How to select the best type of video explainer for your production

15th October 2021

From clean, simple animations to highly detailed videos or a tech-savvy screencast of your latest app, explainer videos light up your digital marketing and offer trackable value for your sales efforts.

Naturally, there’s a catch. If creating a great explainer video was easy, everyone would be doing it. Producing a high-quality explainer video that actually adds value, rather than getting forgotten on a dusty Youtube channel, requires following some key rules.

Among the first things you’ll need to think about is the style of the explainer video, and that’s what this blog post is all about. While there are no hard and fast rules, we can offer you some helpful guidelines on where to start.

  1. 2D-animated explainer videos
  2. One of the most common types of explainer, and for good reason. These are fairly accessible to produce and equally easy for the viewer to digest. It’s a format that’s been with us since the early days of cartoons (1908, “Fantasmagorie” was the first-ever attempt). Things have moved on now visually, but the idea remains the same. This can be seen as a “go-to” format for explainers.

    Here’s a great example to see what we mean.

  3. 3D-animated explainer video
  4. This style of explainer leverages the power of the modem computer to model items in 3D. This allows us to explain complex engineering systems or show off a product from any angle so the viewer can get a clear picture of how it works. Modelling is a time consuming and complex process, but when you’re trying to show off a product, it can get the message home better than any other type of explainer.

    This video shows off what can be done.

  5. Motion graphics explainer videos
  6. As well as advanced modelling, the latest breed of computers are capable of manipulating and rendering complex shapes really quickly. Giving rise to the motion graphics explainer video, this can produce some eye-catching (and more importantly, thumb-stopping) videos. Your logo can serve as the opener, which then morphs seamlessly into the next scene, all thanks to motion graphics. Along with kinetic text, in effect motion graphics using words, this style of video offers a very modern and professional look.

    Take a look at this example to see what we mean (We created this as a brand film for for GSMA, rather than an explainer, but it shows what can be done).

  7. Whiteboard animation video
  8. Starting with the UPS and Dropbox explainer videos, these became almost ubiquitous in the explainer metaverse using the mid-2000s. No doubt, they are an engaging way to explain, and they feel natural because it’s like listening to a lecture. Plus they are easy to set up. Got a whiteboard? And a presenter? Then, you’re all set. Since you’re limited to what can be drawn or written, you’re a little limited with the scope of what can be shown, but with some imagination, they can work well.

    This example is typical of a modern whiteboard explainer.


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  9. Live-Action explainer videos
  10. These are more like traditional film experiences, with real-life people in real-life situations. This does make them complex, with all the requirements of multiple cameras, sound, lighting, location and other production requirements. However, the payoff is that they engage on so many levels, especially emotionally, because it’s real humans in the video, so we connect that little bit more.

    A good example is this video. It uses live-action, and some comedy, to explain how their service works.

  11. Screencast explainer video
  12. When you’ve got a digital process, software feature or phone app to explain, this is a natural fit. As well as requiring very little in the way of equipment, it’s pretty easy to script and plan. Giving the production some polish means editing, text effects and sound design, but the end result can be really clear and easy to understand if done right.

    This app demo video gives a cool twist to the format.

Specific looks for specific verticals

Depending on the sector you work in, there may be a predominant look. This means that consumers of your video might be looking for that specific style. Medical explainer videos will often use live-action since messages around health are often personal and emotionally led. See what we mean here with a brand video we created.

App and software explainer videos, and tech firms in general, will often make use of the 2D-animated style of explainer. These easy to digest styles help to deliver complex messages about the “hows and whys” of a technical product or feature.

When planning your own explainer video

While there might be a predominant style in your industry, or for the type of video you want to make, the most important thing is to match your message with the style. Trying to show how an app works with live-action might not seem to be the best option, but if your message is about how it enhances day-to-day life, you can show the app in use with real people. It all very much depends on what you’re trying to say.

Other factors like budget and length will also play a large role. Set expectations early on for what’s realistic and what’s unlikely to be possible.

There are a lot of factors at play. Figuring out the best type of format for your explainer video can be tough but it’s vital if you want to get the best out of it.


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