View Full Version : Spitballing the cost of a TV episode

Tom Wood
08-29-2004, 07:58 PM
Hi Everybody,

I'm trying to roughly ballpark a per-episode cost for an animated TV show I am about to pitch. The question of cost will come up, so I want to have a credible number on hand. I've devised a very simple and fast animation style for the show so that it can be produced four times a week. :eek: Yes, that's what I said. :p The animation style is shown here: www.subversive-entertainment.com (The invitation for a copy of the DVD is targeted at the eventual audience for that website, so don't ask for one now. :rolleyes: )

I think I have the man-hours about right, any thoughts on the rates I'm using? It seems to me I could double everything and the show would still be cheap. It's a half-hour show, so -only- 22 minutes of animation per episode.

08-30-2004, 11:04 AM
:eek: is right! ;)

I don't have much to offer, except that billing render time (Lightwave or TMPGEng) is something I struggle with myself. I usually end up adding it into the hours at a lower multiplier (I spent 8 hours editing, and another 8 rendering (and sleeping :cool: ), so I bill for 10 hours), but you might want to come up with a per-hour render fee and estimate just to head off the questioning on that $5000.

You might ask this in the Lightwave forae if you haven't yet, lots of experienced industry veterans there.

That's quite a schedule and crew, good luck with your pitch! :D


08-30-2004, 12:37 PM
You forgot craft services.

08-30-2004, 05:51 PM

Without investigating further it seems to me, just a gut feeling, that 42 full time people is about 6 times the personel for such a show... but what do I know? I think Sienfeld in it's heyday had less than half of that staff...

08-30-2004, 06:17 PM
OK, now I feel bad :( ... didn't mean to dis your project Tom and truthfully there is no telling how many man hours you would need. Just seems unrealistic to an uninformed observer. And did you say the audience would be Web based? Don't think those numbers would hold up to any web audience I have ever heard of and I have done a number of webcast starting way back with broadcast.com/Mark Cuban up through their heyday until Yahoo bought them.

Tom Wood
08-30-2004, 06:34 PM
Hey Brad,

How are things going?

No worries, I don't feel dissed. :D It's for basic cable TV, hopefully on the new station Al Gore is creating. Since it is intended to be produced semi-daily four times a week, I'm thinking a large crew is needed in comparison to a weekly show that is produced well in advance of the airdate. Think THE DAILY SHOW but animated.

I know THE DAILY SHOW makes enough to pay Jon Stewart $2 million a year and still make money for the network and the producers. I also read where THAT'S MY BUSH went off the air because Comedy Central couldn't quite make money at a cost of nearly $1 million per episode. So my numbers look good compared to that. It's a rarified atmosphere I'll be entering, so reasonable numbers may not make any sense there anyway.



08-30-2004, 06:44 PM
I don't know if I can help. But you can count me in. I have a toaster with lightwave. How ever, I want to focus my efforts in lightwave. It is not that I do not know how to use my toaster, It's just I enjoy using lightwave much more. And I do not have much to show for my lightwave skills.

08-31-2004, 03:50 PM
Hey Tom why don't you talk to Charles Meyer. His company is doing an animated series right now. He's a member of the VT Mail list and also the SpeedRazor list. I've met him at NAB and he's a cool guy.

I hope he doesn't mind me giving you his e-mail address: [email protected]

Good luck!

09-01-2004, 09:56 AM
If it helps, check out this older interview (http://arstechnica.com/etc/3q99/southpark/sp-interview-1.html) with the system administrators who run the South Park production pipeline. I thought it was pretty fascinating, they had the shortest broadcast animation production schedule I had heard about until you came along. ;)

Out of curiosity (none of my business), are you going to apply the full crew to each episode, or have staggered teams? (Don't know the right answer, except that at least in the software business, "nine women can't make a baby in one month". :p )

Good luck! -MG.

Tom Wood
09-01-2004, 10:49 AM
Thanks Chuck, I'll contact Charles.

MG - My thought was that one team would do the daily news which only has to be about the first 5 minutes of the total. Another team would create what are called 'evergreen' segments, that while topical aren't necessarily up to the minute. They can be dropped into any show at any time. If you watch THE DAILY SHOW, that's how they do it too, except the interviews are usually same day (But don't really have to be.)


James Moore
09-02-2004, 02:03 PM
I was just scanning your budget and there were a few items that seemed to be not included. Rent (you need a space to work out of) Computers, desks etc., Music, Director, and the render time might be low. One way of estimating render cost for budgeting is to cost the render at a place like respower. If you build/have the internal capacity to render yourself, great, if not, your bottom is covered. Traditionally in a budget is a contingency, like a flat 10% to help account for cost overruns as well.

Good luck!

Tom Wood
09-02-2004, 02:53 PM
Thanks James,

In my old business (architecture) we used a rate multiplier of about 3.0 to capture things like rent, computers, etc. So if someone's actual salary was $30 an hour, they were billed out at $90. I'm using the 'billable' rate in my chart to capture those overhead and profit costs, I hope.

By applying the normal rate multiplier to the figures shown here, you should be able to deduce the actual salary for each task. So, I guess I'm asking if I have either the rate multiplier and/or the actual salaries in the right range.