Is Aniboom Virtual Studio a legit studio?

Aniboom

Animation video sharing website Aniboom has announced they’re launching a “virtual animation studio.” They’re unclear about how their business model works, but as I understand it, Aniboom intends to create productions for corporate clients by cherry-picking crew members from the large pool of animators who have uploaded videos to their site. On one of their pages, they advertise to potential clients that the 9,500 artists who have uploaded videos are ready to create animation of high-quality in a fast and cost efficient manner.

How can they do high-quality, fast AND cheap? A clue can be found in this section where they describe how animators who participate in their virtual productions will be compensated with “a variety of potential monetary benefits that include revenue share, employment offers and payment for series development with Aniboom.” Note that their ideas of compensation do not include any of those pesky line items that other studios have to contend with like salaries, health insurance, vacation time, retirement benefits, maternity leave, and learning and development opportunities.

Aniboom has been indoctrinating young artists for years through a savvy and systematic use of contests that encourages users to create work for corporations on spec and without any expectation of pay. We’ve warned readers about these contests on mutiple occasions. Now they appear to be pushing the exploitation of young artists to an entirely new (and more profitable) level, and for a company with millions of dollars in venture capital backing, that’s exactly what we’ve always expected them to do.

UPDATE: Aniboom’s rep has told us that everybody who works for them will be paid and they have updated their website, which now says, “We offer creators around the world the attractive opportunity to work from home, on their own schedule and get paid directly via PayPal or Payoneer.”

How much do they pay? Not much according to a couple readers in our comments. The most detailed comment is from Mike who quoted this response from Aniboom:

“Thank you for your response to our call for illustrators. We are gearing up to start production of the second season of a popular animated series for television. It’s a comedy-action show for children based on five heroes who travel to strange fantasy worlds, and fight innumerable foes to try and save their kingdom. We’re looking for character illustrators and background illustrators.

The major production will begin in September, but we’re starting in about 2 weeks to produce the assets and several sequences. Are you interested, and would you be available to work with us starting in around 2 weeks time?

We’re paying:

· $90 an average per sequence.

· $250 for a full character package with all positions and facial lipsync

· $100 for a character with only basic positions.

· $100 for background art

(Thanks, Chris Sokalofsky)


  • http://www.aniboom.com Shira Abel

    Hi,

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I can assure you, the Aniboom Virtual Studio pays our animators in cash – via PayPal or Payoneer. I’m re-writing the text of the Creator Benefits so that it will accurately reflect reality.

    Warmest regards,

    Shira Abel
    Director of Marketing
    Aniboom

    • J Ashby

      @Shira Able Please forgive my skepticism but, If this is in fact a legitimate studio, how will your virtual studio differ from your “contests”? Why should an artist/animator/cartoonist want to work for your studio?

      • http://www.aniboom.com Shira Abel

        Hi J,

        It is a legitimate studio. We give rates up front. We pay via PayPal or Payoneer. If we offer you the job but you don’t like the rate – don’t take the job.

        Why would a creator want to work for Aniboom? You get to work where you like, the hours you like. We pay quickly and I happen to think we’re really nice as well :)

        Warmest regards

    • Joshua

      The payment method is not what was in question. What is in question is; are you paying animators fairly, or are you exploiting their hard-earned skills? Do you pay every animator that contributes to a for-profit project, or do you only “pay” “contest winners”?

      • http://www.aniboom.com Shira Abel

        Hi Joshua,

        The Aniboom Virtual Studio is a studio. When we contact someone who has applied to the studio for work, the work is paid.

        Warmest regards,

  • http://thelift.kohrtoons.com Robert Kohr

    I received an email from them a week or so ago about this. In the past they have sent out many exploratory emails for competitions, as Amid has pointed out. This made me suspicious of what their intent is. When a company goes around asking for free work and pitches with profit sharing my steer clear radar goes off. I have met similar opportunities, both in reality and virtually and I can definitely say that I have never heard of any of them again after the initial exploration.

    I am not saying that Aniboom is bad just that they need to change how animators perceive them. Also without a clear hourly compensation schedule its hard to make me want to sign up. On their end, if they do pay hourly how will you control costs if not by paying really cheap or are paying project based, in which case how many layers of changes do you permit the client to have?

    All said and done yes it could be a good thing, but Aniboom has to work its way up to gain trust at this point. Also they are taking something that usually requires a bit of finesse per project and generalizing it into a cheap production schedule.

  • Anoniguy

    Wow, they sure were quick to reply to this. That’s good. One might even think it was a legitimate goof.

