Live action vs Animation: A Comparison

liveaction vs animation

What are the pros and cons of live action vs animation?

For your business video production


It’s a common question for businesses and as an animation and film production company, one our team regularly debate. The benefits of live action vs animation is also a topic regularly discussed with our clients.

We often take the time to advise and help everyone to decide on the best video medium to use to explain a business message or engage and promote a porduct or service.

Whilst all emotions can be delivered via animation or film. Some are often better suited i.e. live action footage can make it easier to deliver a message that is relatable or create empathy and compassion. Whilst animation can explain complex ideas, build excitement and wow an audience. There are of course many pros and cons when looking at live action vs animation and we'll explore these in more depth below.



“I've worked in video production for over 20 years. Both as an award-winning 2D and 3D animator and a live action director, editor and script writer.

The versatility of the two mediums of animation and live action is fantastic.

When budgets allow, I'd say the perfect answer for a well rounded video production is both animation and live action combined.”

Jon Draper - Creative Director, Stormy Studio




Live action vs animation, photo from Stormy Studio video production company

Live action and animation Creative Director at Stormy Studio

Disney live action vs animation

Before we dive into our article, which is predominantly written for business video production purposes. Let's mention the recent work by Disney where classic 2D animated films have been reimagined as live action movies (albeit with a lot of 3D CGI animation).

The updated movies have seen a mix of reviews, with some audiences loving the new live action versions and others swearing an allegiance to the classic 2D movies that came before.

The remake of Aladdin starring Will Smith as the genie, directed by Guy Ritche has been wide praised. Whilst the CGI version of the Lion King has been far more critised with many saying the realistic depiction of the animals meant that much of the emotion of the original was lost. 


live action vs animation 2D aladdin
live action vs animation CGI aladdin

Whilst the above shines little light on which is better when looking at live action vs animation. It's clear that it's a question far harder to pin down and even the hugely successful minds at Disney can still miss step a little from time to time.

What are the pros and cons of animation or live-action?

This article includes key information to help you arrive at a key decision for your business.

Expect to learn about the variety of factors you need to take into consideration for both animation and live-action. After that, find the key benefits and possible negatives of choosing either forms of videography.

Let’s get straight into it.


Pros and cons of live action vs animation


Both animation and live action can explain a product or deliver a business message.

Though there are times where one is definitely better suited than the other.




Things to consider:


With both animation and live-action filming, there are a variety of factors at play.

We must consider all of them in order to understand which is the best form for you. This context is vital before making a decision.


Budget is key when looking at live action vs animation

Your budget is perhaps the most obvious factor and whichever route you decide to go will impact the level of quality of your live-action or animation production.

Top tip:
Check out our handy guide and free animation cost tool to discover ballpark animation budgets instantly. Then if interested we can chat further and provide a bespoke quote. 

For both live-action and animation, the initial costs vary significantly depending on what you are looking to create.

If you want to create an hour-long cinematic experience promoting a luxury brand around the world then your budget is likely to be pretty large. Likewise, if you’re a startup with a couple of staff looking to appeal to an audience on social media your budget may be a lot less.

We need to look at the time you want to invest in the project; the energy you are wanting to commit to it; how flexible you are with the direction; the needs you have about the creation process you want, as well as the physical logistics that come with the videography process.


THE ANIMATION PROCESS


A typical animation process would normally go as follows:

Creative concept;
Scriptwriting (more on this later in the pros and cons);
Storyboarding;
Animation creation;
Sound editing including any effects,
Voiceovers
Music.
*Revisions and consultations will also take place throughout this process.

Note: The timings for all of this can vary depending on your decision to go with an agency who will have a team of designers and animators vs a solo freelancer.

A good animation or video production company will be able to provide really valuable collaborative input before too much hands-on production begins.

This along with stability and skilled workforce should guarantee quality work whether it be animated or filmed (or both).

If interested, please take a moment to have a little look at what Stormy Studio can offer you here when it comes to animation as well as live-action options.



THE LIVE ACTION PROCESS


This has some crossover with animation but with some crucial differences.

The live-action process tends to follow a similar line to animation:
Creative;
Scriptwriting;
Storyboarding;
Stage/scene production (Filming) 
Logistics;

Post-production

Editing including visual effects,
Sound effects,
Music 
Voiceovers (if necessary).

Note: With live-action, the additional requirement to film in a physical location and all of the logistics that come with that, doesn’t necessarily always mean that it is more time consuming and more effort than animation. If your live-action video only requires you to film yourself at your office, perhaps demonstrating uses of a certain product you want to sell, then the live-action option may be very quick and cost-effective to do. However, depicting software, technology and benefits of a service are often easier and better conveyed with quality animation.

