Nick Mazikov
Posted by Nick Mazikov
on 3/17/23 5:10 AM

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Live Action vs Animation: How to Choose the Best Fit for a Business

Let’s say you’ve already decided that you definitely need an explainer video for your business. You may have even made up your mind about approximately what amount you can allocate for a business video production. But now you’re likely to be faced with a new question: what type of explanatory video does your business need?

There are two main types of explainers: live-action explainers and animated explainers. Today we will talk about animation vs. live action in detail, highlighting the pros and cons of these two different approaches to creating explainers.

To get a general idea of what these two types of videos can look like, watch the explainer video examples below.

This explanatory video is made using 2D animated graphics, with custom underwater creatures drawn from scratch.

This business video combines live-action scenes with animated graphics.

Live action vs animation pros and cons for you business

Alconost works with both animated explainer videos and live-action explainers. In our experience, 2D and 3D animation works great for simple explanations of complex ideas. Live-action videos, on the other hand, may be a good choice if your goal is to create an emotional connection between the business and your viewers. Let’s take a closer look at both.

Animated Explainer Videos

2D and 3D animated videos can involve techniques ranging from typography and infographics to animated characters who walk viewers through your product. Pros of animation include:

  1. Creative potential. Animation lets you literally bring anything you can imagine to life. Want the moon to transform into a coconut, which is then cracked and its contents poured into a branded glass? Nothing easier!
  2. Production speed. Animated video production can start the moment the script is approved. When shooting live-action video, however, additional steps are needed before production can start: you have to find a location, cast your actors, etc. These extra stages between script approval and the start of production aren’t necessary when you opt for animation alone.
  3. Smooth transitions between 2D and 3D techniques with no loss of continuity. If you need an explanatory video about a physical product, this method is a great choice, as it lets you present the product itself in realistic 3D scenes while highlighting its advantages in 2D scenes, which are cheaper and faster to produce. Not sure whether this combination of techniques really looks seamless? The example below proves it.

    This video combines 2D animation of texts, icons, and screenshots with 3D animation of the data storage devices it presents.

  4. Versatility. Sometimes people picture animation as looking cartoonish, but that's just a stereotype. Animation can be used to create not only entertaining videos but also business products, no matter what the niche. Whether healthcare or IT, education or e-commerce, engineering or financial services, animation can work for any business.


Are there any cons to an animated explainer video? Well, there's no denying the obvious:

  1. Animated videos offer creative freedom, but compared to a live-action video they may lack realism. This can be a disadvantage if your business needs to build trust through authenticity and transparency.
  2. Live-action videos featuring real people and their experiences can create a stronger emotional connection with viewers compared to animated videos, which may not evoke the same level of empathy from the audience.
  3. While animation is perfect for demonstrating complex or abstract ideas, it may not be as convincing as live-action video for showcasing institutions, facilities, and tangible products. So if your business is, say, a coffee bar franchise, a flower farm, or a candy factory, you might not want to limit yourself to animation alone.

Live-Action Explainer Videos

Live-action explainers can mean a full-budget set with actors, props, rented space, and sometimes royalty-free stock footage. But there's more than one way to produce a video with real people expressing real emotions. Keep reading to discover budget-friendly alternatives to costly professional filming. Here are a few advantages that live-action explainers can offer businesses:

  1. Trust building. Real people with authentic emotions seem to evoke more empathy and engagement than animated videos.
  2. Great for showcasing physical products or non-digital services. Live-action videos let you showcase your product in a natural environment with live actors, and they can enhance a client's emotional attachment to the product.
  3. Accessibility. Live-action videos don't always entail high production costs. Did you know that you can purchase professional instructions for how to shoot great footage on your own, which you can then use in your explainer video? Or you can select stock videos that fit your message and include them in your explainer. With these options, even start-ups with a limited budget can get a live-action video without breaking the bank!


Of course, producing live-action videos has its own quirks and downsides:

  1. Modifying a live action video can be challenging and costly once it has been filmed. Suppose you want to change a piece of clothing that a character is wearing. This is easy enough with an animated character, but not so easy with real people!
  2. Live-action videos may have a harder time depicting abstract or fantastic concepts, such as ants carrying your brand of candy on their backs.

    Speaking of ants, check out this business video that features ants driving a track, fixing a pipe, and eating sandwiches.

    The production technique here, obviously, is animation, which can easily depict things that are hard to convey in reality.

  3. If you want to use royalty-free stock video, the price of your explainer video project will remain uncertain until you decide on which fragments to use, as the cost of stock videos can vary drastically.
  4. Animated videos can be made more visually appealing by employing creative techniques to hold the viewer's attention, such as transforming one object in the frame into another in the blink of an eye. With physical reality there's no such luxury.

    Note the transformation of the typography in the opening scene of the video below—an explainer for a security camera app.

With animation there’s no need to show the actual electronic devices: the idea is conveyed clearly without them.

All that being said, live-action and animated videos are not two rival opposites: they compliment each other perfectly. Not only can you combine 2D and 3D animation in a single video; you can combine live action with animation, too.

Animation for live-action videos can take the form of credits, in-frame text, animated infographics, and much more.

Have a look at the animated parrot in this live-action video!

Although the live-action format is naturally very limited by the rules of reality, with a skilled writing team and a customized approach you can get your message eloquently conveyed no matter which technique you select.

Animation vs Live Action: Cost

In terms of pricing, it is important to note that the cost of an animated explainer video is easier to estimate than that of a live action explainer video. We talked about the details of explainer video pricing in a previous article; you can check it out here.

Finding Harmony in Animation vs Live Action: Key Discoveries

When it comes to live action vs animation explainers, it would be a big mistake to say that there's some battle going on between the two, or that we already have a winner. Both are potent tools for product presentation, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Finally, check out the video below.

The video features character animation and seems like a fully animated explainer right up until the end, where the founder of the service being presented makes an appearance in person.

We describe all the details of creating the Nitro Story animated explainer video with live action in a comprehensive case study on Behance. We tell the background of the video, show the storyboard and our creative search to transmit the idea of the service. A special live-action insert is the cherry on top.


Whether you choose animation, live action, or a combination of the two, Alconost is there to help! At Alconost we'll work with you to create a great business presentation that you'll be proud to show your potential clients.



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