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The Ultimate Guide to Video Animation Styles

Jul 31, 2013 2:05:27 PM

By the time you make the decision to get an animated explainer video for your business, you would have seen tons of video animation styles and types in different budget ranges. Yet, you would have no way to decide which option suits your business the best or to judge the relative strengths and weaknesses of these styles.  Well, here’s a handy guide to the most popular animation styles for online videos along with examples to illustrate these, and tips on when and how to employ these for your explainer video.

Live Action 
A live action explainer video is shot using a video camera with real actors, crew, equipment, and edited in post-production, similar to TV advertisements and marketing videos. The budget is flexible depending on the type of shooting techniques and equipment employed, as well as the expertise and experience of the crew and creative. Live action videos can also be used in conjunction with 2D animation effects, as creatively employed in the video below for Vitrola.

2D, 3D and 2.5D Animation
2D and 3D aren’t exactly styles of animation. Rather, all computer animation is basically of two types – 2D animation and 3D animation. In 3D animation, 3D models are created, textured, rigged, and animated in the virtual space. 3D videos are undoubtedly much more visually striking than their 2D counterpart, but the process is considerably more complex and time consuming, and hence the price difference is also considerable. 2D animation, with its relative simplicity and affordability is more widely used for explainer and marketing videos. Another option which a lot of businesses opt for is a combination of 2D and 3D elements in their video, known as 2.5D animation. In 2.5D animation, some of the elements are created in 3D, then merged and animated with 2D graphics. An interesting use of 2D with 3D elements is this demo video for Exchange931:

Another way of making your video much more visually appealing while not increasing the budget substantially, is using 2D graphics to create the illusion of 3D depth, like in this video for Agrimanagr:

Character Animation 
Character animation involves bringing animated characters to life by creating an illusion of thought, emotion and personality around them. The characters can be human, animal creatures, or even abstract & conceptual . There are several styles within the ambit of character animation itself: cartoon-style, semi-realistic, or photo-realistic, depending on the character style. Cartoon-style is often preferred for explainer videos because of its tendency to emphasize the inherent exaggeration of animation and ability to add an element of humor and fun to the video. Watch this video for to see how character animation can help create a connection with the target audience in a fun and engaging way:

Stick Figure Animation 
Stick-figure animation is another type of character animation in which instead of being well-defined, the characters are very simplistic in appearance. This helps in keeping the characters uniform and neutral while underlining the simplicity of the concept. Stick figured characters are also great for keeping the animation light and fun. Take this video for DealPepper, where stick-figure animation gels well with the casual tone of the script:

Info-graphic Animation
A type of 2D animation that relies on graphical representations of data, knowledge and ideas, Info-graphic animation consists of fluid motion of the virtual camera over numbers, statistics, graphs, images and icons. For explainer videos that need to show a lot of data, facts, figures, etc, info-graphic style is the preferred method. Check out this video for Unlock Advantage to see how a demo video can employ an info-graphic style to make information accessible and comprehensible in a fun way:

Kinetic Typography 
Kinetic typography is an animation technique that mixes motion and text to express ideas using video animation.  The text itself, instead of characters or graphics, is presented in a manner to convey or evoke ideas or emotions. Since the text tells the story on its own, an accompanying voice over is sometimes not required in kinetic typography, making this style apt if your video needs to play without an accompanying audio. In the following video for the Democratic National Alliance (a political party in the Bahamas), kinetic typography along with an info-graphic style helps in getting across a strong message while emphasizing the words:

Stop-Motion Animation
The stop-motion technique is one of the most time-consuming and complex animation processes. In this technique, the elements are moved incrementally, one frame at a time, to produce the illusion of motion when played in a series. It is very time consuming and can take up to a week to produce one minute of stop-motion animation. Consequentially, this animation style is quite expensive for explainer videos and is used rarely, even though the end results can often be quite amazing, like in this video for ‘Challenge Kar’:

Cutout Animation 
Cutout animation is an animation technique that uses flat characters, props and backgrounds manually moved and repositioned to simulate animation. These cut-outs can either be computer generated or hand-drawn, in which case the process can be just as time-consuming as in stop-motion animation because it requires manual intervention. Despite the difficulty of cutout animation, it's still a relatively simple animation style that's quite popular. In this video for WizIQ, cutout animation is elegantly used to explain the features of this service:

Whiteboard/High-Speed Sketch
In whiteboard animation or high-speed sketching, an idea or message is presented in the form of a live drawing by an artist. Owing to its creative, clear and concise way to share information through graphics, whiteboard animation has become a popular tool for corporate presentations. Since the viewers can witness the whole process from the birth of an idea to its growth and evolution, it becomes an automatic choice for many explainer videos. Consider the following video for SecureDating that utilizes this style to explain the concept of its service quite effectively.

Screencast Animation
The simplest and easiest of all animation styles is, undoubtedly, screencast animation. It, in fact, is so easy to produce that most startups can make one for themselves! However, a professional creative agency could weave screencast in a video much more elegantly and beautifully. It essentially comprises of animated screenshots captured using a screen recording software with accompanying voice over. Screencast animation can also be effectively used in combination with info-graphic style and kinetic typography to produce well-designed demo videos. In this video for Bidstick, screencast animation elegantly shows off the unique features of their website and service.

Apart from your budget, the style of animation you choose for your video will ultimately depend upon your own aesthetic sense and the story you seek to tell. Hopefully, this piece will help you in recognizing your preferences.

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