I stumbled onto this one when looking for something I could use to add a little something to the visual nature of my company’s website. Animoto is a start-up that heralds from New York City and aims to turn your photos (and video clips) into a beautiful animated slide-show complete with music. Many people have already started using this service to add a special touch to websites they create for their clients, and I dare say you could make use of it in a similar way as well.
Indeed, you might be wondering why would a client be interested in purchasing one of these videos? Well, to put it simply, some of them look phenomenal. They can be incredibly effective if you do a good job with the photo and music selection. Many of these videos can also tug at the heart-strings. In fact, one non-profit organisation, Let’s Adopt, has had amazing success thanks to a short video they put together. Just take a look at the video below, but keep in mind that it contains images that some may find disturbing (it’s muted by default, hit the speaker icon to unmute).
How does it work?
Animoto is really quite easy to use. First go the Animoto website and create an account. Once you’ve created an account, activated it and logged in, hit the big blue “Create Video” button in the top right hand corner. A large list of different styles will load. These styles basically determine how your images, video clips and text slides will be displayed. You can preview them by clicking the little preview link below each style.
As with many features on Animoto, some of the styles are limited to “Pro” accounts, while others are available to all. For the purpose of this article, I selected a style called “Simplicity”. Now that we have selected a style, the next few steps are simply a matter of selecting or uploading relevant photos, video clips, and music and arranging your slideshow.
Uploading images and editing the slideshow
The slideshow editor in Animoto is quite amazing in some ways, and a bit limited in others. One really great feature is that you can tell it to retrieve images from your Facebook account or a website address rather than uploading photos or video clips directly. Some people might balk at giving a company access to their Facebook account, so do keep in mind that you don’t have to use this feature, it’s just there to make things a little easier. You can, of course, upload whichever photos you wish to use directly into their system. You also have access to their stock catalogue, which has some great images from various different categories. As I’m creating a short video to go along with this article, I chose to use a few images and video clips from their stock collection.
If you wish to add text to your slideshow, you simply click the little “T” button down the bottom and type the text in on the right hand panel. Keep in mind that the top row of text will correspond to a much larger font, whereas the text in the lower bar corresponds to a sub-heading. Sometimes the main heading will show first, and then the subheading will fade in. The behaviour of the text is ultimately dependent on the style you selected in the first step.
As far as selecting the order of items within your slideshow, it really couldn’t be easier. You just click and drag images, video clips or text slides around to change the order.
In regards to video clips, unfortunately you cannot embed full-length clips, but actually need to select “highlights” from these clips. As with everything in Animoto, this is rather straightforward. It’s a matter of clicking on the video clip, which will load it in the right hand panel. Then you just need to select the length of the highlight and drag the little slider bar to select which segment of the clip you wish to use.
There are, of course, some other drawbacks with the slideshow editor. What I found the most annoying was that you could not edit the length of time a given slide was to be displayed. You also have no choice as to the transition used to display an image. It’s basically all preset by the style that you choose when first creating the video. Oh, and one other thing – you cannot use transparent gif or png files in the slideshow. This is especially problematic if you are trying to do anything with logos. With the video I created for my own website, I wanted to have the logo slide in on top of another image, which was simply not possible.
Your options in this section depend on whether or not you have a pay or free account with Animoto. If you do pay, then you will have access to their rather extensive collection of music, with appropriate licensing to use in your videos. If not, you can always upload a music track of your own to use with the slideshow. As far as their selection – it’s pretty comprehensive with a wide variety of genres to choose from. For the video I made, I just selected something random from the Jazz genre.
Now you simply select the playback speed of your video (1/2 speed, normal or 2x speed), type in a name and description, and hit “Finalize Video”. Animoto then sets off to do its thing and sends you an email a few minutes later with a link to the completed video. If you want to watch what I created with less than a minute’s work, then take a look below:
Animoto’s good fun and can create some marvellous little videos from your happy snaps. To get the most out of this service, you’ll need to pay at least a small amount per month, although there is a free offering that limits you to 30-second videos (but you can’t use their licensed music selection, or download the video, or publish it in high quality). The cheapest plan is $5/month and it goes all the way up to $499 per year, if you want the ability to resell their videos to your own clients.
If you end up creating any videos, please share them with all of us below.