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Animation Style Guide: Different Types of Animated Explainer Videos

Animation Style Guide: Different Types of Animated Explainer Videos

With so many different animation styles out there, we thought it would be helpful to present an overview of the most common types of explainer videos and provide a run down of their pros and cons to help you figure out what types of animation styles can be used for your video.

2D Animation Styles:

1). Flash / After Effects 2D animation
2). Motion Graphics
3). Hand Drawn Animation (aka Frame by Frame or ‘Cel’ Animation)
4). Kinetic Typography

3D Animation Styles:

1). 3D Animation
2). Stop Motion

Non-animated explainer videos:

1). Screen Recording
2). Whiteboard Videos

2D Animation Styles:

1). Flash / After Effects 2D Animation

If you’ve seen a 2D animated video online, odds are, it was likely made using Adobe Flash or Adobe After Effects. These are two of the most popular programs for creating 2D animated videos because they enable an infinite range of different animation styles at a lower cost than producing a video with traditional frame-by-frame (hand drawn) animation.

Pros: Enables you to create infinite different types of animation styles. Very easy to make custom branded art.
Cons: This is what everyone does. Can be difficult to pick out which studio or freelancer is best for you.

Example of an Animated Explainer Video Created with Flash:

Example of a More Advanced Animation Created with Adobe After Effects:

 

2). Motion Graphics

Think of motion graphics as a type of animation that’s more like an animated diagram or a series of shapes, icons and text sliding around. Generally this is animation that doesn’t have people walking around. Instead, motion graphics are used like visual accents. Sometimes they are overlaid on top of live action videos, other times they’re inserted between scenes of a video to show an animated diagram that visually illustrates what a narrator is explaining.

Pros: Can be simpler to produce than traditional animation.

Cons: May not include enough detail for what you want to show or explain.

 

3). Hand Drawn Animation aka Frame-By-Frame Animation

This is the ‘real’ old school style of animation. The kind where each frame is hand drawn by the animator. It enables the artist to create beautiful flowing animated details with realistic, smooth movements. It also takes a lot of time, skill and a huge team with an adequate budget to produce anything more than a few seconds long.

Pros: Visually unique compared to the glut of 2D animated content out there.

Cons: Expensive. Takes a long time and a big team to produce.

4). Kinetic typography

Kinetic typography is a type of animated video that relies heavily on animating text with flashy motion and designs to keep the viewer engaged. Sometimes characters and scenes get mixed in but typically the goal is to animate the words in visually unique ways in sync with the narrative voiceover.

Pros: When designed with proper timing, these videos do a great job at keeping viewer’s interest. It’s also possible to watch these videos without the sound on (i.e. in a social feed) and still be able to understand the content of the video w/out the audio.

Cons: Since the focus tends to be text-based, sometimes content that’s presented in kinetic typography videos should actually be an animated diagram (which you can totally mix into your video).

3D Animation Styles:

1). 3D Animation

3D animation is ideal for when you want to take a viewer on a journey inside a 3D space to show what an environment is like or to understand the inner workings of a machine. 3D animation also works great for your standard business explainer video if you want to go for a high impact visual style that stands out from the rest. Just note that 3D animations take longer to produce, require a larger budget, and it’s not as easy to make changes to the video once production has begun. 3D animated video styles can look cartoon-ish (like Pixar movies) or they can be made to look like photo-realistic renderings of the real world.

Pros: Great for showing how products/machines work or exploring 3D environments

Cons: Expensive and takes a long time to produce. Difficult to make changes mid-way through production.

Cartoon-style 3D:

Photo-realistic 3D:

 

2). Stop motion

Stop motion animation is created by setting up a scene (could be made of clay, paper, legos, etc), taking a photo, moving a few things slightly in the scene, and taking another picture. By repeating this process of taking photos of the scene with slight adjustments, the images can be combined to create a moving animated scene.

Pros: Fun and unique to watch.

Cons: Expensive and it takes a long time to do a good job – definitely can’t be rushed.

Non-animated explainer videos:

1). Screen recording

Sometimes you want to show what’s actually happening on a phone, tablet or computer screen. In this case, you can use different programs to record what is happening on screen to show exactly what is happening, rather than providing a high level story of what an app actually does. Motion graphics are sometimes mixed in to keep the viewer’s attention and to visually call out specific details on screen.

