Music video slideshow tool Animoto is venturing into new territory Tuesday night with an upgraded tool that supports video clips. Alongside photos, users can now upload videos up to 200MB in size, including segments that are in high definition. These exist seamlessly beside the photo content, and get the same Animoto treatment with transparency effects, reflections, and other eye candy.
Unlike the way Animoto handles importing photos from third party sites like Flickr, Facebook, and SmugMug, the same cannot be said for videos. If you want it to grab a video you've already uploaded somewhere else you need to track down the source file and re-upload it.
Another caveat--and it's a big one, is that you can only use 5 or 10 seconds of a video at a time, in clip form. This limitation is by design, and serves a few purposes. One is to keep a slideshow from getting muddled down in long clips, while keeping rendering times down on Animoto's side. It also acts as an incentive to upgrade to Animoto's paid service, which bumps the possible clip size from 5 to 10 seconds.
To help make the time limitations a little more feasible, Animoto has a built-in clip editor that lets users choose the 1 to 10 seconds they want to use from an uploaded video. Users just pick the start point, and how long they want it to run, and Animoto's servers do the rest. You can also choose to cut out the sound, as well as duplicate any clip. Doing this several times over lets users string together a series of segments from a larger clip to go beyond the time limitations.
Venturing into the realm of video editing is definitely an interesting move by Animoto. In a chat with me last week, CEO Brad Jefferson insisted that the tool was not headed in a direction that would let users control specific times on how long certain pictures were presented, or tweak things like total clip length--two things that are determined by how many photos (and now videos) users decide to use. "I don't like the idea of moving back to the timeline," Jefferson said. "The music is always going to determine how long (the video) is. We've always been about a really simple paradigm that doesn't get people thinking from a tool level."
That's not to say Jefferson isn't smitten with simpler ways for people to edit their videos before they're uploaded. Especially on the new iPhone, which lets users shoot a video, trim it, then send it in an e-mail, or places like YouTube. For now there isn't a way for users to send those clips to Animoto without first heading to their computers to download the file off the phone, but Jefferson envisions a future update that will take the computer out of the equation entirely.