The Creative Toolkit for Marketers

2021 Live-Action Video Trends

Chelsea Sassara

2021 video trends VMG Studios


Each year, the diverse team of creatives here at VMG Studios looks ahead to what’s next by forecasting some of the trends we expect within our industry. From animation to social media to video, we aim to remain at the forefront of innovation to best support our clients with eye-catching and unique creative content.


Many of the creative trends we identify remain relevant for several years since not all trends are fleeting like the mannequin challenge circa 2016.


With that said, 2020 has really blown up all expectations.


I know you’re tired of hearing about the COVID-19 pandemic (pandemic: the word of the year for Merriam-Webster and, but it, inevitably, has completely altered the video world from big, Hollywood blockbusters to marketing and corporate videos for companies of all sizes.


We’ve spent the last year adjusting our practices, educating ourselves, and finding ways to capture live-action video content.


In collaboration with our Director of Photography and video editors, we put together a list of trends we expect to see in video production in 2021, which includes production styles and methods of capturing live-action video content as well as aesthetic considerations.


It’s important to note that not all of the trends we’ll discuss in this article are directly correlated to COVID-19. There are some we believe will stick around well beyond this pandemic.


1. Virtual Production

We’re starting with a heavy-hitter! Virtual production is tracking the position and orientation of a camera in the 3D space of a film set in order to place your actor in a virtual set. This camera tracking is often used in concert with large LED screen walls in order to capture the actor(s) in a CGI environment in real-time with realistic lighting and reflections.


This enables the director to see, in real-time, what the actor looks like on the virtual set, letting them fix any problems with the lighting or digital set.


The best example of how virtual production has recently changed the way sets are built, either physically or digitally, is on the Disney+ series The Mandalorian. They used this technique extensively, which gave the show’s creators significantly more freedom in their story.



This type of production has been implemented on sets across the world.



It’s safe to say that virtual production is revolutionizing the video industry and is likely to stick around for a long time. While, at the moment, it might not be an economical option for most marketing budgets, it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward, as the technology is only going to get better and more affordable.


If you’re interested in learning more about how this game-changing technology works, we wrote a whole in-depth article about it.


2. Remote Productions

This trend has COVID-19 written all over it. Due to lockdowns and quarantines, video shoots couldn’t carry on in the traditional sense. With video still being a preferred medium for marketing and advertising, video marketers and production studios have had to adjust and figure out ways to shoot remotely.



While we have found ways to safely shoot in-person live-action video content, both in-studio and on-location, the remote production look and feel is here to stay at least through 2021.


There has been a big learning curve for this type of production, mainly for those who aren’t well versed in video production, when it comes to equipment, set-up, and deployment. The good news is that viewers are more forgiving right now when it comes to quality and expectations. Seeing people in their home office with a picture that isn’t crystal clear is accepted. Screen captured video is becoming the norm.


An effective way to elevate a “home video” style is with an up-leveled graphics package. Combining live-action video with motion graphics and animation can help visually sell and tell your message.



Many people are expected to continue to work remotely in 2021 (and beyond, some permanently), meaning this style of video will likely be a big part of our culture moving forward.


3. On-Camera Talent & Interview Subjects Looking Into Camera

This is a trend we also identified for 2020 and one that is definitely sticking around. We started noticing the shift in people talking “off-camera” versus talking directly to the camera thanks to the rise of social media influencers on YouTube and Instagram who speak directly to their followers (therefore, the camera).


Interview video subjects looking off-camera and on-camera


This trend has been amplified by COVID-19 and ties in nicely with remote productions since many people are filming video conference-style content that is driven by direct-to-camera interactions.



As humans, we link eye contact with connection, so this is a great way to make your audience feel like they are being directly spoken to, which helps increase the video’s engagement.


4. Natural Lighting

Say hello to yet another trend that landed on our 2020 list! And another trend we don’t see going anywhere anytime soon.


As our Director of Photography, Hunter Boen, eloquently wrote last year: “The goal with lighting is to make it feel as natural as possible, like the subject was just sitting next to a big window or light was casually spilling in from the next room. This way the viewer isn’t thinking, even subconsciously, ‘where’s that light coming from?’ The lighting shouldn’t distract from the story happening on-screen.”


Your on-camera talent will often look better with natural lighting than with artificial lighting. I don’t make the rules here, it’s just a fact.


Natural lighting live-action video shoot


Natural lighting in video production shoot


I hate to bring it up again, but in the age of COVID-19, natural lighting has been imperative to remote productions. A lot of people don’t have lighting equipment at their disposal, so they’ve had to rely on their surroundings when it comes to shooting video.


This is where natural light really shines (see what I did there?) as it’s much more flattering for any on-camera talent. 


You can check out best practices for setting up your at-home video shoot, including lighting considerations, in the video below at the 13:45 mark.



5. Stock Video

Rounding out our 2021 top trends for live-action video is stock video. Now, I know this isn’t a “sexy” trend, but it’s one, nonetheless. When immediate, live-action shooting isn’t possible (for a quick-turn project or a global pandemic, for example), stock video is a great alternative.




Online libraries like Adobe Stock have just about every kind of b-roll (supporting footage) you could ask for, making it easy to tell a story when combined with motion graphics or animation and voice-over.


You can also dive into your own stock footage. This could include old marketing videos, unused footage from previous shoots, or professional pictures of your staff members and office space.


Moving Forward with Live-Action Video Content in 2021 

While live-action videos may not be the most popular style of video in 2021 (hello, animation), there are still plenty of ways to capture live-action video to create engaging content for your target audience.


There are also new and emerging styles to keep an eye on if you’re looking to spruce up your video strategy.


At VMG Studios, we’re always looking for new ideas and new techniques to implement for our clients and our own marketing initiatives while remaining on top of the trends to better reach our target audience.


To recap, the trends to consider for 2021 include: 

  1. Virtual production
  2. Remote production
  3. On-camera talent and interview subjects looking into the camera
  4. Natural lighting
  5. Stock video 


While DIY video production is more mainstream, if you’re looking for an elevated final product that includes animation, motion graphics, or graphic design, or need help with any production or post-production needs, VMG Studios would love to support your next video project.


To find more creative inspiration in animation & motion graphics, graphic design, and social media, click the image below to download our free 2021 Creative Trends eBook!

Top Creative Trends of 2021 eBook


2021 Creative Trends Series

2021 Animation & Motion Graphics Trends

2021 Graphic Design Trends

2021 Social Media Trends


Tags: Video production, Video trends, Live Action Video, Video, virtual production

Chelsea Sassara

Written by Chelsea Sassara

Chelsea Sassara is a Content Manager at VMG Studios. Chelsea is an Emmy award-winning journalist with a background in local TV news. She loves to write, her dog & cat, the Pacific Northwest, and the Oregon Ducks.

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