Producing Professional Videos on the Cheap with Animoto

In the past, I’ve paid video editors thousands to produce mood or “sizzle” reels—short video collages often shown at the start of a pitch.

But lately we have been producing high quality videos in mere hours and for just a few bucks using an online service called

Animoto is a simple web-based DIY video editor that does one thing, and does it very well. It has limitations, but as long as you understand what it can and cannot do, it is a brilliant and incredibly efficient solution for creating a professional sizzle or mood reel.

Note: Do not confuse the brand name “Animoto” with the term “animatic.” An “animatic” is a video storyboard that edits together still images or drawings to give a sense of what a final produced video will look like.

Start in PowerPoint

Yup. At Edelman, when we create Animotos, we actually begin by using PowerPoint as a storyboarding tool. We place full screen images (or indications of desired images) onto individual PowerPoint slides. Then we create the narrative as a series of brief text statements that are either placed on companion images or as title cards on their own slides in between imagery. (Animoto does have a native text tool, but it is too limited.)

Once we’ve sequenced the story and visuals, viewing the storyboard in slideshow mode gives a good sense of the overall flow of the video to come.

Produce the Video

After the PowerPoint storyboard is tweaked and approved, we save out the entire PowerPoint file as a series of JPEGs and log into our account From here it only gets easier…

  1. Select an animation style from one of the dozens of options
  2. Upload your series of JPEGs (you can also sequence in short video clips too)
  3. Select royalty-free music from Animoto’s library or upload an MP3 of your own (think about legal issues if this is for a client…)
  4. Hit the “Produce Video” and grab a cup of coffee

When you’re back at your desk with your coffee, Animoto will have produced a fully edited video montage of your images, timed to your music. You can now select a resolution and download the video file.

If you made a mistake or need to swap in a new image, just go back to your project at any time, make the edit and “Produce Video” again. You can also adjust the speed of your video, although I wish this control was more robust than it is.


A basic account is free, but limited. To avoid length and download restrictions as well as the Animoto logo appearing at the end of your video, upgrade to a Plus or Pro account. The Pro account is just $39/month which is a pretty good bargain for what you get.

Best Practices & Limitations

Animoto is a one-trick pony, and as long as you accept what it can and cannot do, it is a great tool. If you need very specific video or audio edits and extensive control over timing, Animoto is not the right tool. But if you are okay with a video sequence of individual images and text set to a single song—give it a shot. Here are a few tips:

  • Try to keep your video to around 60 seconds; any longer and things start to feel repetitive
  • Keep your text statements short—viewers only have a second or two to read them
  • Use high res dynamic imagery
  • Choose music carefully as it is critical for conveying appropriate mood
  • Experiment with the different animation styles offered by Animoto—each one will result in different timings and moods
  • Keep it simple; trying to get fancy with Animoto will only frustrate you!

Advanced Use

Okay, while we always recommend keeping Animoto projects simple, here are a few things we have done to expand its use:

  • Record audio narration separately and layer on top of Animoto footage in iMove or Final Cut
  • Combine multiple Animotos that use different animation schemes in iMovie or Final Cut to create a more varied video 
  • Control speed of Animoto in iMovie or Final Cut and re-export
  • Edit multiple music tracks together in a sound program into a single audio file, and then upload to Animoto for a more varied result

To get a sense of the type of videos that can be produced with Animoto, take a look at the samples on their website and try it out for free.

Categories: Pitching, Video.

3 thoughts on “Producing Professional Videos on the Cheap with Animoto

  1. Rick Altman

    I too have enjoyed using Animoto, but I have become forever addicted to ProShow Producer from Photodex and its dizzying array of features and controls. While I have to work harder to post my videos than Animoto users, few computer-based activities bring me more enjoyment. Making videos is just plain fun…

  2. Pingback: Adding Animoto to your internal comms mix

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