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When to use Animation in your video

November 6, 2015

By Matt Edwards, Business Development Manager

When to use animation

Film making is a hugely rewarding endeavour. It touches lots of different creative disciplines and can often involve a real mix of creative styles.

Dependant on the situation or context of the message you’re trying to communicate, you might think that rather than using actors and sets, it may be a better bet to use animation instead.

Short answer: Animation gives you control and visual engagement – but it takes time, money and planning

It worked out pretty well for Walt Disney, but can it work for you?

There’s lot of different types of animation styles and techniques, some are inherently easier to work with than others. There’s also in recent years been a blurring of what is considered animation, as technology has opened up the ability to create these elements without the requirement to hire a traditional animator.

For example kinetic  typography is a hugely popular way of doing fast-flowing explainer videos that are effective and a more simplistic way of producing animated content. Kinetic typography is typically when you have words animating around a central voiceover. When done well it can be amazingly engaging.

It’s going to be easier to use animation – right? WRONG!

Somewhere in the annals of time, someone somewhere thought that having worked with both animals and children that animation would surely be easier? I hear it all the time, people think animation will actually simplify the production process. I’m happy to debunk this myth.

The point around animation is that it requires a lot of specific planning.

What do you mean specific? 

If you film an actor sat behind a desk, the simply fact is that it’s all there for you. Broadly speaking if you add it into the frame of your shot it’s there in the film. If you wanted to animate someone sitting behind a desk you need to specifically detail all of the elements, their individual designs, characteristics, movement, textures…This is then passed to someone to interpret visually. What this means is that there is a lot of room for mismatched expectations and decision paralysis as there are literally so many things to choose from. We call it the blank canvas effect.

Did you know…

Pixar have a “Wear and Tear” team, their job is go through scenes and create realistic signs of life. This could be a scratch on the door in Andy’s room in Toy Story or dust particles on a box in Wall-E.

This requirement for such a high level of granular detail means that a typical script for animation is 75% larger when compared to a script for live action. If you think about your resources, this will mean more time in pre-production, potentially more people involved and will ultimately leads to animation being inherently more expensive.

So don’t do animation?

No that’s not what I’m saying, just be realistic in terms of what you want to accomplish. In some cases animation will be more time efficient and cost effective solution. Imagine you needed to produce a 30 second short which included a spaceship or aliens, then animation is your friend as practically this would be super-expensive to film with live actors.

Also if you simplify your animation you can massively reduce the costs, so try shooting animating against solid colours or reusing elements. Remember those Tom & Jerry cartoons, they’d reuse the backgrounds over and over again.

When is animation is a good fit?

Animation as an explainer is a great fit, especially if you’ve got a limited amount of on-screen time to get across a message. The visual beat of an animation helps hold people’s attention and the use of sound effects will have your viewers glued to the screen, which is what we all want. Right?

Final tips…

Start small, don’t try and take on too much. Remember irrespective of if your chosen medium is animation or film it’s always still about the message!

For more tips on what to look out for when it comes to animation Vs live action filmmaking, download our 37 page ebook ‘So you want to make a corporate video?’  absolutely free, gratis and for no money!  –

If you liked this article, why not check out our ebook ‘So you want to create a corporate video?’ full of tips, tricks and hacks for both existing markers and those embarking on their first project.

Oh, and here’s an example of an animation we did to explain how we do…erm…what we do!