Think about all that video sitting on your hard drive, all those clips of the kids, the vacations, the graduations, your karaoke parties. Now imagine actually doing something with it.
Enter the Web-based video-editing service Magisto, which today announced its public rollout, along with $5.5 million in a series B funding round led by Horizons Ventures, the private venture firm of Li Ka-shing, the world's 11th richest man.
Li, who has an estimated net worth of $26 billion, is known for making smart early-stage investments in companies like Facebook and Spotify. Magma Venture Partners, an original investor in Magisto, also participated in the second round.
Geared toward amateurs, Magisto is a new breed of free online video-editing systems: it's fully automated, and fast. No deft maneuvers, special training, or expensive software required. Still, the results are slick enough. All users need to do is upload a video to Magisto, choose a title and soundtrack, and then hit edit. In seconds, Magisto analyzes raw, unedited video footage for the best segments and turns all of it -- up to 16 video clips -- into short movies with music and effects (transitions, split-screens, titles, wipes) that can be shared with friends and family over social channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or e-mail.
The "secret sauce" of the Israel-based company is its patent-pending image analysis technology that Magisto says detects the best scenes "buried" inside lengthy, boring, or poor-quality videos. The system is designed to recognize faces -- even the most familiar faces -- as well as landscapes, animals, and movements such as zoom shots or action sequences.
"Everybody is shooting hours and hours of video, but nobody knows what to do with it," said Oren Boiman, Magisto's CEO and co-founder in a company statement. Most nonprofessional video footage goes unedited and unwatched, and inevitably winds up lingering in a folder or hard drive. While in private beta since last year, Magisto saw 20,000 users create over 40,000 videos. Premium features will include HD video, additional editing controls, and the option to download. And early next year, Magisto plans to release a mobile app.
The service also is ready for the coming wave of cloud computing, in which many tasks and files are moved off your local PC and handled on a distant, but easily accessible, server.
"Magisto can operate perfectly well in the cloud," Boiman, the company's CEO and an expert in computer vision, told CNET ahead of the launch. Magisto-created videos are designed to integrate with cloud-storage services like Dropbox and iCloud. For now, Magisto is just hosting video content; in the future, paying subscribers will eventually be able to download their videos from the cloud.
Animoto, MuVee, and WeVideo are related offerings -- albeit with different underlying technologies and go-to-market approaches. MuVee, which has been in the automated video-editing sector since 2001, has over 15 patents, and offers consumers 100 editing styles. The company's first mobile version came out in 2004 on the Symbian operating system.
Five-year-old Animoto, meanwhile, is profitable with 3 million registered users and 100,000 paying subscribers. The company creates original video slideshows from user-generated video clips, photos, and music. Last year, Animoto says it shipped over 24 million automated video-editing apps. In late June the New York-based company closed a $25 million financing round.
With online photo sharing exploding, especially on Facebook, where tens of billions of photos are uploaded annually, it's not too much of a stretch to imagine Web-based video blowing up on the world's busiest social network. And when CEO Mark Zuckerberg says content "sharing" is the new metric -- (30 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook every month) -- and music, TV, film, and publishers are officially hoisting themselves aboard the company's platform this coming Thursday at the company's f8 developer conference, the prospect of the leading social network becoming a top, if not foremost, video destination is almost a no-brainer.