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