5 things to know when switching from live-action to animated productions

We get it – these are frustrating times. You’ve spent weeks developing creative ideas for live-action films, you were about to go into Production then the Coronavirus came along shutting everything down… now you’re being told you need to switch to animation productions. Deep breath!

So it’s back to the drawing board then – or is it? Have you ever produced an animated film before? Would your existing plans even work as an animated film?

In this blog we go over everything you need to know about getting started with animation so you can decide if it is the right format for you, or if you want to wait a while longer so you can return to making live action films again.

1. Animated films and live action productions are more similar than you think.

All forms of storytelling must create meaning in order to be effective. Animated films are no different. Sometimes called an arch, what this means is that the main subject of the film should overcome some challenge so that by the end of film, the audience’s perspective has been influenced by their experience.

Without an arch the story is meaningless so in the narrative sense, live action and animated films have a lot in common. 

2. Animated films and live action productions have less in common than you think!

The practical aspects of producing animated films is quite different to those of live action productions. For me, the main difference rests around flexibility. 

Whilst live action productions do have to be planned, there is room to accommodate the immediacy of the performance. The space for this is much smaller with animated films – which is why the planning stage is more important than ever.

One of the things which can take people new to animation by surprise is just how rigid and procedural the production of animated films can be.

3. Animated films don’t necessarily take longer to produce than live action productions

Whilst it is true that animated films don’t necessarily take longer to make than their live action counterparts, it is also true to say that no format of animated film is quick to produce whereas there are plenty of examples of live action productions that can be quickly and easily, shot, packaged up and delivered.  

If time is of the essence, it’s probably sensible to lean towards some of the animation styles that can be put together relatively quickly – motion graphics based films for example are a good place to begin.  If you have more time or if you’re looking for something more ambitious then I would recommend looking at 3D animation styles. These are fun and impressive, but they’re not quick to produce

4. Animated films aren’t necessarily more expensive than live action productions

Typically speaking the budget for live action films should be spent on the crew, the equipment and the art-direction. 

 With live action productions much of the budget can be splurged on the shoot itself – with animated productions, the budget tends to be spent in a slow, gradual and continuous way rather than in broad swathes like it is when something is filmed.

5. Animated films are not just for children

We all grew up watching animated films as young children which is why I suspect we are so quick to connect animated films with childhood.

Animated films possess a power which is difficult to replicate in other mediums for example it is possible to create fully artificial worlds which would be expensive and time consuming in the context of a live action production. 

Animated films also have broad international appeal making it easy to either dub or translate them.

Are you ready to switch to animation?

In the current climate live action production is becoming increasingly difficult to fulfil. If you aren’t interested in animation or your would prefer to consider other options then you might want to consider reversioning your existing video content. If that sounds more up your street you can find out more about that here.


If you’re interested in seeing more of what’s possible with animation why not take a look at the work of some of our animation directors by clicking here or schedule a time to chat with me by clicking here.

Thanks so much for reading and please share this blog with anyone in your network whom you think might find it useful. 


About the Author

Nathan Haines

Nathan is the managing director of Element 26 and an expert in video production and video marketing. Nathan enjoys supporting companies to grow their businesses using video. Get in touch on Twitter @element26uk

12 Tips For Writing A Winning Video Brief

Before writing a video brief, it’s useful to understand the process involved in producing video content. Video production moves through four key stages; Development, where your ideas are formed, Pre-Production where all the logistical aspects of your production are considered, Production, where your videos are filmed and Post-Production where your films are then ultimately made.

To give you a head start, we’ve put together some handy little tips to get your creative juices flowing and to help you write that all in important video production brief.


Video is a highly versatile medium. If you can tell us whether you’re seeking to make a corporate film, an infomercial, a television commercial, a music video, a promo film, a viral video or alternatively a documentary, then we will immediately understand where your film sits. If your film is for commercial purposes, you might want to give some thought to where your video fits in the purchase funnel. 


