Animoto Edits Your Crappy “Lost” Tribute Videos So You Don’t Have To


“Welcome to the end of slideshows,” declares the subtitle on Animoto‘s press kit. The site, which launched last August and just got some funding from Amazon, allows users to upload photos, choose audio from Animoto’s library or their own computer, throw these elements into a slick virtual crock pot, and come up with an automatically produced “music video” that’s more like a fancy slide show. The concept is very similar to what we know all too well as tribute videos–except there’s even less skill and artistry required, as there is no actual editing involved at all. As the resident expert in both tribute videos and stupid Internet shit, I took it upon myself to test out the service and see what it could do with some of the odds and ends in my Photobucket account and an English New Wave classic.

“Kate’s Tribute to Rad Stuff”

I couldn’t pick just one subject, so I culled some of the best images floating around my various Internet depositories and decided that the common thread was that all the pictures were rad. The song has nothing to do with any of the images, but is also very rad, and thus the perfect soundtrack.

The Good: Little to no serious effort involved on my part aside from a few Google image searches and grouping the pictures into one album on Photobucket (and deciding what was rad enough, of course). It’s not a half-bad looking video, either. I especially enjoy the part where the poster for Almodóvar’s ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!! and the picture of the Oklahoma noodling champion with giant catfish are side-by-side. It really captures the spirit of tribute video incongruity quite well.

The Bad: You can produce as many 30-second clips as you want for free, but Animoto has the gall to charge you $3 for a full-length video. I hate to admit this, but I went ahead and paid the charge (for the sake of making my rad tribute as rad as possible), and it’s still not technically full-length, clocking in at just 1:14. Last time I checked, “Save It For Later” was 3:36. This is nothing short of a gyp and a travesty, and I hope Animoto realizes that they will never be truly popular until they provide free full-length videos, as is befitting the web 2.0 way of life. What decade do they think they’re operating in anyway?

All in all, despite its flaws, it’s not a bad idea for a service. At the very least it should spice up countless high school graduation assemblies that have been plagued by PowerPoint for over 10 years now. Its artistic merit, however, is far more dubious. I for one certainly hope that this program, or ones like it, do not begin to replace actual editing by the tribute video community, which is perpetually teetering on the edge of artistic bankruptcy. It’s just that it’s so often the extremely good or extremely bad editing that truly defines a tribute video, and if people are tempted by the almost absurd simplicity of these programs we may soon see the decline of a community that may be the Incas of the Internet world.

The one last thing that bothers me about Animoto–and I shudder to even bring this up–is that it could be an early signpost for the ultimate demise of truly creative and artistically valid music videos. The form is already so beleaguered by its banishment from television that it’s vulnerable to such programs, which make montage editing a non-skill. Why bother dropping money on a professionally produced video when you can just take some pictures of a band and shake-and-bake them with the single until golden brown and ready for YouTube upload?

Obviously, that’s somewhat of an exaggeration. But only somewhat.