Video content has been gaining impressive traction over the last 5 years. Thanks to the fact that our attention span is falling (statistically, people struggle to pay attention to a text for more than 4 seconds), more dynamic forms of content reign supreme. Brands that have caught the wave of explainer videos have improved their marketing strategies and conversion rates.
If you want to create your own explainer, there are different approaches to the process. For one thing, you can go with an animated video voiced by yourself or a professional actor. A different route is creating a live action video with a camera, set, and actors.
In this post, we’ll help you determine which is a better fit for your business – animation vs live action. You’ll see a complete layout of benefits for both animated and live action videos as well as the cost breakdown for each style.
Pros of animated videos
Animated videos are always associated with lightweight information – short, easy-to-watch, and with hilarious content. They are also a solid way to wrap difficult concept into a simple, childish cover, and simplify the general understanding of a product or service idea.
Animated explainers are highly popular among modern day businesses. There are several explanations as to why companies are sticking with animation videos:
1. More visual freedom
Simply put, there are way more things that can be animated than those that can be shot as live action footage. Peculiar sets, detailed scenes, or emotional depth all depend on the animator’s skill alone. When it comes to live action, there are many more factors that come to play – the location, the weather, the quality of the camera and the lens, or the skill level of the actor.
Animated videos are certainly a win in terms of visual freedom and the array of frames a creator can depict.
2. Doesn’t require much gear
Animated videos are a good idea for business owners who live in small towns. In more remote areas, access to top of the line filmmaking gear – cameras, tripods, drones – can be limited. Moreover, choosing to go with animation, video location and prop preparation will not be such a struggle. Thanks to that, the starting investment for animated corporate videos is comparably lower than that of a live action video of medium quality.
3. Less talent involved
Looking for filming talent is a pain in the neck. It’s much harder from a manager’s point of view – you have to make sure that everyone’s schedule is free on a given day. On top of that, you’ll have to pay your talent – for 1-5-people teams, it might be too big of an investment to afford.
To that end, animated videos seem are a way out. You can either contact a professional animator that’ll handle the entire process on his own or create a visual on your own with the help of online tools. At the end of the day, animated videos are more convenient than live-action clips due to the smaller talent pool needed.
4. Ability to communicate branding elements more clearly
The visual identity of the brand is highly important when it comes to awareness. By associating a particular color, shaper, or tagline with a brand, a potential client will be more prone to choose the product as it seems familiar by now.
Choosing animation over live action, a producer can pay a lot of attention to colors. You can even create the entire video using nothing but shades of your brand color. Achieving the same result in live action is way more challenging. You can also use a brand mascot that would guide a viewer through the product in your animated explainer.
Animated videos allow companies to incorporate their visual identity into the imagery to a broader extent than in live action.
Cons of animated videos
While animated videos appeal to audiences of all ages, are relatively cheap to produce, and overall do a good job of explaining how a product or a service works, certain drawbacks are still common for this production style.
1. Doesn’t suit serious messages well
Due to their simplistic and entertaining style, animated videos are rarely used when it comes to highlighting a pressing social issue or another serious problem. Live action videos, with their realistic visuals, do a better job of impressing a viewer and pushing him to action. That’s a reason why charity organizations rarely use animated content and prefer camera shots.
While an animated video does a good job in explaining difficult things in a simple way, if you need a viewer to connect to your cause with passion, using animated content might not be the best idea.
2. Lack of human presence
The lack of acting talent doesn’t allow animated videos to be highly relatable. Think about all the commercial scenes involving positive emotions, the values of family or love – they are mostly shot as live action. It’s easier for us to relate to an image that takes place in real settings, with real people involved. However well done, animated video characters are characters nonetheless.
Telling the stories of real people and shooting product testimonials is way more powerful in the live action format.
3. It’s harder to show the product in action
Shooting an animated video is certainly a go-to approach while creating an explainer for service providers. When it comes to product showcasing, this type of content fails to provide a tangible look and feel for the product that would motivate a potential client to get one. Here, on the other hand, live action videos rock as they can deliver a powerful image with zoomed-in shots, show all the applications of a tool or other products with intricate details.
As the actual product is not shown in an animated video, it’s hard to showcase its features and applications in a truly convincing way.
Pros of live action videos
Live action videos involve a drastically different process than animation. To start, you need a script that will describe not only the voiceover but the range of locations, the character’s actions on screen, and bits of dialogue.
Shooting in live action means paying more attention to the location, the time of day, and the weather for the shoot, hiring actors, and other real life concerns. This is a lot more of a hustle. However, it is also true that live action videos can be the cheapest to produce, if you are using a phone camera as equipment and a business owner as a director, actor, cameraman, and editor.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of sticking with live action videos.
1. You don’t need a particular skill set
While animated videos require professionals to work on the visual design, a live action video team can fully consist of amateurs. A fair share of startups use founders and their friends as actors, producers, editors, and other staff members.
Needless to say, the quality of a video done by an amateur team can be fairly low, so you might be at a loss here. However, a good message is often capable of covering up potential production issues.
It’s enough to have pure enthusiasm to create a low-quality live action explainer, which makes production easier and cheaper.
A live action video offers many possibilities to capture comedic and relatable situations. By acting out daily situations, the filmmaking team helps a viewer relate to the content. Due to the lack of familiarity in terms of settings, human emotions, and acting, animation lacks the relatability and presence provided by live shots. While you can still pull on a viewers heartstrings, it’ll require an extremely professional animator or an over-the-top narrative.
