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On My Radar: Animoto = Future 1st Non-Human Member Of The MPEG?

In one of my random internet browsing moments, I stumbled onto a nifty video site called Animoto. Better late than never, right?

Here is a summary of the site’s product description:

Animoto made its public release in 2007. It is a web application that, with the click of a button, produces videos using images and music that a user selects. Utilizing patent-pending Cinematic Artificial Intelligence, Animoto videos have the emotional impact of a movie trailer and the visual energy of a music video.

Wired did an interview with the Animoto team at last year’s SXSW Interactive, where Jason Hsiao, the company’s president, asked “Why are we still doing slide shows? That’s so 1972.”

Animoto attempts to take all of the difficulty out of creating complex videos made of images. The website doesn’t work like YouTube – you can’t search for videos. Like Brightcove, it serves primarily as a hosting service meant to seed out content to other sites.

The user simply uploads some photos, enters a few lines of text, selects a song and then waits about five minutes.

Check out my masterpiece!

I made this 30-second video for free – anything longer requires you to purchase credits. In the free version, you are limited to 12 images and one title card. A downer is that the title card can only hold two lines of text.

Animoto also offers a one year, all-access pass for $30, or an a la carte option for $3 per video. There is a ‘professional’ package that costs $249 a year, offering free DVD quality downloads commercially licensed music and other features. Their business model appears to rely primarily on a more expensive vertical for professional photographers, providing them with complex tools to create captivating reels for their websites.

If you’re a small business owner in a time crunch who doesn’t have editing skills or the budget to hire a professional, Animoto is a turnkey option with pleasing results. And remember – search engines love videos!

Here is an example of a promo video made for a website (I can’t access the embed code). Bobbit Angeles, the creator of this video and owner of apparently didn’t have time to cut his own promo video and decided to leave the delicate task of assembling his edit to A.I.

Animoto is definitely leveraging its viral factor by making itself available as an app on Facebook and the iphone/touch. Snag photos you’ve already taken, and within minutes create something more sophisticated than a confetti speckled RockYou! slideshow to share with your friends. Proud parents are getting in on the animoto action too.

There are educational possibilities as well – I could see schools paying for an annual membership. Students could create stimulating videos to represent their book reports or research.

The biggest selling point to editing n00bs beyond its easy functionality is the option to export directly to YouTube. MySpace Angle-istas, famewhores and budding documentary filmmakers alike should appreciate this feature.

The obvious downside is that you are limited to photos, but it’s worth noting that a hybrid process of Animoto with your own editing skills could be useful:

Quickly create the image effects you want with Animoto, then download that version (that part isn’t free). Import the file into your editing program and cut in your video. Pop in a few transitions and you got yourself a slick looking vid, in probably half the time!

I’m curious to see what the next level is for automated video editing. Should some MPEG professionals be worried?

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