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Creating engaging animated explainer videos: Part 3

If you’ve read parts 1 and 2 of this series, you’re hopefully getting excited about the idea of creating some animated explainer videos for your organisation. There are many, many services out there you can use to create your videos or hire someone to do it for you.

Hiring someone

If you’re going to hire someone, make sure you spend the time to define exactly what it is you need. Do you need a script written, or do you already have a great script? The script is probably the most important part of your video. Bad graphics can ruin a good script, but no amount of great graphics or animation can save a bad script. If you need help creating the script and the video, consider using a marketing company that specialises in creating the whole experience.

If you have a great script, but just need it put into action in a video, then you may be able to find a freelancer or a graphic design service to create your video much cheaper than using a full marketing agency.

Whichever type of service you choose, make sure you take a good look at a variety of their examples before you select them. You want to make sure they can produce something that fits your organisation, and not just a template they use for everyone. They should have a good variety of sample explainer videos for you to look at before you hire them.

Doing it yourself

Thanks to technology there are options for you to create your own video even if you aren’t a graphic designer, video producer, or programmer. These services let you create your animated video online using their program, graphics, and sounds. The good ones let you download your video to host it where you need to, rather than forcing you to use YouTube, Vimeo or other public hosting site (including their own servers).

All of the services I chose offer some level of free access. You’ll get more benefits and features if you sign up for a paid plan though.

Powtoons

Powtoons is an amazing, very easy to use video creation service. The interface is very easy to use and operates kind of like presentation software (like MS PowerPoint) with motion. You can select each scene (or “slide”) and setup a scene that is static or changes in time. In the photo you can see how this is laid out. Scenes are on the left, and the animation theme selection in on the right. They have different types of characters, colours, transitions, fonts and backgrounds grouped into themes. You can mix and match the themes in any video so you aren’t tied to just one.

powtoon video animation

Free accounts have access to the basic themes. Each level of paid account has access to more of the themes. If you want to get rid of the Powtoons watermark you’ll definitely have to have a paid account.

Powtoons offers a small selection of music you can use free. You can also upload voice and music tracks, though they don’t offer much in the way of control over the audio tracks. Their support site says they are expanding the audio features over time. In addition there are no sound effects built in. So if you need an explosion, beep, or scream you’ll have to upload that yourself.

And if you decide you don’t want to create your own video after all, Powtoons will help you do it for an additional fee.

Still Powtoons claims to have some pretty high profile users like eBay and Cisco. I’ve found it is straightforward to create a simple animation pretty quickly even from scratch (though they have many templates to choose from too). But sometimes, you want just a little more control over your animations.

Goanimate

That’s when you can turn to a different service called Goanimate.com. I just discovered Goanimate not too long ago, but I’ve found it to be just what I needed when the basic animation of Powtoons isn’t enough.

For example, you need a little girl running in your scene. In Powtoons you can choose a character that is running. But it will just run in place unless you carefully move it in the scene over the course of time. It’s doable, but it can be frustrating getting everything lined up just right.

In Goanimate, you can select a character that has the animation of walking too. Then you can click on the character and choose where you want them to walk to. When you play the video the character walks perfectly without you struggling second by second to move the individual character. In this way, it is much closer to actual animation software than Powtoons.

goanimate video creator

But that also means there’s more of a learning curve. If you’ve got the patience and time to play with it though, their tutorials are great and will get you started fast.

Another key feature of Goanimate is that the characters can appear as if they are speaking. If you provide a voice recording, the software automatically syncs the motion of the character’s mouth to the audio. It also offers a text to speech option if you want to give the computer a chance to narrate your video, or you can upload an audio file or record directly into the video. There is also a wider selection of music and sound effects than in Powtoons.

While Goanimate lets you create videos for free, they can only be used for non-commercial purposes. Businesses, bloggers, or anyone intending to use the videos in a commercial setting will need to pay for a business account.

Animaker

This last option is a bit out on the limb. That’s because Animaker is still in Beta testing and only adding new users on a first come first served basis. I’ve applied to be added, but haven’t yet received my email to get started with the software.

But I’ve included it because their own animated explainer video is really quite good! It’s humorous, even including a high speed chase. You’ll have to visit their website to watch it, but it’s worth the two minutes it takes to do so.

After watching the video look through the rest of the features described on the home page. It appears it will be potentially more featured than both Powtoons and Goanimate, but built to be extremely user friendly. They claim it will be your own video studio in the cloud. At the moment you can join for free, but as I said you’ll need to wait for an invitation to join the Beta release.

There’s no word on final pricing, but it’s likely they will offer some level of free plan and potentially discount pricing for beta users.

Final thoughts

Check each of the websites out for these tools. Pricing can vary and all depends on what features you need for your own explainer videos. Of course there are many other tools out there too. If I missed your favourite, share it with us in the comments.

Oliver Burt

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