The best tools for creating animated business videos
For most businesses out there, it’s not a matter of if you try animated video, it’s when. Just take a peek at our portfolio. Animation is different and interesting, capable of communicating complex ideas in a simple way, and one of the most successful methods for provoking recall and action from the viewer.
So let’s find out how you can get in on this jamboree – here are some of the best tools for creating your very own animated video for business.
Animated tools for beginners
Creating animated videos for business is a 2D tool’s game, really. Synfig Studio earns a spot on this list because of its speciality. It uses vector-based animation, eliminating the need for “tweening” – the lengthy and repetitive task of generating frames between two images to give the appearance that the first image flows smoothly into the second image, helping to create the illusion of motion.
That might go over the heads of those not used to animation-speak, but it basically means that Synfig saves on illustration time, speeding up the overall animation process making it ideal for a solo animator or a small team.
The team behind Synfig decided to go open source in 2005, up until then it had been an expensive bit of kit. Thankfully, they’ve still managed to keep it updated and supported well.
Whilst there is a fair amount of help about getting started with Synfig on their wiki, it can be quite overwhelming for a beginner and you really have to commit to learning one thing at a time here otherwise you’ll quickly be swamped with information.
Just because the lion’s share of corporate animated video is in 2D, doesn’t mean you have to be – standing out with a charming stop-motion video might really appeal to your brand.
JellyCam is a simple stop-motion animation maker; all you need to get going with this one is something as basic as a webcam. It works by capturing a series of frames through your camera which you can arrange and export.
There are a few simple and valuable features here including onion skinning which lets you see the previous frames in your animation and lay them over your live webcam feed to easily line up the next frame in your sequence.
If you need any proof of how easy this one is to use, there’s a video on their site of the creator making a stop motion animation of a banana coming out of his head (yeah, really) from start to finish and it’s only 3 and a half minutes long! This is a no fuss, simple solution if you want to get up and running with stop-motion animation but it’s definitely the most simple tool on our list so don’t expect any miracles.
Advanced animation tools
Toon Boom Harmony
Now then, got a budget as well as time to learn? Stick with me.
First off there’s Harmony. This industry-standard 2D animation tool comes from Toon Boom – storyboarding and animation software developers whose programs are used in famous productions such as Adventure Time, Bob’s Burgers and even Disney films like The Princess and the Frog.
The pedigree of Toon Boom’s history of users should inspire you, and Harmony is a great jumping on point for intermediate animators because of its plentiful and accessible features. For those of you just looking for a tool capable of producing professional-grade animations, it’s a dream – after you put in the hours and the elbow grease, that is!
Simply put, in the right hands this is a powerhouse of traditional, responsive and creatively-driven 2D animation features. Plus, it’s one of the top choices for businesses looking to utilise animation as an effective and fresh marketing strategy because it supports integration with OpenX advertising software!
Adobe Animate CC
You may remember Adobe’s animation software Flash Professional, well they’ve renamed it to Adobe Animate CC, included it in their Creative Cloud subscription packages and updated it with a bunch of features and integration with their other existing software.
Nothing ground-breaking here, just the tools you’d expect from an advanced 2D animation suite all with the Adobe level of polish we’ve grown accustomed to; intuitive vector brushes, Wacom tablet functionality, live previews, it’s all here.
The only thing that really sets Animate CC apart is its intimacy with other Creative Cloud features. CreativeSync integration allows you to browse and license countless high-quality photos, illustrations, styles, colours and vector graphics from the Adobe Stock and Creative Cloud Libraries, you can even add life to static content by adding animations to them. If you or your office already subscribe to the Adobe Creative Cloud (which we definitely recommend that you do!) this one is a no-brainer.
With animated productions under its belt from studios such as Disney, Aardman and Laika, this is like JellyCam’s big brother, its much bigger brother. DragonFrame (previously Dragon Stop Motion) is the industry-leading stop motion software and has some seriously high-end functionality for the stop motion nuts out there. Just be aware that DragonFrame may take longer than the 3 and a half minute walkthrough on JellyCam to learn…
The screen drawing tools here are especially impressive if you’ve ever had to trace an object for a motion path or referencing. You can resize, rotate and adjust these objects at will. Our absolute favourite time-saving feature is the line tick marks you can trace onto your footage, which lets you map timing and the direction of your intended motion path with the incremented playback setting.
Tips for learning
Those of you that stuck with us for this long (thanks by the way!) might have noticed a recurring theme in our impressions of many of these tools. It’s often quite a long and difficult process to learn everything you need to master animation. Most of the tools listed above have a wiki associated with them or online handbooks but these can sometimes be as confusing as the software.
A great resource that we found invaluable in our formative days was PluralSight, formerly Digital Tutors, a great provider of in-depth tutorials. There are a ton of courses on here for many different programs, techniques and best practice guides made by real industry professionals. The videos are example-based and there are many plans available for individuals and teams so you can fit in their videos around any existing training you may already have in the office. This is the best choice for advanced software, as to be expected of a paid option.
Failing the budget necessary for PluralSight, don’t discount YouTube as a useful resource for animation tips and guides. We still catch ourselves looking up a quick tip on YouTube here and there when we need a little reminder too. It’s a great solution for the free software on here, mainly because these programs tend to have slightly less official support in place. Do be careful about which version of your software the video is running a tutorial on and that the video is by someone trustworthy!
Still seems a bit much?
The problem with these ‘self-starter’ kind of tools, is that you’re likely going to spend more time in tutorials and learning materials than you’ll actually spend crudely animating anything.
Sometimes the things that make a great animation with just the right tone can’t be learned on a wiki. Knowing how to tell a story, bring life to a character and delivering a film that is on message, fun and memorable are all things that took us a little while to master!
With that, then, the best tool for creating an animated video for business is your phone. Just pick it up and give us a bell. If you think that we could help you realise your animation goals without the headache of trying to learn a mountain of techniques – even if you’re just curious about how animation can transform your brand and only have the vaguest of ideas – let’s chat!