View Full Version : Starting a studio

08-09-2004, 07:23 PM
I just saw this over at the Hash forum and wanted to post here and see what people at cgtalk think. I think it's a good question and Id like to know more to.

--My friend and I were talking about how somene would start a studio to do animations and other 3d work-even web stuff. She asked what tools are going to be needed and start up money? So how did studios like Anzovin and Avalanche get started and what do they use for all their work. I said AM-Pshop\Painter-After Effects-Premiere\Final Cut. But what about sound and budgeting and project tracking. I bet there are other AM'ers who might find this interesting!

08-10-2004, 04:05 PM
I don't want you to feel ignored Wycoff3d but. . . I think a lot of "Studios" struggle with these issues every day. There are no hard fast rules. You think your on to something. . . then all your clients go "poof" and all the concern about what compositing application to use kinda goes out the window. If you have clients. . . hang on to them. If you don't. . . then talking about what it will be like to have them is . . . well not very productive.

08-10-2004, 04:33 PM
Amen to that Wegg. While there might be some idea that there is a minimum toolset that a studio (or freelancer with designs towards a studio) must have the truth of the matter is the only required tools for an animation studio are a lot of paper and pencils. Everything past that is sure nice but hardly required. if you go into your studio with that idea and you only spend money on tools as you need them (ie for a particular job) you'll do fine. The real work of running a studio (or again of freelancing) is getting work. when you start you'll spend more time looking for work than working sad but true.

-David Rogers

08-10-2004, 06:11 PM
There is always a desire to start out with the best you can but at the end of the day - its really about balancing budget and getting work through the door with what you can afford. In terms of generating output- that quickly becomes about finding tools which are reliable and knowing workarounds to get stuff done in time and under budget and possibly (most likely when your a start up) because you don't have the ideal tools ( or that promised feature in version X doesn't bloody work and keeps crashing everything, the promised patch is 3 weeks away and the deadline is in 10 days), so you will have to innovate with the stuff that you do have. The golden rule is only buy what you need to get work through the door, do the job and keep your clients happy (sometimes much easier said than done - but thats part of the fun!). This said:

sound - again depends you might want in house, what you can innovate and most importantly what you need in order to do the work for a client. We have some audio tools in house but often ask some friends who have a recording studio to help, not just because of their facilities but sometimes they can nail something quickly because of their experience while we would waste time on it. There are a lot of good sound tools on the market and some of them very inexpensive - and they will be great once you are familiar with them- but access to a good recording environment, editing and multitrack mixing tools with the experience to use them can be a huge boon. For this stuff you will need to cut your cloth to fit your budget and clients needs. You don't always need to re-invent the wheel or for that matter necessarily own it either! (and no I am not advocating software piracy but rather try to work with others who have the skills and resources that an get you to finish a job but without you having to carry the investment or overhead when you start out.)

For budgets - a spreadsheet is essential (and if your running a business you will spend an awful lot of time with this) Excel is my preference - openoffice is reportedly decent if your budget/preference doesn't run to MS Office, there are certainly others.

project manangement/tracking - while you can easilly meet your needs with the likes of MS Project unless your running complex projects with multiple partners, contract phases and need to track lots of different deliverables, calculate slippage times and work out the downstream impact of these - its expensive and you can be just as well off with free opensource tools such as Achievo, phProject or by just keeping a good ledger or well organised excel spreadsheet.

Equally for asset management you could use something like NXN Alienbrain if you have the budget and client income to pay for it - otherwise you can make do with a sensible directory structure, sensible documentation policies, good dir-project-file-element naming policies, regular back up routines and good archiving practices.

David is certainly right - you will spend more time hunting work, doing administration and organising your business in terms of marketing, promoting, finding and communicating with clients than animating.

And Wegg hit the nail on the head - you can dream about the tools that you want - but it doesn't get clients or income and running a studio or freelancing is about delivering the current project, getting the next gig in the door while trying to pay all the bills and keep the cashflow either positive or at break even. When things can go wrong (And at times they will) money you spend on nice shiny kit today is money you don't have for a rainy day tomorrow, so spend wisely.

Your focus needs to be not on what are the best tools to use, but who are my clients going to be, what do I need to win work from them, what sort of work will this be, what does it entail, what resources do I need to deliver on this work, how do I intend to pay for them, how do we make the client aware that we exist, who is the best contact person in that compaly and what do we need in terms of demo reel/in house capability to convince the client to work with us and what can I realistically achieve within these boundaries.

I don't want to sound pessimistic - I'm not. It is a hugely rewarding way to work but the challenges involved go way beyond which kit to start out with - that will be largely determined by your resources and business plan.

Hope some of this is at least useful and very good luck,

- Phillip

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