Pros: Great for showcasing how to use different websites, software and apps.

Cons: Generally kinda boring to watch unless there’s some unique motion graphics overlaid on top of the screen recording. Not great for sales/marketing videos, but that’s not what they’re really meant for anyway.

 

2). Whiteboard videos

Whiteboard videos are another style of hand drawn animation – however, unlike Frame-by-Frame animation, where the animator draws each frame individually and then flips through them to make the image look like it’s in motion, whiteboard explainers are videos that show the artist in the act of drawing out visuals in sync with a voiceover.

Pros: Generally quick and less expensive to produce. Great at keeping the viewer’s attention.

Cons: They all look very similar so they’re not great for brand recognition.

Writing a rough draft of the script for your explainer video is very helpful for figuring out which styles will best lend themselves to your video. For tips on script writing, check out our other article: How to Write an Animated Video Explainer Script.

With so many cool animation styles to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow it down to the right option for your video. If you’re still not sure what types of animation are most appropriate for your video, click here to schedule a call with us to go over your video or check out this article which asks you questions to help you think about what style is right for you.

How To Pick The Right Visual Style For Your Animated Explainer Video

How To Pick The Right Visual Style For Your Animated Explainer Video

Computers have broadened the possibilities for different animation styles and techniques that were never possible with hand drawn 2D animated videos. When your imagination is the only limit for the style for your animated video, it can be daunting to figure out what style is right to use. In this article, we’ll present a set of questions to help you think about narrowing down the right style for your animated explainer video.

Questions to ask yourself to figure out which of the different types of animation styles is right for your animated explainer video:

1). Who is your audience? (What does their current design taste look like?)
2). 2D vs 3D
3). High end vs cheap?
4). How much time do you have?
5). When to use hand drawn or ‘frame by frame’ animation?
6). When to use types of non-computer animation (stop motion, paper cut out, whiteboard, screen recordings)

1). Who is your audience? (And what does their design taste look like?)

This article is going to make you think about design in many different ways but the most important factor is knowing who your audience is and understanding their design preferences. If you’re making an animated video to teach kids, then a simple, cartoon animation style is what you’re looking for. On the other hand, if your audience is comprised of C-suite executives who are watching your animated explainer video to see if they want to try your product/service, a more sophisticated animation style or motion graphic would be appropriate.

Whomever your audience is, spend some time looking at websites, social media pages, and other types of custom animation that your target audience would watch. Find what’s already resonating with that audience and save those examples to share with the designers that are going to work on your animated video. They will be able to take in the examples you share along with your branding and come up with a unique style that fits both criteria.

2). 2D vs 3D

In many cases, 2D is the way to go. It’s an infinitely versatile visual storytelling medium. You can get intricate and complicated with the design to make something that stands out, or use a simple animation style without losing your message. 2D videos are quicker and less expensive to produce than 3D animated videos. 2D videos are also easier to make changes to mid-way through production if someone gets a great idea they want to incorporate.

3D animations are the ideal style for your animated video if you want to take a viewer on a journey inside a 3D space to show what an environment is like or to understand the inner workings of a machine or system. 3D animation also works great for your standard explainer video if you want to go for a high impact visual style that stands out from the bunch. Just note that 3D animations take longer to produce, require a larger budget, and it’s not as easy to make changes to the video once production has begun.

3). High end vs cheap? OR Knowing how your budget will affect style

The size of your budget will greatly impact the style, quality and length of your animated explainer video. If you only have a few hundred dollars, your video will likely use a simple animation style consisting of stock images, icons and characters. Budgets of a few thousand dollars can get you a simple or modern looking 2D animation with custom graphics and smooth animations. For a high end 2D animation (frame by frame animation), you’ll likely want a budget of more than $5,000 per minute of animation in your video. Custom 3D animations are likely north of $10,000 per 60 seconds of content; you can find animators that will do this work for less, but expect to pay more than $10k/min if you want good quality custom graphics and animations.

4). How much time do you have?

How much time do you have to get your video made? Are you weeks away from a product launch and trying to get things done in a short timeline? If so, you’ll want to stick with some form of 2D computer animation or maybe a whiteboard style video. 3D animation and frame by frame animation (or hand drawn animation) generally requires a few months to do all the work. 2D animations are easier to change and modify the style so that they can be produced in a shorter time frame.