  • http://thadkomorowski.com Thad

    Via PayPal?! Is there any way to escape those crazy fees?!

  • http://www.candlelightstories.com Alessandro Cima

    I have one general rule in business. It is that wherever you see fuzziness of any kind whatsoever you are seeing a lie. Period. That’s my rule. It gets me out of trouble every single time.

    Wherever you see fuzziness you are seeing a lie. Remember that. It applies to anyone and to any company regardless of what comes out of their mouths.

    I have never done business with anyone who had even the slightest bit of trouble talking about money.

    • jamesT

      Fuzziness is not always a sign of dishonesty, sometimes it can be a sign of lack of experience. In my understanding Aniboom is trying something new, to invent a way to connect their large community of animators with clients, and obvioulsy to make money in the process. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they seek to fool any of the parties involved, they are just making an experiment. The problem with this idea is that it’s hard to match high-end clients with not established animators, and the only angle to explore here is cheapness. So any solution they may come up with will look somewhat unprofessional and below the industry standards, but it still can be not a bad opportunity to explore for emerging animators.

      • http://www.candlelightstories.com Alessandro Cima

        Of course what you say is true. The fuzziness thing is just a general rule I apply in my own business dealings. From a personal perspective, it has never failed me. It has also never kept me from working with inexperienced people who tend to gain experience very quickly. It all depends on where the fuzziness sits.

        I once went to talk to a couple of guys who were starting something new. I sat with them in Beverly Hills one night talking. They offered an amount of money. When I said no they added fifty percent to the figure. I said no again. Again they added fifty more percent. Ridiculous. They didn’t realize that I was actually saying no. I walked out laughing. Six months later they were bankrupt. In that case, they were lying to themselves.

        That’s what I mean by fuzziness. You state your price clearly in big bold print and you don’t mess with that. Otherwise you are not serious.

      • http://zeteos.blogspot.com/ Mick

        I would agree with Alessandro. If it is legit it is legit. i don’t see how dealing with people who appear somewhat unprofessional and below industry standards is anything ‘other’ than a bad opportunity for emerging animators. the way to end that type of exploitation is to tell the emerging animators to avoid such situations surely?

        I have no opinion of aniboom, my comment is really a response to JamesT. Fuzziness doesn’t necessarily mean dishonesty but clear and concise terms do mean clear and concise terms.

        Time and again we hear of cartoon people working for free through various guises… contests, profit share etc it strikes me that the rot has trully set in when people who should know better condone this cycle of nonsense

      • jamesT

        I think you are overlooking one little detail:

        “Aniboom provides opportunities to animators who lack meaningful access to the animation industry, enabling these individuals to participate in projects they would ordinarily be excluded from, if only because of location”.

        So yes, a professional animator living in North America would be very silly to chose to participate in this initiative instead of a real employment opportunity or a filmmaking grant, or taking time to enrich his/her portfolio or other such much more preferable thing.

        But are you going to advise an animation enthusiast living in let’s say Estonia or Peru, where the prospects of employment in animation are not so good, to pass on this opportunity, eventhough they know what they are dealing with? I personally think that this Aniboom virtual studio idea is not going to work because quality+reliability=$$$, but as long as they are not deceiving anyone about the prospects I don’t see anything evil about it.

      • Chris Sokalofsky

        You know what, that’s fair. Of course their payments seem like dirt to us in North America, but to many others that may be enough to support a family on (of course, that’s dependant on the work being continuous, which is doubtful). I can see the appeal, from that angle.

  • Chris Sokalofsky

    “Aniboom has over 9,500 creators available to go to for production”. How many are on the payroll? How many have received ANYTHING remotely resembling compensation?

    Shira answered quickly, but all he really said was that the wording was going to be changed. “Paid by cash through paypal.” Yeah, what, $250 bucks for a couple weeks of work, IF they’re lucky enough to get picked?

    My BS filter is on “Air Raid Siren Mode” right now.

    • http://www.aniboom.com Shira Abel

      Hi Chris,

      Just so you know – Shira is a she. :)

      Yes, the wording will be changed. It’s giving people the wrong impression, so it should be changed.

      Why not apply to the Aniboom Virtual Studio and give it a try? If we contact you for a job and you don’t like the pay you have the right to say no. Worst case scenario you spend a few minutes on a website putting in information. Best case scenario – you get paid for your work and you get to see how we are to work with for yourself.
      http://www.aniboom.com/Work/Apply/

      Warmest regards

      • http://www.candlelightstories.com Alessandro Cima

        That is a fair statement from Shira. If they offer a price that’s fair to an animator, why not take the job? I guess it’s sort of like a temp agency for animators. Temp agencies offer different rates depending who the clients are so there’s not much difference really. As long as there are completely clear terms set in advance then perhaps there’s no harm.

