Video Content

Live Action vs Animation: What’s the Difference?

Laura Chaves
May 28, 2024

When planning your next big video marketing campaign, the decision between live-action or animation looms large. Both possess captivating qualities, but which aligns best with your brand?

With billions of users on social media, choosing the right video style is crucial. Live-action and animation each have unique strengths and weaknesses, making the decision challenging.

At Vidico, we’ve helped many brands make this choice, leveraging our expertise in both live-action and animation to drive engagement and leads.

In this article, we’ll compare live-action and animation, highlighting their pros and cons to help you decide which best fits your marketing goals.

By the end, you’ll understand which medium suits your campaign. Ready to make an informed choice? Let’s dive into live-action vs. animation.


    Animation & Live-Action Main Differences


    Live-action videos are grounded in reality, featuring real actors and physical objects, while animation ventures into the realm of imagination, crafting worlds and characters through computer-generated graphics.

    Regarding storytelling, live-action videos are good at showing real emotions and everyday life. But animation lets you go wild with creativity [1]—you can make anything happen, from talking animals to flying cars.

    Moreover, the production processes for live-action and animation videos differ significantly. Live-action video production often involves lengthy shoots on location or in studios, with actors delivering performances in front of cameras and crews capturing real-world settings.

    On the other hand, animation is a meticulous process that unfolds frame by frame. Artists craft characters and scenes using specialized software, bringing them to life through digital manipulation.

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    Quick Comparison

    Aspect Live Action Animation
    Visual Presentation Uses real performers and sets Creates characters and scenes with computers
    Production Process Films real people and places Artists draw or design characters and settings
    Realism Shows events and places like in real life Often includes magical or impossible elements
    Imagination Restricted by real-world limitations Offers endless possibilities for creativity
    Cost Can be expensive due to filming locations, sets, and actors Requires investment in software and skilled animators
    Time Takes time to find locations and shoot scenes Involves detailed animation process, can be time-consuming
    Flexibility Limited by physical constraints Allows for imaginative and fantastical worlds
    Target Audience Appeals to viewers who like realistic stories Attracts those who enjoy imaginative and fantastical tales

    Key Differences Between Live Action & Animation

    futuristic scene featuring a person in a yellow and orange spacesuit interacting with holographic displays


    Live video production involves filming real people and physical sets, typically in real-world locations or studio sets. In a live-action video, actors perform in front of cameras, interacting with real-life footage to create a sense of realism.

    On the other hand, animation requires creating characters, environments, and scenes entirely through computer-generated graphics [2]. Experts use specialized software to design and animate each element of an animated video, building entire worlds from scratch and appearing as moving images.


    Live-action videos portray real-life events, people, and places, often aiming for authenticity and relatability. They include genres such as drama, comedy, action, music videos, and documentaries covering various subjects and themes.

    In contrast, Animated videos span a diverse spectrum of styles and genres, from traditional hand-drawn cartoons to sophisticated 3D computer-generated imagery (CGI). This versatility allows editors more creative freedom and achieves imaginative narratives beyond the constraints of reality.


    Live-action video typically presents content in a format similar to conventional movies and TV shows, offering a sense of familiarity and immediacy. In live-action content, viewers watch real performers interacting in real-world settings, which can evoke emotions and resonate with their experiences.

    On the other hand, animation provides a wide range of artistic styles and visual approaches, from colorful, stylized cartoons to photorealistic CGI. This flexibility in animated projects allows the editors to experiment with different techniques and aesthetics to suit the tone and narrative of their animated video.

    Pros & Cons

    Live Action Video


    • Captures realism and authenticity.
    • Portrays nuanced performances and emotions.
    • Appeals to audiences seeking relatable experiences.


    • Bounded by real-world constraints.
    • Require actors, physical sets, and locations.
    • Live video productions can be costly and need meticulous planning

    Animation Video


    • Offers limitless creative freedom.
    • Allows for imaginative storytelling and abstract ideas
    • Appeals to audiences seeking diverse visual styles and innovative narratives.


    • Requires specialized skills and software.
    • It demands meticulous attention to detail and a tedious process
    • It may appeal to only some audiences accustomed to live-action storytelling.

    Factors To Consider

    film clapperboard is held in front of a woman wearing glasses

    Production Cost

    When considering production costs, live-action and animation differ significantly. In live-action video projects, expenses can quickly add up due to the need for physical production elements such as location scouting, set construction, props, costumes, and actor salaries.