5). When to use hand drawn or ‘frame by frame’ animation?

Frame by frame animation (aka hand drawn animation) is what most people are familiar with when they think of animation. Think back to the original Disney movies and Looney Tunes cartoons that were created by artists who illustrated each frame by hand. 24 individual images were created per second of video – each with slight adjustments that appear as continuous fluid motion when played as a video. These days, frame by frame animation is usually done on a computer. Artists will design characters and scenes and then animators will adjust that image slightly for every single frame of the video to make it look like the image is in motion. While technology has made this artform easier and more advanced than it has ever been, it is still a tedious and time consuming process. Frame by frame animation is the way to go for your video if you want to have beautiful fluid motion in your characters, scenes and transitions. The extra time is worth the effort for the visual effect this animation style enables.

6). When to use types of non-computer animation (stop motion, paper cut out, whiteboard, screen recordings)

Stop motion animation, paper-cut out animation, whiteboard animation and screen recordings are all styles of animated videos that you can use for your business – and potentially even create them yourself! While there’s no clear cut answer to when or why you should use one of these different animation styles, they tend to be easier to produce and require a lower budget. If you are making a stop motion video, a paper cut out video, or a whiteboard recording, the only equipment you need is your phone’s camera (and maybe a whiteboard and a pen). Screen recorded videos are best for when you want to show someone how an app or a website works. Sometimes written instructions can be vague, but a screen recording provides unambiguous instructions to viewers about what steps to do next.

Interested in seeing examples of what these different animation styles look like? Check out this article: Animation Style Guide: Different Types of Animated Explainer Videos

Another great way to figure out the visual style for your animated explainer video is to start by creating the script for the video. This will help you figure out what sorts of visual elements could make an appearance in your video and subsequently inform which visual styles are better suited for your video. For tips on how to write the script for your animated explainer video, check out this article: How to write an animated explainer video script.

With so many different types of animation styles, it can still be difficult to find the right balance between style, your production timeline, and budget. Contact our team to schedule a call to talk about your video and we can talk about your video style options.

How To Write An Animated Explainer Video Script

When you start making an animated explainer video, it is important to take the time to write a strong script for your video because it is the framework from which your animated visuals will be  created. Everything from the voiceover to the visual style will be informed by the decisions that are made during the script writing process. This explainer video guide will teach you Video Igniter’s tips, tricks and best practices for writing a script that will help deliver results for your sales and marketing.

Before you start writing

Before you even begin formulating the concept for your script, here are a few points we ask our clients to think through (and preferably write down!):

1). What is the goal for this video?
2). Who is this video for?
3). What is the core message you want to convey? Or what is the process to get to success?
4). Why should people care?

 

1). What is the goal for this video?

Start by being concrete about what action you want people to take when they’ve finished watching your video. Do you want them to sign up for a free account? Should they contact you for more information? Or download your app? Whatever that thing is you want your audience to do to move one step down the funnel towards a relationship with your company, be concrete about what that goal is and then use the whole video to illustrate why it’s in the best interest of your target audience to do that thing.

2). Who is this video for?

Being specific about who your target audience is very helpful because it informs what you say and how you should say it. If everyone is your target audience, you’re going to have a more challenging time creating a compelling message that applies to everyone. On the other hand, the more you can connect with the way your target audience talks, the more effective your video will be.

We’ve created hundreds of animated explainer videos for tech companies and we always want to know whether or not we’re creating a video for a ‘technical’ audience. If it is a technical audience, we’ll spend more time illustrating the process and the details for how a new system works. If the audience for that tech product/service is going to be purchased by someone who is less technologically savvy, then we’ll ease off the technical mumbo-jumbo and focus more on the value and benefits the service will bring about if it gets implemented.

Knowing who your specific audience is enables you to make informed decisions during the writing process because you’re able to speak directly to what resonates with them. If your company sells in multiple industries, you should consider creating different versions of your explainer video that specifically illustrate the ways you serve the problems of each industry.

3). What is the core message you want to say?

