Pushing the boundaries of low budget 3d animation

This is something that really interests me as I experiment with production techniques in making Badassery. I think what I'm doing with Badassery is like the equivalent of making 2d animation with stick figures... the technique is very crude and rough because the creator is focused on the ideas and just wants to kick the material out fast.

I did the last episode of Badassery in 4 days using only one PC... a workflow that's within the grasp of most people dabbling in 3d animation... BUT many people that are into 3d are obsessed with the vaunted "Pixar Quality" I myself don't even like Pixar style renders or animation... I'm not interested in "photo-realism" or any of that other bullshit either... I just have a bunch of ridiculous ideas that I think are funny and I want to make that happen as fast as I can and for as little money as I can...

So lets say you CAN do "pixar quality" on your own today if you have the skills and are either willing to wait years to render it all or can afford a 5000 node render farm to render it in a reasonable time.

OR you can use a 3d "stick figure" approach... you just need rudimentary sets... low poly figures with two arms, two legs and a head... no volumetric lights... as few objects as possible in the scenes... no AO or GI...  no dynamic sims to calculate or VERY FEW... just focus on the voice acting and the direction to make your point or hit your punchline or whatever...

So with the last episode of Badassery I did the animation on my PC... then while I was sleeping the shots I animated rendered overnight on that one PC... the shots were then composited, edited and all the sound design and the like was also done on the same PC... so pretty much anyone with a PC and the proper software can do the same thing...

Now assuming your not overclocking your CPU into meltdown status sucking up tons of power and $$$. The expenses for this type of animation would be for the purchase of the software and the PC itself. Now lets assume you already have your average fairly up to date gaming PC which is great for doing low budget 3d animation... then the software would be the major expense...

It could as low as $0 if you choose Blender...which continues to get better and better every release... if you choose commercial software your looking at between $2000- $10,000

So if you wanted to go as low as you can go you would choose Blender, along with a free/open source compositor/editor/daw which are ALL available today....

If you wanted to go the commercial route because of the increased ease of use and features these would be my picks for a one man low budget 3d animation studio today...

3d modeling/animation/rendering= Cinema 4d: $1000 - $4000
Basic Sculpting= Sculptiris: FREE
Compositing/Editing= Abobe After Effects+Premiere Pro: $1700
Audio recording/mix/sound design etc= Studio One: $400

Now you could go with free software alternatives which are getting better and more powerful each release but from my experience they are not as easy to use as the commercial counterparts I selected.

So I think its pretty exciting that you could kick out your own animated films and shows and have your own little animation studio for around $10,000 USD today...

If your a parent or relative of someone who has always wanted to make animation its certainly more attractive then shelling out $50,000 each year for them to go to CalArts 0_0

If they REALLY have the passion and access to these tools they will take these tools and use the internet to help LEARN how to do it themselves...

So forget "Pixar Quality" and just make stuff... just make a name for yourself! Do you want to be the guy or girl with "Pixar Quality" ideas in your head or REAL finished films of your own in your hands?


  1. One of your best posts, MDS. As you have said over and over, "It's not about the tools". You practice what you preach and it's so damn encouraging. Let Pixar be Pixar. We can come up with our own ideas and do it all on our own computers at home.


  2. what richard said!

    also if someone does choose blender as their 3d tool (like me) there's a nifty poor man's render farm called render web which literally renders ppls films through facebook, weird ehh. free access to a render farm of about 20 computers give or take.

    i too am a little sick of the pixar look, what u did in HSM looks cooler anyway

  3. It's funny, you have basically outlined my current studio.
    i7 box = $2000
    Adobe Production = $1700
    3dsmax = $3600
    Audacity = $0
    Audio gear = $500
    A plugin I need = $600
    And I'm good to go.

    On the topic of Pixar though, I can see what's being said as a VISUAL thing, but for me the thing that fascinates me about them is the ANIMATION, because I feel like the characters are alive. Similarly, good ANIMATION on a stick figure can make it feel just as alive. Now granted, that's lots and lots and lots of time spent in the curve editor :D

  4. I finished college and I think putting that money towards a studio/books/tutorials/software would have been a lot better for me. I bet I would have enough money left over to live off of for a year too.

    But it's all about determination in my opinion.
    Anybody can have the tools, it's all about DOING it.

    I find myself idling on the internet until I get bored and get a sudden urge of inspiration. It's all part of the "collective" and "creative" modes. Collective being when I'm too exhausted to create or I don't have any ideas, so I browse the internet for inspirational material. Then when I get bored of that, BOOM. CREATIVE MODE, GO!

    I come across so many inspired people who wanna make movies, cartoons, books etc. And when they have the tools or the time-- they don't do anything.


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