Valentine's Day is this coming Monday. I tend to forget such things or put them off to the last minute, which makes sites like Animoto pretty great to have around.
Basically, Animoto takes your photos and video clips, edits them together with some music--theirs or yours--and produces a finished video for sharing. A recent site redesign makes the process easier and shortens your "time to video."
I detailed the ins and outs of the site in the slideshow below, but it's really pretty straightforward. Animoto lets you create movies up to 30 seconds long at a resolution of 240p or 360p, depending on the movie style you pick. That's free and can be posted to sharing sites or e-mailed as a link. This, according to my wife, would save me Monday morning had I forgotten a card or to actually utter the words, "Happy Valentine's Day." (Not a gift mind you; she was pretty clear this was a poor gift choice.)
This is mainly because the finished product looks like it took a lot of effort and foresight. And because it can pull photos and videos from sharing sites like Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa; you don't even have to have access to a home computer.
If you want to download movies in MPEG-4 format, you'll need a paid account. That's a minimum of $5 a month, but it also allows for longer movies and can be canceled at any time. Also offered are upgrades to 480p (DVD-quality in .ISO or .MP4 formats) or 720p HD-quality files; however, these will cost you $3 and $6, respectively, for each video.
If you've used Animoto in the past and maybe walked away from it because the rendering took too long, this would be a good time to go back. We did a quick test between the old and new sites building a 30-second movie. The new site rendered the video in less than a minute. The old site took more than 10 minutes. The process for building a movie has been streamlined, too. Again, you can check that out in the slideshow below.