Animoto: Create videos without a video camera

Many arts organizations have experimented with using “trailers” to promote upcoming performances or exhibitions. But what if you don’t have the time, equipment, or expertise to film and edit a video?  What if all you have are photos? Enter Animoto, a free tool that lets you quickly create short videos using a combination of photos, text, and/or video clips of up to five seconds in length.  You can choose background music from Animoto’s library or upload your own.

To try it out, I created this 30-second promotion for Misnomer Dance Theater's performance back at our 2008 conference.   It took about 20 minutes, including the time I spent actually finding the photos on our Flickr account.

The process is a pretty straightforward drag-and-drop design. You can add text and choose particular images to “spotlight” with extra screen time. Once your elements are arranged, one click mixes them together into a flashy 30-second video.

Other than changing the order of your elements, though, you don’t have a lot of control over the final product. Because Animoto automatically mixes the elements together for you, there’s no opportunity to fine-tune individual transitions. This is great if you’re looking for something quick and easy, but it can be a real downside for the more detail-oriented user.

Throughout the process, there is a strong push to upgrade your account, which can get a little annoying. If you’re with a 501(c)3 organization, you can request a free Pro account (normally $250/year), which allows you to make full-length, high resolution videos that are downloadable. The Pro account also includes a commercial-use license.

What have you created with Animoto? Do you have other favorite video tools?