Review: Powtoon

Powtoon is an online application that allows you to create videos and animations quickly and easily. You can create videos from scratch using the content library, or choose a template. I used the free version of Powtoon to create the “About Me” video found on the front page of this website. This is my review!

I discovered Powtoon via an employer of mine. My first instincts were “meh, not impressed” but I changed my mind about the application because my own purpose for using it changed. I feel that this really does affect the way you use the application.

https://www.powtoon.com/
Background and Purpose

Originally I looked to use Powtoon for instructional videos. Even though the tools are easy to use, I found that attempting to create videos longer than a minute was quite challenging – mostly down to my own creativity. I started re-using certain slides and transitions and the videos become quite repetitive and I just wasn’t happy with the final outcome. It’s only when I started using it for shorter videos that I become a lot happier with the results.

Key Features

There are lots of pre made templates to use, some of which you need a paid subscription for. There are also lots of animated characters and props available, which are slightly on the limited side in the free version. You can also add music and a voice over (which you have to record yourself). You can also upload your own images and use them in your animations too.

Everything is done in a web browser, so there’s no need to install any additional software or plugins.

Powtoon can be used to create professional looking videos or animations, although I didn’t really spend a lot of time looking at the video templates and concentrated on animations.

Image of the Powtoon studio interface. Image taken from www.powtoon.com.

With the free version you can download a PowerPoint version of your videos/animations and upload to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook (the usual social services). I noticed that the videos also get uploaded to the personal Powtoon player, I couldn’t find an option not to do this, nor could I find an option to make the video private. Not a big deal though.

There are lots of subscription options available depending on what your needs are (and the size of your wallet!). If you want to download your videos in .mp4 format you’ll need a paid subscription, “Starter” is the lowest tier subscription and costs $16 a month.

Experience

I came back to Powtoon after deciding to create a introduction video for myself and decided to give it another shot. I found that using less content in a short period was much easier and produced a much slicker result.

Like with many design applications, you are limited by your own imagination and design. If design isn’t your strong point, your animations suddenly become very repetitive and template based. It’s very, very easy to make animations that are absolute travesties, I have seen this happen first hand! (surprisingly, not by my own hand!). Even a template can go bad, if you add bad graphics and change background/font colours to something brightly coloured. You still need to apply basic design principles.

The user interface is very clean, easy to use and easy to navigate. I felt confident using the software after about half an hour using the templates. I’d recommend starting out with a template to get used to the features, then move over to a blank template once you’ve got to grips with the basics.

Pros and Cons
  • Easy to use
  • Can create animations quickly
  • Share videos on YouTube with the free account
  • Really expensive. All the good assets are only available on Pro+ which starts at $197 (monthly, although cheaper if you pay for an annual subscription).
  • The content library is quite large, but the better images and props are only available with the paid subscription
  • Uploading to YouTube was really slow
  • If you use the content library and templates, your designs become repetitive
Summary

Powtoon provides you with the tools to create videos and animations quickly and easily. You still need to have somewhat of an eye for design to create something good, as if you stick to using templates, you quickly start losing individuality and end up producing repetitive animations with no character.

This software isn’t a replacement for professional tools, such as Adobe Animate or After Effects, nor is it a replacement for the use of professional services from a graphic designer/animator. However, this is a great tool for anyone that needs to create short animations with small amounts of content, on a budget.

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