        Why not offer some examples of some jobs and what the rates were? Without naming the clients or the specific projects. That might go over well.

        It’s obvious that Shira is trying to make a good impression, which strikes me as somewhat unusual so I would be willing to listen to her.

  • Corey

    It’s the artists that do free or next-to-nothing work that are worse than the companies that hire them.

    • http://www.goodaboy.com Rajesh

      Agreed.

  • http://carolwyatt.blogspot.com Carol Wyatt

    Thank you for posting this. It seems that Aniboom is on the same trajectory as other studios who rip off naive talent.
    As long as animators go for it, this will never stop.
    Time is money.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/2MKcreations Matthew Koh

    Hey! That’s my idea! I thought that up since last April.

  • http://olmosramiro.com Ramiro Olmos

    Hi guys,

    I’ve actually done work for Aniboom before, they attempted a virtual studio type thing sometime last year. I think it was like a trial run, I did receive my pay in a timely manner as well via Paypal. Pay for me was pretty good. I’ve also been an active member of their community since the beginning. I’ve won some of their contests, and if you have the free time to enter their contests, the pay thing is definitely good, but entering solely on the expectations of winning is not the best mindset. I do animation, because I love doing it, I don’t do it necessarily for the money(when it comes to these contests), though the money is a necessity(I work professionally as well), and always an extra plus. I’ve done many animations on my free time before, that I’ve enjoyed submitting on newgrounds., and releasing on the web. And NO, Aniboom is not paying me to say this.

  • The Gee

    The number 9,500 gets me. So let me try to ask what are possibly stupid questions.

    Is that likely? The last time any estimate came up about the industry, in general, the number that was always bounced around was that there are less than 4,000 in the animation industry.

    If Aniboom is saying that it has 9,500 names of talent it knows of then that seems extraordinarily high.

    Are they saying that 9,500 individuals (animators, bg artists, storyboarders, etc.) are on some list they have? Or are they saying there are 9,500 who are just animators?

  • tom k

    So 9,500 artists are now employed by Aniboom with or with out their consent? Doesn’t sound right.

    • http://www.aniboom.com Shira Abel

      Hi Tom,

      The 9,500 are creators (not just animators) who have given us their information into the database. They are not all employees.

      Warmest regards

  • Martin Bell

    I have done work for Aniboom before, and been paid. I mentioned this on here before, I think. I thought the rate they offered for “basic Flash animation” was fair, so took the contract. However when I recieved the files they were not set up to be animated (everything drawn on one layer, so I had to set up all the symbols myself and fill in the holes in the original graphics that were left behind), they also then requested effects animation in Flash that were on a par with Disney-level traditional effects animation, which I thought was an unfair expectation for the money in the contract. I did my best, and to be fair, was paid.

    That was in their “trial” program. I have since been contacted personally to do more work, and have agreed in principle to look at individual jobs and contracts. I guess Aniboom are counting me in that 9,500 – however I will not be taking any jobs that I feel are not worth the money offered.

    For the record, and apologies to Aniboom if this isn’t meant to be public knowledge, they are offering $90 per shot, and shots are 3-10 seconds. No word on whether this is 12 or 24 fps yet. This is a reasonable rate for what, 4-6 hours work?

    I think for limited Flash animation (look up Pucca on Youtube for an example), this is a fair price for 3-5 seconds, assuming the files recieved are properly set up and ready to animate.

    However, the example currently given by Aniboom is that they want “The Little Mermaid”-style animation – the TV spinoff show that is, so at least it’s not Disney feature-standard. They specify each frame drawn individually, not tweened.

    It’s a high standard to request for so little money, and for Flash. You’d need a Wacom Cintiq to do it properly (I’m still not convinced that detailed 2D animation can be achieved with a regular graphics tablet), but otherwise really this is lightbox work that they want, which for anyone willing to work for this rate means a lot of scanning and setting up in Flash which shouldn’t be a requirement.

    I’ve instructed Aniboom that I am a CGI animator first (as they seem to be interested in hiring CGI animators, I’m not sure why), that I would want to know all details of the job, and see the animatic, before I sign the contract.

    • amid

      Martin – Thanks for being so open about your finances, and also for sharing such detailed info about working with Aniboom. There is a lack of transparency on their site, from how they compensate artists to their claim to clients that 9,500 people are ready to work on projects. You’ve done both our readers and their company a huge favor by communicating in a forthright manner.

