Live-Action Video vs. Animation: Better Together?
So you want to produce a video. Should you go with live action or animation?
It’s a conundrum many B2B marketers face. And in all fairness, it’s understandable. Both types of video allow you to compose moving images and sound to create an engaging, multisensory experience for your audience. As a result, they can be used in comparable situations, such as expressing a point of view on an industry issue, describing your product or service offerings, or illustrating a customer success story.
There are valid reasons to choose one type of video over the other. Live-action video lets you realistically capture the world, making it ideal for bringing your organization, people, and products to life. And an authentic depiction of your organization’s value proposition makes it easier for your audience to imagine themselves experiencing those same benefits.
Animation, on the other hand, is ideal for visual stories that are too logistically complicated—e.g., securing locations, wrangling actors or spokespeople, or hiring a production crew—or would take too long or cost too much to plan and produce with live-action video. With animation, your production tools consist primarily of software used for illustration, for animating those illustrations, and for editing your animations and sound into a video. You’re limited only by the skills and imaginations of your writer, illustrator, and animator.
But who says you always have to choose between one or the other? In some cases, it can be a good idea to use both formats.
Using live-action video and animation together
Because today’s video-editing software, such as Adobe Premiere Pro, works with both live action and animation, combining them in one video is fairly easy from a production standpoint. As far as when to use them together, you need to make a judgment call. Will doing so make the video more engaging? Visually interesting? Informative? As with any creative endeavor, you should take into account the editorial impact, aesthetics, and user experience.
Combining live-action video and animation makes sense when your goal is to establish a human connection with your audience (live-action video), but also share important details and concepts that lend themselves to visual representation, such as product use cases, features and capabilities, data points, statistics, or technical diagrams (animation). Relying exclusively on a narrator’s words to communicate that kind of information is a lot to ask. We’ve all been put to sleep by live action videos that drone on and on. Incorporate animation and suddenly the narrator can “show” and “tell.”
Switching from live action to animation also naturally engages the viewer. When watching videos, we take notice and pay attention to new visual compositions or styles. Alternating between the two is a great way to sustain audience interest.
Striking a balance: Live action and animation done right
Here are some examples that weave together different aspects of live action and animation to create a compelling video:
To showcase its 100 Resilient Cities challenge, The Rockefeller Foundation used live action and B-roll footage to give the video’s narrative a real-world, documentary feel. But it also includes animation to provide context for the project’s initiative, highlight important statistics, and create and communicate complex scenes and ideas that would have been challenging and costly to capture live.
Tendo recently produced this product video for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). It was a tall order: The script had to concisely describe the major challenges facing the communications service provider industry, explain the capabilities and benefits of a new and transformative industry technology, and—most importantly—provide a succinct yet detailed summary of a complex product portfolio. Explaining each product’s capabilities and how the products fit together begged for a visual explanation. Further, expecting an audience to attentively watch a talking head for three minutes is wishful thinking.
The producers behind this Visa ad did many things effectively. Using animation, they highlighted important brand messages, visually emphasized certain product capabilities and benefits, and introduced a visual identity. They also used the format to create smooth transitions from one live action vignette to another.
Next time you find yourself wondering whether to go with animation or live-action video, remember that it doesn’t have to be an either-or decision. To see examples we’ve created, and to view our full video portfolio, go to our Vimeo and YouTube pages. For more insights on video and animation production, check out these Tendo View blog posts: