Animation vs. Live Action Video: Which Is Right for Your Business?

Posted on by Tristan Pelligrino

By now, video has been firmly established as one of the most effective ways to reach an audience. Choosing live-action or animation is a decision largely driven by the type of audience you’re trying to connect with.

One brand that embraces both live action and animation is Geico, and the insurance giant’s latest ad features an animated McGruff the Crime Dog of 1980s PSA fame alongside human actors. By using both animated and live characters, the ad manages to come across as fun and playful while still keeping the message on-point.

Even if your brand doesn’t combine animation with live action, knowing which is the best fit for your unique message is critical. If the main goal is to humanize your brand, live action is a good choice. Instead of paid actors, consider featuring key executives, real employees, and other partners or customers. Live-action allows you to communicate in much the same way you would in person, and having actual representatives of your company in your video will help your audience forge a stronger connection with your organization.

On the other hand, if your goal is to explain a complicated topic or deliver a more conceptual message, animation is probably going to be the most effective route. Text, illustrations, charts and other tools can be called on to help describe an idea in a fun and entertaining way.

Whichever method you decide to rely on, keep your audience top of mind. If you’re a large corporation, your audience will be different than if you worked in a small startup. Tone is equally important, and while many subjects call for an upbeat and lighthearted tone, others do not.

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Budget is another important consideration. Any video will be an investment, but live-action videos require a heftier commitment of time and resources. An animated video will generally involve a scripted voiceover, resulting in a tighter message and shorter turnaround time. You can spend hundreds or hundreds of thousands on a video, but a basic animated video will land somewhere around the $4,000 mark, while a basic live-action video will cost closer to $8,000. 

At the other end of the spectrum, an elite animated explainer video can cost up to $12,000, but to get the same level of professionalism for live-action, it will cost around $30,000. Price is definitely an important consideration, but because your video is going to be relied on to produce a certain level of return, focus more on choosing the right format for your needs by asking the following questions:

  1. What message am I trying to convey?

Most companies lean on animation to convey a more abstract or conceptual message. If your product or service is difficult to understand, the wide variety of design elements available with animation and illustration will make your message easier for the viewer to digest so he or she will come away with a better understanding of what you offer. 

  1. Do I need a human element?

For the most personal connection, live action is the ideal choice. Animation can also help humanize your brand but not to the same degree as a video that features actual employees, customers, and stakeholders explaining what they love about your company. 

  1. How often will I need to update the clip?

If your message frequently changes or requires periodic updates, you might want to consider animation. Updating live-action videos isn’t impossible, but it can be more problematic. It requires assembling your original cast and the team necessary to capture video and sound, and then it will involve re-editing the final product for what is likely a small change. Animation can be much more cost-effective to update after it has already been produced.

  1. How quickly do I need the video?

If you need a video urgently, animation might be the way to go. Animation tend to have a shorter project schedule and can be delivered faster. Live-action requires a greater number of variables to come together, including interview schedules, film crew availability, and the need for specific locations. Because animation video relies almost solely on a motion graphics designer with digital tools, you’re looking at less time and money to get it out the door.

Video is almost always a win. In fact, 72 percent of businesses believe it increases website conversion rates, while 64 percent cite a direct increase in sales as a result. If you need results quickly, don’t underestimate the importance of video in your marketing efforts.

Tristan Pelligrino is the co-founder of Motion.


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