It sounds obvious that you should know what you want to say in your video – after all, it is about your company/product/service. But if you don’t take the time to consider what’s really important to say in your video, there’s going to be a temptation to want to cram in as many details as possible – and that is going to clutter and distract from the parts of your message that are important.

Before you start writing your script, be specific about what key talking points need to be conveyed in the video so that you can prioritize those messages when drafting your script. In fact, we recommend you actually write them down and not keep them in your head so that you can see what key details you actually committed to before you started writing your video script.

You only get about 150 words for a one minute long video which means every word counts. Focus the story of your script around these main points (2-3 are good for a 1 minute video). Anything that doesn’t support the narrative around these main talking points should be cut out so that you don’t detract from the main purpose of the video.

4). Why should people care?

So far, it’s all been about me in this creative exercise: how do I benefit. As you go through the script writing process, everything must be written from the perspective of your target audience – speak directly to what matters to them. You can make a good video that talks about how awesome you are, but your video will be more effective if you focus on your audience’s problems and how you can solve them to make their lives better.

Explainer Video Structure:

Now that you’ve documented the key details, here is how you should structure and organize your explainer video outline:

1). What is the problem
2). What is the solution
3). How does it help / what is the process to get success?
4). What should interested people do next?

Script Writing Time:

When you’re ready to write your explainer video script, don’t worry about getting it right the first time. Just follow this video script template, get your ideas on paper and come back later to refine them and make them more cohesive.

1). Introduce the problem

What is a real problem or pain point that your target audience experiences and how can you creatively illustrate that idea in a way that uniquely resonates with them? A lot of explainer video scripts start with the words, “Meet Bob…” and then go on to talk about how Bob works in <insert corporate department here> within a big company and he has this problem. This explainer video structure works because it’s simple and straightforward, but you have a bigger opportunity to connect with your target audience if you can create a unique visual scenario to illustrate their problem.

While you are writing the script for the introduction, think about how you can tell a visual story or create a visual metaphor that illustrates the nature of the problem your audience experiences, rather than just saying, “Bob hates importing contacts into his CRM.”

For a 60 second explainer video, introducing the problem typically takes about 10 seconds or roughly 25 words.

~# of Seconds Approximate Word Count
30 Second Video 5 13
60 Second Video 10 25
90 Second Video 15 37

2). Introduce the solution (your product or service)

Here’s the moment where your company/product/service gets to shine – but don’t come on too strong like you’re an advertisement. Your product or service gets introduced to the scenario from the introduction and is presented as a solution to improve the status quo. When your product/service gets introduced, magic happens and your target audience gets the first clue that the big pain in their life or their job can be remedied.

For a 60 second explainer video, the introduction of the solution typically lasts 10 seconds or about 25 words.

~# of Seconds Approximate Word Count
30 Second Video 5 13
60 Second Video 10 25
90 Second Video 15 37

 

3). How does it help / what is the process to get to success?

Remember when I said to be clear about what your main talking points are? Well this is the area to bring those details into your explainer video script. It’s now your job to paint a picture of how your solution improves the scenario through it’s unique value and benefits. Many companies say their product/service can “Save you time and money” – instead, you should use animation as a unique way to tell a visual story about the actual way you are enabling someone to save time and money.

 

Time-pending, we recommend you use this part of the video script to talk about your top 3 talking points. Don’t just tell people, show them 3 ways you make their life better. You get about 10 seconds for each talking point. In some cases, particularly for videos about tech products with a tech-savvy target audience, it makes more sense to spend this part of the video explaining the exact process that helps the target audience accomplish something new – how do they get from where they were to where they could be.

For a 60 second explainer video, the main section of your video typically lasts 30 seconds or about 75 words.

~# of Seconds Approximate Word Count
30 Second Video 10 25
60 Second Video 30 75
90 Second Video 45 37

 

4). What should interested people do next? Compelling CTA

Here’s where you take it all home. Summarize how life can be better for your target audience and how they take the first step to making that part of their life. Typical CTAs include signing up for a free account, contacting a sales rep, and downloading an app.

For a 60 second explainer video, the CTA section typically lasts 10 seconds or about 25 words.

