The Sensible Way to Choose Between Live Video & Animation

Last edited 8 July, 2024
PR & Advertising, Design, Guest Blog
5 min read.

When creating video content, you’ll need to know the following:

The following blog has been written by Philippe Ingels, a visual communication and marketing specialist for more than 35 years, currently leading the creative process at Wakster. His in-depth knowledge of how the brain works in reference to decision-making and behaviour helps him identify the most effective visual marketing methods.

What is the camera pointing at?

To tease out the difference between live video and animation is not as straightforward as it might seem. Live video points a camera at the real world, while animation points it to something in an imagined world.

Just to make sure things are not unnecessarily simple – I mean, why not – there is a sizable fuzzy border between the two formats. We’ve all seen real-world actors placed in imagined worlds. On the flip side are animations that look so super-realistic that we start questioning whether we’re looking at the real world or not. Both live video and animation can more or less do everything on the long list of requirements to create a compelling message.

We need to explore a bit deeper into the differences between these two formats to determine what you need to consider when deciding which format is best for your purposes.

Real or not?

One key consideration is whether your message requires you to make a visual connection to real-life people in real-life situations using real-life products. If showing the CEO, your factory or the clever widget you’ve just invented is essential to establish authenticity, then you have to use live video.

On the other hand, if the success of your message depends more on the audience understanding the value of your idea, product or process, then animation becomes a consideration. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done with live video. We’re again at an impasse, but this brings us to our second key difference.

How hard and in which way do you need to push your audience’s mental buttons to persuade them to take action?

Push and push

To make your message successful at conversion, you need two essential elements: it needs to make sense, and there needs to be a good dose of the right emotional triggers mixed into the message. Behavioural science has shown that reason and emotions are two inseparable parts of a single decision-making process. The emotions trigger the decision because the mind uses them to determine priorities. The rational framework gives the context and purpose of the emotions. Without emotions, no decisions are made, and without the rational, there is a danger of senseless choices.

So, the two questions you need to consider are these:

  • How likely is it that someone, at some point, might lose the thread of your explanation? Remember, some, if not most, of your audience will not be sufficiently familiar with your products or services to easily connect all the dots. That means they might be unable to keep track of all the essential facts you throw at them.

  • What is the size of the emotional impact you need to make to persuade someone to take action? The more competition for attention and the more objections there are, the more intense the emotions you need to trigger – such as anticipation, excitement and conviction.

As far as the rational argument is concerned, both video and animation are ideally suited for explaining the value you offer. However, animation is particularly good at explaining products or services with multiple features and benefits that are closely interrelated. This is because animation is often much better are handling abstract ideas.

What about creating an emotional impact? There is no doubt that live video can trigger high-impact emotions. Because it deals with real-life people in real-life situations, it has the potential to create an emotional experience at a much deeper level than animation.

There is a catch, though – it’s usually much more expensive to produce such an impact with live video than animation. Why? Because in many cases, you need to secure suitable locations, hire professional actors and get a top-notch production crew on board. And it can get costly to make any changes, especially if it requires hiring the same actors and getting the crew, location, and setup back together.

With animation, you can create any location imaginable – any place, any time period and at any scale. You can also magic as many diverse actors as you need into existence and have them do whatever is required to bring your story to life. Need someone to fly? They fly. Need someone to run the 100m in under 9.58 seconds? No problem, you don’t need to cast Usain Bolt.

You have perfect control over every tiny aspect of the production, which means the story can be perfectly crafted. An animated actor will re-do a scene a hundred times without complaining once. They also never have to go into rehab (unless that’s in the script, of course). Animation allows you to easily change your video content at any time as all the locations, actors and setups get frozen in time, just waiting for you to re-activate them.

That remembering thing

It is always decidedly beneficial if people can actually remember your message. People are not always ready to buy when they encounter your message, so for them to not only recall what you’ve said but still feel some of the conviction they experienced means you have to impress – big time.

By now, you will not be surprised to learn that both live video and animation are perfectly capable of making things memorable. Memorability is directly related to the size of the emotional impact you’ve made. It also relies on factors such as differentiation – how surprisingly different the experience is. It all comes down to cost. Differentiating things using real-world people and locations can have a significant impact but can get very expensive. With animation, your only limitation is imagination.

And the winner is…

There really isn’t a winner between live video and animation. It all depends on a combination of factors that include the importance of a real-world connection, the nature of the dots you need to connect, the emotional impact you need to make and your budget. There is even the real possibility of combining the two formats into one production or using the two formats separately to serve specific purposes.  

Use video:

  • If you need to use real-life to establish authenticity.

  • If the dots you need to connect to explain the value you offer are reasonably straightforward.

  • If you have enough budget available to make a significant enough emotional impact.

  • If you have enough budget available to do what it takes to make the video memorable.

  • If you just want a video because everyone has a video.

Use animation:

  • If real-world authentication is less important.

  • If persuading someone to take action is dependent on connecting multiple value dots.

  • If you need to make a significant emotional impact within a reasonable budget.

  • If you need to make your message memorable within a reasonable budget.

Your next thing

We’ve created hundreds of animations, combined video with animation and directed live video shoots with actors performing in front of green screens.

If you want to know more about the power of animation, please visit our website. Alternatively, feel free to get in touch if you need advice on what format is best for your needs and what your options are by reaching out to

EDGE team member


Philippe Ingels

Working in visual communication and marketing since 1986, Philippe uses the power of animation and visual storytelling to help improve business pitches and convey ideas. Founder and CEO of animation studio Wakster, created in 2013, Philippe is an expert in decision-engineered pitches, specifically designed to help influence the brain and improve the success rate of business pitches and materials.