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How to Make Good Character-Animated Explainer Videos

Explainer videos need to stand out these days. The cookie-cutter formula won’t get your brand noticed and definitely won’t leave any kind of impression on your potential clients or investors. There are several ways to make sure your video is at least a little bit different. The most obvious is to simply hire a designer, an agency, or a creative video production company to come up with an original and unique design. Live action with real actors is another option. If you’re drawn to animated explainers, another consideration is using characters.

Character animation is not easy. It needs to be done right or it just ends up cheesy. And doing Pixar-quality work will probably be multiple times over your budget. So is it even worth attempting?

Well, because they’re not easy to do, not everyone can do them. And so it’ll make your video memorable. They’re the ones with the video with the squishy yellow guys, right?

What are some ways to make effective character-animated explainers?

It’s not easy to do well, but with a little creativity, it can work. Even if you’re using basic techniques, an interesting idea can go far. To give you some ideas of what’s possible, here are some examples from Picturelab and Transvideo’s portfolio.

Cut-out can Stand Out

Ultimately, these are just cut-outs moving around, but the way to make this work is to create a world that is unique. For example, see the videos below. In the CarWoo explainer, the devil character is memorable and so are the car conveyor belt and the people in the bubbles purchasing the vehicles. Likewise, in the Mint.com Unemployment Game Show, there’s a dark uneasy environment that is complemented by the strangeness of the characters. One easy way to do character animation is to use cut-out characters, but design everything in a way that’s original.


CarWoo


Mint.com Unemployment Game Show


Cute Always Steals the Show

The videos below have one thing in common. All the characters are cuddly cute. You want to hug them and squeeze them. You want to win one of these guys at a carnival game and sleep with it every night. Are these difficult to do? Well, for the most part, they’re just round animations with a face on them. A big moving emoji. So, no, for a decent animator, they can do these easy. The hard part is giving them life, making them believable as living breathing beings that represent real people. Depending on your product, this may not work. For example, if you’re in FinTech, your audience probably don’t want cute. But if it makes sense for your brand, cute will be memorable.

InMarket


Checkpoints


Google Alien Family


Give them Life

As mentioned above, the most important thing when doing character animation is giving them human characteristics. Conveying human emotion is difficult, but it’s what will sell these characters as real creatures and ultimately connect with your audience. At that point, it doesn’t matter if it’s a piece of stone or a person, it will work. For example, in our Blippy video below, every character is the lowercase i (or exclamation mark depending on how you see it). But you know their character from the way they act and how they’re dressed. You stop seeing them as a letter, but they become people and you connect with them.


Blippy

Character animation, if done well, can leave a mark on your audience. It’s fun and memorable.

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