Disney, Pixar who needs them. Call of the Indie part 2: How To's


So awhile back we had various discussions about going out on the Indie level and creating either A)feature films B) Shorts C) Series then compiled on DVD.

It was a reply to this video ifyou didn’t see the first post.

Some were yay and some were nay. But even the nay sayers really weren’t nay saying they were in fact being quite realistic as to the challenge. I commend everyone on their comments. I think everyone really contributed. In fact we need some folks to present the challenges to keep the rest of us grounded. So all the comments were appreciated and highly professional.

Some of the challenges were as follows

  1. CG is hard
  2. CG is time consuming
  3. Keeping people motivated
  4. Making a living
  5. Balancing Time and Quality
  6. Finding help

And really after going through all this time, energy, expense and effort can it be profitable outside of just being worth the challenge and completing it?

So with the profitableness in mind that is another thing to add as to HOW TO make profit.

So really we have already heard the challenges and how hard it is. What this post is about is differant. What are the solutions to the problems faced and can it and how to make it profitable?

So CG folks let’s put our heads together and overcome the challenges and share “Best practices”


Tashiro, a writer in Business Week’s Tokyo bureau, the article details Ryo Ono’s recent success with Sguy and the Family Stone, or Sugai-kun as its called in Japan. According to the article, Ono self-published his own DVDs, eventually selling 5,600 copies and nearly US$100,000. In the article’s accompanying image gallery The Adventures of Yawaraka Tank is mentioned along with Hazumu Sakuta’s Dark Cat, projects regularly discussed on the Japanese Flash-focused blog Flagama.

Two Flash-animated features are also discussed; Eagle Talon, which was discussed here a few weeks back, and Coffy the Cemetery Girl. The article touches on the lower animation quality of these projects, which I wouldn’t argue with. But quality isn’t the focus of the article - instead it’s about how one animator can reach a massive audience.

Liked a few things about the above article on quality and amount a single person could achieve. He had a big audience per day. It mentioned about 50,000 people per day. I say that is a feasible amount considering various others who make things of similiar quality and content.

Scott Sava is living his comics dream…literally. His daily webcomic, The Dreamland Chronicles, has been an enormous online success, with an estimated 6,000,000 readers worldwide and 100,000 hits on the daily site.

I invited Scott to this post to share how he A) Got so many viewers and maybe share his advice B) How he makes a living off Dreamland Chronicles So hopefully we will see him here.
Good news is he does make a living doing Dreamland Chronicles.

You could make a living making <insert name of your series, movie, show, comic here>

That’s the good news.

In fact imagine if you did do this as an investment in your time and skill. Yes CG is hard and may take a little longer than Flash animation but look where Flash Animation has gone.

Happy Tree Friends

In a recent Boston Globe article, the number of monthly episode views is placed at 16 million. And with 5 DVD releases and over 750,000 units sold, you can bet the gang at Mondo Media, the producers of HTF, are ‘happy’ too. With merchandising, an MTV presence around the world, and an upcoming half-hour series on G4, ‘Happy Tree Friends’ is a case study for the internet incubator model.

But to get to that success you have to make it.

Then after making it what do you do to make it profitable?

(P.S. I’m not a fan of short films and trying to make a living doing short films, I like them don’t get me wrong but I wouldn’t spend 2 years making one, BUT for those who may want to make a living off short films the Latest 3d Magazine has a how to guide" Pick up YOUR copy today)

Well to make it profitable you’ll need
Product + Audience = $$$$

So to continue this conversation let’s share best practices on how to get both and steps to doing it in a timely manner.


Getting the right people together is vital. You dont just charge in there with a gang of animators - you also need one or two people that will handle the business and welfare needs of the group as well. Someone to keep tabs on possible networks willing to show the film, manage costs etc. Also, someone to keep the group happy: Rush out and buy donuts, pizza, coffee, keep the workspaces tidy etc - possibly help the business guy(or gal!) with keeping dates, milestones etc. Artists are usually vulnerable to suits’n’sharks and the numerous bullshit details so they need looking after! These kind of people also double up as a test audience…

If a group is happy working together and doesnt have to worry about trivial things then you’ll find they will concentrate better. Bakshi said hes “put a group of artists in a box together” and I’ll bet hes handling the bullshit on their behalf.

