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.com.
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 onAnimoto.com. From here it only gets easier…
- Select an animation style from one of the dozens of options
- Upload your series of JPEGs (you can also sequence in short video clips too)
- 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…)
- 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 Animoto.com 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!
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.