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Animated Videos vs. Live Action Videos All You Need To Know

Corporate videos aren’t new – there are just more types of videos, and, in the age of instant analytics, they are more effective. Companies leverage the power of video for internal employees and an increasing number of external users.

Typically hosted on a company’s website, featured in direct marketing campaigns, or distributed through company-run social media accounts, corporate video content is an excellent way for a company/brand to diversify its multi-media profile and reach existing and potential customers in innovative ways.

When your company’s creative team sequesters in a room for its first corporate video brainstorming session (recommended), one of the first items on the written, distributed-in-advance agenda (recommended) is to decide if Animation or Live-Action will better serve the type of video you plan to make.

Animation is a popular and often more preferable creative approach to video. One only needs to look at the current Japanese anime craze to understand how deeply rooted animation is in our shared global culture.

Yet, live-action video production with top-notch storytelling remains one of the best and most memorable ways to connect with people – and, when done right, can be an enriching, collaborative endeavor.

This article is an exercise. Below, a list of ten types of corporate videos. Read through them and think about which way you would go – Animation or Live-Action.

Staff training. For example, you need to teach new employees how a specific type of meeting runs and why.

  1. Safety: For example, your company is in biotech and handles hazardous materials. Safety is paramount, and video is the best way to communicate that core message.
  2. Corporate Event Videos: For example, a new product launch. Apple Inc. loves new product launch videos.
  3. Trade show videos: For example, every year, an auto show sponsored by major global car brands is held in several major cities to introduce new vehicles, concept cars, and showcase classic cars. Everywhere you look, a slick video of a car, or SUV, or EV doing miraculous things. Some videos give you a tour of the vehicle – or through the car’s engine!
  4. Explainer videos: There are so many examples, here are just two. One, online recipe sites with explainer videos showing how to prepare a dish. Two, new product features explainer videos.
  5. Client and customer testimonial videos: It’s a good thing Yelp reviews aren’t videos. That would be a dismal set of business-killing videos for sure. However, if YOU make the customer testimonials, you can control the narrative.
  6. Company/brand promotional videos: This category is to promote something other than a company’s product or brand. For example, a company that partners with a charity makes a video promoting its cause.
  7. Education Videos: In this case, the company is a school, college, or university. Over the last year, Covid-19 drove significant growth in videos produced for education. Schools from kindergarten to graduate school moved online. Video conferencing (e.g., Zoom) and video (e.g., Flipchart) are the two pillars of virtual learning.
  8. Billionaires in space videos: A new category for videos that are a unique and groundbreaking spectacle. For example, recent videos of billionaires and their friends bouncing around rocket ship cabins in zero gravity. Space tourism is coming to the (wealthy) masses, and the footage we’ve all seen on the news will be in so many investor/promotional/corporate videos there is no doubt editors are already working their magic.

The Case for Live-Action

There is an allure to live-action production. Everybody gets to pretend they’re on a big Hollywood movie set for a couple of days and call it a wrap. However, video production is a complex process with many creative and technical complexities.

Companies should always consider hiring video production professionals over the DIY approach. Their expertise is needed all the more on live-action productions.

The mission is to connect with your target audience in a meaningful, memorable way as quickly as possible. Live-action may be your best option for the following reasons:

  1. Viewers form an emotional connection with characters (or real people featured in a video) they feel are like them and whose stories resonate in their own lives. The human element prevails.
  2. Only live-action captures the full range of human emotions. A tone, a gesture, an eccentricity are just a few subtle ways humans communicate humor, anxiety, confidence, happiness, sadness, and on and on.
  3. Visual storytelling is an art form with a blueprint found in every human culture throughout recorded history. There is not more effective way to communicate. Full stop.
  4. Video’s impact can only reach its full potential through live-action. Go back to the example of car videos at car shows. Showcasing the beauty and power of a sexy new sports car is better served by live-action footage.
  5. Video is king, and celebrities are the king of videos. Without dispute, featuring a celebrity or legitimate influencer in a video will typically increase its reach, audience engagement, conversion rates, and overall ROI.

