The Tool – Animoto

Andy Powell introduced me to Animoto, after he produced a video clip for UKOLN’s “Exploiting the Potential of Blogs and Social Networks” workshop. Shortly afterwards he wrote a blog post about the Web-based tool for easily creating multimedia video clips by simply uploading photographs and letting the software do the donkey work.

Andy had previously commented (in the context of providing a live video streaming for the workshop) that his aim was “to demonstrate the possibilities for video-streaming live meetings using cheap or free equipment and services.

The Experiment

Andy’s interest reflects mine which, in brief, are to explore:

  • Free or low-costs solutions for organisations with limited budgets or technical expertise (this is particularly relevant to many public libraries, museums and archives, which are an important part of the communities UKOLN serves).
  • The appeal of successful Web 2.0 services.
  • How the successes of such services can be applied to in-house development work.
  • Whether such services can be used in a service environment.

Animoto, “a web application that automatically generates professionally produced videos using patent-pending Cinematic Artificial Intelligence technology and high-end motion design“, was therefore worthy of investigation, as 30-second video clips can be created for free and just $30 per year for an “All access unlimited pass”.

Animotro video clip for IWMW 2007My initial experiment was to produce a video clip entitled “Memories Of IWMW 2007“, making use of photographs of UKOLN’s IWMW 2007 event (on Flickr with the ‘iwmw2007’ tag) held at the University of York in July 2007. Upload the photographs, select the backing music and publish. Simple!

My next experiment, based on Andy’s idea for the video preview of the Blogs workshop, was to make use of images contained in the speakers slides. Slightly more time-consuming, but nothing too difficult.

The third experiment was to create a video clip using some of the key slides prepared by the plenary speakers. The JPEG images were created by saving the slides as images from within PowerPoint.

And my final experiment was to take the key slides from my Introduction talk, and turn them into a 30 sector video clip.

As one might expect, the Animoto video clips can be embedded in Web pages, as illustrated.
Embedded Animoto video clips

What’s The Point?

The more cynical reader – or perhaps the reader who has actually viewed the video clips and listened to the cheesy background music – might be asking what the fuss is about! After all, ever since Microsoft released PowerPoint 1.0 it has been possible to easily create visual presentations, and the accompanying clip arts, clip music and wizards have often led to cliched presentations.

This is very true and, if Animoto takes off, I would expect such cheesy presentations to me the norm in the early days. However good presentations can be created using tools such as PowerPoint, Open Presents, etc, if you have the appropriate expertise and knowledge. And this takes experimentation.

So I’d encourage experimentation and the sharing of failures and successes. Two ideas which spring to mind:

  • Video clips summarising the highlights of an event such as IWMW 2007, using photos from Flickr, the presentations and perhaps music created by the participants.
  • Using the 30 second video clip to reduce a presentation to its bare essentials, for the ‘elevator pitch’. After all Michael Nolan on the Edge Hill University blog recently mentioned Pecha Kucha: “20 slides; 20 seconds per slide. You don’t have time to bore the audience.” Rather than wasting 6 minutes 40 seconds of your life, why not save over 6 minutes?

If such experimentation reveals that there’s nothing to be gained from such approaches, at least we’ve saved time being wasted in software development. Although it may be that limitations we encounter may be addressed in the commercial version of the service (perhaps $30 per year might be worth the investment) or in new services which may be released in the future (the interface implies that a number of new features are due to be released).