Home Animoto: Video Kills the Slideshow?

Animoto: Video Kills the Slideshow?

An email arrived yesterday from the guys at Animoto proclaiming that their application, which launches to the public on August 14th, would lead to the “end of slideshows.” Those are rather sensational words, but after taking a look at their app, they might just be right — at least in terms of what’s hot among the social networking set.

Animoto is a web application that renders unique photo montages using impressive motion graphics, effects, and transitions from photos and music that you upload. The software will render something unique on each pass, and the results will be radically different depending on the style of music you choose (i.e., fast paced rock will result in a higher energy, faster video than a slow, trippy electronica song).

The site is built with Ruby on Rails, and uses a liberal dash of AJAX (there aren’t too many full page loads on the site). Animoto also utilizes more than one Amazon web service. Though I wasn’t told which, my guess would be the S3 storage service and the elastic compute cloud service. The site uses Clearspring for their widget hosting.

The key to Animoto is their patent-pending “Cinematic Artificial Intelligence” software, which “thinks like an actual director and editor.” The software analyzes the pictures and music that you input and decides on the proper effects and transitions to match both.

Using Animoto is pretty straight forward. Choose which type of video you’d like to create — 30 second (about 12-15 images) or full length — then upload your images. The image uploader can upload more than one image at once, which is very nice (I used 31 images for my test video embedded below, and uploading each one at a time would have been a time waster).

Once you’ve uploaded your images, you drag and drop them into the order you want them to appear in the finished video, rotate any that need to be rotated, and highlight the ones you want the software to linger over. Then you upload your music or choose from their library (currently about 15 tracks) and render your video. The render process takes about 5-7 minutes, but could take longer depending on load. When you’re video is rendered, Animoto will email you, leaving you free to do other things if the queue for processor time is long. While the video is rendering, Animoto displays a handful of text ads (it doesn’t look like they’re paid ad spots yet, but certainly could be), which appears to be their business model right now.

The finished video product can be emailed or embedded, and Animoto plans to offer ways to download the video to your computer or iPod, or to burn it directly to DVD. You can also remix your projects, either by sending them through the Cinematic AI software again as is and seeing what new result pops out, or by tweaking the order and emphasis of your pictures and changing your music.

I was impressed with the quality of the videos Animoto created. They are more compelling than simple slide shows and I can see how this product could be very popular with social networking users. It is certainly conceivable that Animoto could enjoy the kind of rapid growth that popular MySpace slide show creation apps like Slide and RockYou! have experienced. Animoto could also be useful for jazzing up vacation photos or producing low budget music videos.

It would be great if you could restrict Animoto’s choices to specific effects and transitions, giving the user a little more control over the final output. That said, the software seemed to make pretty good choices on its own. One of the videos I created with Animoto (using photos from stock.xchng) is embedded below:

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