Choosing a style for your explainer video isn’t just about its appearance.
It's a thoughtful decision that should reflect your brand, suit your product's features, and fit your budget.
In this article, we'll explore the most popular explainer video styles and offer guidance on which ones best serve different purposes, helping you make a choice that’s right for you.
Factors to consider when selecting an explainer video style
Before we dive into the different styles, let's look at what you should think about when choosing a style.
Branding is the most crucial factor to consider, especially if you're leaning towards an animated video. Let's delve into what this means.
If your company’s website and marketing materials use flat 2D designs, it might not be a good idea to switch to 3D for your video, regardless of your budget.
Take a look at Google’s animated explainers. Despite their substantial budget, they stick to 2D animation because it fits seamlessly with their existing branding.
Similarly, if your brand doesn't currently use character mascots, you might not need to invest in character-based animation, which can be more costly than motion graphics. For instance, consider Databricks’ approach. As a multi-billion-dollar company, they could afford elaborate animations but opt for simple motion graphics that align well with their branding ethos.
In short, ensure that the style you choose is in harmony with your brand.
Timing is key, and planning ahead is crucial because some styles take longer to produce. Live-action is typically the most complex and time-consuming due to the need for a perfect script, actor auditions, location scouting, and weather considerations.
Similar complexity and time demands come with 3D, stop motion, and advanced visual effects. If you're working with a limited schedule or budget, you might want to consider quicker-to-produce styles like motion graphics, kinetic typography, or simple 2D animation.
- Product Specifications
Often overlooked, product specifications play a significant role. Sometimes companies want to go for 3D or flashy visual effects just because the budget allows. But is it necessary? If your product has complex workings that need to be shown from all angles, then sophisticated methods like 3D make sense.
However, if you're simply showcasing an app's user interface or telling a brief story, there’s no need for extravagant effects.
Let’s not forget about the use of celebrities. It's a move that can backfire if the chosen celebrity doesn't align with your brand or fails to resonate with your target audience. Remember the Bud Light campaign with Dylan Mulvaney? Additionally, celebrities may become entangled in controversy, potentially impacting your brand negatively.
Finally, we arrive at the ruler of all decisions – the budget. If you think this part is straightforward, you might be in for a surprise.
It can be quite complex if you're not well-versed in the nuances of production quality. Of course, it's impossible to condense 15 years of experience into a short article, so I recommend checking out this pricing guide when selecting a style.
Best Styles for $4K - $10K:
Motion graphics, 2D animation, and isometric styles are the champions in this price range. They look sharp, are relatively simple to create, and allow for easy revisions. Another option worth mentioning is a mixed media approach, combining stock footage with animation. You might afford a whiteboard video too, but we generally advise against it – more on that below.
Great Choices for $10K - $35K:
Depending on the studio, this budget might cover frame-by-frame 2D animation, a mix of 2D and 3D, or even some live action – though perhaps not with top-tier production values.
Options for Budgets Over $100K:
With this kind of investment, all styles are within reach. But remember, if you're spending a lot on your video, ensure you've got enough set aside to promote it as well. Keep in mind that costs can soar into the millions, depending on the execution quality and the prestige of the production company.
If You Have Less Than $4K:
For a 30-second piece, you can get some basic motion graphics or kinetic animation. But an explainer video isn’t just about the visuals. Scripting and concept development are critical, and most professional agencies won't engage for under $4K. So my advice is to either increase your budget or hold off entirely. Going for the cheapest option can harm your brand's image – it's akin to buying a $500 website; it's a website, but it won’t be taken seriously.
The Best Styles for Explainer Videos
Now that we’ve looked at the factors to consider, let's dive into the styles themselves.
Animation is a very versatile and budget-friendly option. Unlike 3D or live-action, you can achieve the quality of big names like Slack, Google, or Uber for under $10K. It’s quick to produce and easy to update or change.
Animations are engaging; they can turn complex concepts into clear, simple ideas, show off software, or weave a compelling narrative. This adaptability makes animation a favored choice. Within animation, the most popular styles include:
- Motion Graphics
- 2D Animation with Characters
- 2.5D Animation or Isometric Style
But you might wonder, what's the difference between 2D and motion graphics? Essentially, these terms are often industry speak. Motion graphics typically refers to character-free animations and often features abstract shapes and icons.
Choose animation when:
- Your product or service is digital.
- Your budget is under $10K.
