers… they all love animators who say that they will need X amount days to complete this work and then – and this is the big catch – really only need X amount of days for it. By creating a schedule and sticking to it you don’t cause delays that cost money, and you don’t leave co-workers hanging that are waiting for you to start or finish. On the flip side if you completely blew your animation target – some companies might not hire you again.

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A must for personal projects

Even personal projects benefit from a more economical way of thinking. Eventually, no matter how passionate you are about a project, you want to be DONE with it already. It can be hell if you are stuck in a so called “passion project” with no idea where you are on the production timeline or if you are actually getting enough done, or even working on the right things! Especially on big projects, you need reasonable daily and weekly goals, because that big far away goal of finishing a film or game is too complex to grasp all at once. Also, it’s an incredible feeling if you nail your animation target… like a personal challenge, created and defeated.

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Calculate your own!

But how can you calculate an animation target? Well, that’s a case by case thing. There are a lot of factors that shuffle the cards for every project:

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1. What is your task? This one is actually often overlooked: How far does your job go? In some 2D productions the animators only scribble rough poses and the rest is done by assistants. In others studios the animator has to clean and color his animation before he can pass it on. In some 3D productions animators might also have to set up the rendering. You need to know exactly what is expected from you, because every sub-task takes additional time.

2. What is the animation style and technology? If you animate Pixar or Disney quality animation, you will only get a couple of seconds done per week, whereas in TV productions with a strong pose-to-pose approach 30-40 seconds are a common expectation. (Maybe link to the How Fast article here?) 2D tends to show results quicker than 3D because there is less rendering and compositing involved. This is also the slider to adjust before you start your own projects. If you plan your production and you realize that it would take decades to complete, you might want to switch to an easier style or technique. Of course it’s nicer to do some really tough animation, but some projects don’t need Pixar-level details to work (think about South Park, Llamas with hats etc.)

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3. How difficult is the shot? It’s not enough to calculate your animation target for the entire project just from the overall style and technique. Every film has shots that are easier or harder than the average. So, better estimate the time needed for every shot and assess each individually to get the most accurate animation target. This obviously only makes sense when you already have a more structured animatic.

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4. What is your own experience level and way of working? While it’s good to compare animation targets from other people and productions, don’t forget your personal situation. You are faster with familiar software and work assignments and slower with challenges that you’re tackling for the first time. This is a bit of a circle here. In order to accurately estimate the work required you need to have experience with something like it already, or at least know how long you might need to adapt. One of my old professors recommended to always track your work hours so you can use this data to estimate how much time you will need for a similar project in the future.

5. How much time do you spend on things besides animation? Another factor that people tend to forget is that they rarely spend their whole day animating. There are meetings, weeklies, important e-mails, lunch and coffee breaks… And freelancers especially have a lot more on the side, like book-keeping, customer acquisition and possibly multiple projects being worked on at the same time. So, never expect an 8-hour work day to be 8-hours of animating or it will quickly turn into a 10-hour work day. (Plus weekends, if you’re not careful!)

So those are the basics of Animation Targets, and why you should definitely add them to your personal workflow from now on.

Do you already use animation targets? Let me know about your experiences with animation targets and feel free to add your tips for making more accurate estimates. Never forget to schedule in some time for stuff like resting your eyes and fresh air and awesome real life conversations and adventures to inspire you.