5 programs for creating awesome animated videos online
Animated videos are all the rage. From Hollywood blockbusters to shorts on TV and online, they’re everywhere. It turns out they’re also a great medium for telling stories and sharing ideas.
At one time they were difficult to make, requiring a lot of technical and graphics skills. Now, though, you can find many cloud-based programs that make it easy for anyone to create a great animation. So whether you need to make a video for marketing, a school project, or a work presentation, there’s no excuse for not trying to create your own video.
I put together this list of 5 of the best free, or free to try, online animated video creation programs. There’s a variety of styles and features to suit everyone’s needs and creative visions.
Claiming to be “10x better” than other online animation programs, Animaker, does offer a lot of features. On their home page they say they support four different animation styles, but only two are currently available. That might be because they claim to be in beta still, though this time last year they were running a closed beta. Now anyone can sign up for a free account.
One of the best features of Animaker is that they have already animated figures, scenes, and other items. So if you need a character walking, or waving a sign, just click a button and you have it.
To see an example, take a look at the video below created by the Animaker team.
They offer several different pricing levels including a free account. There are restrictions for the free and cheaper accounts however. And if you want to use your videos for commercial purposes you’ll have to bite the bullet and go for their most costly plan which currently is just over £300 per year. They also offer a pay as you go monthly plan for a higher per month rate.
I have to admit, Powtoon is probably my favourite of the list. Maybe that’s because it was the first one I really used to create videos. I’ll also attribute my favouritism to their marketing and attitude. These guys like to have fun. For example, one title on their blog says “Bottling Awesomeness – Boring Hurts, PowToon Can Help.”
But don’t confuse their attitude with frivolity. They take what they do seriously, and they do it well – while having fun. They enjoy it so much, they provide lots of tutorials and information on how to make great animated videos.
Since I last wrote about them, a year or so ago, they’ve added a second type of video creation to their repertoire. Alongside what you’d consider a standard animation program called Studio, they offer a slide creation program called Slides. You can use one or both with your free account. Sometimes you just need a really cool slideshow, and they make it easy.
The video below I created for a start-up in the US a few years ago. The owner ambitiously wanted to take Google head on, at least when it comes to entertainment. You’ll see what I mean in the video.
Unfortunately they failed to get the funding they needed to create the prototype of their search engine, but I still like the concept!
Powtoon offers three tiers of pricing. The free account includes many limitations, and no commercial usage. Their mid-tier plan is for businesses who create their own videos and comes with lots of goodies including commercial rights. The highest tier plan is for agencies who create videos for other people.
Who wants to create a video when you can create a Moov? That’s what the videos are called in Moovly. While very similar in many respects to the other programs, there are some significant differences too.
The graphics and animations are simpler for instance. Most of the animation you can add involves entrance and exiting the scene – much like in a PowerPoint presentation (or the Powtoon’s Slides). Some individual objects have distinct animations, but they are few compared to the other programs listed here.
Having played with it for a little while, you could certainly build a very animated animation. But it would take a lot of work. The style of animation definitely is along the lines of an animated presentation. Watch the video below to see if you agree.
One major thing that makes Moovly different is their business model. They have a free basic account, and several paid tiers too. But in addition to that, you’re able to purchase individual objects to use in your videos from their marketplace. Say you had the free account but wanted to use the “man” object from the Colorful Cartoon library (which you don’t get with the free account). You can visit the marketplace and pay for the rights to use that one character.
Virtually all their graphical objects, sounds, and templates can be purchased this way for just a small sum. In addition, if you want to download your video in a higher resolution than your current plan allows, you can pay a one-time fee for that single download rather than pay to upgrade your account.
Billed as the “World’s Simplest Video Maker”, Biteable might be just that. It offers a collection of pre-animated scenes for you to choose. You can add text to each scene to help tell your story. And you can choose colours and music as well. That’s about it though.
But that’s why it is the simplest video maker. You don’t have to know anything about animation, images, timelines, or anything. You simply select a scene, then another, then another until your story is told. Since all you can do is add text, the process is very quick, and more effective than you might think. For example, look at this self-promo video made by Biteable.
Looks pretty good doesn’t it? There are times when something like this is all you need. And the best part? It’s all completely free. There are no costs whatsoever unless you want to get a non-watermarked version. An HD logo-free version costs about £65 to download.
If you need “professional” animated videos, Goanimate is probably more your speed. That’s their claim anyway. And if you want lots of movement and flexibility in your videos it could be a good choice. Each character (and there are many) has a set of built-in movements you can use to quickly create a scene. They could be drinking from a cup or falling over in love with hearts radiating from them. Not all characters have the same animations, but it does feel like there’s more than enough to choose from.
And if there is any downside to Goanimate that’s probably it. There’s so much to choose from that it’s hard to get started. But once you get a feel for what’s available, you’ll find some things are much easier to do in Goanimate than in some of the other choices. Making a character walk from one place to another for instance is as simple as clicking a button, dragging the character from where they are to where you want them to walk and click done. It’s very intuitive, and very powerful.
As an example of the animation possibilities, here’s a sample explainer video for a legal aid product. Who says legal stuff needs to be dry and boring? Not these folks.
With this video I felt like I was watching a mini-cartoon show of some sort. Great animation and a great story. I think the paper zombie was probably a custom addition, but all the other moving elements were just dropped in from existing libraries.
Because there are so many options and choices, you’ll have to expect a steeper learning curve than other programs. They also just ended their free account so you’ll have to sign up for 14 day free trial to see if it’s what you want to use. Their paid plans are also among the most expensive on this list, so plan to make the most of your trial time. The good news is though, that you get the full features to try out during the trial.
Making a choice
It’s worth the time to play around with these various programs before deciding which one you’ll use. Beyond cost and features, make sure to check out the formats they support as well. Some will let you export in many different formats, some only one or two. Others let you import anything, others just a few types of videos, audio or images.
Also some of these programs let you post directly to YouTube or other social media video sites, but don’t let you download the files directly (at least not without cost). If you want to host the animated videos yourself or on a streaming service like PlanetStream you’ll want to make sure you have the option to download. It would be good practice to download them anyway, just in case your account expires or the company goes under. Most of these have been around for a few years at least and are stable companies, but with the Internet you just never know what might happen tomorrow.