My verdict: I love this tool.
I love it so much, that I wanted to tell you right away, up at the top, so that you know immediately that if you are considering making a video, slideshow-type presentation, you should give Animoto a whirl.
I used Animoto to make a 1st birthday slideshow for my niece Willow. I take a lot of pictures, and it’s gotten even worse since Willow was born. My family jokes that Willow doesn’t recognize me without a camera up to my face. They exaggerate, but it is true that I have a ton of pictures. I also have a number of short videos, both from my camera and from my iPhone. So when I was planning to make this video, I wanted to find a tool that allowed me to use both still photos and videos and would combine them into one fabulous video set to music.
Animoto was definitely the right tool for the job. A few highlights/comments about what I liked and didn’t like, and the various things that I did with Animoto:
- It is possible to make a free video – Animoto lets you create a 30-second slideshow for free. To do so, they recommend using about 12 photos. That length was laughable since I have hundreds if not thousands of photos, so I opted to upgrade. The two upgrade options were an unlimited video creation license for $30, or a one full-length video credit for $3. I opted for the one-time credit since I didn’t have any previous experience with the tool and wanted to try it out before buying a more expensive license.
- Uploading the photos and videos to use was simple. It also was very easy to move the images around so that they appeared in different orders, and removing images was also simple. I liked the way that Animoto displays an estimated length for your overall video based on the number of pictures and clips uploaded. That was helpful as I was trying to get the video down to a doable length.
- You can use up to 7 seconds from any one video clip, and the tool that they have set up for you to be able to choose and preview that clip works really well. If you want to use more than 7 seconds from any video, you can duplicate that video file and pick another clip. I didn’t have to do that, and I found that 7 seconds was really just the right amount of time for any given video clip – any longer and I would probably have been including unnecessary footage most of the time.
- Animoto does give you the option to either include the sound from the video clip, or not. This was actually one of my only issues with the tool because there were a couple of clips that I included where the sound was very important. When you choose to have the sound in your video instead of the background music, Animoto dims the background music (which is very cool) but I wish there was a way that you could boost the sound on your video if it needed it – some of my video clips has sound tracks that were just a little too hard to hear. Others were perfect, though, so I’m sure that it depends on the quality of the video that you’re using.
- I had some trouble uploading some iPhone videos. In particular, I had some videos on my iPhone that were long. I tried to get them to my laptop to upload to Animoto by emailing them to myself, then saving them to my computer and trying to upload them that way. Animoto did fine with the full length iPhone videos, but any of the videos that I emailed that had to be shortened because of length, Animoto didn’t recognize. (Apple must give them some kind of weird file format that wasn’t recognized by Animoto.) I managed to work around this by downloading some kind of app that allowed me to save the files as a recognized video file type. (I think that I might have used FLV Player, but I honestly can’t remember…sorry!)
- The other thing that I want to mention is that there is no obvious “save” button on Animoto. The “done” button serves as the “save” button, though – so click it often! I was scared of the “done” button the first time that I was using the app, I was afraid that I really had to be done to click it, and I ended up losing a bunch of my work once when my laptop crashed. So use “done” as “save” – you’ll be able to go back and edit.
- The music upload was also fairly straightforward. If you have a shorter video, Animoto will shorten your music clip to match the length of your video. If you have more photos/videos than the length of your music, Animoto will shorten your video to match the music. This was a problem for me. I wanted my video to be as long as it needed to be to fit all my pictures and videos, so I ended up having to come up with music that was almost 10 minutes long. There are no songs that are that long that worked for a 1st birthday soundtrack, so I ended up having to splice together three songs so that they were one music file. I would have loved if it Animoto did that for me, but I used a tool MP3 Cutter Joiner that worked perfectly.
- Once those steps are done, you basically finalize the video and send it to Animoto to work its magic. My video was almost 10 minutes (which is the max length that they allow, by the way) so it took some time for my video to get mixed together and finalized, so if you are doing something last-minute, keep that in mind.
- Once the video was done, I was able to watch it and go back and make edits to anything that I wanted. I liked this a lot – I ended up making 8 different versions by the end, trying to get all the music and transitions just perfect. Not everyone is that insane, but I liked the option to be able to continue to remix until it turned out just right.
- In the middle of the process, I discovered the Animoto iPhoto app, which allows you to make videos on your phone (totally easy, I tried it) and you can watch the videos on the iPhone with the app, too.
- Once my video was complete, I had the option to buy a full length video, which I did (it was around $21) – it came in the mail in about 4 days. I also have the files so that I can burn DVDs on my computer – once I figure out how to burn a DVD with an ISO file so that it plays on my TV (anyone have any tips???)
- Finally, I was able to embed the video on a Website very easily – just the same way that I would embed a YouTube video. It was a piece of cake.
I can’t say enough about this tool – it’s awesome. And if you want to see the finished product, send me an email and I’ll send you the link.
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