5 Free(ish) Online Whiteboard Animation Makers

My Experience with "Real" Video

Back in 2015 I created the "Itasca Meets Business" web series while I was the Community Development Intern. I didn't know how powerful video was at the time, but after the web series was over I could tell -- just by the social media statistics -- my efforts weren't fruitless. Take, for example, a 2m 30s video I did for a local business:

Total time devoted to this video:

  • Shooting: 30 min
  • Creating the "Itasca Means Business" intro splash: 20 min
  • Editing: 45 min
  • Uploading and cross-posting: 10 min
  • Total: 1h 45m or, in intern dollars, $26.25
  • Social ROI: 700 YouTube videos, 300 people reached on Facebook

For the fifth video in the series, I tried a much different approach: reducing the length of the video by 50%, shooting entirely on an iPad, and publishing directly to Facebook. This dramatically improved social ROI. Here's the video on YouTube:

Total time devoted to this video:

  • Shooting: 30 min
  • Editing: 30 min
  • Uploading and cross-posting: 10 min
  • Total1h 10m or, in intern dollars, $17.4
  • Social ROI5,438 people reached on Facebook, 2,600 views on Facebook, 46 likes, 29 shares, 8 comments.

That Facebook post was the most popular piece of content the Village of Itasca experienced by far. To see the rest of the web series, click here.

Major takeaway: Video content is king.

In fact...

From the video:

  • 52% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI.
  • Marketers can learn about views, how much content was viewed, in what order and geographical locations.
  • 65% of video viewers watch more than 3/4 of a video.
  • 33% of tablet owners watch one hour of video per day on their device.
  • Using the word "video" in email subject lines boost open rates by 19%, CTR rates by 65%, and reduces unsubscribes by 26%.
  • 74% of all internet traffic in 2017 will be video.

While "real" video content marks an obvious improvement with social ROI, animated videos have gained mainstream popularity as an alternative citing enhanced retention and reduced overhead.

My Experience with Animated Videos

In the evenings and on the weekends I also work as a freelance web designer and digital marketing consultant. I'm currently on payroll with Northern Illinois University as an independent contractor working as a mobile app project manager. We're calling the app Ki. It will help "connect citizens to governments and nonprofits instantly with the ability to chat directly, explore local services and benefits, and discover the anchors in your community." We're shooting to launch Q4 2017 on the App Store. In the meantime, I tested out some marketing videos to target different end-users. But, there was one problem:

The app was 100% conceptual, there was no working prototype (save for a seriously alpha framework found here) and our marketing personas hadn't been figured out. So, I experimented with a platform called Powtoon to knock two birds with one stone: figure out a marketing persona and create an explainer video for that end-user. Here's the video:

Total time devoted to this video:

That Powtoon video ended up costing me $8 and 95 minutes of my time to create, edit, and upload. With a bootstrap budget for the project, out of the box solutions like whiteboard animations videos can add a serious element of professionalism.

For a recent, full tutorial on Powtoon, here's Joseph Breisch's video:

These types of whiteboard animation makers like Powtoon add professionalism, but they also eliminate the need for professional video animators. We're living in the glorious DIY digital age where anything and everything is open-source if you look long enough for it on YouTube. They're also just:

  • More engaging than "real" video ("whiteboard animation video can come in to spice up your content with shiny objects, surprises and stories that tug at your heartstrings"[1]); and there's also:
  • "No need to appear in front of the camera or hire actors. Whiteboard animation is entertaining and eye-catching. More distinctive and professional looking than slideshow type videos. They provide a good way to explain concepts in a simple, engaging way." [2]

Here's a whiteboard animation agency pitching their services using a, you guessed it, a whiteboard animation video:

Here's an HR template video, "Department Goals - Employee Communications Video Template":

And here's a few great use cases of excellent examples of whiteboard animations:

Now, many of the previous examples were professionally made and cost thousands of dollars to create (I'm looking at you Coca-Cola). I've already gone through Powtoon (my example, the pricing comparison, and the tutorial), so let's go through the other four free or freemium options for those with no or some budget.

Top Whiteboard Animation Makers for 2017

Okay, the hottest free(ish) whiteboard animation makers currently on the web are the following (in no particular order):

  1. Powtoon
  2. Videoscribe
  3. Rawshorts
  4. Moovly
  5. Animatron

Videoscribe

Videoscribe is the only option on this list with a downloadable software package. Am I that spoiled living in a truly on-demand SaaS world I'm annoyed at that? The user interface is also a little clunky in my opinion.

But where it lacks in UI, it out-performs in results. It's a powerful platform. That cannot be denied. Price-wise, it's either $144/year, $29/monthly, or a one-off payment of $665. (Oh, hello Squarespace pricing model!)

Here's an example of a Videoscribe creation:

And here's a tutorial and review from Phuong White that goes deep into the platform:

Rawshorts

Rawshorts markets itself as the explainer video software. Its best feature, by far, is its vast library of templates:

It's free if ... you're only planning to upload to YouTube and not exporting anywhere else, you're okay with the Rawshorts watermark, and you're okay with 420p low resolution. Otherwise, you're going to shell out $60 for 3 videos in order to reverse all of that. The export price gets better if you buy in bulk though. Here's the full pricing sheet.

Here's a tutorial from Rawshorts themselves:

Moovly

Moovly positions itself as the cloud-based platform to create and generate video content without being an expert. In terms of marketing, it targets businesses for their daily communications like HR announcements, internal communications, corporate videos, and employee or project testimonials. No software needed, there are drag and drop features, and no branding (for a price). Speaking of the pricing,

As you can see, Moovly has fairly competitive pricing and keeps in line with which features are price-gated.

Here's a Mirna Bačun tutorial video, who does a good job breaking down the platform and all of its pros and cons:

Animatron

I'll initially let Animatron's animated video pitch tell its story:

It's true, Animatron isn't just for whiteboard animations. Like Rawshorts, it's also used for animated explainer videos, designing HTML5 banners (see: some examples), creating HTML5 animations, and it's also a presentation maker.

It's impressive due to its compatibility with Adwords and DoubleClick. Its library of project templates is nifty. The collaboration functionality of this product is legitimate. But...

Animatron isn't for the free user. The limits of the free plan aren't worth it. For just a Pro plan, you'll spend $180/year. However, the benefits of a non-free plan are appealing:

Here's a quick tutorial video:

Summary

There won't ever be a video bubble. In order to be competitive, organizations will have to adapt to a media environment dependent on more video and more animations. It's easy to think these are fads, but they've already positioned themselves into the market as thought leaders not because they're selling snake oil, but because the product actually works. Video is effective.

So, learn to adapt. Teach yourself and your team new skills. Explain the new concept with a whiteboard animation video or maybe the new program with an explainer video or make the plunge and start telling your intern to make some HTML5 banner ads for your site.

Most of these animation service platforms are cloud-based with great user interfaces, quick learning curves, and a host of tutorial videos online (either on their knowledge base or YouTube). For the free plans, you'll get what you pay for. Low quality, watermarked, non-downloadable videos. For $8 - $180, you'll get slick, visually compelling, professional video content.