Now that we have an overview of what both animation and live-action videos require of us, let’s take a look at the possible pros and cons of each.

 


ANIMATION


ANIMATION PROS

– You won’t require actors to be filmed although you may need a voice actor. If you go with an agency you won’t usually have to source this yourself. Take a look at the Stormy Studio portfolio for some examples of voiceovers implemented for a variety of clients. We also have our own inhouse voiceover artist, who is used as a placeholder for animation timing, and often selected for the final production.  

– No need for expensive set locations. With animation, you can stay updated and see your video created from the comfort and convenience of your own screen. This is a major bonus when it comes to costs. More on those costs later in the live-action disadvantages section.

– Where animation excels is in the simple conveying of abstract or complicated ideas, products and services.

– It’s able to simplify a topic and bring life to it and to the symbols associated with it.

– Offering a medium for digestible, engaging and informative information conveyance.

– This can also break down your message visually on screen in a way you can’t as easily achieve through live-action. 

– Done right, animation can be very emotive allowing viewers to visualise clearly something they could not do so before.

– Longevity.  You have the potential to update your animation over time if your goal or product changes in the future. You can adapt the script or add or remove a certain scene more easily than with live-action video. It can be easier to optimise over time for split testing. Let’s take the below stormy studio animation as an example:



This example gives a clear idea of the high-quality you can expect from Stormy Studio. But let’s imagine that one year on from the project completion, Solar Illuminations wanted to add a new installation service example to the animation. This is something that could be edited into the animation without there having to be a lot of the reshooting that would be necessary for a live-action video.

This is one of the reasons a recent CAA approved helicopter flight safety video was animated rather than filmed.





ANIMATION CONS

– It has the potential to feel impersonal to certain audiences. This is, of course, situational and specific to your audience. The best route to take if unsure is to evaluate the contextual information available to you. Then, look at any options to adapt the potential animation in a way that does relate well to your target audience.

– The animation process also has the potential to take longer to finish than live-action. Again this depends on your goals, the complexity of the task and the desired length of the video. For example, say you need to choose between filming yourself reviewing a product at your desk for 20 minutes or having a 5-minute 3D animation that breaks down the product and shows it being used in different ways by a variety of different characters. The likelihood is the live-action will be completed sooner, but you will have very different outcomes. You have to weigh up the importance of time in comparison to your other needs for the project.

LIVE ACTION


LIVE ACTION PROS

– Live-action naturally comes with a sense of authenticity. It is the closest medium to our human experience and this has a humanising effect which can be valuable for your business. Bring someone’s face onto the screen and you’ll have some key elements for a very naturally emotive video.

– As explained in the animation disadvantages section above, live-action video can be quicker to create. This depends upon you keeping it simple when it comes to production and concept.

– Accessibility. There is the potential for you to create a live-action video using your phone today. If you are looking for a fast solution, conveying a rough-cut, behind-the-scenes feel, then live-action can certainly help you there.



Live action can create real emotion and empathy far more easily than animation. (*of course it can be achieved with animation, but more time is often needed and effort with perfect character design and visual styles.)

This live action video by our studio highlights how great filmed images can make for a compelling visual. However, we do add animation with the filmed footage for maximium creative impact.





LIVE ACTION CONS

– The costs of live-action can be large if you choose not to go with the rough-cut mobile phone approach. Consider the set costs, camera equipment, actors, insurance, and other costs such as catering costs across multiple days of filming. When you look into it, it all may begin to add up very quickly. However, working with an agency may help you lessen this pressure. Check out the below example of what Stormy Studios can create for you when it comes to live-action video.

– Your ability to make additional edits after the completion of the live-action video will likely be more limited. To do so would probably require setting up more filming days so you would then have to again consider all of the logistics that come with that. The way around this would be to plan pre-production for easy add-on clips that might come in useful in the future and film it all together at the start. This is, however, easier said than done.


In conclusion: Live action vs animation


Whilst there are some definite benefits to both live-action and animation, the form that is best for you is mainly relative to the context within which you are working. Let’s take a final factor into consideration to display this point. Scriptwriting.

So the key difference between an animated and live-action script is that an animation script usually needs a more detailed scene description.  This is not in itself a disadvantage, in fact, it allows you to be very clear about the imagery from the very beginning rather than leaving room for interpretation on the day of the live-action shoot. Why not leave room for interpretation? Whilst it can mean there’s room for some spontaneous, creative flair, it also may add an element of unnecessary risk if you are restricted by time and money on the day.

This example goes to show that, when it comes to the live action vs animation question, context is everything.

You may also want to look into how to combine live-action and animation. Take a look at this collaborative effort for some inspiration and good luck in your decision-making.



Stormy Studio


Check out our
UK Animation Studios work. Mixing live action and animation for great results.