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Budgeting for VFX

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Alex Fal
Budgeting for VFX
on Sep 28, 2011 at 2:26:42 am

I was asked to consult for VFX on a feature film. The line producer right now is putting together a budget and asked me what would be good to put down as a price for the post effects and I don't really have a good answer (I work on the creative side usually and not the business side). So for a typical, medium sized effects studio, is there an average idea of what they would charge per shot?

A little about the film:
-It's considered low budget (60-100k) and direct to DVD
-They want to avoid using CG elements
-Most of their sequences involve compositing stock footage and photos into environments around the actors.
-They wrote in 2 motion graphics sequences, and one stop motion sequence.

I think they have a total of 6 or 7 short sequences (ranging from about 30 seconds to 5 minutes).

So what is a good amount to budget? Thanks for any help!

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Jonathan Ziegler
Re: Budgeting for VFX
on Sep 28, 2011 at 5:48:55 pm

Truthfully, figure out how much you can spend first, then get an exact list of all the spots that need done and see if anyone can do the work for that price. I find there are lots and lots of ways to do VFX and budget will drive how you do it (for example, you want an explosion, but you don't have the massive amount of cash to set it up with a pyrotechnics company so you opt for a $10k miniature explosion or stock footage).

Since you said it was a low budget feature, it will be better to figure out the cost for each sequence - manpower, equipment, locations, food, etc. Even better - put together a detailed storyboard and talk with a VFX cinematographer or producer. Also find out the most your producer is prepared to spend on VFX (there really are no standard numbers here unless you have a mega-budget film and can easily draw on what it cost last time), then find out who can do it for that amount. Be upfront and honest - they can't give you an accurate quote unless you tell them everything.

Yes, they will attempt to use the entire amount you tell them so don't give a number you aren't prepared to spend. Remember, they're not trying to screw you, they want to give you the absolute best they can give you and make some money in the process and look good so they get more business. Be clear that the amount you have to spend on VFX is the most you can spend - make it their responsibility to stay under budget just like any other contractor in any other business. Rather than "how much does it cost...?" you should be saying, "I have $xyz and I need abc, what can you do for me within that budget?" Then shop around and look to other productions (check IMDB for details - may need a pro account, but its worth it).

Check here if you're in Hollywood: (free download).

Jonathan Ziegler

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