5 Key Animation Software Features and Top Products That Offer Them

By: Barkha Bali on February 27, 2024
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Animation software enables graphic designers and content creators to combine still images to create moving graphics or animated visuals. It can be used to create visual effects for feature films and games, dynamic infographics for business presentations, interactive elements for websites or product demonstrations, and more.

However, not all animation software solutions offer the same functionalities and capabilities. Therefore, graphic design teams should carefully consider and identify animation software features that align with their specific design processes and project requirements.

This article highlights five key features of animation software based on the ratings given by verified software users. We’ve also included the highest-rated animation solutions for each feature. Read more.

Software Advice graphic: Importance of key features of animation software: 88% media import; 86% rendering; 85% text overlay; 84% drag and drop; 77% video editing

1. Media import

The media import feature of an animation tool lets users import various media files, such as images, audio clips, videos, special effects, and 3D models or vector graphics, from their local storage or external device directly into their animation projects. Most computer animation platforms support multiple file formats, including JPEG, PNG, GIF, MP3, WAV, MP4, and AVI.

88% of animation software reviewers identify media import as a highly important feature

What business problem does media import solve?

Animating complex scenes or sequences from scratch can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, especially if it involves creating every element, including the characters, backgrounds, and visual effects. By enabling animators to import preexisting media assets, the media import feature reduces the time and effort required to develop animations. Animators can leverage a library of ready-made assets or incorporate assets created for previous projects, saving production time and resources.

Ideal users of the media import feature

Animation professionals can use this feature to standardize the animation workflow and enhance the quality of animations. They can import preexisting media assets, such as images, audio clips, and videos, to save time and effort in creating complex animations.

Top 3 products with the highest ratings for media import

Analysis performed February 2024*

CreateStudio

CreateStudio

4.84 out of 5 stars

487 reviews

Media import feature rating: 4.74/5

VistaCreate

VistaCreate

4.61 out of 5 stars

420 reviews

Media import feature rating: 4.64/5

Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects

4.76 out of 5 stars

411 reviews

Media import feature rating: 4.59/5

2. Rendering

The rendering feature of animation software converts the digital data of a scene into the final images or frames that make up the animation. Before rendering, users design and animate objects, characters, and environments within the software. They also configure lighting, cameras, textures, and materials to create the desired scene. Animation software employs various rendering techniques, such as ray tracing and rasterization. Ray tracing simulates the interaction of light rays with scene objects, while rasterization directly converts the scene’s geometry into pixels. Throughout the rendering process, users can adjust settings, queue render jobs, and review feedback to ensure quality and accuracy of the final computer animation.

86% of animation software reviewers identify rendering as a highly important feature

What business problem does rendering solve?

Rendering transforms 2D animation and 3D animation wireframes and models into polished, visually compelling animations or images. By providing a tangible representation of the final product early in the production process, rendering allows for the early detection and resolution of potential issues, saving time and resources. This transformation enables clear communication of ideas, facilitates collaboration with clients and stakeholders, and enhances marketing efforts.

Ideal users of the rendering feature

Professionals in animation studios, game developers, and motion graphic designers can use rendering to visualize their work, iterate on designs, and create final outputs for a variety of purposes, including presentations, marketing materials, educational content, and entertainment projects.

Top 3 products with the highest ratings for rendering

Analysis performed February 2024*

Cinema 4D

Cinema 4D

4.61 out of 5 stars

69 reviews

Rendering feature rating: 4.41/5

3ds Max

3ds Max

4.65 out of 5 stars

100 reviews

Rendering feature rating: 4.36/5

Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects

4.76 out of 5 stars

411 reviews

Rendering feature rating: 4.28/5

3. Text overlay

Text overlays help add text elements directly into animations. Once the text is added, users can position it anywhere on the motion graphic canvas and adjust its appearance to suit their requirements. This may involve resizing the text box, changing the font style or weight, applying text effects such as bold or italic, and adjusting the opacity or transparency. Text overlay also allows users to animate the text within their animations, including animating the text’s position, scale, rotation, opacity, or other properties to create dynamic effects.

85% of animation software reviewers identify text overlay as a highly important feature

What business problem does text overlay solve?

Businesses often use animations for marketing and branding, such as creating promotional videos, advertisements, or branded content. The text overlay feature lets them add branding elements such as logos, slogans, and brand messages directly into graphic design or animation projects. This helps reinforce brand identity, increase brand recognition, and communicate marketing messages to target audiences.

Ideal users of the text overlay feature

Graphic designers specializing in motion graphics and computer animations can use text overlay elements in their designs, such as typography, titles, and credits, to improve visual content and convey information within their animations. Similarly, as mentioned above, marketing professionals can use the text overlay feature to create promotional videos, advertisements, and branded content.