      FYI, in New York, day rates for freelance Flash animators typically range from $200-450. You can divide those numbers by eight to get a sense of what a fair hourly rate is.

  • http://www.enigmation.de slowtiger

    Martin: Thx for the numbers. Of course you hit the nail on the head when you say $90 may be reasonable pay for 4 hrs work – but from your description it sounds like the files one gets need too much cleanup and preparation to finish up to 10 sec of animation in that amount of time.

    For more elaborated work you definitely need a Cintiq, and Yes, you can work quite detailed with it – after a lot of practice.

  • http://atomcloudanimation.com AKA Adam Cloud

    I did do some work for Aniboom a few months ago. All I can say in my experience is that there were good intentions on both ends, but communication was the reason for delay. If I’m not mistaken, the studio core is in Tel Aviv Israel. So we’ve got an 11 hour difference of time (or close to it, I forget).

    The comments were legit. The setup was acceptable though style guides, model sheets, and even sample animation of what they had in mind would have been helpful. The turn around time for direction was not, and that was the biggest problem I had working for them.

    I would do it again if given the opportunity, but if I have to go through what I went through in round 1, then it’s impossible for me to recommend them as an employer. Communication is necessary at certain checkpoints, and the time it took to get response in a timely manner turned what should have been a day or two into several weeks.

  • http://www.aniboom.com Shira Abel

    Hi All,

    Our Creator Benefits page has been updated.

    http://www.aniboom.com/CreatorBenefits

  • http://animatedland.com John Lane

    I’ve returned to this post a few times to read the comments. I keep wondering if anyone else saw the documentary ‘The Yes Men’? It illustrates the rational behind globalized labor pools, and how cost effective they are.

  • Anonymous Mouse

    The question is not so much who the workers are (or in this case the worker bees), but who would contract through such an agency?

    It’s set up as a Borg-like structure that promotes uniformity and aspires to mediocrity.

    Is this really what the world needs? More generic moving pictures?

    Price point is a marketing tool for the creatively bankrupt. If a client can’t afford to properly pay animators who live in the markets their project is airing then they shouldn’t be making animation.

  • Mike

    I contacted them when they’ve offered these “paid” jobs in the past. Their pay scale is ridiculous. I could make more money doing bad caricatures on the street. Here is their response:

    “Thank you for your response to our call for illustrators. We are gearing up to start production of the second season of a popular animated series for television. It’s a comedy-action show for children based on five heroes who travel to strange fantasy worlds, and fight innumerable foes to try and save their kingdom. We’re looking for character illustrators and background illustrators.

    The major production will begin in September, but we’re starting in about 2 weeks to produce the assets and several sequences. Are you interested, and would you be available to work with us starting in around 2 weeks time?

    We’re paying:

    · $90 an average per sequence.

    · $250 for a full character package with all positions and facial lipsync

    · $100 for a character with only basic positions.

    · $100 for background art

    Warmest regards,

    Shira”

  • http://carolwyatt.com Carol Wyatt

    There actually is an online studio set up and running already, animationmaui.com.
    They have an incredible pipeline and are set up for all kinds of animation (CG, 2D, stop motion, etc). PINK SLIP Animation is currently setting up projects through them.
    Creators maintain all rights, all control, and have their production online in a very organized and professional place.
    It is free.

    There is no need to “give” away your projects when you can make them yourselves (which you do anyway) and then sell them yourself.

    Making work for ourselves is key at this time in the economy. Don’t give the work away or no one will get paid.

  • http://ixintro.newgrounds.com Ixintro

    I dunno, I’m a sophomore in college and I’m severely strapped for cash and since I can’t get any freelance or anything, this seems like a decent deal. At least to try out.

  • http://weirdurl.com Zekey

    I’ve worked for these guys a couple of times.

    Experienced similar troubles Martin, although to a less extent. They don’t pay really well, but they still pay.

    I got my dues, it was simple easy work for the most part. Nothing too strenuous or difficult.
    And for a mediocre indy animator bum like me, freelance stuff like this is getting very hard to find. Particularly stuff that doesn’t require vast knowledges of game code like actionscript and java.

    I’d work for them again, and will be later this month for that exact same virtual studio stuff you already posted. A hundred bucks for a few seconds of traditional animation done with my tabletpc into flash sounds like an ok deal to me.

    If doing freelance work for these guys makes me a bad person then give me a pitchfork and call me Lucifer.

  • Derek

    I was approached by AniBoom last year after having my reel randomly reviewed by them and was asked to apply. This was, I think, back in March of 2010. To this date they have had no offering of work despite my periodic expressed interest. I don’t really see the point. :-/