December 14, 2009

A Review of

UPDATE: Sorry we had a bad link in the original post – fixed

We’ve all made a slide show. Most photo applications come with some sort of slide show maker. There are also dozens of third-party slide show programs.

Animoto takes these ideas to the next level, using Cinematic Artificial Intelligence to create cloud-based slide shows that you can download, distribute and even sell.

I reviewed this product more than a year ago.

My main criticism of the product when I first reviewed it was that there were too few songs/music genres to choose from and the mandatory Animoto branding that was applied to every video made it impossible for pros to sell the videos.

Animoto responded to both lines of criticism in a positive way. They added more music and more genres – more on that in a minute. And they removed the branding for pro accounts. I applaud both moves.

The process of making the videos remains pretty simple. Upload your images, select some music, publish. But there are a few details you should know. If you plan to publish your slideshow for a client at DVD quality, you’ll need to size your photos before you upload them to the following specs…

At least 1024 x 768 pixels @ 122PPI.

I uploaded some images and made my first Animoto Pro video which you can see for yourself.

Animoto works best with images that are 4:3 or 3:4 ratio. The site accepts JPG and GIF files (no TIFs). In my test video I didn’t always take time to resize images to the appropriate ratios so some of the images were cropped in a way I didn’t like. So if you want to use Animoto to make serious videos that you plan to sell to your clients, make sure to take time to appropriately size your photos.

You can add text, highlight certain images, and add music, either yours or Animoto’s music. Animoto took about six minutes to mix my images and music and came up with what I thought was a pretty good result. If you don’t like the result, Animoto will remix the video for you giving you a slightly different look each time.

You have three speeds you can choose from to make your videos; slow, normal and double speed. I had trouble with the music syncing when I tried slow. The normal and fast worked best for me. The length of the video can be impacted by the music you select.

The quality of the videos is first-rate. It may not be your cup of tea but it’s still very good.

The company still needs to improve it’s music selection, adding both more genres and titles. They have made great strides here but still have some work to do. You do have the ability to upload your own music which is a very good thing.

You can get a free basic account which limits you to 30-second long videos. An “all-access pass” is $30 a year and lets you make full length videos. You can download DVD-quality videos for $5 each with this plan.

The professional plan is $249 per year and gives you everything you need including a new feature – a call to action button that invites the viewer to click the video to go to the next step, such as visiting a blog or website.

This already good product got better and much more valuable for the professional photographer with the advent of more music and the loss of the logo at the end of the slide shows. I would think that most working pros could easily make back the $249 buy-in fee for the year on just one or two slide show sales to clients.

Highly recommended.