A good example of support members would be found in the pages of Masters of Doom. I havent read the book in a while but I think it was Jay Wilbur who would make the team hotdogs and keep a check on things. Also, there is Donna Jackson who was(is she still there?) the “iD mom”. iD was a small group back then and had these people to help them out. Without these people I doubt iD would have stood a chance…


Let’s say you have a few shorts or episodes done that you’d like to make DVDs of, and sell through eBay or personal website. In this case, how would you go about making your DVD copies?

Would you invest a lot of money and go to a professional publisher to make your DVDs?
Would it be still acceptable if you just burn them on a blank DVD-R with your home computer and sell them?


Definitly do the first 100 or so copies at home. Keeps the storage space small and the risk of losing cash for inneccesary amounts of DVD copies. Once business starts running I´d do batches of 100 to 1000 DVDs (depends on what kind of offer you get from your local DVD copy shop).


Thats a question you have to answer yourself - see thats just it. You can do anything you want to.

I would at least go to a proper printer to print my labels and covers for me.
How many orders will you get per day? Buying another pc to help out burning a couple dozen copies a day should work out less and more clever I think then going and producing 50 000 copies by a DVD printer right after you have completed your movie. Unless of course you get LOTS of orders. Then go do that yes.
EDIT: Also of course you could go the Digital Distribution route.


If you are doing it for a hobby or for friends, you can burn your own DVD-Rs. But if you are trying to make money off of the venture, then you need to use a DVD duplication service to press your disks. Your time should be spent creating content, not babysitting the DVD burner. And if you are going to make any worthwhile money on the venture you need to sell a few thousand disks.

There are many online DVD replication services, but you can start your search with http://www.discmakers.com/ . A DVD in a clamshell with full color cover, full color DVD printing, a one page insert, and poly wrapped will run you $1375 for 300 units (around $4.58 each). 1000 units will cost you $1717 ($1.72 each) or 5000 units will cost you $5317 ($1.06 each), and if you are seriously planning on making a living at this then you have to move a few thousand units anyways. DiscMakers has other options if you want to go the CD-R route, rather than pressing silver discs. You can also drop the price a little if you scale down the quality (3 color cd label instead of full color, no insert, etc.)

Michael Duffy


This Bakshi guy is really funny.

He has this typical eloquent big mouth attitude thats obviously necessary for being leader and succsessfull. ( I dont mean this as an offence )

He states, that he cannot understand, why 1 person= 1movie projects are not blooming around everywhere.

Here`s the simple answer:

Because its not that easy like he suggests it would be!!!

This one person in fact would at best need to be a real genius:

First he needs to have a good new idea, then elaborate it and write it down, even better scribble it and make an animatic.
( This task alone can take from app. 1 to 3 years)
Then do the voices and sound ( half year ).
Then the 3-D stuff: modeling, rigging, setup, preparations, lighting
( 1 year )
animating and rendering ( another year )
sales & distribution: maybe years

So besides that this guy would have to be quite a good writer,drawer,computer technician,modeler,rigger,lighter,animator,
director,salesman ( at least I would take in account 5 years for learning all this ) he must have the stamina for staying focused that long and make a modest living during that time.

So its about 10 years of hard work with a vage chance to make some money later. ( Even more since internet piracy ,after the musicbusiness, slowly but steadily begins to affect the movie-industry
as well.
( I doubt it, if Jeff Lew of Killer Beans fame for instance has become a millionare in the meantime. )

I dont want to take anybody here the wind out of the sails, but just warn you to not take everything what Ralph Bakshi said for too serious.( So why he isnt he doing it himself inspite of his old age then? )

In my opinion this goal 1 person and 1 computer is great and I think it is getting nearer year by year, but it also is helpfull to be realsitic about what is really possible now or in the near future.

So I would vote for collaborative projects like from Blender and Hash Animation master (TWO and SO) for example to learn the ropes
and smaller projects for making money for the time beiing, while working on your one big project slowly but steadily in the background over the years.

