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Why Understanding The Differences Between Animation And Live-action Production Can Make Or Break Your Next Project

The choice between animation and live-action production in the realm of visual media can prove to be a watershed moment for your next creative endeavor. Both mediums bestow their own distinct set of prospects and obstacles, necessitating a unique skill set and resource allocation.

Discerning the disparities between the two can be the golden key to unlocking the full potential of your project, akin to unraveling a treasure trove of creative riches.

Today in this piece, we are going on an adventure to explore the core differences between the two styles of movie-making and learn how understanding these differences can facilitate us in the long run. So, without any further ado, Roll, Camera, and Action!

Animation and Live-action: A Brief Overview

Before we delve into the intricacies, let’s first understand what animation and live-action are. To put it in simple words, Animation is a technique that involves capturing a series of drawings, models, or puppets in succession to produce a visual impression of motion in a particular sequence.

Due to the limited retention capacity of the human eye, which is approximately 1/10 of a second, the brain amalgamates multiple images that are presented in rapid succession into a cohesive and continuous moving image.

Whereas, live-action is a term used for the media that comprises real people, animals, and objects plus they are also shot in real spaces. In a live-action movie/tv show, real actors perform and real locations are set to create different scenes.

Last year, Disney released Encanto which is one of the most loved animated movie produced to date. Whereas, the recently released Little Mermaid is a classic example of a live-action movie. Moreover, there are some movies which are a great mix of live-action and animation such as King Kong, Mary Poppins, and Enchanted, to name a few.

Now let’s learn how the processes of these vary from each other in depth.

How are the Live-Action and Animation Processes Distinct?

Campaign development, message refining, idea and story creation, and so on all begin with the same original creative process. The process begins with a kickoff meeting between the client and the agency, during which a creative briefing is drafted or used as a starting point. However, here is where the process similarities end. Let’s take a closer look at these distinctions.

Preproduction: The Project Kickoff Process

Both treatments begin by introducing the project and summarising the plot. After this textual introduction, discrepancies begin. Moodboards assist clients to visualize the project’s creative direction in the treatment, although their construction and purpose are distinct.

Live-action might resemble a moodboard. Use lighting mood, colors, or a location’s architectural style to help the customer visualize the ultimate effect. It’s like giving the client a thorough topographic map of the voyage.

In animation, treatments provide a preview of the pre-production vision. This makes project visual creation more collaborative than live-action.

Animation moodboards never promise a specific look. Instead of a moodboard, a styleframe is offered to clients with clear branding or creative visions. Styleframes are bespoke drawings of animation still frames. The client’s purchase determines the treatment’s style and moodboard use.

In a live-action project, this is their only chance to set the style. After an idea is accepted, everything will match its aesthetic. The client will only see what they bought when the team finishes technicalities and prepares for production.

In animation, you only buy the concept and idea after you accept the treatment. This step starts visual conversations for the storyboard and styleframe phases. The client’s knowledge of the final product will be perfected.


Stage#1 the Script Creation

After the customer approves the artistic direction, scripting develops the tale. Your story’s idea becomes an outline, which becomes the script, but the final script’s shape depends on the medium and the project’s narrative style.

Despite certain differences, both media use the Audio/Visual script (AV script). The client approves it as the best advertising live-action project. In animation, the AV script lets the creative director communicate with the storyboard artist. Animation style affects those scripts.

Narrative-based animations require extensive scene descriptions and action sketches to assist directors communicate with storyboard artists. Content-based animation descriptions are more like guidelines than rules. Two major factors are:

Animation is visual. Drawing and visualizing situations and activities helps scenarios flow smoother. Writing actions to match spoken words is difficult.

Timing content-based animation graphics and animations to the voice-over narrative may be difficult. Directors are increasingly filling scenes with activities that exceed their time.

Live-action screenplays are more flexible than animation scripts. Live-action screenplays can be altered until and after filming. Animation requires script locking before proceeding.

Stage#2 Designing Storyboards

Live-action storyboards assist filmmakers visualize scene setups, including shot sizes, camera angles, camera motions, and actor composition. Depending on the filmmaker and concept, a live-action video can be made without a storyboard. In certain circumstances, a shotlist is utilized to plan each shot and scene of the film.

Creating an animation without a storyboard is suicide. Storyboards show animators and illustrators the director’s vision. Without it, everyone would perceive things differently and no one could foresee the outcome, which is disastrous in animation.

To avoid reworks and delays, animation projects must be locked and authorized before going on. The amount of depth in scene images and descriptions is another difference between the two mediums.

Live-action storyboards don’t need screen explanations. The team can understand activities with a concise explanation. Animation requires 10 times more words to convey images and actions. To avoid misunderstandings. The illustrators and animators follow the storyboard, therefore this is crucial. This document becomes a project map by providing extensive and accurate descriptions.


For live-action films, “production” means just the day of shooting. Depending on the budget, there may not be much leeway in the timetable because locations are typically rented for specific numbers of hours or days. And you’re doing it all under pressure, usually with a big crew, and with a lot riding on the decisions and actions of everyone involved.

Like dealing with hundreds of variables in live-action, dealing with time might be one of animation’s greatest challenges. They worked on the storyboard and animatic to make the animation production’s art and animation stages run more smoothly.

In comparison to the several days it takes to film a live-action feature film, animation films often take several weeks to complete.

Post Production

Post-production is another area where film and video substantially differ from one another. Post-production schedules in the animation business may be rushed. Compositing is a post-production technique that facilitates the seamless combination of animation created using a wide variety of tools and methods. However, sound design often comes just after the animation.

Live-action productions require extensive post-production work since so many takes are recorded, each of which is somewhat different due to the camera’s placement, its position in the scene, or the actor’s performance. The editor collaborates closely with the director to mold the story to fit the vision of the filmmaker.

Choose Your Production Partner Carefully

Whether you go with live-action or animation for your project, one thing you should know is that the quality of the content, the director, and the producer matters at the end of the day. If you’re planning to outsource your animation project then you should know that many animation studios in states like California, Texas, Dover, and Houston that deliver high-quality video production.

Both visual languages have their own unique characteristics and advantages and disadvantages. Which format is best for your task is ultimately the deciding factor.

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