~# of Seconds Approximate Word Count
30 second video 10 25
60 second video 10 25
90 second video 15 37

 

This is a tried and true animated video script template for crafting a narrative that gets people interested in learning more about your product/service/organization. For more tips and tricks to revise and improve your script, check out our article called: 7 Tips to Supercharge Your Explainer Video Script Writing.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about writing your script or if you want to speak with us about having one of our writers develop your script for you. This video provides additional tips about how to write your script and shows how to get production started on your video once your script is ready. To connect with us about improving your script or having our writers help you create your explainer video script, write to: [email protected]

7 Tips to Supercharge Your Explainer Video Script Writing

 We’ve already covered how to figure out what you’re going to say in your explainer video script and how you should structure the content. In this article, you’re going to learn 7 tips and tricks to improve your writing and the overall effectiveness of your explainer video.

The 7 things we’re going to dive into are:

1). Overwrite, then condense

2). Target word count

3). How long should your video be?

4). Use Active Language

5). Write with the visuals in mind

6). Test your script

7). A/B Testing

1). Over write your first draft and then condense it down.

Don’t be too concerned about making your explainer video script perfect or the right length on the first draft. Start by getting all of your ideas written down as fast as you can. Don’t judge or edit or worry about getting the perfect word choice, just focus on documenting all of your ideas.

Once you’ve gotten everything out of your head and written down, go through your script and start cutting it down, editing and consolidating your ideas. Be specific and concise with your language because every word counts.

Before you even started writing, in the previous article, I recommended that you write down what key details you need to include in your script. Did you do that? If so, it should be easier to know which parts of the script should stay in and what extra details can be cut out.

2). Word count

Aim for 125-150 words for each minute of animation. 150 words per minute (or 2.5 per second) is the comfortable average we recommend people aim for. Yes, you could cram 180 words into a one minute long animation. However, the more words you cram in there, the harder it will be for your audience to follow.

Additionally, good videos have tension and release with the voiceover. There should be varying energy and pauses throughout to highlight specific points. If you are trying to squeeze in as many words as possible into 60 seconds, there isn’t going to be enough time to allow for these important moments to happen in your video.

3). Overall length:

60 seconds really is the sweet spot for explainer videos. 30 second videos and 90 second videos also perform well. 2 minute videos can be done well but the retention rates are lower. If your video is longer, consider splitting it up into 2 or more parts.

4). Use active language (don’t sound passive)

“Use specific and active language in your script” sounds more effective than, “You should be specific and think about the words you want to use in your script.” Positive, affirmative words deliver your message in a more pleasant fashion. Using the past tense or negative words detracts from your viewer’s cognitive experience of watching and taking in your message.

Which of these lines do you think converts better?

“We’re not very expensive”

“We’re affordably priced.”

5). Write with the visuals in mind

As you draft the script for the voiceover for your video, bear in mind that the visual story is meant to enhance the things you are trying to communicate. So, if you can show something instead of directly saying it, do so! It’s also a great opportunity to cut down on your word count.

One of our clients wanted the voiceover to list all the countries where heart disease is prevalent.  We didn’t want to make the viewer to listen to a long list of countries. Instead, we suggested they show a map during that part of the video and visually highlighted the countries where heart disease is prevalent. This helped them shave a lot of words (and time) off of their explainer video script.

6). Test your animated video explainer script

Read your script to people. Actually check with people outside the sales and marketing team to make sure you’re not over-engineering it or putting in too much marketing speak. Speak to your target audience the way they talk. Use their language/vernacular and slang. For tech products, make sure you’re speaking at the level of technical sophistication as the person making purchasing decisions.

Ensure your message works for your audience before all the time and love is spent creating beautiful custom visuals for your animated video. Changing your script and storyboard after the design phase has already begun can lead to extra costs added to the final production budget for your explainer video.

7). A/B Testing

If time and budget permits, we recommend people create variations for the intro and the end of your animated explainer video script. Testing different introductions means you might come up with one version that gets more people’s attention and holds it longer. Testing different endings is important because that’s where you deliver the call to action – the real driving metric of success, getting people to take action.

 

To learn more about script writing for explainer videos, check out this companion article: How to write an animated video explainer script

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about writing your script or if you want to speak with us about having one of our writers develop your script for you. This video provides additional tips about how to write your script and shows how to get production started on your video once your script is ready. To connect with us about improving your script or having our writers help you create your explainer video script, write to: [email protected]