Best Web Animation Software

Charlie R. Claywell
Reviewed by Vikki Olds
Anime Studio Debut interface
Anime Studio Debut interface

What would the Web be without all the short clips, videos and animation? It would be reduced to its bare-bone beginnings of text-based pages with minimal visual elements. Since motion adds a level of interest and interactivity to a site that is hard to match, many sites find ways to incorporate it. If you need animation on your site, or simply want to learn it, here are some of the best web animation software programs to consider.

Anime Studio Debut

If you want to create cartoons but have minimal experience, try Smith Micro's Anime Studio Debut. This relatively low-priced program does a lot of the animation for you with its skeleton-based animation. With this feature, you basically create a skeleton inside your cartoon character and then that skeleton is used to create the keyframes that simulate the motion.

Features

The software is designed to create 2D movies, anime, cartoons and cut-out animation along the lines of South Park and Jib-Jab. You can import your own artwork to create characters or, if you want to build one quickly, you can utilize the character wizard feature. Use the lip sync option to match sound to the character's lips.

Pros

  • Easy to learn - designed for beginner or hobbyist
  • Can import your own artwork and transform them into vectors
  • Export creations in common formats: mov, avi and mpeg-4

Cons

  • 2 minute or 3,000 frame size limit
  • Since it is a scaled-down version of Anime Studio Pro it:
    • Does not offer 3D video rendering
    • Has fewer vector drawing features
    • Is missing some of the advanced Bones options

Cost

The software typically sells for $50, though they do occasionally runs deals for as much as 40 percent off - driving the cost down to $30. Their Anime Studio Pro, priced at $200, is designed for professionals and is more robust than the Debut version. If you want to buy a site license for your school or company, you can submit a request for a price quote.

MakeWebVideo

Coming up with a usable, professional-looking animated video clip to explain or market a product can be expensive if hired out or too complicated for a novice - unless you have the right software. Web-based application MakeWebVideo has turned the process of creating explainer and promo videos into a three-step process.

Features

First, you choose a video template from their 11 categories like explainer, cartoon, 3D design, corporate of scrapbooking. The customizable templates are created with Adobe After Effects, but you do not need to know After Effects - or have any technical skill for that matter. Simply tweak the template to suit your needs. This is done by inserting text, images or any other content you want to include. Once you are finished, just click produce video.

Pros

  • MakeWebVideo templates
    MakeWebVideo templates
    Easy to learn - template-based so no technical skill is required
  • Quick turnaround of a video idea
  • It's a web-based service so there is no software to install
  • Exports creation in the common Web formats of MP4 and WEBM

Cons

  • Only two options for length: 1:01 or 2:01 minutes
  • Imported images must be similar in size to the ones inside the template in order to maintain a professional look (i.e., if the image template is designed for a horizontal picture, a vertical image may look odd)

Cost

As this is an online application, you don't need to purchase a software license or download a program to your computer. Instead, you use the program online and pay per project. Finished HD videos - that can be downloaded - currently range in price from $29 to $99. Video hosting and a video player are included in the price. They also offer affiliate and reseller programs.

Toon Boom Products

For software that consistently receives high user reviews try one of the several animation products from Toon Boom. Depending on your skill level, you can use Toon Boom Studio - designed for hobbyists, fans, students and teachers - or Animate Pro - known for its cutting edge capabilities and designed for professional animators.

Features

With Toon Boom Studio your character can be created by either drawing it inside the program, scanning in artwork or importing it. Once your character has been created, you use a bone technology, similar to Anime Studio Debut, to create motion and movement. Walt Disney Animation Studios uses Animate Pro, and in 2012 the software company received the Primetime Emmy Engineering Award. Flash and After Effects animators should feel comfortable with the quality of the tools, options and capabilities of Animate Pro.

Pros

  • Toon Boom Studio
    Toon Boom Studio
    Even the less expensive Toon Boom Studio can create professional quality animation
  • Techniques like reusing a skeleton layer improves productivity
  • Range of products appeals to beginners and professionals

Cons

  • Unless you purchase Animate Pro online tutorials are fee-based
  • Slight learning curve, even for Toon Boom Studio

Cost

Prices range from free for their Personal Learning Edition to $1,200 for the Animate Pro version. View the company's website for details on the full range of products, though for site license information you will need to contact a sales representative. When shopping on the Toon Boom site, make sure you check for special promotions - they occasionally reduce the price of software by as much as 60 percent.

Adobe Edge Animate

Years ago, Adobe set the standard for what animation on the Web could and should be. However, with the new HTML5 standards, specifically that third-party plug-ins should not be required for content to display on the web, they have shifted gears. Edge Animate is Adobe's response to creating high-quality animation in the new era.

Features

The program works by creating HTML, CSS and JavaScript coding to generate the animation. The interface is very clean and feels Flash-like which seems to be what they are going for, making Flash animators feel comfortable with the new standards. You can import files in familiar formats like SVG, JPG, PNG, and GIF into your project and, if you are comfortable with coding, you can work inside it. Created more for designers than developers, designers should feel quite comfortable inside the program.

Pros

  • Screenshot of Adobe Edge Animate workspace
    Adobe Edge Animate workspace
    Output animation works in HTML without the need of any plug-ins
  • Available on both Mac OS and Windows
  • Offers free edition (though the free version is set to be discontinued)
  • Flash-like interface

Cons

  • Does not utilize HTML5 standards like canvas
  • Creates code-intensive JavaScript files that non-coders may not be comfortable with

Cost

Since Adobe is moving its products into its Creative Cloud services, you should expect to pay a minimum of $20 per month for the program. Included in that price is 20GB of storage. They also offer plans for teams starting at $70 per month and educational plans starting at $20 a month. As of January of 2014, Adobe still offers a free, unsupported earlier version of Edge Animate as well.

HTML5 and CSS3

Animation on the Web will continue to evolve as more browsers include the HTML5 standards in their revisions. These changes and the apparent impending death of Flash - at least on mobile devices - will change how animation is created, but for the user the change should be seamless. For designers, however, the changes mean they will have to become comfortable with new and evolving methods of animation creation.

Best Web Animation Software