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Cool (and Free!!) Online Tool to Create Animations and Videos

Whenever I spend time reading an industry magazine, I want to be sure I take something away from it. In the issue of td magazine that was sitting on my desk, I stumbled upon an article about PowToon, a free online tool to create animations and promo videos.

I’ve been creating more and more promo videos for various training resources, so I thought I’d check it out for myself. After playing around with it for a few days, here are some initial thoughts on PowToon:

Three Reasons to Start Using It Tomorrow:

1. Cost. It’s free! Unless you want premium features, then you can pay $19 – $57 per month in order to access additional assets, templates and features. Still, the free version offers plenty of built-in material to get you started.

2. Community. PowToon looks like it’s making an effort to build an online community of users to share tips and exchange ideas. While I still say Articulate is the gold standard of online communities, PowToon does have a core of active users on its LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook pages.

3. Familiar Interface. If you’ve ever used Captivate or Articulate or Movie Maker or any other software with a timeline, this interface will look familiar. The key to good animation is being able to sync the action on the screen with the message you want to deliver.

Three Things to Think About Before You Use It Tomorrow:

1. Learning Curve. I was hoping to be able to put together a quick demo that I created using PowToon for the purposes of this post. I struggled getting around the learning curve in order to produce a minute-long, animated promo video with voiceover that sync’d up with the animations. Once you play with the tool for a while, you should be able to put together some very cool product demos or promo videos… check out the PowToon landing page for a few examples.

2. Restricted Functionality. During my failed attempt to put together a demo for this blog post, I inserted a hand-drawn arrow. The image was red. I wanted it to be black to match the cartoon figure I had placed on the screen. And I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to change the color of an object on the screen. Little things like this, that can be addressed with a click or two of a button using another application, proved frustrating as I tried learning the functionality of this tool.

3. Does it really replace other applications? Perhaps it’s just my (extremely) stubborn nature, but I’m going to continue to play with this tool until I can produce a respectable (and fun and entertaining) promo video. However, there is a piece of me that wonders if using tools like PowerPoint or Articulate Replay or even Movie Maker might just be simpler.

PowToon seems to hold some serious potential, but as with any powerful tool, it takes some time to master.

Have you found a good way to create animations and promo videos? Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

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