If you are looking for a tool that allows you to create impressive web presentations in a fraction of the time it would be take the best slideshow editor, you have found the first online service that does really so. Check out here below the stunning video presentations I was able to create in a matter of minutes (literally). Stop whatever you are doing and come to check this out!
Animoto.com is a web application that automatically generates professionally produced videos, each a customized orchestration of your images and music.
Animoto, which just launched before this weekend, offers all this in a package that is easy to use, simple and straightforward for both the technically-savvy and the novice alike. The interface is a no-brainer and the basic functions available in this first early beta version are already quite impressive.
The first time I used Animoto, I was able in less than 10 minutes to produce an impressive audio-visual presentation that was immediately ready and usable for many kinds of online promotion. Animoto Cinematic Artificial Intelligence analyzes the music you select to use for your video presentation and magically matches image transitions and edits to it to your visual inventory. Anyone I sent the test presentations I did during my tests was very impressed by the results and asked how I had done such a swift editing job.
Animoto creates actual wide-screen videos out of your selected sets of images (from your hard disk or from image-sharing sites) and with your preferred music in a matter of minutes and in a completely automated way. I haven't seen a tool that doesn't anything even close to this before.
Animoto is free for registered users creating 30-seconds clips (unlimited use) and costs $30/year for unlimited use which allows the creation of clips of any duration.
The 60 seconds lowdown on Animoto
Get a one-minute introduction toAnimoto from the very guys who have been working one year at creating it. But beware, you can't do everything you see in this clip with Animoto.
What is Animoto?
"Animoto is a web application that automatically generates professionally produced videos using patent-pending Cinematic Artificial Intelligence technology and high-end motion design.
Each video is a fully customized orchestration of user-selected images and music.
Produced in widescreen format, Animoto videos have the visual energy of a music video and the emotional impact of a movie trailer.
As I have said already, the Animoto interface is well designed and gets no special negative criticism from me. This is how I expect web-based tools to be designed. I am not referring so much to the "style" but to the architecture of the design. Simple, organic, well integrated, nonthreatening.
In fact, I have got around to use Animoto in no time at all. There is no such things as a learning curve, and overall learning time (if you read this review first) is no more than 15-20 minutes even if you want to find out everything that this tool can do.
Animoto additionally provides quite a bit of help tips and indications on what each function does and on how most operations can be executed.
How It Works
On the road, Animoto works seamlessly offering you three basic gears with which to cruise on any type of presentation terrain.
1) You decide what images you want to use in your audio-visual showcase. You provide such images to Animoto either by referencing accounts and photo-sets you may have already created on popular photo sharing services like Flickr, Photobucket or Picasa or by directly uploading your locally saved images to the Animoto engine on the fly.
2) You select the music or audio soundtrack you want to use. Again, your task is as simple as selecting one of the cool license-free ready-soundtracks that Animoto offers in its own library, or by yourself uploading your preferred music track (obviously, if you intend to publish your Animoto show later on the Internet you better select a music that is copyright-free or you will run into some trouble).
3) Animoto mashes it all up in a matter of minutes and spits out a ready to show audio-visual presentation like probably no other you have seen before. Yes, all you see is a progress bar showing you at what point the rendering of your video is (no time estimate is yet displayed) until the show becomes available and ready to be played.
Two types of video presentations can be created:
A so-called Animoto Short (a 30-second video) or a full-length video (extended length video). Video shorts are free for everyone and you can make as many of them as you like. Full-length videos can be of any length and do require you to pay a fee for either each video produced ($3) or for a one-year full pass ($30).
To test all functionalities of Animoto I bought I full-year pass and dived into testing and analyzing the whole service during this past weekend.
Here is the first video presentation that came out of Animoto after my very first test:
The Animoto features set is rather rather simple, making the tools immediately easy to use and master. As already outlined, these features include the ability to add any number of images from your hard-disk or from a number of pre-selected online image-sharing sites as well as the ability to use your music or audio soundtrack of choice. The rest is almost completely automatic. You press a button and Animoto produces a new audio-video mix.