Cons of Live-Action

Consider these downsides when producing live-action video content.

  1. Managing the human element of video production is challenging and unpredictable. For example, the talent in the video will most likely require special handling for which there is no handbook. Good luck.
  2. Video production companies produce videos for a wide range of budgets, but there is no way around the fact that the least expensive live-action video production is costly. You can cut corners in many ways, but you can’t get around necessary expenses like lighting equipment.
  3. A live-action shoot is susceptible to setbacks. For example, your video project’s big shot is a spectacular sunset that morphs into the brand’s logo, but when the day of the shoot arrives, it rains for a week.

The Case for Animation

Let’s all go to the lobby!

Let’s all go to the lobby!

Let’s all go to the lobby!

To get ourselves a treat!

If you don’t know that song, do yourself a favor, go to YouTube, and cut and paste the lyrics into the search bar. This vintage animated video content encouraging 1950s movie-goers to hit the concession stand during intermission will not disappoint. (Yes, intermission.

For our younger viewers, intermission is the live-action version of pausing the DVR, stream, video game, or whatever it is online you are watching).

Seven decades later, movie exhibitors still use some version of that animated video to get 2021 movie-goers to hit the concession stand. And now there’s beer and wine, so have at it. Animation video’s endurance should make it an automatic component of any video content marketing strategy.

The mission is to connect with your target audience in a meaningful, memorable way as quickly as possible. Animation may beno your best option for the following reasons:

  1. Animation explains a complex idea in visually dynamic ways. For that reason, many explainer videos use animation. A stellar example is documentarian Errol Morris’s use of CGI animation in “Brief History of Time.” The animation explains the late theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking’s complicated ideas to people who aren’t geniuses.
  2. A brand can commission a visual style that integrates its overall branding strategy and is designed to reach targeted demographics.
  3. Animated video’s potential is as limitless as the human imagination. The Big Bang created the entire universe everywhere in a single moment. Animation is artistry’s big bang, able to create entire universes everywhere in a single moment. Or at least 15 seconds!
  4. Animation allows us to go where we cannot go. Once again, go back to the car videos at car shows. There are just as many animated videos as there are live-action ones. Instead of a sleek concept car gliding along a coastal highway, we journey into the inner workings of the most advanced electric motor in development. It is quite the odyssey.
  5. Animation’s remarkable craftsmanship and ability to magnify the human experience is the reason the top ten highest-grossing animated films each made over one billion dollars. One billion! In contrast, the top five live-action films made over two billion, but 6-10 are on par with animation. Not too shabby!

Cons of Animation

Consider these downsides when producing animated video content.

  1. Animated video production is typically more extended than live-action. Depending on the video style and production process, turnaround times can drag out.
  2. Animated video costs can be a barrier to entry. A professional animator is a rare commodity, and animation studios are even more so.
  3. Animation is a different type of production. An animation script is different from a live-action script.   Animation options are different from live-action options. Animation video cost is different, which is essential when drawing up a budget.

The Case for Animation & Live-Action

Two classic examples of the harmonious marriage of animated and live-action videos provide all you need to think about the third way – both! A note: many live-action videos already include animation in the form of animated graphics and visual effects.

  1. The live-action/animated “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was a first in so many ways it’s a whole article. The movie provided an incredible showcase of what is possible when video combines the best of both worlds.
  2. Another example is Norwegian one-hit-wonder pop music band Ah- Ha’s 1985 music video for their song, “Take on Me.” Warner Brothers paired the band with American director Steve Barron and American animator Mike Patterson. The resulting video became iconic and its emotional impact lasted a lot longer than A-Ha’s career.


Animation vs. Live-Action is an important but mostly easy decision facing companies producing corporate videos. Each type of corporate video lends itself to one medium or the other. The answer reveals itself during development for the big ideas that do not favor one direction or another in the early stages. Each medium can be marketing magic.

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