Live action videos capture life the way a viewer sees it on a daily basis – that’s why they are subsequently more relatable.
3. Highlight a product
The reason why most product companies choose live action over animation is because of the power a real life shot has to introduce the viewer to a product. There are more than a few ways to show the awesomeness of what your team is advertising:
- Show the product in action;
- Shoot the making of the product;
- Use zoom-in shots to highlight the product’s visual beauty;
- Connect the product to shots with positive messages.
Showcasing a product with an animated video is not as efficient as in real life scenarios.
4. Gives you the chance to use brand ambassadors
Thanks to live action videos, brands can attract ambassadors to be a part of the project. Filming a testimonial of an influencer is a huge trust factor boost which can only be effective if a viewer can see real life emotions and proof that the person uses the brand. It’s hard to create an animated testimonial video that will be credible as it is – replacing traditional settings with animation will not encourage the audience to treat the message seriously.
A live action video allows companies to harness the full power of influencers by filming their testimonials and featuring them as brand ambassadors – such a strategy is harder to execute in animation.
Cons of live action videos
Traditional videos are a tried-and-true approach to deliver a brand’s message to a viewer. While being a powerful tool, the workflow to create a live action video is demanding and time-consuming.
Here are the cons of creating live action content:
1. Creative limitations
A director has to deal with numerous constraints when it comes to live action shoots. To name a few, you might have to face crowded locations, poor hardware or sound quality, or ideas that are possible for real people to perform. Some shots are highly difficult to be captured on camera as they depend on the environment – blowing wind, pouring rain, etc.
Animation doesn’t struggle with such limitations and thus offers a wider range of creative freedom.
2. Failed takes are harder to redo
Filmmakers have to be extremely cautious while on location. Sometimes, they have to film dozens of takes of a single frame just to make sure there’s always material to choose from during post-production. This caution is understandable – redoing failed shots and substituting them seamlessly is highly challenging if not impossible.
That would require the same light, time of day, weather, actor’s wardrobe – not to mention advanced editing skills it would take to make a cut smoother.
While working in a live action environment, your team doesn’t have room for mistakes – or else you’ll end up having a hard time fixing these issues.
3. A team needs to use advanced gear
The filming process requires a creator to gear up with a camera, a few filming lenses, a tripod, and sometimes more equipment. One would have to provide a microphone for actors, have a hard drive for a camera to save footage, and so on. In case you want to bring your vision to reality the way you intended, the shoot can turn out to be quite expensive.
A high-quality film requires advanced gear where animation is more straightforward in terms of equipment.
4. Depends on location
Choosing a location is a pain in the neck for any filmmaker. Where professionals can hire scouts or contact a local film commission, an amateur team would have to make do with what they have. That’s why most videos are limited to the company’s office or an outdoor environment.
Shooting at an indoor location creates challenges in terms of light and the overall aesthetics of the frame. An outdoor shoot is hard to manage due to the fact that too many things can’t be controlled by a director. For example, the sound quality is often disturbed by the sound of wind or car horns so you’d have to improve it with microphones or during editing.
Live action videos are highly reliant on a location – this extends the turnaround time and increases the cost of production.
Animated video cost
The cost of production is a crucial factor when a business owner decides between animation and live action. To this end, animated video cost mainly results to be cheaper. We’ve done a stage-by-stage cost breakdown of animated video production. Here are the results:
|Stage of production||Time needed||A specialist’s hourly rate (according to PayScale)|
|Concept art creation||10 hours||$21.84|
|Editing and sound design||16 hours||$23.42|
Live action video cost
Determining the cost of live action video production can be tricky as it varies from no budget at all to thousands of dollars. However, we’ve listed the average cost of such a video stage-by-stage in the table below.
|Stage of production||Number of hours||Hourly rate of a professional (according to Payscale)|
|Location scouting||48 hours||$37.3|
|Set preparation||56 hours||$24|
|Shooting||21 hour||Actor: $19.96
What to choose?
It seems to be a close tie between live action vs animation. While the latter has a cheaper hourly rate, the production process is more time-consuming, and thus, more expensive.
However, there’s no denying that live action videos offer company owners more opportunities in terms of the variety of shots and acting talent while the animated ones are highly reliant on the illustrator and animator, which can be both a blessing and a curse.
Having taken all of the above into account as well as our own experience as a video production agency, we’ve outlined the list of cases when it’s better to stick to a particular type of video.
You should go with animated videos if:
- There isn’t a strong filmmaking community in your town;
- You’re promoting a B2B product;
- You’re promoting services;
- You’re working on an explainer video;
- You’re aiming at a narrow audience – like specific clients or investors.
You should go with live action spots if:
- There’s a strong filmmaking community where you live – this way, they can lend you equipment, provide a network around for talent, and possibly offer you a free shoot;
- You’re promoting a product;
- You’re aiming at a wide audience;
- The goal of the video is raising brand awareness;
- You are not limited by time constraints.
Choosing between live action and animation is a tough call. It’s worth saying, however, that small businesses and startups mostly stick with animation for explainers while live action videos are more common during crowdfunding campaigns when the goal is to establish a connection between the audience and the brand.
If you’re struggling to decide which format is the right one for you, contact a video production agency. At Xplai, we’ve produced both animated and live action videos for businesses and startups. You can take a look at our latest works our contact us to discuss your project. We’ll be happy to help you with your ideas.