Is it possible to create great explainer videos without any editing experience or recording equipment?

HeyGen says so.

HeyGen is a relatively new AI-powered video generating platform that claims to be able to help you make an explainer video in “just a few minutes” and three steps: select your template, replace elements in the template and add your own script, and then press submit to have the video created.

We tried it, and the results were mixed.

Here’s what we learned from the experience.

  1. Getting started is easy

HeyGen offers a free trial. A starter code gives you one credit each day, which expires at the end of the day, and you also get a sign-up credit that lasts a month. Each free credit allows you to create one video of no more than one minute. That is plenty for a short explainer video: it’s about 150 to 170 words, and no more than five or six slides. You also have access to more than 120 avatars with around 300 voices. 

  1. Creating the script will take you a lot longer than ‘just a few minutes’

Your script needs to cover both slides and voiceover. Even if you start from a blog post, as we did, you will have to reduce the length. You want no more than one or two minutes, and it’s probably best to aim for under one minute. The ideal way is probably to start with an idea, and be prepared to tweak and adapt it during the creation process.

  1. There are a lot of templates—but they’re not necessarily what you want

If you want to create an exercise or recipe video, there is plenty of choice immediately available. A more business-based template may take a bit longer to choose. It looks like you should be able to use your own PowerPoint slides, but it wasn’t immediately obvious how to do that.

  1. The creation process is a bit ‘clunky’

The explainer video gives the impression that you simply choose a template and an avatar, and then type in your text. In fact, you choose a template and an avatar, and that changes the picture on the first page. You then have to change the avatar manually on each slide. If you want a different voice, you also have to change that manually. You can record your own voice if you want, but there is plenty of choice available. 

  1. There is a lot of content entry required

You need to type in both the slide content and the voiceover text: the app doesn’t automatically take the voiceover from the slides. Editing is not always simple, because there are several elements visible on screen at once. It may help to be familiar with a package like PowerPoint, and this would probably get better as you use it more.

  1. You can test the audio as you go

You can test the audio for each slide—and it is worth doing this to check your punctuation. It turns out that if you don’t use a full stop at the end of a bullet point, your avatar’s voice will just ‘run on’ into the next bullet point. However, it is relatively easy to diagnose and solve the problem. 

  1. You can preview the whole video, albeit without animation

The preview function is excellent, allowing you to see and hear the video, minus the animation of the AI avatar. You can then add or subtract anything from the script or slides. You can pause the preview and go back to editing, or watch it all the way through and then edit. You can also preview as often as you like.

  1. The ‘submit’ button is final

It’s a good job the preview function is unlimited, because the submit button seems to be final, with no further editing allowed. It also takes several minutes to create the video after you press submit. However, HeyGen will send you a message when the video is ready, so you can move on to something else if you don’t want to wait.

Our verdict

It is possible to create an explainer video without any editing experience or recording software using HeyGen, and the process was relatively painless. It wasn’t as easy as HeyGen made it sound, but creating the script was probably the hardest part. Our first attempt was best judged as ‘OK for a first go’. However, we felt the process would get easier with more experience.