    These costs can vary depending on the scale of the live-action video production, the complexity of the scenes, post-production requirements, and the experience level of the cast and crew members.

    Conversely, animated videos require investment, but the costs are often more predictable and controllable.

    While there are expenses for software, hardware, skilled animators, and rendering time, the overall budget may be more manageable compared to live-action movies, especially for videos and movie projects with elaborate details.

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    Live-action production typically requires a higher budget due to the expenses associated with physical production elements such as sets, locations, props, costumes, and actor salaries. These costs can escalate quickly, particularly for larger-scale videos with extensive post-production requirements.

    On the other hand, animation can offer more cost-effective options for certain projects, especially those with complex visual effects or fantastical elements.

    By utilizing digital tools and techniques, Animation allows for greater control over video production costs, making it a viable option for videos with more limited budgets.


    Live-action productions may face time constraints due to several factors, such as weather conditions, location availability, and actor schedules. These variables can impact the production timeline, potentially leading to delays or adjustments in scheduling.

    In contrast, Animation projects offer more flexibility in scheduling and production timelines. While animation is a long process involving character design, special effects, modeling, rigging, animation, and rendering, the overall pre-production and post-production schedule may be more predictable and manageable.

    The flexibility of animated videos can be advantageous, particularly for projects with specific deadlines or tight production schedules.

    Project Goal

    Live action is well-suited for projects that capture realism, authenticity, and human emotion. It excels at portraying real-life events, people, and places, making it ideal for projects focusing on relatable experiences or dramatic storytelling.

    Animated films offer limitless creative possibilities, allowing storytellers to explore imaginative worlds, fantastical creatures, and innovative narratives. It appeals to audiences seeking diverse visual styles, innovative storytelling techniques, and sound effects.

    Creators can determine whether animation or live-action is the best fit for bringing their vision to life by considering the project’s goals, themes, and target audience.


    Is live-action a form of animation?

    Live-action is not a form of animation but a form of cinematography [3].

    Live-action captures actual performers and physical sets through filming, while animators create animations and scenes entirely through computer-generated graphics.

    Why do people prefer animation over live-action?

    People may prefer animation over live-action because animation offers limitless creative possibilities and engagement [4]. It allows storytellers to explore imaginative worlds, fantastical creatures, and innovative narratives. Animation appeals to audiences seeking diverse visual styles and innovative storytelling techniques.

    Animation has an emotional impact and resonates with viewers in unique ways, making it a preferred choice for certain genres or storytelling approaches. Depending on your project demands, you can combine live action and animation.

    Is live-action harder than animation?

    While live-action requires coordinating performers, sets, and props, animation involves the digital creation of characters and environments.

    The animation and live-action process requires specialized skills and techniques, making it challenging in different ways.

    Some may find live-action harder due to the complexities of real-world elements. In contrast, others may find animation more challenging due to the technical skills and attention to detail required for the final product.

    Which takes longer to make, animation or live-action?

    Animations crafted meticulously from scratch can take weeks or even months to complete. Every detail, from character design to scene composition, demands careful attention and iteration.

    Conversely, a live-action video project can often be shot relatively quickly, typically within a few days. This is because live-action productions leverage performers, physical sets, and existing environments, which can streamline the live-action filming process.

    Ultimately, the time required for both animation and live-action projects can vary widely based on each production’s requirements and constraints.

    Final Thoughts

    In a live-action vs. animation comparison, both mediums have unique strengths and challenges, appealing to different audiences and serving different storytelling purposes.

    While live actions capture realism and authenticity, animation offers unparalleled freedom and imaginative storytelling possibilities.

    Whether creators opt for the grounded realism of live-action videos or the creativity of animated explainer videos, the key is to align the choice with the project’s goals, themes, and target audience.

    Understanding each medium’s distinct characteristics and potential can make the decision-making process much easier. Storytellers can leverage their strengths to bring their vision to life in the most impactful and engaging way possible.

    Are you ready to bring your story to life with live-action and animation videos? Discover the possibilities with our VidiFit Quiz, where you can get a free and upfront estimate for your next project. Start creating today and unleash your imagination!


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    Find the right type of video to meet your marketing goals and get an instant estimation on how much it would cost to produce it.
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