Go!Animate is a web-based application that allows non-artist users to easily create animated videos. It offers an easy to use drag and drop interface that makes it simple and fun to create videos that look professional.
I run an explainer video (or animated promo video) business called Big Idea Video and I was eager to give Go!Animate a try because I wanted to see if it might be a viable alternative for clients that don't have the budget for custom animation explainer videos. That is, I wanted to see if I could use Go!Animate myself to produce explainer videos, without any help from an animator. So, I contacted the people at Go!Animate and they were nice enough to give me free access to their service for the purpose of this experiment.
In order to properly evaluate the software I decided to make an explainer video for a fictitious company. I made up a service called "Scribble" which offers a ridiculous email plug-in that converts email messages to scribbles, and vice versa, to make it quicker for people to read and send emails. The video I made is displayed below.
I'm quite happy with the way it turned out. Where my usual explainer videos start in the $2000 price range, for those clients on a budget, I can use Go!Animate and charge from approximately $400.
Signing Up and Getting Started
I had access to the GoPremium Business plan, which gives users access to all features, with the ability to monetize videos and the license to use videos for one's own business purposes. This plan is available in monthly, quarterly or yearly billing options, which works out to $79, $66, and $50 per month, respectively. There are also other, less expensive Business (and personal use/educational pricing) plans.
Go!Animate is a web-based service, meaning that it works straight out of your web browser with no need to install any applications. Further, you must be connected to the Internet to use the service.
When starting with Go!Animate you have 2 options: you can either select from a variety of templates that will guide you through the creation of a video, or you can choose the "Make a Video From Scratch" option. Since I wanted complete creative control, I chose the latter. This option takes you to another page where you can choose from a number of styles for your video, several of which are business-related.
Go!Animate's video maker interface has three general sections: the stage, where one manipulates actors and props; the timeline, which contains the video and audio tracks, as well as your video's scenes; and the asset section, which is the area that contains all your characters, backgrounds, props and other assets, as well as other functions.
Animation of scene elements is intuitive and easy. Unlike other animation tools I have used, Go!Animate is relatively simple. In order to give the application an intuitive feel, the Go!Animate developers decided to dispense with the traditional keyframe approach to animation, which can be difficult to learn and use, and instead they implemented an approach based on individual scenes.
A scene contains a single action for each character and/or prop on the stage. Each time you require new actions from the elements you have on your stage, or entrance or exit of elements, a new scene must be created. So, for example, if you wanted to move a character across the stage and back again, you would create one scene to move the character across the stage and a second scene to move it back. A traditional animation application would require that you create keyframes for the character in the timeline at each point that the character's action changes. With Go!Animate, characters and other assets don't show up as separate rows in the timeline. Instead, they are controlled directly on the stage or from the asset section using menus and arrows. All very intuitive and easy to pick up.
Another great feature of Go!Animate is the ability to import images, sound files and even videos. I made extensive use of the import feature when creating my video. I had recorded my voice-over file separately, and had to import that. Further, there were shapes and a simple animation that I had created in Adobe Flash that I imported.
None of this importing, by the way, is necessary. You can create an entire video without any additional assets, and the program offers a number of free music files you can use with your video. Most users, however, will want to take advantage of the fact that you can import your own voice-over file to achieve high quality audio.
I really found that there wasn't much to not like about the service. I can only think of two issues I could possibly raise with the service, and neither is a fair criticism for a web-based service, especially one at this price point.
There were times where I wished that I could make my characters perform more specific actions than Go!Animate allowed. For example, I wanted a look of 'surprise' for a character that was not quite as exaggerated as the look Go!Animate offered.
Secondly, there is a bit of a delay when performing certain functions, such as previewing your video, and reloading a previously saved video into the editor.
Honestly, though, much of the time I found myself in awe of the incredibly smooth and intuitive engine that the Go!Animate developers had created. And it was always a fun 'toy' to use.
If you need to create animated videos and you don't require custom animation, or if you are on a budget, I would suggest you sign up for the Basic Free account and give it a try. It really is a well-designed, cleverly thought-out, and highly useful product.