Maybe there is a market for smaller animation pieces in the cellphone business?
Like for Ringtones for example?

The comic-market is nice, but no animation and I doubt, if people tell you the truth about userbase and making a living with it .
Doesn`t everybody prefer to be a winner?

;>) Jake


I take it you don’t know who Bakshi is? He’s the king of underground independant films. Check out his filmography sometime :slight_smile:


>I take it you don’t know who Bakshi is? He’s the king of underground independant films. Check out his filmography sometime :slight_smile:


SimplyCG Forums


-T. Dot.

<And so what?

Even if he was John Lasseter.
Do you take these people for some kind of holy movie gods,
whos opinions are not to be questioned?

I am neither criticising nor offending him as a person or
moviemaker (bigmouth was meant in a friendly provocative way), just trying to point out my opinion, how his message out of this Sigraph-movie should be judged.


No, I don’t take them as gospel, but unlike most peoples opinions, he can back them up by years of experience and actually doing what he says. Reading through most threads like this, you tend to get what people “think” is reality. Your explanation of how long it would take and what is involved isn’t based in any reality, just pure conjecture on your part. Bakshi’s thoughts should carry much more weight due to him actually having done it and still doing it. Doesn’t mean we don’t question, just means we can give him a larger benefit of the doubt.


He also seems to think that if something applies to traditional animation, it can be applied tit for tat to CG, which is very, very, very far from the actual situation, and the reason why a fair few people think he’s oversimplifying TOO much (rather than just enough to inspire).

The guy is smart, can back up his claims with some production when it comes to animation, but knows bugger all about working hands on on CGI animated features… or does he? Maybe I overlooked something where he participated in one with a mouse and a keyboard in front of him.

A traditional animator can usually cover everything from pencil sketch to taking in the plates (or their 2D CG equivalents), for 3D the situation isn’t anywhere that simple, and cutting corners works differently, and you still have to render your frames.

I would have been a lot more inspired if that pep talk came from somebody who’s actually doing something about this actively, like realtime rendering for tv quality contents or actually trying to find new stylistic in-roads to cut corners and keep an appealing look.
As it is it comes from somebody who CAN NOT back up his claims afaic :slight_smile:


He wasn’t talking about 3d cg though, he was talking about how easy it is to do 2d using the computer nowadays. Today you can have an entire 2d studio in the computer, at least as far as the camera, backgrounds, pencil test, color, etc.

I don’t think he is oversimplifying anything though. His main points stand, you do not have to have the best people to create something, be it in 3d or 2d. Pixar may do something in a certain way, that doesn’t mean everyone needs to do that. Does it work for them, yes, but it isn’t the only way. Some people think that a 3d film can only exist if you spend 150 million dollars on it, does anyone here believe that is the only way?


He does over simplify but he also did say it’s “damn difficult”.
No one says it’s easy I think but it’s very possible.

Look at what Briann Taylor did with his Rustboy. http://www.rustboy.com/ - He didn’t even know ANYTHING about 3D or Animation when he started and did all that in 1 year in Carrara Studio .
BigBuck Bunny, Elephants Dream all in under a year with a small team and opensource software. Look at Hoodwinked. Very small team relatively low budget - did pretty well considering.

So it’s not easy and you won’t become a millionaire 9 times out of 10 like Bakshi said. But it COULD make you a decent living - POSSIBLY. If you want to/can afford to take the risk the tools are there.


Actually I think Bakshi is probably thinking in terms of 2D animation, and using the computer for ink and paint, compositing, some background plate generation, photography, tracking, lip sync programs to generate exposure sheets, sound mixing, etc. Then you can get 8 guys together to make a hand-drawn movie without requiring a paint department, multi-plane camera, camera operator, sound studio, etc.

Sure for a small group (or individual) to pull off a movie or series they need to be more generalist than specialist. But it isn’t impossible. Film school students learn to wear many hats. Same basic principal here. And you hire out for areas that you can’t do yourself. For the online comic The Dreamland Chronicles, Scott Sava gets help with the models because he said he isn’t the greatest of modelers. Play to your strengths, get help for your weaknesses.

