Animation comes in many different forms and can change the style and meaning of content on a ‘look’ alone. That is why it is so important to choose the right creative route for your content. Below we look at the pros and cons of both live action and animation to help you make an informed decision about your creative project.

Example from Fable Studios

Animation pros

Anything is possible – One of the best things about animation is that anything is possible. If you can imagine it, we can animate it so the sky really is the limit. The variations in styles are also incredibly flexible so it is always possible to adapt animation to fit your brand.

Simplify complexity – Animation is a great way to breakdown and simplify a complex subject or process so is often the best choice for explainer videos or product demos.

Asset recycling – once your characters and assets have been built you can return to the project and update your video or create a whole new animation with the original assets which will save you money and ensure that the videos are cohesive.

Animation Cons

Time – Animation is notoriously slow to create so if you are looking for photo realistic or charming hand drawn animation, you may have to wait a while. However, if you are looking for some simple motion graphics, it could be quicker than you expect.

Price – Animation can quickly become expensive as the complexity rises. The more detail you require the higher the price tag. So if you are trying to keep costs down try to compare the quote for live action vrs animation before deciding on creative rout.

Live action pros

Time – Live action filming is often quicker to create than animation. If you have a tight deadline, live action may be the best option for your content.

Connection – People often find it easier to connect emotionally to live action rather than animation. As humans evolved we became very good at reading emotion and body language and so find it easier to connect with another human rather than an animated character who may have more limited emotional range.

Live action cons

Future editing is limited – Of Course it is possible to re-edit your content later on however, you are limited to whatever you shot during the shoot. As mentioned earlier, animation offers you the option to recycle assets to create new content with reduced cost.

Limited by safety – Some things are just not possible to film in real life, or are not safe to do so. You will either need to compromise or simply use animation as an alternative. Animation is constantly evolving and becoming faster and more realistic. This opens up a lot more possibility with what you are trying to create and so enables you to create the ‘impossible’ safely.

When animation should be used instead of live action.

Of course, the two media forms are increasingly being used together as a problem solving tool to enhance the narrative. 3D animation is more realistic and achievable than ever before and can seamlessly integrate with live action footage. So when should you use animation instead of trying to film the sequence in live action?

The first consideration should always be safety. Is it safe to film a car driving off the top of a building? No. Is it possible to create a version of this safely in 3D? Yes! This would be the most effective and safe way of creating this sequence and with advancement in technology, it could even be a cheaper alternative to filming the stunt in real life.

Another reason you may use 3D animation instead of live action is that the environment does not exist. For example, if you have a scene set on another planet it could enhance the story by creating an environment that would be impossible to find on our planet. It could also offer a comfortable alternative for your cast and crew. You could go to a desert and battle with the elements to create an environment that feels like the surface of mars, or you could take the approach similar to The Mandalorian. They are paving the way for virtual reality backgrounds using Unreal Engine and LED screens. This setup is much more appealing to both cast and crew as you have all the home comforts of a studio with the look of a challenging environment.

It is however, worth mentioning that although 3D animation is a great alternative, sometimes you just can’t beat the real thing. Harry Potter, Star Wars and some other big films have gone out of their way to create as many of the effects in camera as possible and it does add something special to the film. The details that go into the sets and props come from a collaboration which often elevates each element. It also offers the cast more material to react to and allows themselves to immerse themselves in the world they are portraying.

So when it comes to choosing between live action or animation it all stems down to what suits your project best. Which format will offer you the most value for money and which route will enhance and compliment your brand or story best.

Author Bio: Rob Holder is the Director of Fable Studios, a video production agency in Bristol, UK.


When to use Animation over live action?

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