Live Action or Animated Explainer Video? Our Answer May Surprise You - MotionCue
Video Marketing 101

Live Action or Animated Explainer Video? Our Answer May Surprise You

By September 11, 2017 No Comments

We all can agree that explainer videos are the new and effective direction for marketing—or to sum it up, they’re pretty much awesome. They help your business generate more leads and make the perfect pitch every time they’re played. Basically, an explainer video is your business ambassador at large. 

But there has been one question that has plagued marketers for many years: Should they use a live action or animated explainer video?

We have been making videos for past ten years now and are quite comfortable in answering this question once and for all!

But before we offer a verdict, let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each.


Live Action Explainer Videos

The pros:

It creates a human connection.

Online, you’ll find marketers everywhere that give their best effort to sell their products and services.  While the results can be innovative, interesting and even highly engaging, these campaigns will often lack the most important ingredient: the human factor. 

Check out the video we made for Gambol Life.

Not only do you see actual people in the explainer video but also see how to use it.

Your customers are prone to see mostly artificial and canned advertising online, so when they see actual, relatable people in an explainer video, they are able to feel like they can actually relate.

In some cases, the employees of a business or its founder(s) show up in the explainer video, creating even stronger bond with the viewers. This is where live action proves its value: a live action explainer video can create authenticity and emotional connection with your customers, even before they decide to buy from you.

It highlights your product.

Isn’t that what every explainer video does whether it’s animated or live action? True, but when you opt for a live action video, you create an opportunity to show the product or service being actually used by users.

It’s like showcasing your product directly to your customers as if you are presenting it to them face to face.

For those that have tangible product like cars or electronic gadgets, live action explainer video does wonders. It shows products as advertised, being used as advertised and looking exactly like your marketing.

It’s basically a huge vote of confidence in your own product and service. Because, lets face it, customers love when they can see what they are buying for themselves. Live action instills buyer confidence, while letting your product speak for itself.

The Cons:

It limits your imagination.

The worst part about having a live action explainer video is that there is little room for creative imagination.

Consider this, you are selling a new smart watch and want to have scenes that show the main actor wearing the watch but also being chased by bad guys that are evil robots, supported by their alien ships.

Hollywood proves that creating all this is very much possible, but let’s face it, not everyone has a Hollywood budget, especially for an explainer video. If you don’t want to break the bank on your explainer video, your choices will be limited to a normal live action video.

This explainer video for HandieMail manages to create an engaging live action video with the same scene for the entire minute, until the closing scene. So keep in mind while imagination is limited, sometimes limits can help compel creativity.

Revisions are a nightmare:

Live action explainer video production is like a mini movie shoot. In fact it is a mini movie shoot. So once you have finalized it and you are using it, you might want to change it as businesses grow and add more products and services.

If you want, for instance, to add a new feature in your explainer video, it will cost you a lot. Not to mention that you will also have to find the actors again, have to bring in the same props etc.

In fact, most studios would suggest that you shoot a new video compared to the cost and challenges of making changes to an existing one.

So if you go live action, keep in mind that you’ll want to create a video that will stand the test of time.

Musixmatch is an app that helps you learn song lyrics. They’re live action video is one that tells a funny and engaging story that will outlive the company’s growth.

Animated Explainer Video:

The Pros:

Your imagination is the limit:

Unlike live action explainer video, you can do anything in an animated video. So if you want to add aliens chasing your main character in their alien ships, an animator can create that for you, easily.

When you choose animated explainer video, you start off with a storyboard where the animator or the illustrator will create all the scenes for you. It is here you can add more stuff, delete some and even change it completely, no sweat.

This helps you in creating engaging and comedic stories around your products and services using rich colors, interesting characters and engaging narration.

Check out this animated explainer video we did for Varselor:

Unlimited revisions:

Like we stated earlier, businesses are always growing and changing. This means they have to cater to their customers’ needs and add more features and perks to your products.

Now your explainer video will also have to be revised to highlight these changes. Unlike live action, an animated video can be easily revised as only new scenes would have to be added. If you’re not certain of the projected growth or direction of your company, then animated might be your best bet to keep your options open.

An example of this is work that we did for Elance, now Upwork. Because they went with animation, Upwork can easily keep their video up to date as the business grows and reshapes to meet customers needs. Check it out:

The Cons:

Animation can take longer than live action:

When you opt for animated videos, you can expect it to take longer than live action video. However there are some studios (ahem, us) that can do it really fast as well.  

The reason is that the animation process is different and everything needs to be done on a computer. The animator has to work with illustration, create stuff from scratch, design characters, animate them and also has to decide on the overall aesthetic of the video. If you have a tighter turnaround time, then this may be a consideration when working with some studios.

But as we mentioned above, time doesn’t always have to be a limitation. Check out the video we created for 5Crowd in only six weeks! (? not sure time)

Live Action Vs. Animation Bottom Line:

Now that we have the pros and cons in front us, we would say that the decision between live action and animation ultimately lies in what your product is, and what your goals are for the video. However, from our years of experience, we tend to prefer animation for an explainer video because it allows for imagination and versatility. Animation allows you to create whatever you want for your products. Not to mention, it can be revised as many times as you want without changing its overall aesthetic.

If you are still unclear what you want to do, we recommend that you call us and we can mull it over together whether an animated or a live action video will work best for you.