Earlier this year, the award winning online video creation service, Animoto, launched its enhanced version of its service for photographers. It updated its system to include a new rendering engine that allowed for the creation of 720p HD videos and 10x faster rendering. It had also redesigned its website for much smoother video creation and distribution.
The render engine moved from CPU (central processing unit) to GPU (graphics processing unit) which now employs the same type of graphics processing capablilities that is used in motion pictures and gaming. With the focus on photography taking off last year with the introduction of eight new video styles, this year has continued to add to that expansion.
At its heart, Animoto is a video slideshow creation service that allows photographers, businesses, and consumers to make professional quality videos from their photos and video clips. At the base, is the Cinematic Artificial Intelligence technology that is programmed to think and act like a director and editor using many of the same skills that are used in television and film production.
How Does Animoto Work?
Animoto is actually pretty simple to work with. There are four different account types – Lite, Plus, Pro, and Reseller. I am working with the Pro account which gives you everything for both personal as well business promotion. For more information on what features each type of account contains, check out the Animoto Plans and Pricing page.
Once you are all signed up, you choose the files that you want to use to create your video. In my case, I had just returned from the American Eventing Championships (an equestrian national championship) near Atlanta Georgia where I was the photographer for a participating barn during the 4 day event. I took about 2000 shots during the time period and wanted to put together short videos covering the event for the barn. The one at the end of this review this was the second day of the event.
I went through my photos for that day and selected around 50 shots that I wanted to use. I processed them as I normally would and then I then exported them out as .JPG files with the long edge at 1280 since this is the recommended length for 720p resolution and I wanted the final to be playable on my Blu-ray player and HD TV.
Once I had the shots saved to my hard drive I then logged into the Animoto site and selected the “Create Video” button. The first thing that you choose is the video style. This is what will determine the look and feel of your video. Depending on the subscription type, will determine how many and what kind that you have – there are some specifically for HD. I chose one called Dusk Retreat which is HD from the pro package.
This took me to a screen that had a number of options. The first one was to upload photographs and video from the computer- while I did not have any video of the weekend, it is an option that you can use as well. You can also retrieve from Facebook, from another website, or add some images or video’s from Animoto as well.
Once you upload your source files, you have the option to arrange them for sequencing. You also have the ability to add a frame with text, spotlight a frame – which means that it will be held longer in the video, you can rotate an image, duplicate an image, delete, or shuffle the images.
Once you have your images in order, then you choose the music you want to use. Here you can use one of the licensed songs that are provided by Animoto, or you can upload your own music. The music is arranged in many different categories that include romantic, instrumental, top 40, indie rock, jazz, religious, children’s, holiday, and much, much more. One thing to keep in mind is that the speed of the video will be determined based on the tempo of the music.
Once you have chosen your music, now is the time to finalize the project. This has additional options such as image pacing of ½ speed, normal, and 2x speed. You can create a short video of 30 seconds, or full length of up to 10 minutes. Here you can change your video style and with the pro account you can hide the Animoto logo (you will see it at the end of the video provided here). You then give the video a title, description, producer name, and with the Pro version you can add an end-of-video button that takes you to a URL.
After all that you press the Create Video button and Animoto does the rest. It will run through processing, composing, and producing your video. The time this takes varies based on the complexity of the video and the number of images that are needed to be processed. The initial rendering is in a lower resolution output – usually 360p, but can be upgraded to higher definition based on your subscription plan. After that you can download the video, uploaded it to Facebook, YouTube, or other sites.
Overall, I found Animoto very easy to use and get around in. There were times where, depending on the length of the song, images were left off at the end or the song ended early because of the length of the song, so that is one of the areas that you will have to play with to get things just right.
They have a way that you can start the song at a particular spot – this is handy when you have a longer song than what you need and the intro is 30 seconds of instrumental where you can reduce that lead in. What would be nice to also have is a way to tag a photo to a time point in a song where you can say I want image 15 in the sequence to start at a specific time – say 1:20 seconds into the song, and the system pace itself through the first 14 so that you could queue multiple images to points in a song. In the video below, I had to align the sequence at around 1:16 to hit the song by hand – which means that it can be done, but could be easier.
When it comes down to it, Animoto does a really great job of allowing you to put together professional quality videos. With what I worked with, I feel I have only touched the surface of what can be done with this service. The quality of video is incredibly good and it is very easy to use. Because of this, I can very highly recommend Animoto.