Animation vs. Live Action: Who WINS the Creative Battle?

Live-action or animation. Which is better for business? Research by Yans Media

Animation vs. Live Action: Who WINS the Creative Battle?

Which is better, live-action or animation?

If your project involves real-world physics, locations, actors, live demonstrations, or direct communication, live action is the way to go.

On the other hand, if you need to simplify complex concepts, include interface animations, or your budget is relatively tight, then animation is the better choice.

So all styles are good, and all production methods are good. What you really need to know is when to use each one to promote your company and deliver your message to the audience you’re targeting.

In this article, we're going to give you the most comprehensive breakdown.

By the end, you'll have the knowledge needed to make an informed decision.

And first let's make an in-depth comparison.

Creative flexibility and limitations of that no one talks about

We all know that live action and animation have their main differences. Live action involves real-world physics and locations, needing actors, sets, and even weather to align. Animation, though it lacks real human interaction, has its own unique benefits.

But today, I want to explore some other strategic differences you might not be aware of.

1. Timeline and production speed

Traditionally, animation has been hailed as a champion of production speed. However, let's be honest: shooting a video with a mobile camera is quick and straightforward.

While mobile shoots are fast and easy, creating something professional is generally simpler and quicker with animation.

Both formats have their strengths in terms of timeline and production speed. Ultimately, the best choice depends on the project's specific requirements.

So, there's no clear winner here.

2. Social media friendliness

If your content is intended to be multi-platform, you need to consider different dimensions, such as vertical and square.

This is where animation shines.

You can natively adjust illustrations and animate them in any dimension with ease.

On the other hand, live action presents challenges, especially when it comes to post-production adjustments like cropping. This can lead to quality loss or, even worse, the composition losing important elements.

With animation, you won't face any limitations for visuals and text animations.

3. Postproduction Changes

In today's business environment, companies frequently update their products or marketing strategies. This dynamic approach requires constant updates to marketing materials, especially for startups and software products. The ability to update and adapt videos over time is crucial in staying relevant and effective in a rapidly changing market.

One approach is to create a new video, but it can be extremely expensive. This is where live action faces significant limitations. You won't be able to reshoot or make changes to the actors' dialogue, the product's appearance, or anything else.

However, with animation, you can easily adjust the background voice-over, revise graphics, and animations without any limits and on a smaller budget. Even if you undergo a rebrand, changing a logo or colors is seamless.

4. Hiring and collaboration

When producing live-action videos, it’s often beneficial to hire a local team or one nearby. This approach facilitates on-site coordination and manages logistical needs like location scouting and equipment setup more efficiently.  This proximity ensures smoother communication and quicker problem resolution.

On the other hand, animation offers greater flexibility. You can hire teams from anywhere in the world, and thanks to collaborative tools, the production process can be easily tracked and managed online.

This makes it convenient to oversee progress and make adjustments, regardless of geographical boundaries. Additionally, you'll have more options to choose from and budget-friendly opportunities to hire exceptional overseas companies.

5. Location flexibility in live action and animation

Live action excels in showcasing real-world locations, making it ideal for events or scenarios where the exact location is crucial. It's the go-to choice for capturing the authenticity and ambiance of a specific place.

However, when a story spans multiple locations across various countries, animation becomes a cost-effective and hassle-free solution. Animation allows for seamless transitions between diverse settings without the logistical challenges of live action shoots.

One of our clients wanted to share their product's journey. They source top-rated premium coffee beans from locally owned farms in Peru. Then they use a wet process to remove the cherry pulp before drying. Finally, they slow-roast the beans in small batches to ensure quality.

While showcasing this journey with live action would be expensive, using animation made it easy and cost-effective.

Ultimately, both formats have their strengths, and the choice depends on the specific needs of the project.

Planning Your Budget

People think that animated explainer video production is cheaper than live-action videos. Yes and no. You can create a great live-action video for 15k and an animated video for 100k! It all depends on what your story is, and how you create it. If you need an explainer video that tells about your online startup, we recommend you spend around $3500 – $5000. This is enough to ensure high-quality production from a solid company.

Planning the budget for a live-action business or explainer video is harder. If it’s just a single person in front of a camera doing a product demo, that’s not too difficult. Any more than that, though, and you’re going to need:

  • Actors
  • Crew (camera, sound, lighting, director, and more)
  • Hair and makeup stylists
  • Sets
  • Props
  • Locations (and permits for locations)
  • Catering
what do I need for live action video

In different locations in different countries or complex scenes, costs can soar. If you hire an agency, be prepared to plan your budget at a minimum of 50k. Even if you create a video at home, you will still need to make an investment to make sure it doesn’t look bad with poor lighting, cheap backgrounds, bad sound, etc. That could cost thousands if you do it yourself. You also need to make sure your script is great. Many people think they can write a good script about their own business, but it’s quite rare that we get scripts that are already written and don’t need additional editing.