And to keep on track of the topic of “how do we actually do it”, here’s some of my own thoughts/plans for the first part of production. My focus is doing a production on Linux, with open source software when I can. This saves on software cost, and allows better tweakability of software. Many of the software programs I will mention in my posts are available for Windows and Mac as well, however.

Script: Use Celtx for the script writing phase. http://www.celtx.com . This also has storyboarding capabilities, but I plan to do more pre-vis than storyboarding for speed.

Sound: Once you have a script, you create a radio play from it. This is your scratch soundtrack. You can initially record all the parts with you and a few friends, and then replace characters with more professional recording once the script is finalized and you can arrange for the voice talent.

There are many podcasted audio dramas out there, so pull voice talent from that community. They have experience with voice acting, have experience working on indie projects, and often have their own sound recording equipment so they can work remotely with you over the internet. For local recording and scratch tracks, I plan to use a Zoom H2 recorder (http://www.samsontech.com/products/productpage.cfm?prodID=1916) I’ll probably have to work out some sort of setup to control ambient and bounce sound, since I likely won’t be working with a sound booth. But if needed, you can always rent out time at a local sound studio and record your actors. Just be prepared, and rehearse your actors before time so as to keep your in-studio time and costs down.

Voice actors can be found in forums like:

I plan to cut audio on Ardour (http://www.ardour.org/), and use xjaedo to view any needed video clips that are synched to the sound. An article on scoring with Ardour can be found here: http://www.out-of-order.ca/wordpress/tutorial/composing-soundtracks-with-ardour-on-mac-os-x/

I will mix sound in a setion per sequence, and then export a sequence-wide audio clip for animating and performing previs against. The soundtrack will be a back-and-forth thing, with some audio/voices laid out in Ardour, exported to a wav file, read into Maya for pre-vis, image sequences rendered out of Maya, brought back into Ardour with xjaedo, scratch foley added, etc. Retiming of sequences will also need to be a back-and-forth process, since I plan to do all my shot length editing in Maya.

Lip synching the animation to the voices will be done with Papagayo (http://www.lostmarble.com/papagayo/index.shtml), probably the 1.3 mod version. I’ll have to work out a script to apply the papagayo files to my character rigs, but that’s not a problem.

After animation and lighting are complete, and I get to the foley and scoring stage, I plan to record as little as my own foley as possible. Ideally I’ll be able to work with sound clip libraries like:

I’ll likely comission a composer to write and arrange the theme song, and perhaps one or two thematic pieces. The rest of the background music I hope to fill in with music library samples. I’ll probably have to learn to arrange music myself so that I can adapt parts of the commissioned pieces to different scenes. Most of the music created specifically for the show will be midi, which I will arrange and time to the picture through Rosegarden (http://www.rosegardenmusic.com/) and then rendered with TiMidity (http://timidity.sourceforge.net/) and some good sample libraries. Not as good as a live orchestra, but passable. I’m not trying to win an Academy Award here, I’m just trying to get something that is workable.

I’ll stop my rambling here, and continue thoughts on other parts of the topic in other posts later.

Michael Duffy


Please review special note in Yellow:

Guys I noticed some of you writing about the challenges or how hard it is to make a CG movie and make a profit. That was really in part 1 of this post. If you’d like to address that issue please post there. This is part 2. This is tips about

1) How to overcome the obstacles using shortcuts, best practice methods, etc
2) How to make a profit
3) How to reach an audience

Not really about hte challenge itself. So please no “how hard” or “how impossible” This post is about the solutions to the problem, not restating the problem

Back to Post

So its about 10 years of hard work with a vage chance to make some money later. ( Even more since internet piracy ,after the musicbusiness, slowly but steadily begins to affect the movie-industry
as well.
( I doubt it, if Jeff Lew of Killer Beans fame for instance has become a millionare in the meantime. )

Please review the previous post on this particular subject. It has already been documented through case studies it does not take 10 years, among 4 it could take 1 year. You may not become a millionare but you can make a living doing it. Case studies are at the beginning of this post that show how successful they can be.

Maybe there is a market for smaller animation pieces in the cellphone business?
Like for Ringtones for example?

