Even if you have not read reports from Neilsen, a look at your Facebook feed would affirm that video is one of the most popular media content that is consumed and shared online.
Tubemogul indicates that engagement rates (Q4 2010) for video content are increasing, with Facebook and Twitter referrals accounting for the highest engagement rates across all media categories.
Video can also play an important part in SEO strategies by helping increase visibility in search engines
Given all this information, adding video content to your online content marketing mix is a no-brainer. However, creating compelling video content could arguably be more difficult than writing an interesting blog post for the same audience. Animation, even more so.
While there are plenty of ways to engage with your customers using video, it always helps to add to the arsenal of tools that can help you create and deliver compelling content.
I recently used Go!Animate, an online animation creation studio, to see how easy or difficult it would be to create good video content. Here are some brief findings:
How easy is video content creation with Go!Animate?
I think the basic version is pretty easy to use and almost anyone can churn out animations in relatively short times. I must mention here that I have been working with video and animation for over a decade; basic concepts, obvious to me, may not appear as lucid for someone who lacks similar exposure to video content creation.
The basic version of Go!Animate allows access to free backgrounds, characters and effects (transitions, camera f/x etc). However, the ability to customize characters requires an upgrade to the GoPlus+ version.
As you can see, the effects of this limitation in the basic version, have been most telling on the Mark Schaefer character, in the following animation, inspired by the ongoing debate about decentralizing social media.
Text to audio
Text-to-voice conversion is one of the features I liked most. You can select a character and simply type in the text and the software converts the text into audio format for that character. You have a choice of a few voices.
What I find missing is the ability to manipulate voices to give emphasis to certain words, add meaningful pauses etc. This would make the text-to-voice feature so much more effective.
The number of voices available with the free version can also be quite limiting in many instances. At one point I was unable to add more voices OR even (very annoying) modify existing voice clips since I reached the limit.
These are things that an upgrade to the paid version can resolve, though I think Go!Animate should allow one to edit existing voice clips for free version even if you run over the limit.
Another interesting feature (GoPlus+ version) is the ability to add your own props (swf), photos, video, upload recorded voice etc., integrating these with your animations.
My experience was almost glitch free. The major issue I had was when, towards the end, I was unable to add more scenes (+Add option was not accessible in the interface). The other glitches could probably be attributed to my hardware and wi-fi connection.
Exporting the video.
Exporting to Youtube requires you to upgrade to the GoPlus+ version. You can embed video so that they play from the Go!Animate site, but I find that these take more time to play. I think it is better to upload to Youtube, especially given the SEO benefits of doing so. Titles and descriptions are exported along with your video to Youtube. Annoyingly, tags are not so you have to re-tag your videos in Youtube.
You can access the GO!Animate platform from within Youtube too.
The platform seems to have integrated a healthy dose of gamification features and you receive points for certain activity like visiting the site regularly, sharing videos, etc.
Can be expensive but
Although upgrade to a GoPlus+ account can open up some closed features and provide some free gobucks (the virtual currency of the platform), heavy customization and use of features can burn through those pretty quickly, I think
Nevertheless, a virtual animation studio like this can save serious time. I made my first clip (almost 2 minutes long, the upper limit for the basic version) within 4 hours (including the time it took to learn my way around). Even with the rough edges, producing this kind of content would take at least 2-3 weeks of fulltime effort without such a platform.
Granted, animation purists will probably frown on the cookie cutter approach; the mass-manufactured look can get tiring in the long run. However, success of tools like these can very well set the stage for more innovation, offering an expanding range of options for artistic expression in the near future.
From a rusty animators perspective, the instant gratification is just so fun and I cannot wait to work on my next animated clip.
Here are the GoPlus+ versions of Mark Schaefer and Jay Baer, whipped up in less than half hour.
I think this type of content creation is going to only get more popular. Especially with GO!Animate targeting the education market, grooming the next generation to use the media.
Would it be worth your time to give animation a try? Have you already been integrating animation for your content marketing needs?