You don't have to look very hard online to find people doing great things with simple animations. Animation can market your small business products and services, explain how complex things work, and encourage buyers to buy. A simple animated sequence can replace pages of text, and it provides a more compelling experience for your customers. Technology makes it easy for nearly anyone to create simple animations. We'll look at five animation tools available today.
While most of these tools are easy to use, any animation experience you have will put you at a distinct advantage. More flexible applications require more work on your part, so the more you know about the process the better your results will be. The easiest-to-use applications have a less-flexible interface, and they produce a more "cookie-cutter" style product. All of these tools offer some form of try-before-you-buy option, so make a short video or animate a few scenes to see which tool works best for you.
Animation Software for Small Business
PowToon, one of the newer Web-based animation sites, helps you create animated videos and presentations for product demos, explainer videos and websites. The free signup option lets you test the application to see if it meets your needs. The paid options including purchasing publishing credits and time-based subscription models—each with additional features and the ability to remove PowToon branding. PowToon is easy enough to use even if you don't have experience making animations.
Once you sign in, you can choose a template for your animation, or you can create a new animation from scratch. Clearly marked premium templates let you easily identify those available to you at your subscription level. All the animation editing takes place in the browser, and you'll find plenty of assets to animate including people, infographic elements, shapes and text. A useful video tour explains the basics of editing and customizing a template animation.
Figure 1: You can customize template animations at PowToon or create them from scratch using a large array of assets.
GoAnimate, a fully featured Web-based animation creator, lets you make short animated movies for a range of applications. The company offers a 14-day free trial, and videos made during that time will carry a watermark and you can’t download them. Subscription pricing starts at $25 per month for a year's commitment.
GoAnimate's themes contain similarly styled elements including characters, actions, props and backgrounds. You can even lip sync with some of the characters using either the program's voices or your own. Once you've chosen a theme, you move to the video-editing area to customize it using simple drag-and-drop technology. You can import your own assets too, including video and still images to create your own custom characters. You can share, export, and download finished movies as you like.
Figure 2: GoAnimate's rich feature set makes it possible to create smart business animations.
Wideo is a simple online tool that lets you create animated videos for product demos, presentations, and for providing information to site visitors. Register on the site, and you can then create a free Wideo video. Upgrade pricing starts at $9 a month or $79.00 a year—these upgrades give you longer and higher-quality videos.
Like the other online applications, Wideo offers good online help, plenty of training videos, and templates to use as a starting point for your production. The video-editing process involves a number of scenes, each of which has its own timeline. You simply scroll to the point where the element you want to change appears and begin editing it. While Wideo offers good assets to use for your free video, upgrading to a paid version gives you access to a larger range of objects.
Figure 3: Wideo creates videos from a number of different scenes—each of which has its own timeline.
MakeWebVideo is another online application that lets you make a free preview video. If you like it and want to use the video, then you pay for it. Pricing for HD videos starts at $29 each—the service renders the video, and you get the final version delivered in 30 minutes. If you want just a single HD video, then this pricing model may suit your needs.
Start by finding a template, and then click to make the video. Sign up, and then start editing the template. There isn't a lot of overall customization available; it won't take a lot of time to make a video, and you don't need any animation skills at all. This is ideal for people who lack animation experience but who need a quick animated video.
Figure 4: Can you click a mouse and type? Congratulations, you can make an animated video at MakeWebVideo.
Unlike the other applications, CrazyTalk Animator 2 (from $49.95) is software that you download and install locally on your computer—either a Mac or a PC. A time-limited and watermarked trial version lets you try the program to see if it suits your needs.
CrazyTalk's specialty is its high-quality text-to-speech tools that let you configure volume, pitch and speed. You can create your own customized characters, which you can pose as required and even animate a photo of a person's face.
Figure 5: While powerful, CrazyTalk has a steep learning curve. Prior animation experience will be valuable.
While CrazyTalk is designed for a wide range of applications, the program contains plenty of business content including characters wearing business attire, business scenes, and props. You can color elements to match corporate color palettes and, in addition to outputting your animated content, you can also output to print at high quality. Prior experience in making animations will be a huge advantage when using this application.
Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com
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