Animoto: what the experts are saying

Trey Ratcliff writes the top travel photography Blog on the Internet. He is the first photographer to have an HDR (High dynamic range) image displayed in the Smithsonian, and has been featured on many television networks.

Ratcliff has worked with both the basic and Pro versions of Animoto and reviewed it on his Blog. He listed the following benefits and downfalls of the tool:

Benefits of Animoto

  • Easy to use and fairly idiot-proof
  • Make something that looks professional even if you are a rookie, hack, miscreant, or all three
  • The video is online immediately and very easy for you to embed into your website, blog, and the like
  • Looking to deliver an “added feature” to your clients, this is something that is easy and has an amazing “wow” factor

Reasons Not to Use Animoto

  • Do you already have a Mac and iPhoto + iMovie?  If so, you can create very similar effects with these programs…  However, these are a little harder to use and don’t have some of the “themes” that Animoto offers
  • You only have a few photos or very little “source” material.  Animoto can’t help you with that
  • Cost – if you are on a super-tight budget, then the “free” parts of Animoto might not have enough power for you

Ratcliff goes on to say that importing photos from online photo sharing sites like Flickr can be problematic, as it does not work well with too many photos in a library. He also refered to some confusion regarding resolution of photos to upload when using the pro version of Animoto.

Overall, Ratcliff seems to appreciate the tool, saying, “I’ll keep making more and more videos with this…because it is fun!” (2010), although he had some suggestions to make it even more user-friendly. It appears as though some of these improvements, such as more theme selections, and direct exporting to YouTube, may already have been made since Ratcliff’s assessment in 2010.

I tend to agree with Ratcliff’s observations that Anomoto is an easy, fun way to create a simple video using one’s photos. I found the basic, free version provided all that I needed, and all that my students will likely need to display their photos and short pieces of writing.

Read more on Radcliff’s Blog, and watch a video he made with his beautiful photos, using Animoto Pro.

Reference

Ratcliff, T. (2010, Jan. 3). Animoto review [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.stuckincustoms.com/animoto-review/

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Aside

Domo Animoto!!

I love Animoto!

The first time I tried the tool, I appreciated the ease with which one could select, upload and add photos to create a short video, complete with background music chosen from the site. I was using the free version of Animoto, which is fine for creating 30-second long videos such as I just described.

A colleague suggested I try out the educational version, so I signed up, and within minutes I was on my way to using a much more comprehensive version of the tool.

First, I was prompted to choose a style for my video. This determines the background and scenes that will accompany the video, and sets the tone for the piece. One can select from 28 styles such as “Cosmic tidings” and “Coming up roses”, which will play between footage, and behind the photos, videos and text that the user adds. Each theme lends a different feel to the video, and one can preview them before selecting. I chose “Watercolor seashore”, as it was fitting for the subject I wanted to share.

Unlike the free version I had previously tried, I was able to browse and upload short videos as well as photos. The program is very user-friendly, and selecting and uploading photos from computer folders is fast and simple. I was able to select multiple files for upload at once, and could easily delete selections or change the order once the footage was inserted into the project. I did discover, however, that video clips are time-restrained, so the program will cut each clip off after a certain lenth of time.

After my photos and videos were added, I was prompted to choose from hundreds of available songs, categorized thematically. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of music Animoto offered. The program provides a wide variety of styles and themes within 14 genres of music, such as “Romantic”, “Hip-hop” and “Halloween”, and the quality is very good! And on top of that, although there really is something for everyone, the site even provides the user with the option of importing his own mp3 music if I preferred.

Lastly, I could add text to the video, again moving it around to place it where I wanted it to appear. The font and colours are decided by the style chosen for the video. Headers and text are limited to 22 and 30 characters respectively. This is more than sufficient for a photo-story or video project, but might make some educational applications, such as a writing project, more challenging. That said, I don’t believe the number of text boxes is limited, so one could still add considerable text if desired.

I really appreciated that one is not tied to an order when creating videos. For example, one can select music first if preferred, even though it is technically the third step in the process. Furthermore, one is always able to go back and change any element at any point in the production. Even after the video has been rendered and published, the project is still available for editing and updating.

My video took a few minutes to produce, and I received an email with a link to the finished product. Animoto also provides for direct exportation and uploading to YouTube, which makes sharing even easier.

And, best of all, I was able to sign up 50 students and / or staff on my account, meaning that they will all be able to benefit from the added features of the educational version of Animoto.

I can’t wait to use this in class with my students. It might not be possible to exploit this as a project tool this term, but I will definitely share it with my technologie class, and am excited to use it with my creative writing students in term 2!

I leave you with this, my first real Animoto video, which touches on a subject very close to my heart!