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Animation Vs Live Action: Which Is Best for Your Business?

The power of video in business isn’t debatable, but the type of video you choose for your business is. There are two main types of video: animation and live action. Each kind has their pros, cons, and appropriate use cases. Which one you choose depends on several factors, with brand identity and budget near the top of the list. But before you commit to one or the other, you’ll want to learn the differences, benefits, and costs associated with each.

Animation vs live action: The basic differences

Animated business videos are made by combining art assets—hand drawn or digitally created—together with motion. Live action uses video of the real world, usually with people but not always. The techniques and equipment used for each kind are different, though there are some commonalities. Both need a concept, script, and sound (music, voice-overs, sound effects, etc.). It’s also possible to have a combination video. For example, an animated video could include clips of live action video, and live action can include animated elements. But, as a whole, videos usually fall into one category or another, in part based on the tools used to create them.

The tools you’ll need

If you’re looking to create the video in-house, you’ll need to have the right tools for the video you want to create.

For animation, that means choosing the software or service you’ll use to create the video. Popular examples for businesses are Powtoon, Moovly, Animaker, and even PowerPoint. Some are free, others have paid upgrades that give you access to additional assets (graphics, music, and sounds). All of them have a learning curve, so it would be wise to try several to see which works best for you. While these services will create a “finished” video, you may also want video editing software to add custom intros, outros or other effects not included in the animation software.

To create a live action video, you’ll need a video camera, tripod, sound equipment, and lighting. If you’ll be moving the camera you may need a gimble (to keep the image steady). Many small businesses have success simply using the camera on their phones. In fact, full feature length movies have been made with an iPhone. Whatever type of camera you choose, you’ll need video editing software to convert the raw video into a final cut. In addition to the hardware and software, you’ll also need to select locations, actors, props and manage the logistics that go along with each of those.

Never made a video before?

If you’re a beginner, don’t worry. Many animated video platforms are designed to make a beginner look good. They provide characters, backgrounds, music, and props. The programming to make them move is already done, you just need to click a button to tell it how you want it to move. Still, if you’re not graphically inclined or don’t have a clear vision of what you want, they can be difficult to figure out. On the other hand, if you know what you want you can probably make it, even as a beginner, using these services.

Live action can be relatively easy for beginners too. You can use your phone, DSLR, or other digital camera to capture the video and video editing software is inexpensive (some are easier to use than others). But there are many more factors to control in live action which complicate it for beginners. Achieving good sound quality often requires the purchase of additional equipment or processing. Understanding good frame composition is important too. There are plenty of articles and training available online for beginners if you want to improve your skills.

One downside to live action is you’re on your own when it comes to making the final video. You’ll need to learn how to use video editing software. The upside to this though, is you have complete control over how the final video looks. You’re only limitation is your knowledge, and not what has been pre-programmed for you as in animated video software.

Which kind should you use?

Whether you choose animated or live video depends on your brand and budget more than anything else. But there are some general guidelines based on examples from successful businesses.

One of the most popular categories of animated video is “explainer videos.” These videos are used to help customers understand a complex product or service. Other types include tutorials, video infographics, and sales. Sometimes they’re even used to share a company mission statement in an entertaining fashion. Animation is also great for content that needs to be updated regularly. Examples are sales and training videos.

One of the biggest downsides to animation is relatability. Or lack thereof. People like to see the people, products, and services they are going to purchase. This is particularly true for service industries like food and hospitality but can be important in other areas too.

Animation’s weakest point is live action video’s strongest. In situations where the people or the actual product are most important, you’ll want to use live video. An example is a bed and breakfast looking to showcase their property, amenities, and experiences. People looking to book will want to see the actual property and not an animated version of it. They’ll also connect more with smiling faces of real people over their digital counterparts. Live video also does well for more serious or emotionally charged topics.

Cost to outsource

If you don’t have resources in-house you have plenty of options for outsourcing. Given the popularity of business video, many companies offer dedicated video creation services. Some specialise in live or animation, some offer both.  While you might think animated videos would be cheaper, that isn’t necessarily the case. The initial work for any video is the same so you’ll need pay for concept development, script writing, and music composition. You’ll likely have to pay for voice over talent too. If you want something completely custom with hand drawn art the price climbs rapidly. Ranges for animation prices range from £2000-20000 depending on length and level of customisation.

Live action video can cost that much and more. One estimate, from Expert Market said a live TV advert could cost as much as £500,000. Your average business video doesn’t cost that much, of course. A rough guideline offered by Expert Market is to plan for £1,000 per minute of finished video. They stress though, that is very rough, and you should expect to pay a minimum of £3,000.  The total cost can vary significantly so it’s a good idea to get quotes from multiple companies.

We've worked with many production companies, who specialise in both animation and live action - you can find them, and others, in our Video Production Directory.

Maximising your investment

Whether you create your video in-house or outsource, it’ll be an investment. You’ll want to host the video using a service that offers you total control over ownership and viewing experience. Let’s say you plan to put your explainer videos on your website. Your potential customer watches it. When they’re done, a bunch of recommended videos pop up. If they click on one, they are swept away from your site to somewhere else. Chances are they’ll never make it back to your site or become a customer. Professional video hosting platforms like Zidivo let you maximise your investment by making sure you don’t have to worry about those situations.

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