Animation vs. Live Action: Which Makes the Best Corporate Video?

Life is filled with debates on which is better. Sometimes these debates are thankfully simple, like Summer vs. Winter or Chocolate vs. Vanilla. However, we’d like to address a much more difficult decision - Which solution is better suited for your corporation: an intense, well-thought-out animated video or a more personable, quick-to-make live-action video?

It’s not (nor should it be) an easy choice to make, as both video solutions accomplish the same goals. When done right, they each help gain the attention of your target demographic and attract more leads from your audience pool. However, each solution has its pros and cons, and one solution may make sense for one business, while the other may be a better fit for yours.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the pros and cons of Animated and Live-Action video.

Animated Video:

Comprehensible & Trendy

There’s a reason why modern technology-based companies are leaning towards animated explainer videos as of late. Animated videos are able to easily explain complicated ideas in a timely and engaging manner. For example, companies selling cloud-based products greatly benefit from having animated videos to explain what they’re offering in a fun and entertaining way. The animations help potential customers understand how their services or products work, which is something that can’t be easily conveyed in a live-action video.

Plus, animated videos all have their own unique style. Whether it be 2D, 3D or another variation, there are practically limitless ways to express your brand.

Easily Express Abstract Ideas

As stated above, products that are intangible are more easily described with an animated video. For example, products like DropBox, Google Docs or Google Drive will typically have a video describing how people can access all their files from their “cloud” folder on any device. Here’s an excellent example of a 3D animated video below for Google Drive:

The video clearly states that whether you’re at home, at work, or on vacation, you can access files that you upload to Google Drive from any location. As you can see, they have also done this in a rather fashionable, quick and engaging way.

Potentially Slower, but more Flexible and Customizableanimation pros

The production time associated with Animation is typically longer than live action video, but that’s not always the case, nor is it always a bad thing. Both approaches, animated and live action, require time, effort and creativity to effectively carry out your company’s message. Beyond that, Animation often takes longer to complete than a live action video of a similar time, length, and ambition.

Animators use computers to create your little, animated world, characters and style from the virtual ground up (see what we did there?). On the other hand, live-action videographers film your videos in the real world, where sets are typically easier to put together. Since animators have to build your world from scratch each time, it takes time. However, Animation provides the flexibility to build a world that looks and sounds any way you want it to, while live action is restrained by what is physically possible.

The word “impossible” does not exist in Animation, and I’ve watched enough Looney Tunes in my life to know this is true! Though it may be costly and take some time to produce wildly creative projects, you can get exactly what you want. Do you need pink elephants? Well, you can have them!

Easy to Alter 

Though Animation can be complex and time-consuming, you can come back to it at any time to make desired or necessary changes. If something needs to be altered with live-action down the line - let’s say, 6 months down the line - there’s much to consider. 

To alter a live-action video, you’ll need most, if not all of the original people, equipment and props to be present, which means contacting the actors and actresses, figuring out schedules, re-renting any necessary equipment to prevent continuity errors, and so forth.

As a previous live-action videographer, I can attest that nothing is more rewarding (yet also exhausting) than getting the right shot for your video - even if that means driving across town 3 times in the same week to make sure the shot is as perfect as possible. 

With Animation, you just boot up the program used to design it and make changes, while the process of reshooting live-action video could be a (costly) nightmare. 

Live Action Video:

Humanizing and Personable

Live action video is a great solution for building trust in your brand. If you want to give the impression that your company is comprised of humans, then live action video might just be the right path for your corporation. There’s a psychological reason why people are drawn to real human faces in film, and this has much to do with our ability to relate to one another. There’s a disconnect between how emotions are displayed on real humans vs. animations, as animations don’t quite get it right  - though it’s getting closer in 3D animation every year!

Live action is great for people whose businesses revolve around personal, human interaction or have a physical location with a reputation to uphold. For example, it’s unlikely that a high-class hotel, or an adventure tourism agency would benefit from animated video. What’s more enticing when it comes to travel video: an animation of a beach, room service, zip-lining and beautiful hotel room views, or the live action version? Here’s an example of an ideal adventure-tourism video below:

Shows How Things Work in Real Life

Whether you’re selling food or shoes, if your company’s unique selling point is based on the quality of the product vs the ease of the buying process, you’ll want to allow the customer to visualize the product in practice. For example, imagine the impact of a video of a juicy steak with crispy baked potato wedges and roasted garlic butter broccoli, or a close-up and slowed-down video of someone running in a new pair of Nikes.

Live action is also great to help viewers visualize the process of how your product works in real-life detail. For example, can you accurately replicate how to perform CPR in an animation video? You’d be better off with a live video for something like that, but you can add little animation pointers here and there to really drive the point across. For example, you could add something simple like an arrow showing you where the heart is.

Typically Faster, but Physically Limited

Remember when we discussed that animation can be time-consuming? Well, with Live Action it’s the exact opposite - as long as everything goes according to plan! As long as everything is well-organized and the cameras are rolling, a live-action commercial can be shot and edited in just a few days. While the length and/or the complexity of the commercial will ultimately determine the time frame, you can typically expect faster results with Live Action video for a commercial under 2 minutes long. Take a look at how the Old Spice commercials were filmed, for example:

I can’t get over how awesome that is! You can watch it again - we won’t judge!

More Difficult to Alter 

Look at how wild that set was for the Old Spice commercial. Can you imagine having to set that up again? When we were discussing how easy it is to alter animations down the line, we weren’t kidding! Between location, regathering actors, makeup, set design and more, Live Action can easily become a costly process. 

If you’re a business that knows exactly how you want your products or services to be represented, Live Action may be the way to go. If you’re a startup that’s constantly in flux and need to be able to make changes and updates often, then Animation is likely a better fit for you. However, nothing is stopping you from using both Live-action and Animation, check out this commercial for Priceline:

Putting it All Together

When all is said and done, there’s a variety of factors you must consider when choosing between Live Action or Animation:

  • Your brand identity & reputation
  • The brand message you want to portray through video marketing
  • Your audience (what they want, what they relate to, where they are, etc.)
  • Your specific goals  (to increase sales, subscriptions, etc.)

No method is inherently better than the other when it comes to speed and cost; it really just comes down to your needs and preferences. If you’re still confused about which solution would work better for you, you can contact us for some pointers on video marketing. For the best internet marketing in Boston, get in touch with SMILE media today! We have digital marketing agency locations in Boston, MA and Exeter, NH.

Source: Cook, E. (2016, December 5). Animation vs Live Action: Which Makes the Best Corporate Video? Retrieved February 02, 2018

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Kirsten Arnold
Kirsten's professional interests include communications, inbound marketing, video editing, and psychology. A "Jill" of many trades with a passion for business, she brings a mix of related certifications and accomplishments to the SMILE team.

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