Live Action or Animation Video: Which One is Best for Your Video Marketing Strategy?

Jaycen Thorgeirson
Founder & Chief Storyteller
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Ready to take your business marketing to the next level? Adding video is one way to stand out from the crowd. With more than a few options, figuring out which medium to use is just the beginning?

What are you selling?

It might seem obvious, but one of the first things to consider is what is your video all about? Are you advertising a business that revolves around a real person or place? Do you want people to visit your luxury hotel chain, use your real estate agency, or come to your event? Are you selling a tangible product and want to show how it is used real life? If you said yes to any of those things, live action might be best for you. Live action is grounded in reality and can be easier for people to connect too. It also tends to be more personal, and can be a great tool if you’re trying to humanize your brand and build a relationship with your viewers.

But what do you when you’re selling an intangible product, like an app, or you’re trying to explain something that’s complicated or abstract? This is when an animated motion graphic can be your best friend. It’s an incredibly effective medium for simplifying concepts and helping viewers visualize and understand information, while keeping them engaged and interested. And if your product, app, or service doesn’t even exist yet, don’t worry: anything can exist in an animated video. It’s like magic.

How much time do you have?

Chances are you have a pretty tight timeline you have to stick to for your video. The process usually starts off the same for both live action and animation. Once you know what you want your video to say, you write a script, put together some scene directions, then build a storyboard. But once creative development is wrapped up, a live action video can usually be shot and edited in just a few days. However, 2D animation is built from the ground up. A visual style needs to be decided on, then the artwork needs to be created, then you get to the animation process.

A video with extensive character animation and background details is going to take longer than a simple motion graphic that’s mostly text based, and a live-action video with multiple locations and talent with conflicting schedules is going to take longer than one you shot on site with coworkers, but in most cases it’s a safe bet that a live action video will be ready to go before an animated one.

What’s your budget?

You probably don’t have a Hollywood sized budget, so this might be the point where you’re hoping to get a definitive answer. But the truth is live action can cost more than animation, and animation can cost more than live action. Not helpful at all? We know, but bear with us.

There are many factors related to both mediums that are going to affect your cost. Do you need to rent a location and hire actors (and possibly makeup artists and wardrobe stylists for those actors) for your live action video, or can you film your coworkers on site? Do you need to hire a cameraman and rent expensive equipment, or can you use what you have on hand, like a smartphone?

If you’re making an animated video, using freelance resources, utilizing templates, and reusing characters and art can save you money (and time) over using a production company and creating new artwork, but the end result is less likely to make an impression.

What does the future look like?

Are you psychic? No? Too bad. It’s important to consider whether you think you might need to make changes to your video down the line. Once everything is shot and edited, live action videos are harder to update later. It can be very time consuming and expensive to reshoot footage. It’s much easier to make updates to animated motion graphics as your business and your message evolve, so if making a commitment scares you and you want the freedom to make changes down the line, animation might be the way to go.

The same is true if you think you might want your video to be part of a series one day. Depending on the content of your video, it might be easier to create a second animated motion graphic that matches the visual style of your first than it is to shoot a second video with the same props, location, and actors.

Now it’s time to ignore everything we’ve said, because sometimes we get to have our cake and eat it too. Why not combine live action and animation? There are so many choices, it can be hard to decide.

If you need help figuring it out, we got you.

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