Some unique small features add an extra layer of sophistication and point to future additions that may indeed make this tool even better than what it already is. These include:
a) Spotlighting. The spotlight feature, which allows you to interactively select a number of images in your show that you want Animoto to give a special visual emphasis to. Super-easy, super-effective.
b) Effective multitasking. As all other web-based applications Animoto takes advantage of the fact that the heavy work is taking place on its servers and not on your computer to provide you with the ability to carry out other tasks while your video presentation is being executed. While Animoto crunches on your images and music by deciding what effects and edits to use, you can go ahead and view some of your other video clips, select new images or audio for another remix or even start producing another edit while the first is still completing.
c) Select soundtrack starting point. This is a truly cool and nifty feature which allows you to manually select at which exact point to start the music soundtrack you have selected. Many songs start with some dead time or with a build-up that you might not want to include in your ANIMOTO video. With the song Start Point Slider, you can tell Animoto where to start your song. Press 'PLAY' and wait until just the right moment; then press 'PAUSE'. This feature works only when you create full-featured videos.
d) Easy distribution. Animoto video clips can be easily emailed, can be embedded into blogs, web pages, or social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.
e) Fast, fully automated audio-video synch editing. Once you've selected your images and music, Animoto is able to analyze, plan, produce, and render your video in about 5 to 10 minutes. Obviously time will vary depending on how many images you're using and whether or not there is an heavy load on Animoto servers.
Uploading or referencing already web-published images is a breeze with Animoto. The system allows you to select multiple images to upload at once (by using the traditional selection-key modifiers Shift and Control keys).
Not only. You can easily delete, move around and rotate any image by simply selecting it and clicking on one of the relevant functions appearing below the digital image light table. Also here, multiple images can be selected at once and modified in just one click making the preparation process very efficient.
In Animoto you can use any image saved in JPG format. The maximum file size accepted is 5MB per image.
If the photos stored on your computer have a very high resolution (more than 1 MB in size), you may want to downsize them first to reduce upload time if you plan to make videos to share online. Animoto recommends downsizing to no less than 640x426 (or about 50kb per image), and to avoid uploading images with resolutions higher than 1024x768 (or about 100kb per image). This highest resolution is in fact only advisable if you want to produce video presentations that you will want to master and distribute via a DVD.
The Animoto system supports audio files in the following audio file formats: MP3, WAV or AIFF's. Maximum file size for music tracks is 10MB. Keep also in mind that for full-length video presentations it is the length of your music that determines the total duration.
"Unfortunately, if you've purchased any music from iTunes and it's in .M4A format, you won't be able to use it with Animoto. Right now, .M4A files can only be used with iTunes and other Apple products."
In Animoto you can use the music you want, but if your final video presentation mashup needs to be publicly published online it is recommended that you utilize your own music (I mean music you have written and composed yourself) or that you flex to the idea of going out to one of the several open-license online music resources where you can find some great copyright-free tracks for your show.
The cool aspect of working with Animoto is that also music selection has been converted into a no-brainer task. By providing a full music lounge in which pre-selected license-free music tracks can be easily listened to and added, Animoto provides a stress-free solution to the less technically savvy in getting a music soundtrack that can immediately fit their needs.
For now the Animoto Music Lounge offering is grouped into three different music styles which can be easily navigated.
You can listen to each track listed and select the one you want to use with just one click.
Sharing and Syndication Features
Animoto clips can be immediately shared with all of your contacts via an integrated email invitation facility that sends out invites to watch your video (with no need to register) or by providing a professional widget capable of generating embed codes for the most popular blogging platforms and social networking sites.
Doing it is as easy as clicking the option you need and filling out the invite or copying and pasting the code. Noting could be easier.
Free and Paid Versions
Animoto lets you work and create two types of video depending on whether you are a free user or you are willing to pay a very modest fee to eliminate any possible limitation from your Animoto production abilities.
Animoto Shorts are 30-seconds in length and free for everyone. You can produce, remix, and share as many as you'd like. Here you can't really use the soundtrack starter point slider, and you can use generally a maximum of about fifteen images.
Free users can also create a full length video presentation with no time limitations but they can only do/keep one at a time without needing to pay an extra fee.
Producing a full-length video costs $3, and you can buy as many full-length video credits as you want.
An All-Access Pass, like the one I have bought, costs $30 and allows you to make an unlimited number of full-length videos for one ful year.
What do the results look like?