The most effective films are tailored to their audience. It’s critical to know who your films are aimed at because understanding who we need to reach will shape everything from the the script and the tone of the film, to where and when your videos should be published.


What you would like your viewer to do once they have watched your film? A good video should end with a compelling call-to-action (CTA) and leave a positive impression. On YouTube this CTA might be to invite the viewer to subscribe to your channel or alternatively you might ask your viewer to give you a call, make a donation or visit your website. If you intend to use an alternative hosting partner for your videos, then you might well also be able to add a form to the end of your film to capture leads directly from within the video content.


It’s usually a bad idea to cover too many subjects within a single video. The most effective videos are usually quite succinct and address one subject in sufficient detail rather than diluting the message by paying lip-service to too many topics. The issue with films that try to take on too much, is that they can easily become too long. It will fail to retain the interest of the audience and simultaneously fail to go into enough detail to satisfy the enthusiastic viewer or fan.


The most effective films possess an interesting or moving story. This is as true for B2B comms as it is in B2C projects. In order to have a compelling story, there has to be either a conflict or a challenge to overcome. By over coming the hurdle presented within the film your audience will be moved emotionally. Understanding which emotional triggers to pull is really important as these should reflect the same values as those your brand stands for. 


From Shakespeare to Spielberg, there are only seven basic story types which include Overcoming the Monster, Rebirth, Quest, Journey and Return, Rags to Riches, Tragedy and Comedy. Understanding the seven different stories is a comprehensive subject so we’ve produced a more digestible blog post on the subject entitled ‘How To Add Style To Your Story’ which is designed to help you pick the right story type for your needs. For some worthwhile reading on how to tell a story, we recommend Robert McKee’s excellent book ‘Story’.


How you intend to use your film will impact upon the final budget so it’s important to clarify this information early on, to avoid any nasty surprises. Usage covers everything from which channels the films will be seen on, to which territories the film will be made available in. Letting us know where your films are going to be seen informs everything from the running time of your films, to the cast, crew and equipment required to produce your content.


If your film isn’t driven by interviews then it is quite possible that you may require either professional actors, some employees or alternatively a voice over artist to propel your narrative. We can source any actors you may require however depending on the type of film you’re looking to produce then the rates for enlisting such actors can vary. Actors for a television commercials in the UK are covered by Equity and even with corporate films, an actor will typically earn a fee for their work in addition to a buyout which protects their image rights for an agreed period of time.

If budget is an issue, then you might consider using staff or friends within your films however it is unlikely you will obtain the same results from an amateur actor as you would from a professional and it will almost certainly take longer to produce.


Are there any specific locations which are pertinent for your production? This is important to know as it can help us locate local crew. It is also important for other logistical considerations such as calculating an appropriate call time and coordinating movement orders. If you need any help with your location recce then you might find our other blog handy ‘6 things to look out for on your location recce

If you know your production will have to be shot in a specific location please do let us know when submitting your brief.


Visual references can be tremendously helpful for conveying your ideas. Send your reference films our way and we will make sure the final product gets as close as possible to your intentions.


An understanding of your budget can really help us focus when developing creative ideas for your project. Lots of people find themselves feeling a little uncomfortable when asked to be so open about the budget they’re prepared to spend on their videos however the question isn’t intended to catch you out, instead it’s about making sure you get the best production values possible for your budget. At Element 26, we’re a highly creative and extremely resourceful bunch meaning we always strive to put as much of your budget on screen as possible.


It is essential that we know your key dates. Whilst the production schedule will vary from production-to-production, we typically recommend you allocate between 6-8 weeks for your film to go from proposal sign-off to completion. We will obviously do our best to accomodate any key dates you have in mind, for instance if your production relates to a live event, then the shoot would have to take place in conjunction with that event.

If you’re thinking about producing some video content and would like to benefit from our experience, then why not jump on a call with one of our producers. We look forward to hearing from you.

About the Author

Nathan Haines

Nathan is the managing director of Element 26 and an expert in video production and video marketing. Nathan enjoys supporting companies to grow their businesses using video. Get in touch on Twitter @element26uk