I know this is going to sound like we’re shooting ourselves in the foot given we design and create explainer animations, but hear us out. All is not as it seems.

Yes, we do make a lot of animated explainers, social ads and GIFs – that much is true. But we also make a lot of video productions too. They both have their uses. They can both add a huge amount of value to your marketing, but they’re not equals: each works well, but each should be used for different reasons. 

Which one will work best for you depends on what you want to achieve and how much you want to blow your audience away: if you want your 30-second ad to air during the Superbowl, it’ll set you back five or six million dollars.

So which one is best?

Whether you are the one buying it or pitching the idea to your boss or client, knowing how animation differs from video will help you make a well-informed and justifiable decision.

So, here’s how they differ and why you should choose one over the other.

Anything is possible

You can do things in animation that aren’t physically possible in live action filming. Your characters can morph into all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes and leap over buildings or charge through walls and reach new heights, all at the flick of an animator’s mouse. Our imagination is the limit.

Perspectives can be changed instantly. Paper airplanes can be made to fly like real planes. You name it, it can be done. That gives us a lot of options, a lot of opportunity to create something new, interesting and surprising – something that will stand out because it literally hasn’t been seen or done before. There’s nothing quite like a surprise to get people’s attention in a crowded marketplace.

We can’t really say the same is true of film. The budget required to create a life-size model of a fire-breathing rainbow unicorn that can fly at the speed of light will require several million dollars. Thankfully, not many clients ask for those kinds of things. But the point here is that filming things typically requires more time and resources, and there are very real physical limitations to what can be filmed, whereas animation is generally free from the laws of time, space and reality.

What film is incredible at doing is capturing human action and emotion in a real-life setting. If you want to connect with your audience on a visual human level, animation is the wrong choice.

Curved balls

All sorts of things can throw a spanner in the works on any creative project and animation and film projects are no exception.

But! Creating animated explainers isn’t affected by the weather, Presidential elections, a plague of locusts, Spongebob Square Pants, social distancing or pretty much anything else you can imagine – it’s all digital, it’s all online.

That means once we plan your schedule, the only thing that’s going to get in the way of it running smoothly or stop it being delivered is an act of God or Goddess, or if the client isn’t able to provide clear and timely feedback.

All other things being equal, that means you can have confidence in saying to your stakeholders that yes, this will be done and it will be live when we said it would.

When it comes to video, we still plan meticulously: scripting, storyboarding, booking crew, scouting and reserving locations, getting the right permits and permissions in place, screen testing actors and props and making food and travel arrangements. The logistics are a more complex endeavour compared to animations, but it’s second nature to us.

And while adverse weather and other mandated restrictions like lockdown, can and do get in the way, we know this. We’re seasoned veterans. We account for these things in our plan so that nine times out of ten, shoots do go to plan. Famous last words…

Making changes and extra costs

When we film, we’re limited to working with the conditions on the day – but we always hold out to the very last if we think we can get a better shot. We make the most of every second we’re out there. In the editing process, that means we’re limited to working with the footage we captured on the day. We can’t remove the rain from a shot; we can’t make it shine (sadly). 

It’s incredibly rare that we have to go back and shoot again, but doing that can add to the cost, sometimes to the tune of thousands per day. Filming is not a “quick and cheap” option – not if you want it done well – it’s a powerful and beautiful way to blow your audience away. 

We never charge the client for additional shooting though, not if it’s because we weren’t happy with the quality of the first footage. That’s on us. 

But if the client changes their mind after they’ve signed something off, then the shoot may need to be priced and planned again. Thorough planning and asking the client to provide feedback and sign off at each stage usually avoids all of that though.

With animation, we can indeed remove the rain or make it shine. Along the way, almost anything can be changed – within reason – but, again, we only charge more for changes if the client requests them after they’ve already signed something off.

To recap the key points of difference:

  • Filming is bound more by physical limitations than animation, and making changes after sign-off can be more time consuming and costlier.
  • Filming is awesome at capturing human action and emotion in the real world. If you really want to connect with your audience on a truly emotional level, choose film.
  • Animation is incredible at making the impossible virtually possible. Imagination is the only limit.
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