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Why the Duration of Your Animation Video is Essential

An animation video’s duration is essential to its success. Capturing the right timing of your video can be a defining aspect for viewers to decide to hit or avoid the play button. Too short, and the video’s content may suffer. Too long, and viewers may tap out early.

In the past, the standard durations for TV advertising made this decision much easier. But with the evolution of the internet and social media, there are nearly endless possibilities for animation video duration. 

So how do you determine the best duration for your animation project?

How animation placement and distribution play an important role in video duration

At the end of the day, the distribution method will always play a big part in determining the ideal length of your animated videos. When video advertising was more restricted to TV channels and their commercial breaks, most videos would fall at 15 or 30 seconds, with some exceptional campaigns set at 60 seconds. 

Even though the 15 or 30 second standards created limitations, they also made things a lot easier. With restricted options of video duration, advertisers knew that the effectiveness of their campaigns would just be limited to their creative capabilities – especially because TV ads required more effort to skip than online ads do. The addition of duration as a factor changed the video’s effectiveness.

With distribution mediums expanding beyond TV to include social media, websites, blogs, email marketing, landing pages, and many others, the classic length of video has been redefined.

How social media changed the way we consume and create video content

Social media opened up endless possibilities for content creation and consumption, but at the same time, created new standards and definitions. Using Instagram as an example, the platform allows your video to have any of the following lengths:

  • Instagram Stories: 15 seconds
  • Instagram Reels: 60 seconds (previously as 30 seconds)
  • Instagram Feed: 60 seconds
  • IGTV Video: from 15 seconds to 10-minutes, all the way up to 60-minutes for verified accounts or accounts with large followings.

Understanding where your audience may engage is key to determining which type of video to produce and the duration required. If you look at the maximum duration of Instagram Stories, Reels, and Feed in comparison to traditional TV advertising, at first you may not see many differences. However, it’s important to note that within social media, most of the time limits are related to how long it should be, not how short. Whereas in traditional media, the blocks of time were strategically elaborated to sell a specific number of ads during the commercial break (30 sec-advertising couldn’t be shorter or longer than 30 seconds). 

But going back to the Instagram example, something important to notice is that even with the 15-sec and 60-sec restrictions on Instagram Stories and Feed videos, respectively, there is a way to “extend” a video beyond those limitations. You can split an animation into multiple Stories (like a 45-second ad divided into three 15-second stories), or as a carousel (creating a series of content that can be consumed easily by just swiping left in the Instagram Feed).

One way to help you define the best duration for your animated campaign is not only to identify the type of video (Stories, Reels, Feed, etc) but also the most valuable platform where you will use it. If we get “story format” as an example, you can expect this feature to behave differently in each platform:

  • Facebook Stories: Up to 20 seconds
  • Snapchat Stories: Up to 60 seconds
  • WhatsApp Status: Up to 30 seconds

That’s why distribution plays a big role in setting up limitations for how long your video can be. It doesn’t mean you can’t have multiple versions to best fit multiple channels. But it does mean that it’s important to define the key platform and format first, strategically developing your story to take advantage of that duration before versioning it to shorter variables. 

Why different types of videos demand different durations

Even though platforms can be good indicators of how long your animations should last, using different types of videos on different platforms can open new possibilities. Looking beyond paid advertising on those social platforms, there are also educational and explainer/instructional videos.

Educational videos, for example, tend to have a slower pace than 30-second advertisements, resulting in videos from 3 to 10 minutes. This length has proven to be ideal in effectively explaining a new concept or diving deep into complex topics. This duration is already considered to be quite long in the commercial animation industry, so going for durations beyond that can have a significant impact on the production’s budget and development time.

Another type of video that is very common in the tech industry is the explainer or instructional video. These videos generally have a length ranging from 60-90 seconds. Because these videos primarily live on website’s homepages, they can’t be much longer. Otherwise, the video risks losing the viewer’s attention if too long, or feeling superficial if too short. Companies often promote those animations as ads, but those longer durations can reduce the likelihood of viewers hitting play. Or even if they do watch, they have a higher likelihood of dropping off and never seeing your call-to-action.

Why you should always aim for shorter videos

Even in a world where you have the freedom to create extensive 5 to 10 minutes-long animations, you should always aim for the shortest duration possible to tell your story effectively.

As with every media type, it’s not about the quantity, but the quality of the content. If you can send a message in about 45 seconds, there’s no need to push it to 60 or even 90 seconds. A shorter video is more accessible and guarantees more quality views—people actually paying attention to and absorbing the content—than longer videos. If a shorter video is enough to translate the gist of your message, it’s a much better guarantee. It’s easy to question this when you see you’ve condensed your idea to less time than originally planned, but this is a great thing. 

Aiming for shorter videos tends to be much more time and cost-effective as well. Allocating the same amount of resources towards shorter videos can give your studio partner more room to deliver an even better, eye-catching result. 

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for the perfect video length. But video placement and distribution are great indicators of the duration goal. As platforms and consumers’ behavior evolve, those limitations will keep changing and it’s important to stay up to date with the most recent changes. Whenever in doubt, bringing in your animation studio partner early in the process is a great way to determine the right length of your animation campaign.

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Author avatar
Felippe Silveira
Co-founder & Creative Director at MOWE Studio

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