2d Animation for Marketing Videos - What tools should I learn (Windows)?
January 28, 2013 11:32 PM   Subscribe

If I was to go from zero to learning one tool/software for professional 2d video animation and editing (creating simple animation/transitions and splicing live/animated content) what should it be?

Hi guys,

I want to learn enough skills to make my own 2d animated marketing and sales videos to put on video sharing sites (YT, Vimeo, etc). Also to make splices, edits, transitions etc, Simple clean and professional.

I don't know what tools I should focus on. What software should I learn? I'd like something that is intuitive enough to learn on (never done animating before) but powerful and professional and I can grow with. Free is good, but I don't want to learn a free tool just to re-learn a professional tool when I want to actually start selling my work.

I am JUST FOCUSED on video animation and editing at this point. Eventually I'd like to have the tools to take a project from concept to production to post production and audio/voice-over etc, but for now I can contract out all those other parts if needed.

I am choosing to develop skills in video animation/editing since it seems the most interesting to me of the process as I understand it.

Also, as a hobby, I would also like to make humorous cartoons on the side, in the style of Strongbad or even just glorified stick figures. Even if my cartoons suck it would be something fun to keep me motivated.


I intend to use something like Sparkol Video Scribe - whiteboard animation as the foundation (it outputs MOV and FLA format and HD - I'm open to other recommendations however). I'm sure I could build those videos today, they are very snap together. But I want to take those videos and edit them to add my own animations/transitions/touches that go beyond the features of that program, really make some value added.

So it would be helpful to have something to splice in live-action video into the whiteboard videos and other routine editing. Also eventually make my own interesting transitions and other effects, especially for things like screen casts or to liven up basic text power-point style videos. Also, animate my own end of video logo splashes etc.

I'm hoping that one tool can get me most of these things, as I cannot really afford multiple at the moment. I am looking at Adobe After Effects. I am hoping some MeFites can give me a birds eye view of which software is good for what and which will have limitations I might not at first recognize.

posted by DaftMythic to Technology (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Ignore what I said about Adobe After Effects. I guess I was looking at flash or maybe it was the entire adobe suite...

I guess what I need is not a single piece of software but which part of my workflow should I invest in professional software and which part can I get by with just free software. For instance, Ezvid sounds like a decent editor, where as Anime Studio seems like it would be really good for animation... but I'm not sure if I would need something else to for instance take a single frame of something that was rendered in Sparkol and then move it around the screen (essentially turn it into a character) and then splice those two parts together so it is seamless.

So many options
posted by DaftMythic at 12:17 AM on January 29, 2013

Photoshop CS 6 can actually do some rudimentary animation. I don't recommend getting Photoshop just for this feature (way too expensive if all you will do with it is animate) but if you have access to it already it could be part of the answer. I was using it with a tablet to make stick figure hand drawn animations. I'm sure there is freeware that could do the same (don't know what it is, sorry). The nice thing about Photoshop for me was having all the photo editing tools available for the backgrounds.

I also once used Photoshop in conjunction with iMovie to edit in an animated character to a live action movie. It was not the fastest way to do it but it worked. I used iMovie to split the video into individual frames, imported each frame into Photoshop, put my character on the image and put the still back into iMovie. Layers for onion skinning and batch processing made it faster.

Another option is to get a stop motion editor and take photos of hand drawn animation. There are a number of free stop motion editors out there. I used Frame by Frame but it looks like it hasn't been updated since 2008 so I'll wager there is something better out there by now.

I have essentially no experience with Flash, but it looks like you can get a free trial if you sign up for Adobe's monthly subscription service.
posted by rip at 5:28 AM on January 29, 2013

Best answer: The term of art for what you what to produce is "motion graphics" and probably the leading software for producing it at a broadcast professional level (e.g. TV, not movie special effects) is Adobe After Effects. You can accomplish the same thing with many other programs, but given your professed lack of skill you probably want to start using the most common tool so you will have access to the most resources for training and tutorials. And be reassured: there are LOTS of tutorials and training available for motion graphics on After Effects.

The good news is that you don't need the latest version of AE in order to produce perfectly acceptable output.

The great news is that if your computer can still run seven year old software, Adobe has released all of the CS2 apps "for free" in an unsupported state. By "for free" I mean they have provided links to download it, as well as the license keys to unlock it, on their website along with a strongly worded admonition that you should only be using the software if you have the right to do so.

Make your own ethical call here; if you don't know if you want to be serious about creating motion graphics, here is some software that professionals were using as top-of-the-line seven years ago that you can bash around with and see if it suits your mindset. Note that skills in CS2 are almost always forward transferrable to more recent versions of the software. So if you love CS2 then CS6, the latest version, which you would have to pay for, would be an easy call.

I am not as familiar with other tools for motion graphics than After Effects. Hope this is useful info.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:18 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks that is exactly what I needed - Motion Graphics:

Based on that term I did a search and came up with this site:


And confirmed this is exactly what I want to be doing. It also has a list of software near the bottom to give context to what is out there.

So, I was right and After Effects is what I need to be learning!
posted by DaftMythic at 8:43 PM on January 29, 2013

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