- You don't require 3D to demonstrate complex objects comprehensively.
You might be wondering why we haven't included 3D in the general animation category. Well, that's because 3D is a distinct realm with different applications. We suggest using 3D only when necessary. If a 360-degree view isn't essential to demonstrate your product, it’s not worth the extra expense.
Here’s something not every agency will tell you: average 3D work can cost three times more than a top-notch 2D explainer video. And yet, the quality of an average 3D video may look less professional than a 2D video that’s a third of the price. That said, 3D can be fantastic, if you have a sizeable budget to match.
When to use 3D:
- When there’s a specific need for it.
- When you have the budget for high quality, typically starting from $25K.
- When your message itself isn’t compelling, and you're aiming to dazzle your audience.
To be frank, I hesitated to even discuss whiteboard videos. Spoiler alert: you won’t find high praise here. They often appear cheap, feel outdated, and the costs are not far off from the more contemporary styles like motion graphics or 2D animation. And I must remind you, the price of an explainer video isn't just about production—it's about the creative concept too. If you're putting money into understanding your product and developing a solid concept, the price difference between a whiteboard and motion graphics becomes negligible—maybe $1K-$2K at most.
So, ask yourself, is saving a little worth it if the end product is significantly less engaging? Would you prefer an impactful video for $5K or a whiteboard that looks like it's stuck in the past for $4K? The choice seems clear.
At Yans Media, we've made a decision not to offer whiteboard videos. It feels akin to not delivering on our promise of quality—it's just not the standard of work we stand for, and we believe our clients deserve better.
When to use whiteboard:
- Honestly, we recommend you don’t.
Live action can be a fantastic choice for virtually any product or service, if your budget is ample. It shines for brand videos and is unmatched for interviews or testimonials. However, it's vital to ensure your budget aligns with the ambition of your project. A $7K animated video can have as much impact as a $50K live action video—if it's done right.
When you're considering a live action studio, look for one with extensive experience, a track record of success, and a roster of reputable clients. For a top-tier example, check out Sandwich—they've got the chops and an impressive portfolio to boot.
Screencast videos are a smart pick if you're aiming to demonstrate software functionality or create tutorials. They're relatively easy on the budget, and when blended with motion graphics or 2D animation, you can produce a slick, professional video starting around $4K. There’s one caveat, though: screencasts aren’t the best for storytelling. Ensure that your key message doesn't get lost if you choose this straightforward style.
When to consider screencasts:
- For walkthroughs or onboarding videos
- For detailed tutorials
- As part of a mixed-media explainer, alongside motion graphics and 2D animation
Mixed Media with Stock Footage
When your product or audience is quite niche, and you're looking to incorporate some live-action elements without a hefty budget, mixed media can be the way to go. Leveraging stock footage can set the scene, while custom animations add a personalized touch to your video. Take a look at how we crafted the Antavo video for a prime example of this approach in action.
Stop motion has a unique charm and can make your content stand out. It's particularly resonant for brands with a creative, artisanal, or whimsical edge. While production can be expensive and may not align with every brand's aesthetic, it has a special way of conveying emotive narratives, which is why non-profits often find success with this style—it has a knack for tugging at the heartstrings.
More Styles to Explore
While there are numerous styles that could bring your explainer video to life, it's wise to consider the ones we've detailed in this guide. If you're curious about the full spectrum of options, don't miss our comprehensive article, which delves into 31 distinct animation styles.
To give you a taste of the variety, here are a few additional styles you might want to ponder:
- Kinetic Animation: Dynamic and engaging, this style is all about the movement of text and can be incredibly effective for messages that need to pack a punch.
- Infographic Animation: Ideal for presenting data and statistics in an engaging way, turning numbers and facts into a visual story.
- Parallax: Adding depth to your images, parallax can create a faux-3D effect, making flat visuals more dynamic and captivating.
I’ve aimed for transparency and honesty in this guide. Remember to weigh the four key factors we've discussed when selecting your video's style. While there's no universally 'right' or 'wrong' style (aside from our noted exception of whiteboard), the impact depends on how you wield the chosen medium.
Good luck in making your choice! And if you're in need of a guiding hand, our team at Yans Media is here to assist you in picking the perfect style without any cost. Feel free to reach out—we're just a message away!
What’s a Rich Text element?
The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.
Static and dynamic content editing
A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing.
For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection
How to customize formatting for each rich text
Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.
text element using
the "When inside of" nested selector system.