Video app Magisto wants you to skateboard with dinosaurs

The editing tool partners with the Discovery Communications' Digital Networks to incorporate its footage into home movies.

magisto-dino.jpg
A clip from the Discovery Digital Networks' footage of computer-generated dinosaurs. Screenshot by Donna Tam/CNET

You'll soon be able to skateboard with dinosaurs or lounge around with sloths, thanks to a free video-editing app that uses artificial intelligence to turn home videos into slick, nature-themed clips.

Magisto, a site that offers automated video editing, announced a partnership Thursday that lets users incorporate archived footage from the Discovery Communications' Digital Networks into personal videos. Nature scenes, including closeups of leaves and grass or rolling hills, can be superimposed over users' personal video footage.

In one blending of the video worlds, a skateboarding scene ends up in a music video with a surreal feel. Using the "Wild Nature" theme, the skateboarder surfs through huge blades of grass or does tricks inside the silhouette of a bird.

Future Discovery-branded themes will include footage of sloths and computer-generated dinosaurs. Another possible theme could involve videos of Lil Bub, a dwarf cat that had its own Web series on the network.

"Our mission is to democratize video editing and production," said Reid Genauer, Magisto's chief marketing officer. "The idea of adding professionally shot video in these things is exciting because it gives the user a richer palette to paint with and elevate the entire conversation and the narrative."

While there are several automated video-editing apps on the market, including Animoto and WeVideo, 2-year-old Magisto has built a business off the trove of footage users create on their smartphones. Its partnership with Discovery Digital Networks is an example of the company's lofty plans to get brands' attention by getting personal. The company already does branded videos, but Genauer hopes adding professionally shot footage will open the door to even more opportunities.

Since 2011, Magisto has raised more than $20.5 million from investors like SanDisk, Magma Venture Partners, Qualcomm Ventures, Mail.Ru Group (the Russian Internet company that also invests in companies like Facebook, Groupon, and Zynga), and Horizon Ventures. The private company didn't share its sales numbers, but says it has over 35 million users.

Here's how Magisto works: Users upload their personal videos or photos onto the site. They pick a theme and music to accompany the footage, and then Magisto does its AI magic, arranging the video and images to try to create a video that looks professionally produced. The videos can be shared through social media, email, or within Magisto's network.

Themes are similar to Instagram photo filters and make the videos look more artsy. Currently, there are 12 themes, but Genauer said the goal is to give users access to hundreds. Although the process sounds similar to services like Animoto, which is known for doing yearbook-style movies based on your Facebook profile, Magisto doesn't charge money for its tool.

Several of the themes are attached to brands, which is how Magisto makes money. It often runs contests around a particular company or brand, which is then featured in the video in some form. Examples include a campaign with NBC Sports around the Stanley Cup hockey championship where fans can use the premade Stanley Cup theme for their videos, or Discovery's branded travel theme.

Future themes include ones from Internet retailer Zappos, which will have a "happiness" theme, and All Laundry Detergent, which will focus on summer little league teams.

Genauer hopes that the Discovery partnership is just the first of many. Take the Stanley Cup theme. He wants to take it a step further and envisions having fans splice in footage from a specific game, creating a video of the fan experience.

Jim Louderback, general manager of Discovery Digital Networks, said the Discovery-branded travel theme introduced in January on Magisto has led to the creation of 800,0000 movies. They've been viewed over 5 million times in two months.

If it sounds like advertising, it is. But, Magisto lets brands do it in a way that seems less intrusive than sticking an ad on a screen, Louderback said. "You've got people telling their most intimate stories about their lives, about the travels they've taken," he said. "For us to integrate our brand and ourselves in such an authentic way -- I immediately jumped on it."

Updated 5/26 to correct spelling of Jim Louderback's name and the name of Discover Communications' Digital Networks.


 

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