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Different Types of Explainer Videos with Pros and Cons

Updated: Jun 7, 2019

If you’re considering an explainer video for your brand, you need to decide what kind.


Here are four different types of explainer videos with pros and cons.


Whiteboard Animation


There’s a hand, a pen, usually black, and of course, the whiteboard. In Charlie Chaplain speed, this magical hand draws pictures and words to tell the story. That’s how it started years ago. These days the drawings are often simulated, and in fact, with all the software and plug-ins out there today, this style lives on the border of DIY-ville.


It’s cheap and may be effective in simply explaining something, but otherwise, don’t expect to leave a lasting impression on anyone.


Pros: Very cheap. Tells the story. Fast turnaround.


Cons: Low impact. Boring.


2D Animation


Done right, the 2D animated explainer is very effective in communicating your brand’s story. Visually, it could be highly engaging and memorable. Our Mint explainer from 2009 is a very good example of how effective 2D animated explainers can be.



Along with Whiteboard videos, these are the most common types of explainers because of its relatively low cost, and might be the best option for a bootstrapping startup.


However, these days just about anyone with basic After Effects skills can make them. But like playing an instrument, not anyone can do them exceptionally well. There are tons of crappy 2D explainer videos out there.


Also, animated videos may not be right for everyone. For example, it may work well for a SaaS but not for a more human-focused product like health insurance.


For brands looking to stand out, consider hiring a production company with a strong track record of animated explainers. Or consider other types of explainer videos as listed below.


Note: there are several sub-categories of 2D animation including character and typography, but for simplicity, we’re including all under one category.


Pros: Cost effective. Done right, highly engaging and impactful. Relatively fast turnaround.


Cons: Not the most memorable. Not appropriate for all products.


Here's another example of an effective 2D animated explainer:



3D Animation


What’s the difference between 2D and 3D? The latter just looks cooler. Objects are more realistic — depth, texture, lighting and color all add to a highly engaging visual experience.


For brands looking for some wow-factor, 3D may be the way to go. 3D takes more skill and time so it will cost more and have a longer timeline. And with any explainer, you need a good script and creative direction to really make it work. But the end result could be awesome.


Pros: Highly memorable. Serious eye candy.


Cons: Higher cost and takes longer to make.


Here are two examples of visually-engaging 3D animated explainers:




Live Action


Get a camera and shoot it. Okay, not that simple. In fact, professional live action videos require significant time for pre-production and a team of people who know what they’re doing. Perhaps some day it could all be done magically with an iPhone but for now, it still takes a professional crew to make something you’d be proud to show your investors.


So, obviously, you’ll most likely need more time and money. But live action videos are often easier to scale up or down.


Live action videos tend to work well for products that have a human component to it. For example, below are two examples of our live action explainers. The first is for a health insurance company and the other for a company that helps sales teams.




Also, these days, most live action explainers have some level of motion graphics overlay or tracking in them. This technique allows more flexibility with live action videos in communicating the brand’s story.


Live action videos may be beyond some budgets or overkill on some products, but they tend to be more memorable and impactful.


Pros: Highly memorable and impactful. Flexible and scalable.


Cons: May take more time and money depending on creative concept.


For a free consultation on what type of explainer video may be right for your brand, contact us at info@picturelab.com.

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