Animoto: instant videomaking but is it art?

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my niece’s wedding. I’d been feeling guilty about the dozens of digital images I had lurking in iPhoto and my tardiness in getting them out there for sharing as I’d promised. Truth is, I was looking for an app that would make putting a slideshow together quick and easy. Yes I have FotoMagico which I enjoy using, and there’s always the option of putting together a slideshow up on Flickr, or posting to my .Mac gallery or, or or … but I knew I didn’t have the time for fiddling with all that Ken Burns effect stuff; slideshows aren’t what they used to be these days … thank goodness.

And then yesterday I read Ewan McIntosh’s update on Animoto, which now allows users to create and download videos created from still images. I recall reading Sue Waters on trialling this app last year. Subsequently there was a little bit of friendly discussion on Sue’s blog about the creative value of this app. Animoto does rely on randomness and technology to process your stuff … but if you choose good images, sort them to create a narrative flow or plot-line and choose a music track that also works on supporting the story … the technology is going to make your work look even better. Nothing wrong with that. The results are pretty darned impressive. ‘Rubbish in, rubbish out’ whatever the format for any art.

Dean Shareski has something to say this morning on this in What is Video? It’s a nice post which lists the various approaches to creating video in an educational context. Personally, I can see Animoto working very nicely as an alternative story-boarding tool, and for learning about tempo-rhythm in visual and audio story-telling. Its portability is a definite plus … more on this below.

Anyhow, I tried out Animotos’s free (to make and share) 30″ limit video-short with 11 images. 20 is the maximum recommended number for the short format. I liked what came back.
So I attempted a more ambitious project to tell the story of a holiday our family had in Mexico last year. I decided on the feel for the video … upbeat, and the ‘story line’ would be as basic as it gets … chronological. Animoto accessed the images from my Flickr account, and I arranged them in the order I wanted. I used Animoto’s spotlight button to give special emphasis to images of people, so that family members rather than places would be the focus. By the way, Animoto can access your images on any number of photo-management sites, or you can upload jpg or gif files from your computer; you do have a 5MB size limit on individual images, and size limits and other recommendations are all clearly laid out on the site.Animoto provides a fairly limited music library for your use, but alternatively you can upload your own, as long as they are in mp3 format and ‘legal.’ I’m very fond of spreading the work of emerging artists by using Creative Commons licensed music. Visuals and audio are integrated during the rendering and editing process, and each video responds ‘intelligently’ to the beat and genre of music. Smoother music provides a slower paced tempo than a more upbeat soundtrack. There’s also a handy slider so you can choose where to begin your audio track in the video. Animoto finally mixed my choices into a polished video slideshow, stylistically not unlike a movie trailer. If you don’t like what comes back, that’s OK too. Animoto ensures that no videos are ever mixed the same. You can keep editing till you find the one you like. Very nice. Think of the remixing possibilities and the potential for a group project.You can have Animoto download your finished full-length video and your video shorts as well with an All-Access Pass … $US30 which allows you an unlimited number of downloads of full-length and shorts for the year. Alternatively you can pay $US3 per video, which can be as long as you like providing you stick to the size limit of 5MB per image. I’ve taken out the unlimited season pass. Seems a snap given the time it is going to save me and the pleasure factor involved in making, and (I hope) watching my creations. My 75 images ended up at just over 2 minutes with a funky bit of Latino music. If you’d like to see it, check out the Vidpod widget in my sidebar.

You can email the site location of your video to your friends, or copy and paste it into Twitter; you can also embed the code into a website. You can also send to your blog; Animoto will send directly to most blog CMSs like Typepad and Blogger. Animoto can also send it directly to MySpace or Facebook and you can download to iTunes … well hello iPod and iPhone! How portable is that.

The Animoto site is well designed, looks great, and has a comprehensive help section. They’re upgrading all the time according to the site blurb. I’ve had fun playing in the toolbox today.


2 responses to “Animoto: instant videomaking but is it art?”

  1. Mathew Avatar

    I think it’s kind of like using a drum kit instead of the real thing. It’s an art in and of itself but it shouldn’t diminish the skill of editing. I say this as someone who spent hours manipulating slide projectors so that transitions from one to the other were perfectly in sync and carefully designed to pan in directions which made sense to the story in film school.

  2. Kate Foy Avatar

    Mathew: Good analogy, and of course you are absolutely correct. I think good artists in all fields maintain a real respect for the craft skills of their form.

    Me, I’d liken it to a digital point and shoot camera compared with a 35mm SLR. Another sign of the digital times I guess , and how exciting for creative types!

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