One of the first questions we hear from companies looking for custom training videos is whether they should choose animation or live action.

To offer some guidance, here are three key factors we help clients evaluate when creating video-based training. We’ll also do some myth-busting along the way so you’re armed with plenty of insight and ideas to share with your team and potential video production partners.

Live action or animation

3 Key Factors To Consider When Choosing A Video Style

Audience Goals

If you want to model best practices and behaviors, live action is the way to go. It’s helpful to see someone else do something before you try it yourself. Body language and verbal and nonverbal cues are easier to demonstrate with real people, too. Plus, live action footage adds a human element, which hooks the audience emotionally and builds empathy.

If you’re explaining a concept, animation brings that information to life in a memorable way. You wouldn’t explain the intricacies of DNA without animated models, and you wouldn’t rely on interviews to explain how internal combustion engines work, right?

Subject Matter

Video, whether b roll (motion-only footage) or live action, is a great way to showcase actual people and products. When onboarding new employees, for instance, showing them real products is more effective than showing them animated models. Context is king.

Animation effectively visualizes complex information or concepts in a simple way. Take a software workflow—say you’re rolling out a brand new CRM. The tool can be introduced at a high level with graphics and illustrations that summarize how using this tool works into team members’ daily routine and the benefits it offers. Then, at the parts of the training video where people need to be shown specific steps (such as how to update a client’s account information), screencast of the software UI can be used to complement the animation—you can show a recording of the screens being navigated and data being entered into the system.

Content Updates

If your company needs to update training content frequently, animation is a better fit. Instead of having to update the script and coordinate the cast, production crew, and location for a video reshoot, fewer players will be needed to update the script and graphics for an animation.

If you’re producing more evergreen content that won’t change in the near future, live action makes sense. For instance, say you’ve created live action videos that demonstrate effective ways to build rapport with a prospect. Unless there’s a radical shift in your sales process, these skills—and your footage—will be relevant for a long time to come and your investment in live action video is protected.

Live Action Animation
Audience Goals Modeling best practices and behaviors Explaining a concept
Subject Matter Showcasing actual people and products Visualizing complex information in a simple way
Content Updates Building more evergreen content Frequent content updates

 

What About Budget?

Budgets. We all have ‘em. But we caution people not to play a strictly numbers game. Buying based on the lowest price tag is tempting. But that decision may come with other hidden costs. If the final product isn’t up to your brand’s quality standards or if it doesn’t effectively teach people what to do, you’ll have to pay to redo the video.

Plus, there’s more at stake than the initial cost to create a module—training affects job performance, employee attitudes, and ultimately revenue.

A good training partner will help you achieve your goals within the constraints of your budget. They’ll recommend good, better, and best options and help you understand what the give-and-take will be with each option, and how that will impact your learners.

Be Wary of These Video Production Myths

As you’re considering the style of training video to produce, it’s also important not to let these myths derail you and prevent you from making the best decision for your learners.

Myth 1: Live Action Video Is More Expensive

While a live video shoot typically requires more people (think cast and crew) and gear (lighting, sound equipment, cameras, and props), it won’t always be the most expensive option. Video length and production complexity are big variables. A one-minute animation that’s completely 3D and has a lot of special effects could cost the same as a three-minute live video. There might only be one animator on the project, but they’ll need more hours because of the level of detail and effort it takes to illustrate and animate a 3D feature.

That’s not to say that all live action videos are equal. Production costs are affected by factors like:

  • Location: A video shoot with multiple locations will take longer because of travel time and having to set up and take down cameras, lights, and other equipment. And if you’re not using your own stores or offices, location rental fees will come into play.
  • Actors: The bigger the cast, the bigger the cost.
  • Crew: If you need sound, you’ll need sound equipment and crew to operate it. But if you’re capturing b roll (motion-only footage), that’s not necessary.

Good production companies will know how to tailor live video to achieve the best result for learners within your budget.

Myth 2: Animation Takes Longer to Produce

Some companies will tell you an animation takes months to get to market whereas live action video can be delivered in four weeks.

Here’s the reality: timelines aren’t influenced by the style of your video. They depend more on how soon the client wants the finished product and how fast the production company can move. There is equal planning involved in both video formats, and an equal number of moving parts. And each format includes review time, editing, and final delivery of the product. A more agile company, like Unboxed, is able to flex their timeline to the client’s needs.

And similar to the cost, the timeline is also influenced by the length and complexity of the production.

Myth 3: You Have to Choose Between Live Action and Animation

The world of video production is wider than just animation and just live action. Good production companies use a combination of:

  • B roll (motion only video footage)
  • Live action footage
  • Animation
  • Screencast (recording of the interface of a program or tool)
  • Kinetic typography (moving text)

Your options are only limited by the creativity of your video production partner.

So, What’s Best? Animation or live action?

What type of video training is right for your company? The one that best fits the goals, subject matter, and shelf life of your training content. End of story.

Both animated and live action videos can connect learners to your brand, culture, solutions, and each other—but you don’t have to choose between one format or the other.

Have more questions about live action or animated video? Let’s chat. Drop us a line in the comments or send us an email. We’re here to help!


About the Author

David Williamson is a Director of Content Strategy. His lovely wife and charming children have turned him into a real-life grown-up, and his writing has come a long way since the delightfully unreadable work he composed as a four-year-old. His more recent output showcases a mastery of craft, style, and, most notably, real words and complete sentences.


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