Animoto, the startup that lets you automatically build custom music videos starring your own media, just got even more awesome. Tonight the site is launching support for video, which means you’ll be able to generate customized music videos featuring your home movies, along with photos and music, with almost no effort required. We first previewed the new feature last month, and now the company is opening it to everyone.
The results are impressive, with videos that sport professional transitions that match whatever backing music you’ve chosen. For proof, check out the video below showing off a typical day at the TechCrunch office — it looks great, but it only took around five minutes of work.
Video editing can get tricky fast, but Animoto makes it easy by retaining the same kind of simple interface that’s made the site such a breeze to use with images. Here’s how it works: you upload the images and videos that you’d like to include in your movie, and the site displays a grid of thumbnails that you can drag and drop to determine the order they’ll be displayed in the final cut. You can select which portion of each video clip you’d like to include (up to ten seconds per clip) using an intuitive slider interface on the right hand side of the screen. You can also add text during this portion of the process, and choose if you’d like the audio of your video files to be muted or played over your movie’s background music. Choose a song from the site’s library, or upload one of your own, and you’re done. The entire process only takes a couple of minutes from start to finish, though it can take a bit longer if you decide to do a lot of tweaking. You can watch a video showing the process from start to finish below.
Once you’ve finished the layout of the video, Animoto processes it, using technology like beat detection to match your image and video content to the music that’s playing in the background. The rendering process takes around five minutes for every 30 seconds of content that has to be rendered, so this can take a little while depending how long your video is, but it’s hardly unreasonable.
The new feature is great, but there are a few things that might frustrate new users at first, like the limit of ten seconds (five for the free version) that can be shown from an individual clip before Animoto inserts a transition — you can include as many clips as you want, but they have to be short. CEO Brad Jefferson says that Animoto does this because TV broadcasts rarely include more than ten seconds of uncut footage unless they’re of an interview, so the limitation helps ensure that the videos retain a professional feel. That may be true, but I won’t be surprised if some people grow frustrated about it anyway. There is a roundabout way to include longer chunks of footage that involves duplicating one clip and placing it side by side with the original, but the process isn’t very intuitive.
Animoto is making the new feature available for free to new users, but only for videos a maximum of 30 seconds in length. If you want to make anything longer (and you will), you can pay $3 for a full-length music video, which can be up to 10 minutes long, or become a member for $30 per year, which lets you make as many videos as you want. If you’d like to get a high-res version of one of your videos it will cost $5 for a download, or you can pay $20 to get it shipped on a DVD. Note that all of these prices are consistent with what Animoto offered for its image-based videos — there’s no additional charge for video-enabled movies.
Aside from the new video feature, Animoto has been doing very well. We recently learned that the company has been cash-flow positive since late last year and just raised a $4.4 million funding round. Jefferson also hints we will be seeing some of these features make it to the company’s iPhone app, though he declined to share any details.