Animation vs Live action: Pricing breakdown

When planning a video project, understanding the cost differences between live action and animation is crucial. Here's a detailed look at what you can expect financially from each format.

Animated videos

The cost of animated videos varies widely based on complexity, style, length, and detail required. Here’s a rough breakdown:

  • Simple explainer video (30 seconds to 1 minute):
    • Template base (not recommended): $750-$1500
    • Basic: $2,000 – $4500
    • Standard: $5,000 – $10,000
    • Premium: $10,000+
    • Fair price: $3000-$5500
  • 2D and character animation (1-2 minutes):
    • Template base (not recommended): $1250-$2500
    • Basic: $4500 – $6500
    • Standard: $6500 – $20,000
    • Premium: $25,000+
    • Fair price: $5500-$8900
  • 3D Animation (1-2 minutes):
    • Basic: $10,000 – $20,000
    • Standard: $20,000 – $50,000
    • Premium: $50,000+
  • Motion Graphics (1-2 minutes):
    • Template base (not recommended): $750-$1500
    • Basic: $3,000 – $6500
    • Standard: $4500 – $9500
    • Premium: $10,000+

These estimates can vary based on specific project requirements, the expertise of the animation studio, and additional factors like voice over license, music, and revisions. Consult with animation professionals for accurate pricing tailored to your needs.

Live action videos

The cost of live action production varies based on production scale, location, talent, equipment, and post-production requirements. Here’s a rough breakdown:

  • Short Commercial (15-30 seconds):
    • Basic: $5,000 – $10,000
    • Standard: $10,000 – $30,000
    • Premium: $30,000+
  • Corporate Video (3-5 minutes):
    • Basic: $5,000 – $10,000
    • Standard: $10,000 – $20,000
    • Premium: $20,000+
  • Social Media Videos (1-2 minutes for platforms like Instagram and Facebook):
    • Basic: $1,000 – $3,000
    • Standard: $3,000 – $7,000
    • Premium: $7,000+
  • TikTok Videos (15-60 seconds, optimized for engagement):
    • Basic: $500 – $1,500
    • Standard: $1,500 – $3,000
    • Premium: $3,000+
  • Event Coverage (full coverage of events like conferences, weddings, or concerts):
    • Basic: $2,000 – $5,000
    • Standard: $5,000 – $15,000
    • Premium: $15,000+
  • Tutorials and How-To Videos (step-by-step instructional content):
    • Basic: $2,000 – $6,000
    • Standard: $6,000 – $12,000
    • Premium: $12,000+
  • Product Demos (showcasing the features and benefits of a product):
    • Basic: $3,000 – $7,000
    • Standard: $7,000 – $15,000
    • Premium: $15,000+

These estimates are general and can vary based on specific project requirements, including location, talent fees, production crew size, and post-production needs.

Content types best suited for Live action and Animation

Both live action and animation excel in different types of content, making them versatile tools for various storytelling and marketing needs. Understanding which format is best for specific content types can help you choose the right medium for your project.

Animated videos

  1. Multi-dimension videos: Engaging content utilizing multiple dimensions for enhanced storytelling.
  2. Explainer videos: Creative, unrestricted explanations of concepts without imagination limits.
  3. Interface animation: Demonstrations of software interfaces through animation.
  4. Product videos: Detailed demonstrations of products, inside and out.
  5. Medical animations: Accurate visualizations of medical procedures and concepts.
  6. Startup videos: Engaging videos explaining startup ideas and concepts.
  7. Presentations: Animated slideshows for professional or educational presentations.
  8. Infographic animations: Dynamic visual representations of data.
  9. Onboarding animations: Informative content for onboarding new employees or users.
  10. UI animations: Smooth and interactive user interface animations.
  11. Virtual tours: Animated walkthroughs of locations, events, or products.
  12. Training videos: Interactive modules for employee education.
  13. Brand stories: Narratives that tell the history or mission of a brand.
  14. Event promotions: Animated trailers and teasers for upcoming events.
  15. Social media content: Short animations tailored for platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
  16. Educational content: Detailed lessons for e-learning platforms.
  17. Interactive ads: Engaging and clickable advertisements.
  18. Public service announcements: Informative animations for public awareness campaigns.
  19. Gaming trailers: Previews and highlights of video games.
  20. Concept prototyping: Visualizing product prototypes or architectural designs.

Live action videos

  1. Documentaries: Authentic storytelling, capturing real events, people, and places.
  2. Commercials: Impactful ads showcasing products, services, or brand messages.
  3. Narrative films: Fictional stories brought to life by real actors in full-length features.
  4. Vlogs: Informal video blogs offering glimpses into daily life or specific experiences.
  5. Interviews: Insightful conversations with individuals, experts, or celebrities.
  6. Music videos: Visual storytelling that complements songs, blending narrative with music.
  7. Explainer videos: Educational content that breaks down complex topics or processes.

