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What is an explainer video?

An explainer video is a short movie that explains an idea, often in an illustrative way. There are two main types of explainer videos:

  • Live action - captures actual movement in real-time, shot on film or video cameras
  • Animation - uses illustration, stop-motion, or 2D/3D graphics to create a sense of motion

Why do you need an explainer video?

You may need an explainer video to help explain your complex piece of tech, simplify your message, change perceptions of your service, convince investors or promote a charitable cause or theory.

People are usually in one of two stages in the 'buying journey' when they commission a video:

  1. Have a documented summary of their key message and who they are appealing to
  2. Unclear what their message is, why they are unique and who it is aimed at (We can help - see our consultancy section for more on this)

Which stage are you at? It's important to know because it has an impact on how long it takes to create a script for an explainer and how successful it will be. 

2D animated explainer video

2D animated cartoon explainer

3D animated explainer video

Different styles of explainer video

When you have identified your target audience and exactly what you need to tell them you are ready to think about the style. For example, a technical business audience might prefer a factual 3D animation, charitable donors might prefer a simple emotive cartoon. Here are some different style options to consider...

Type Style
2D animation  Illustration, Cartoons, Motion graphics, Whiteboard 
3D animation  Computer-generated models (characters, objects and places)
Stop-motion  Physical objects, sculpted models, characters and places (paper, plasticine etc.)
Live-action  Physical objects, real people and places

Note: Screen recordings are typically tutorial videos used to demonstrate software

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Elements of an explainer video

The table above shows there are various different styles of explainer video, but they may share similar elements...

  • Script - essential to get across the key points quickly  
  • Storyboard - an important planning tool especially for animation
  • Speech - Voice-over or 'on-screen' dialogue explains and reinforces what we see
  • Music - helps to set the tone and pace of the video
  • Sound effects - adds depth and impact - especially to 2D animation
  • Illustration - not necessary for live-action or 3D but a pre-requisite to 2D animation
  • Location/studio - a reality for live-action filming (plus props/decoration) 
  • People - some form of presenter/actor/VO artist will probably play a role in any production
  • Design - graphics, characters and scenes - even 'stock' assets need to be co-ordinated

Takeaway : Explainer videos may look simple but good ones include a number of variables that take skilled specialists time to produce

If you don't have time to learn these skills - or manage amateurs - consider using an experienced animation producer. Sound-Motive are an Oxford-based production company producing marketing videos for businesses in Oxfordshire and beyond. We have many years of experience starting with graphics and animation for the BBC and ITV. You can see different examples of our videos in our work gallery or to to discuss how we can help you explain your product or service  contact us.

"a wealth of experience and creativity. A great service, at a great price; we are more than happy with the end result."


TO FIND OUT MORE OR DISCUSS YOUR PROJECT CALL 01865 582 121 OR EMAIL This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.