Here a couple of extra examples of what Animoto has been able to produce given a basic set of images and one of the tracks available in the Animoto Music Lounge.
Robin Good remix 2 - extended version
Animoto Pros and Cons
Great presentation production tool. Given the production quality and time required to obtain such results this tool has presently no competitors and it does provide truly tangible and immediate benefits to private entertainment as well as to presenters, communicators, online publishers, marketing professionals, and trainers (just to name a few) in many different application areas.
Cost-effective. Can't ask for a better business model. Give me something cool and useful for free. If I like and want to do more with it, have me pay a very affordable one-time ticket or an extended all-access flat fee.
Saves you tons of time. Animoto doesn't pay me to write this stuff, but I honestly think that I have never seen a tool that allowed me to create such visually impactful and professionally-looking presentations in the short time than Animoto does.
It makes great promotion for whatever you are showing. That's what I noticed. Everyone watching is left the lower jaw down and everyone says "wow" at the end, followed by: "Cool Robin, how did you this?"
No two videos are the same. When you work with Animoto each time you produce a video, this is different from all others you have created before.
Music and video synching while often spectacular leaves something to be desired in terms of precision. I have a feel that if the Animoto guys can get that to work better results will be even more impressive.
Can't title the final output. This among other small limitations is probably among the most important ones. Having the ability to add some titles, to appear either at beginning and/or end of the clip would certainly be a very welcome feature that could allow greater ownership and personalization.
Can't edit video title and description after having produced it. This is quite inconvenient and as YouTube teaches it is of the essence to be able to go back and correct errors, mistakes or to add other relevant reference information.
Full screen not working. The full screen display feature does not yet work properly for me whatever browser I chose. This is probably a limitation the Animoto guys are already working on and should be fixed very soon.
Ability to better identify an image uploaded from a similar one. Once you have uploaded/retrieved all images you want to use in a video presentation, it would be very useful to be able to click on each one and see its filename/filesize/datelastmodified info fields. In my case I was bogged down in fact by several images I had in my folders that existed at different resolutions. When uploaded to Animoto, I could easily delete duplicated but I couldn't tell which one image I was deleting (the high or the low resolution?)
Limitations in image selection options when using on external photo-sharing sites. For now you can't use tags or open searches on Flickr to select the images you want to use. Probably this has been done to avoid having users utilizing copyrighted images without care, as otherwise it would have been very useful to be able to use a wider range of images than just those in your account. My advice to the Animoto guys is to offer an option that provides direct access to all CC-licensed images on the partner services.
Download feature yet not available. Of course it would be lovely to be able to also download your final production but this feature, alongside iPod-formatted downloading is not yet active.
Ability to add your own voice track. In my opinion, this could be another great additions, allowing me to superimpose my own voice to the clip once this has been mixed and prepared by Animoto. An extra-pass to let me comment, sing or narrate the video presentation could really make for the icing on this tasty cake.
Automatic submission to major video sharing sites. I may be completely wrong but this would be another killer feature for Animoto. Either in partnership with one of the existing services providing this ability or via a unique proprietary gateway would give Animoto users interested in leveraging its unique viral marketing potential enormous opportunities.
Editor's Final Comments
I am very excited by the excellent work that the Animoto guys have done in the last 12 months while working outside of news radars reach. This is a small company with a clear vision and some impressive tool ready to use.
This is a beta product and admittedly there are still many rough corners even in the coolest of the tools. I haven't found many and the ones I have pointed to do not certainly hinder the tangible benefits that such a tool can immediately offer. My suggestion is to give a little more time to these guys, as new cool features and upgrades will make Animoto even better than it already is.
As you can see by yourself by looking at the clips I have produced, what Animoto can do is quite impressive and, assuming you had the talent and the tools, it would have required several hours if not days for you to create something similar. At least until yesterday.
Thanks to Animoto, anyone can create NOW a splashy, visually impactful presentation, no matter what is design or visual communication skills level. For travel agencies and independent web publishers alike this is a super promotion and marketing tool that while new, can give you some notable edge in presenting, promoting or simply augmenting your latest content offerings.
Robin, loved your write-up! Perhaps we could use your review as our internal functional specification document here at Animoto?! I think you judged us fairly on the cons but the cool thing is that most of your suggestions are on our product roadmap for the future. Stay tuned!