By leveraging the strengths of each format, you can effectively convey your message and engage your audience in the most impactful way.

Which Style is Better for My Business?

This is something we recommend consulting a professional about. Every company is unique, and so is every message. You can read recommendations in either direction, but whoever wrote it doesn’t know your business. There isn’t a universal rule — it’s more like a tree and every time there’s an offshoot of a branch there are three more options to choose from until you get to the end. Contact us if you need a free consultation. We’ll help you select the right style!

In a very general answer, if what you need is to showcase how your actual product works in real life, then you should go with live action. But let’s say you need to showcase the technology or mechanisms of the product; for that you’ll need animation. This also makes a good case for using both in the same video. There are also a lot of tricks that animation studios can use to get a better effect while also saving your budget.

What if I need live action video and my budget is tight?

This isn’t as big a problem as you think. Remember when I mentioned there were tricks? Here are two:

Stock footage videos

This is a great solution when you have a limited budget but want to use real footage. There are a lot of high-quality live action clips for all sorts of scenarios. In the hands of skilled professionals, they can be combined to create a powerful story about your company, brand, or even product. Then you can use animations to customize everything.

Animated video.

Yes, you read that right. Animated video can replace live action (although it doesn’t work in reverse). Of course, there can be some limitations, but you can always change the message and talk about the problems your product can solve from other points of view — for example, how it will make your customer’s life easier or happier. Remember, every product is ultimately created for people, and you can always share the benefits they will get.

Animation VS Live action FAQ

What if both styles work great for my marketing video?

What are the goals of your video? If you’re creating an explainer video, you would be better off choosing animated videos. Even big companies like Google do that. Why spend more money if you don’t have to? Additionally, you can test different ideas and messages with animation.

Live Action Vs Animation

Which is faster to produce: live action or animation?

Live action can sometimes be faster to produce. But, it’s harder to create a concept because you need to find a really strong hook for the first 10 seconds to get people to watch the entire video. Though if you’re just talking about a simple product demonstration, you could create that in just 2 -3 days.

Which style is easier to make revisions with?

Animation, by far. If you’re shooting live action, you work with what you’ve recorded. If you need any new material, you have to go through the entire production process all over again with cast, crew, locations, etc. Animation is incredibly flexible and revisions are much easier to do.

Which style is better for a product video: animation or live action?

If the product needs to be held in hand to demonstrate it (or show how strong it is by throwing it against the wall!), live action is your choice. However, if you need to showcase your product inside and out in ways that you can’t do with live action (like going inside it or showing the different parts at work), then you need animation.

Which style is good for explaining abstract or complicated ideas?

This is where animation wins, hands down. You can exhibit global-level or microscopic ideas, show things like bluetooth or the internet, present people from different continents or times in history — anything you want with no limits to your imagination. This is why this is our favorite solution for tech, startups, online services, etc.

Which is more expensive: Live action Or animation?

It all depends on the animation style and how complex your shooting plans are (how big your cast and crew are, number of locations, special effects, etc.)

What is the difference between VFX & animation

VFX means visual effects. They are more about generating, for example, tornados, aliens, flying saucers, ocean waves, that kind of thing. When we talk about animation, we mean elements that support video like app animations, highlighting items, making infographics pop out, and logo animations.

What is the best way to combine?

There is no best way to display information. As for flexibility or ease of accessibility, the best style is motion graphics.

How do you make 2D animation over live video?

If you already have video footage, you send the RAW files to an animation studio and let them know what you want to be done. NOTE: If you only have the final rendered file with text or graphics already built in, they will not be able to make changes. RAW files are needed to make changes.

Final words: Breaking the myth of pros and cons

We’ve written this detailed article because we’re often asked the same questions by our customers. They want to know the pros and cons of various styles or production methods. With that in mind, let's dive into the details to provide you with clear and helpful insights.“What are the pros of animation?” “What are the cons of live action?” “Which is better?” And so on. The truth is, all styles are good, and all production methods are good. What you really need to know is when to use each one to promote your company and deliver your message to the audience you’re targeting.

The general conversation about which style is better is somewhat misguided. You don't have to choose one over the other.

The truth is, animation and live-action can coexist and complement each other seamlessly.You can use motion graphics animation in a live-action video, or screencast in an animated video, or all of those styles together. Design is a form of communication. Can you pick one way of communicating and apply that to all situations?

No way!

Before any communication begins, you should know who you are addressing, what the context is, what culture you’re interacting with, etc. So, there aren’t pros and cons of talking loud or low, or with a smile or with anger. It all depends on what the message is you’re trying to deliver. If you’re going to tell people the building is on fire, you should be shouting that as loud as possible with a serious face or people won’t hear or believe you.

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