Top 3 products with the highest ratings for text overlay

Analysis performed February 2024*

VistaCreate

VistaCreate

4.61 out of 5 stars

420 reviews

Text overlay feature rating: 4.8/5

CreateStudio

CreateStudio

4.84 out of 5 stars

487 reviews

Text overlay feature rating: 4.77/5

PowToon

PowToon

4.49 out of 5 stars

393 reviews

Text overlay feature rating: 4.60/5

4. Drag-and-drop

The drag-and-drop feature of an animation app allows users to move, rearrange, and manipulate elements within the software’s interface by clicking on them and dragging them to a new location. Most animation tools offer keyboard shortcuts to copy or duplicate elements for the drag-and-drop process. After dropping, users can resize, rotate, or align the elements in their new positions.

84% of animation software reviewers identify drag and drop as a highly important feature

What business problem does drag-and-drop solve?

Animation projects often involve complex workflows with multiple layers, elements, and tools. Manually adjusting the positions or properties of elements can be cumbersome and time-consuming. The drag-and-drop feature simplifies this challenge by enabling users to move and manipulate elements within the software’s interface, making it easier to navigate and interact with animation projects.

Ideal users of the drag-and-drop feature

Animators and graphic designers can use the drag-and-drop feature to simplify complex animation projects. With this feature, they can layer elements, adjust timing, and create transitions without the need to draw everything manually. Additionally, this feature simplifies storyboarding, enabling animation artists to visualize their ideas and sequences more effectively. For example, animators can quickly assemble and rearrange scenes to refine their storytelling and ensure coherence in their graphic design projects.

Top 3 products with the highest ratings for drag and drop

Analysis performed January 2024*

CreateStudio

CreateStudio

4.84 out of 5 stars

487 reviews

Drag-and-drop feature rating: 4.85/5

Adobe XD

Adobe XD

4.54 out of 5 stars

1066 reviews

Drag-and-drop feature rating: 4.74/5

PowToon

PowToon

4.49 out of 5 stars

393 reviews

Drag-and-drop feature rating: 4.70/5

5. Video editing

The video editing feature of an animation tool allows users to manipulate, arrange, and refine video clips within their animation projects. Users can import, organize, and trim video footage, as well as adjust its duration and arrangement to fit the animation timeline. They can layer multiple animated video clips, apply transitions and special effects, and perform color correction to achieve the desired visual aesthetic. Integration with audio features, such as importing and editing audio tracks, enables users to synchronize sound effects, music, and dialogue with the video.

77% of animation software reviewers identify video editing as a highly important feature

What business problem does video editing solve?

Video editing helps standardize the production process for animation projects by eliminating the need for a separate video editing platform. This reduces downtime and delays associated with transferring files between different software applications. Moreover, using a single software platform for both animation and video editing helps maintain consistency in style, visual elements, and overall production quality across animation projects.

Ideal users of the video editing feature

Animators can use the video editing feature to produce a variety of content, including animated shorts, feature films, commercials, and promotional videos. This feature also lets them integrate live-action footage, visual effects, and animation elements into their projects, enhancing storytelling and production value.

Top 3 products with the highest ratings for video editing

Analysis performed February 2024*

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe Creative Cloud

4.7 out of 5 stars

7275 reviews

Video editing feature rating: 4.53/5

PowToon

PowToon

4.49 out of 5 stars

393 reviews

Video editing feature rating: 4.51/5

CreateStudio

CreateStudio

4.84 out of 5 stars

487 reviews

Video editing feature rating: 4.44/5


Methodology

Key features: To identify the key features of this article, we asked users to rate, on a scale of “low importance” to “critical,” how important different features are for animation software. The features showcased are those that the highest percentage of reviewers rated as “highly important” or “critical” over the past two years (as of Feb. 9, 2024).

Feature eligibility: To be included in the set of features considered, a given feature had to have at least 200 user ratings within the past two years (as of Feb. 9, 2024), of which at least 20% must indicate the feature is “critical.” Eligible features were determined from two sources: 

  1. Our research team’s review of public information about animation software usage, definitions, and associated features.

  2. Reviewers’ indication of the features they use for animation.

Product selection: To identify the top-rated products per feature, we evaluated user ratings for products that offer each feature. For a given product, reviewers rate each feature on a scale of one to five stars. A given product had to have at least 20 user ratings (between February 2022-24) for the feature in question to be considered.

*We selected products for this article based on their average ratings between February 2022 - February 2024, which may differ from their current overall average ratings.