Actually there is a niche market and there are buyers market. Something like Jeff Lew made at that quality could even make theatres like Hoodwinked did. Please research some of the buyers’ markets that buy animations (www.awn.com) . Jeff could easily at the least get distribution rights sold for around 300,000-400,000 with profit sharing cuts. But he can also reach a niche market. We’ll have to wait and see but please note the case studies I posted above at the beginning. How do you think we can overcome these problems and do 1 or 2 a year?

We’ve already established a base animation rate. 3 Minutes a month. Based on Jeff Lew, M Dot Strange and Thurist from Plankton Invasion.

But you raised a great thing for the HOW TOs. Collabing. Problem is no one really wants to collab. Taking that 3 minutes into account a month. 4 guys could do 12 minutes a month together. So why not share how we can get folks to collab? That is the question that will lead to the speed. The one man thing is really hard and not desirable at all. How do we encourage the spirit of collabing?

DVD Printing problem

Would you invest a lot of money and go to a professional publisher to make your DVDs?
Would it be still acceptable if you just burn them on a blank DVD-R with your home computer and sell them?

It’s really not as much as you think. Indie Comic book artists throw this down all the time for Comic prints. DVDs are actually cheaper. Start with a short run and see how it goes before ordering 10,000 copies. Start with 1,000-2,000.

No need for an extremely high investment. But with anything you will have to invest a little money to make money. In fact our main goal here is to keep investment money LOW. That’s the advantage we have over hte big boys.

Can anyone answer

  1. How to Build Audience
  2. Tips to build speed
  3. How to make a profit

Mr. DUFFY!! Great tips!


I am not sure if I should post here due to lack of experience . But here is my list of what I think people should do to go indie.

  1. get industry experience and learn from enperienced individuals.

  2. start networking. Find people that are just as excited as you to go indie. But make sure they are also great at what they do. No weak links allowed. And make sure they are someone you get along with, a sense of humor would really help to make the days go by smooth and make being there a fun experience.

  3. Save your money! don’t go buying crap you want. The only “wants” in your mind should have to do with starting your own project. So invest any extra cash that you dont save into a work station, small render farm or even boxes of canned soup. Anything you think that will benefit your project. ( also make sure those people you want working with you are doing the samething.)

  4. make sure your idea is good. post on forums , talk to your friends about the project. Get as much honest crits about it as possible to ensure that it is something worth while working on. And something everyone working on it will be very excited about.

  5. set up shop, get the cheapest place you can find to do the work. And if you and the other people get along good, you can all live there to cut down on rent payments. It might not be the best way to live but it would be the cheapest.

  6. Don’t expect to make money on your project. Once you start worrying about how much you can make from it is when the quality of the project will start to suffer because you wont be 100% focused on the task at hand. Think of it as a nice way to spend your time and really push yourself to do the best you can do. Your making something new and fresh damnit that should be pay enough! Its not the end result that keeps artists motivated , its the process of making it.
    If the project is good, you will make money. Like someone else said in this thread, get yourself someone to manage your money and who can get your indie movie/game into the market and/or into the eyes of the public.
    And if it doesnt make money dont worry when the saving start to run out. You can always go back to work at a studio if need be.



heres something which might intrest u
hes a guy who wants to make his movie and hes getting all the attention
i havent seen a post mention this in cgtalk so i hope its not a double post
but chk it out seriously

he wants to make his animated movie and wats going on with him its his story


chk it out from intro to the latest vid which is 9 and there are 10 in total
he is making a buzz

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Tlqi6iKgLk the latest


“Isnt there anyone serious out there?”


That was the number one thought I had in pursuing an indie movie after dealing with so many people who were the opposite.

Someone once suggested I start a blog and post updates of what i was doing. So that or youtube is probably a good idea–because people who might want to collaborate may be wondering if you are serious before they commit to it. :shrug:


I’m an utter n00b to animating and 3d in general, so please bear with me here.

I would be really interested in knowing how this compares to traditional hand-drawn animations. I have this feeling that hand-drawn might be potentially faster to make than 3d. And if that is indeed the case, and if someone is mainly interested in telling a story through a visual medium that doesn’t have to be 3d, then maybe 3d is not the best choice.

Does anyone know for sure?