Go and Animate with GoAnimate

Last month, Learning Solutions Magazine published Tips for Using GoAnimate in eLearning, by Gary Lipkowitz, COO of GoAnimate. Now I’m here to give you a proper review of the product. I’ll confess that I misunderstood the product at first glance last year, thinking it was a video editor, so I was a little slow to try out GoAnimate. When I finally did try it, what I found blew me away!

Videos?

Yes, you do make videos with GoAnimate. However, these are animated videos, not live-action movies. These can be very effective for eLearning applications and much less expensive than assembling live actors in the correct setting with proper lighting and all of the other necessary elements of live-action shoots. GoAnimate contains a surprisingly diverse number of choices to make animated movies that fit your custom needs.

In the product you’ll find most everything you need to quickly create the kinds of movies that we so often need in eLearning scenarios. For instance, you can create movies that let the learner see how to deal with problem customers. Create several, in fact, so that you can show specific instances of what happens when the learner chooses a wrong action.

GoAnimate is cloud-based. You create your animated videos directly online, so there is no need to install the application on your hard drive. This means you can access the application from any Internet-connected computer, but you should have a good, fast connection.

When you’re ready to start, you’re offered two choices, as seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1: You can start with a template or make a video from scratch

Using a video template

If you choose to start with a video template, you have the benefit of getting a faster result. There are 15 templates at the moment, with more expected in the future. Figure 2 shows you some of the templates available.

Figure 2: Some GoAnimate templates

Once you’ve chosen a template, it’s a simple, four-step process to getting your video completed.

Step 1—choose a setting

Each template lets you choose from a number of different settings, from five to 16 or so. The settings can vary quite a bit, even within a specific template. See Figure 3.

Figure 3: Step 1—choose a setting

Step 2—select your actors

Next, you can select from 25 actors to use in your setting. Some of the actors resemble some well-known people; others are a bit more nondescript. You can also upload and use your own characters. See Figure 4.

Figure 4: Step 2—select your actors

Step 3—type in or record your dialog

Now you have a choice to make. Will you record the voices for the conversation the actors will have, or would you like GoAnimate to use one of several built-in voices? The built-in voices sound pretty good, though of course you’ll get better results with real human voices. Using real humans costs more and you want to make sure that the recordings are of good quality. You can record your voices directly in Go!Animate, but I highly recommend that you follow proper guidelines for recording high-quality audio. See Gary Lipkowitz’s Tips for Using GoAnimate in eLearning for some very good suggestions for audio recording.

In Figure 5, you see a dialog of four lines between our two actors. You can set up conversations up to 30 lines, plenty for most situations.

Figure 5: Step 3—create your dialog

Figure 6 shows some of the many voices available for the dialogs. Note that if you choose a foreign voice speaking English, it speaks English with an accent. For instance, choosing Silvana for the actor Mary will let you hear her English lines spoken with an Italian accent. The results can be hard to understand. Stick with a proper voice for your dialog language unless you really want to hear an accent and then expect it to be heavy in most cases.

Figure 6: Choosing a voice

Step 4—preview your video

You’re almost done! Now just preview the video to see if you like the results. If you don’t, go back and edit some more. If you do, you can immediately publish the video. At that point, you can post it to Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr or export it to YouTube as an MP4 video file at three different quality settings, 360p, 720p (HD), or 1080p (HD Blu-ray). You can also get an embed code to use on web pages.

The whole process above takes five to ten minutes! I find that remarkable. GoAnimate templates are quick and easy.

Create a video from scratch

There are many times, however, that you want to create a video without a template.  This is where most of GoAnimate’s power lies. The number of options here is quite impressive.  Start by choosing a category. You can see some of the categories in Figure 7.

Figure 7: Creating a video from scratch

Figure 8 shows you the editing environment. Here you are free to edit the movie, taking the steps in any order you wish. As you can see, you start with a blank stage. You can zoom the stage in and out from 50 to 400 percent, allowing you to place items precisely where you wish.

Figure 8: The video editing environment

Create scenes

You start with one scene and can add scenes one after the other. You can apply transitions between scenes, a good idea if the scenes are different. You can also time scenes according to:

  • What you’ve placed in the scene already
  • The time taken by the voices
  • Any specific time you wish

See Figure 9.

Figure 9: Transitioning and timing scenes

Add actors

Start by adding as many actors as you wish on the stage in your scene. As soon as you add an actor, you have the opportunity to provide the actor with a voice. See Figure 10.

Figure 10: Adding actors

Figure 11 shows how you can place the character in many different poses and choose from many different expressions, leading to hundreds of combinations of poses and expressions.

Figure 11: Choosing poses and expressions

Move and rotate actors

Now the real fun begins. You can tell GoAnimate to go and animate the actor simply by choosing an option called Slide. When you select the Slide option, a ghost image of the actor will appear. Move the ghost to any other position on the stage and when you preview or publish the video, you’ll see the actor move across the stage in the direction you indicated. You can also rotate the character in its original or its final position. When you play the movie, you’ll see that the character will move and also rotate with a smooth tween animation. See Figure 12.

Figure 12: Rotating and moving actors

Pan and zoom

You can also pan and zoom the camera using the Composition options. There are easy guides on the stage that you can use to define the pan and zoom, or you can specify specific pixel sizes and positions. See Figure 13.

Figure 13: Panning and zooming

Add more elements

There are more features to GoAnimate that you can use to further enhance your videos.

  1. Add Text Bubbles (Figure 14)
  2. Add Backgrounds and Templates (Figure 15)
  3. Add Icons (Figure 16)
  4. Add Music and Sound Effects (Figure 17)
  5. Add Transitions (Figure 18)

Figure 14: Text bubbles

Figure 15: Backgrounds and templates

Figure 16: Icons

Figure 17: Music and sound effects

Figure 18: Transitions

Import your own assets

If you wish, you can upload your own images, sounds, voices, Flash animations, and video files to use in your GoAnimate videos, so you can truly customize your videos to the look and feel you want.

Conclusion

GoAnimate runs about $50 a month for a premium business subscription, but you can start with a $25 a month basic subscription if you’d like to try it out. Those prices are based on paying a year in advance. You can also go month-to-month for $39 for a basic subscription and $79 for a business subscription.

All in all, I’m kind of loving this product. I plan on using it quite often. While it does not take the place of full-motion videos, in many instances it does a fine job of replacing the need for such videos at a much lower cost and effort.

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