Choosing the Right Visual Style Between Live-Action and Animation

We all know by now that videos run the marketing game. But what type of video should you go for?  From clean motion graphics to charming live-action skits, there are so many great styles to choose from. But not every style fits the vibe that you’re going for. So how do you know what’s right? That’s what we’re here to discuss today. Get ready for a deep dive into the specific advantages and disadvantages of going with live-action or animation in your videos. After this read, you’ll know just what you need.

Understanding Live-Action Videos

The Strengths of Live-Action Videos

  1. Realism: For all the advancements in 3D rendering, there’s nothing more realistic than real footage. There’s an authentic vibe to seeing actual people that we simply can’t bridge with animation yet. It makes the experience feel closer to home, even if it’s set in a galaxy far, far away.
  2. Nuances in Acting: Actors, with their raw emotions and spontaneous reactions, bring scenes alive in ways animation sometimes can’t. Knowing how to use movement and expressions to inspire emotion is a skill that goes beyond fluid and realistic animations.
  3. Practical Effects: Ever looked up a movie only to see people bemoaning the overuse of CGI? Practical effects give another layer of realism to any stunts or special effects you use that CGI technology just can’t replicate yet.

The Limitations of Live-Action

  1. Budgets: Between renting/buying equipment, paying your crew, and paying to use a location, live-action video production can get expensive really quickly. While this can be mitigated by using cheaper equipment and just shooting somewhere available for free, the lower production value can seriously affect your video quality.
  2. Reality’s Limits: Practical effects and real stunts can look amazing on camera, but they are also much harder to pull off. You’re going to need special equipment and crew members that specialise in using them, and the search alone is already that much tougher.
  3. Logistics: If you want a specific setting for your video, it can get expensive and sometimes impossible. You’ll need to find the right place, get the right permits, find a good time with good weather…the list goes on. And if you want to emulate it with a film set, that can get even more expensive. The end product may undoubtedly look great, but whether the cost is worth it is a question you’ll have to debate.

Understanding Video Animation

  1. Flexibility: Want pink skies, talking teapots, or dragons playing basketball? In animation, your imagination’s the limit. The constraints of physical reality don’t apply to your video, and that gives you all the room to go wild.
  2. Absolute Control: Unlike live-action videos, you aren’t subject to outside factors in animation. It doesn’t matter if the weather is stormy or if there’s an obstacle to getting the perfect angle. With animation, you can tweak every little detail as you see fit.
  3. Cost-Effective: Compared to live-action filming, you’ll need a lot less manpower and fewer expenses on logistics for animation. Without the additional fees of equipment, crew members’ salaries, and rent, the cost of making a video can go down dramatically.

animation style characters

The Limitations of Animation:

  1. Time: It might take fewer people to make an animated video, but it does not take less effort. Crafting an animated video is no joke. Having precise control over every detail also means you have to make sure every detail looks right. Depending on the style of animation, every second on screen can take hours, if not days, to perfect.
  2. Cost: While animation can be much cheaper than live-action, it isn’t always. If you’re going for hyper-realistic shots, you might find your budget running through the roof. Between the program, the computer equipment, and the man-hours it takes, getting an incredible animated video can be just as, if not more expensive than live-action.
  3. Human Touch: As mentioned in our discussion about live-action videos, animation just can’t replicate that human feel yet. Textures and 3D rendering have improved immensely, but the movement of 3D models just doesn’t hit right. So if this is something that’s important for the project, animation might not be the right choice.

What to Consider When Choosing Between the Two

Story Needs

There’s no inherently ‘better’ or ‘worse’ style — it’s all about what’s best for your vision. If you want a quirky, stylised video, animation might be much more effective at creating the vibe you’re going for. But if you want to evoke a sense of deep human connection, live-action’s the way to go.

Budgetary Constraints

When choosing between live-action and animation, consider your funds. Are you making a short ad for a new start-up? Then it might not be best to go ham with a huge live-action project if it’s something you can get animated. The end project might not have the perfect amount of realism you want, but it will be better in the long run.

animation scene nice

Target Audience

As with all marketing material, you really have to take your audience into consideration. Making something for younger kids? You might want to go for colourful, animated tales. Adults, on the other hand, might prefer the realism of live-action. Of course, age isn’t the only significant factor, but the overall interests of your target audience should influence your decision.

live-action videography scene scandinavian blonde

Production Timeline

While animation might be cheaper, it can take much longer to reach an acceptable standard. So if you’re racing against the clock, consider shooting live. But if you’ve got the luxury of time, animation can be shaped to perfection.

Technical Constraints and Innovations

Make sure to think about the equipment and talent you already have on hand. If you’ve already got a reliable film crew, it makes much more sense to go live-action with the people you have than to recruit an animation firm. Going with the easier option can make for a much better and cheaper outcome all in one go.

Director of photography on scene filming

Hybrid Approaches: Combining Live-Action and Animation:

It doesn’t have to be live-action or animation. Many excellent videos actually employ both approaches! From collage videos to having animated overlays on top of live-action videos, the final result can be greatly enhanced with a mixture of both. It can be tricky to balance both elements, so make sure to take great care. But the end result is sure to be worth it.

In Summary

Moreover, both live-action and animation techniques continue to evolve, such as with better practical effects or AI video generation. These factors may affect the pros and cons of using either for a project, so be sure to keep up with the latest news. Either way, you’re sure to end up with a stunning video.

Need A Team That Can Do Live-Action Or Animation?

How about both? Our talented team here at Explainer Videoly has both skill and experience in all sorts of video production. Contact our team for a free video production consultation here: