What is Silhouette Animation & Why Should You Use It?

Explainer videos are now a keystone of video marketing, with the excellent results they produce shown time and time again. There are lots of approaches to creating an explainer video. You could use stunning 3D animations, with art and attention to detail that looks straight out of a movie. Or you could scale it back, opting for a simpler whiteboard animation style instead. There are almost as many types of video as there are reasons to use them, though one is often overlooked – silhouette animation.

While not a new method, in fact only an updated version of age-old shadow puppetry, it provides an aesthetic impossible to achieve using any other method. This unique style can make it very appealing to your audience, in addition to conferring a few extra benefits. If you want to know how this old form of video making can benefit your business, read on.

What is silhouette animation?

Silhouette animation is a character-oriented video type, with dark silhouettes being cast against a contrasting background. The style has been around for quite some time, starting out as shadow puppetry, then moving into the film industry, being popularised by a German film director named Lotte Reiniger during the early 1900s. Her use of silhouette animation made her quite successful, with Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel becoming particularly well-known.

The success of silhouette animation isn’t confined only to the entertainment industry, however. In recent years, it has become a very effective tool in marketing too, for reasons we will get into now.

Perfect for making unique and creative content

Silhouette animation as a style truly stands in a league of its own. It is distinct, offering a unique appearance that harkens back to the past. One that no other video type can match. As it is quite different from its peers, silhouette animation will give you a leg up when creating unique content. Given how few ads make use of this style, audiences will have their interest piqued from the start. Simply because it isn’t something they see every day.

Grabbing attention with mold-breaking content is great and all, but doesn’t amount to much if you can’t pair it with good quality content in a style audiences enjoy. To this extent, you might be concerned that silhouette characters may come across as cold and unlikeable. Something audiences probably wouldn’t like. Thankfully, this is not the case.

Unless you make an effort to create something monstrous, the past successes and present performance indicate that audiences are more than capable of connecting with a shadow character. You could add more personable details to your characters if you’d like to play it safe. Adding facial features and expressions can work wonders at lessening any edge, if that’s a concern for you. If you are still unconvinced, simply look at the track record of silhouette animation. There are plenty of examples of the style being used to great effect in the entertainment industry and beyond. Reiniger’s films are a great past example, but recent successes like Game of Thrones and Stranger Things also make use of silhouettes. Even modern video games feature the style, with Limbo being one such example. Certainly not off-putting to audiences after all.

Viable for smaller budgets

It can be difficult to find effective methods to create unique, high-quality content on a smaller budget. Styles like 3D animation can be great, but will often come at a price beyond what a smaller business can afford. Silhouette animation, however, can be approached in several ways. Most of which can achieve the level of quality you need, without breaking the bank.

Of course, the more money you’re willing to put down, the better your tools will be. The cheapest options available are to create your objects yourself. This includes creating the set pieces and characters, most often done with cardboard cutouts. Then film your animation in a stop-motion process. Similarly, you could opt for shadow puppets instead. This will take a bit of time, but save on costs, even more so if you do most of the work in-house.

Generally, silhouette animation is now done using computer software. There are plenty out there, from free image software like DrawPad, or paid options with a suite of features, like Boris FX. Decent software is usually quite intuitive to use. So, as long as you have the ideas, you’ll have no problem creating the content.

Great for drawing attention

Silhouette animation has an easy in-built trick for directing your audience’s attention. As there isn’t much color variety, making the object or person in question break that mold is a surefire way of getting your audience to pay attention to what you need them to. This can be perfect for explaining ideas or objects. Or simply a convenient way to keep your audience focussed on the main points of your content.

A memorable style

Recent marketing initiatives have shown us how powerful creativity is when used in advertising. The more creative and unique the content, the better the chances of it sticking with an audience, which in turn helps drive interactions and sales for the business in question. Think of the John Lewis Christmas adverts, how creative they are, and how closely people associate the two.

One way to help make memorable content is by choosing a memorable style. As we have mentioned before, silhouette animation is well suited to unique content, given the options it makes available, interesting aesthetic, and its relatively infrequent use, at least in comparison to other styles. By blending this mold-breaking style with some unique content of your own, you’ll be sure to raise a brow or two once your content starts getting out there.

Final thoughts

Silhouette animation is the creative’s dream style. It has a gripping aesthetic, offers plenty of design choices, and isn’t over-represented in the market, all ideal qualities for creating content that makes waves. What’s even better is that it doesn’t come at such a high cost, a major drawback for other great video types. While certain approaches to silhouette animation can be time-consuming, the overall style is certainly worth your consideration, especially if you want to create memorable content that really sticks with people. With all that being said, give silhouette animation a try today!

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