The Creative Toolkit for Marketers

Live-Action Video vs. Animation: Pros & Cons

Chelsea Sassara

Live-action video with animation on screen of a woman looking at a laptop computer with two other people in an office setting


As statistics show, deciding to make a video may be an easy decision, but where to go next is a bit more complicated. The question many people ask is should I do a live-action video, an animation, or a combination of both?


Here are VMG Studios, we are constantly helping our clients figure out which route will elevate their messaging and engage their audience. 


This article will break down the pros and cons of each type of production to help you decide which better meets your needs and budget.


What is Live-Action Video?

The simple definition of live-action video means it involves real people or animals, as opposed to animation or computer-generated effects. Types of live-action include scripted narratives, interview case studies, product demos, and live tutorials.



Making a decision can be hard but listing the pros and cons can help you either commit or pull the plug. Below are some pros and cons to live-action video.




 Captures emotions and real human elements

Harder to demonstrate complex or abstract ideas compared to on screen graphics

Real life footage can easily create a sense of setting and purpose

You’re at the mercy of the live situation in terms of light and time

Some real-world objects are hard to model in CG

Talent can be difficult to wrangle and direct

Camera & atmospheric effects such as shallow depth of a field, sun, and other lighting sources are easier to create in real life

Live-action video has a shorter shelf life and it can be difficult to make changes later on

Extensive experience isn’t necessarily needed: you can make a live-action video on a cell phone

Time & cost. The more complex and the higher the quality, the more expensive it will get


What is Animation (Animated Video)?

Animation is a method in which pictures are manipulated to appear as moving images; the process by which an animated video is made starts out with drawings done by hand or a computer.



If you don’t have experience with animation, it can seem daunting. However, there are plenty of reasons to give it a try.




Easy to demonstrate abstract ideas and concepts

Harder to emulate emotions & create “characters” that can replace humans

Easy to use if explaining a lot of information in a concise way

Real world aspects such as lighting are harder to duplicate

If you can think of it, even something that doesn’t exist in the real world, you can make it

Experience or training needed

Has a longer shelf life and is easier to make changes to keep it up to date

Time & cost


Cost and Time of Live-Action Video and Animation

You probably noticed that time and cost are both listed as cons for live-action and animation. That’s because both require a lot of time and can be expensive.


Live-action requires pre-production (planning), production (shooting), and post-production (editing). It often involves more people behind the scenes. You may need to hire actors or wardrobe and make-up. You may need to rent out a location space to shoot.


Animation, meanwhile, requires time dedicated to design. That can include style-frames and storyboards. It requires certain software and expertise. Render times for certain animations can be costly.


General Cost Range for Live-Action and Animated Videos

Just like many major purchases, the price range for animation and live-action is wide and depends on a variety of factors.


For the sake of simplicity, an animated video that’s 90 seconds to 2-minutes long can range anywhere between $15,000 and $35,000.


As for live-action, depending on the type of video you’re choosing, the price tag could be between $17,000 to $100,000+. 



How to Save Money on Live-Action Videos and Animated Videos

You’ve likely heard about “bundling” deals before: Bundling your home & auto insurance could save you hundreds of dollars each month! Well, the same idea can help you save money on video production. If you can bundle your content such as scripts and deliverables, your cost-per-video decreases.


For example, in a live-action production, if you can bundle scripts together and create an optimized shot list, you may be able to shoot enough material for multiple videos in a single shoot. For animation, if you set a design style, you can re-purpose the assets in other videos.


Types of Live-Action and Animated Videos

When deciding between live-action and animation, it’s important to think about the message or content of your video. Are you wanting to put together an explainer video that sells or describes a physical product? Show the actual product and choose a live-action option. Do you need to explain a complex business process that includes an overload of information? An animation could easily condense that information and show it in a unique way.


Put yourself in the consumers shoes: how would you want to consume content coming from a trusted brand or business? This mindset could help in the decision-making process and shape the kind of content you produce.


Read: The Cost of Different Types of Live-Action Videos


Choosing Between Live-Action Video vs. Animation

When it comes to choosing between live-action and animation, there isn’t necessarily a one-size fits all. Think about your video needs, your budget, and the content you are trying to share. Regardless of whether you choose live-action or animation, choosing to produce video content is a good investment for your business.


Need help figuring out what kind of video content to produce? Click the image below to download a free creative messaging brief to start organizing your next project.

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Tags: Video production, Live Action Video, Animation, Animated Video

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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