The edTech Ninja likes to take pictures of his class when doing fun activities. By the end of the year the Ninja has collected many pictures to share. He keeps them available online using Picasa Web Albums. Some years ago the Ninja wanted to step and give my students a CD with all of the pictures. The next year Ninja decided to create a DVD for each of his students. The DVD would include a video with all the pictures as well as any video projects that the class completed during the school year.

The first couple of years the Ninja painstakingly placed each picture and video in either Final Cut or iMovie, a very time-consuming process during a time of year where there isn’t a whole lot of extra time. A couple of years ago, he wised up and started using a tool that he had used with his students in the past, Animoto.

As a bonus, Animoto has offered a free educator’s account that allows teachers to make longer videos than you can on the typical free account.

Once you have your account setup, I recommend that you get organized before starting. Get all the pictures (JPEG, GIF, TIFF, or PNG format and no larger than 10MB in size) and video clips (mp4, avi, mov, qt, 3gp, m4v, mpg, mpeg, mp4v, h264, wmv, mpg4, movie, m4u, flv, dv, mkv, mjpeg and ogv no more than 200 MB) together in one place on your computer. For pictures, Animoto suggests that you pre-crop your images to a 4:3 or 3:4 (landscape or portrait) aspect ratio, ideally at a resolution of 1280×960 pixels or higher for best results but the ninja has put all kinds of different shaped pics in Animoto and hasn’t had any issues. Animoto also suggests an average, 18-40 items (text, images, video clips) get displayed per minute of video depending on the song’s tempo. For full-length videos, you can choose to have your images displayed at half or double speed. On half‐speed, 12‐20 items will be displayed per minute. On double‐speed, 48‐80 items will be displayed per minute.

Once everything is nice and organized, the hard part is over. You will need to log in to your Animoto account and click the “Create Video” button in the upper right hand side of the webpage.

Next, you will select a style for your video. Ninja is partial to the Animoto Original.

The next screen will start you on uploading all the pictures and videos that you have to Animoto. There are several ways of getting pictures into your video as you can see below…

If your pictures and videos are on your computer, click “Upload.” You will get an Open dialogue box that you allow you to select one or more of your videos or pictures. (Control-Click to select more than one file.) Click “Open.” Don’t worry if you missed some, you can always go back and upload more files. Then allow Animoto to upload those files to your account. Depending on how many files you are uploading, this could take a while. The Ninja would definitely recommend a high-speed connection. This brings you to the area in which you can control the order of your pictures and video. To move a picture or video, simply click and drag that photo to the desired location.

Near the bottom of the page you will see the Animoto tool bar as seen below.


1. To add more pictures or video, click the “Add More” button to go back to the upload interface.

2. To add two lines of text to the video, click “Add Text.”

3. If there is a particular photo that you would like to feature or show longer than other photos, select the photo and then click “spotlight.”

4. If an image is oriented in the wrong direction, you can rotate it by 90 degrees by clicking the “Rotate” button. Keep clicking it until your picture is oriented in the correct direction.

5. If there is an image that you would like to show more than once, you can click on that photo to select the picture and then click “Duplicate”. Animoto will create a copy of the item that you had selected.

6. To delete an item, select it by clicking on it and then click “delete.”

7. The “Shuffle” button frightens the Ninja a bit (and very few things frighten the Ninja). If you are like the Ninja, you have placed each picture and video right where you want them and you don’t want them mixed up. By clicking “Shuffle” button you will randomly mix up all your pictures and videos. Thankfully this button has a confirmation screen that will ask you if that is what you really want to do.

8. Click “Done” when you are satisfied with your configured photos, text and videos. This will move you on to the next step. You can always come back and edit things even after you have clicked “Done.”

A couple of notes about videos:

Remember that Animoto will only feature 10 seconds of your video, you can’t insert any more than that. As a result you will need to choose how long you want your video to play and what portion of the video you want to play. To do that, click on a video in your work area.

On the left, you will get some information about your video.

You can set the length of your clip up to ten seconds or the length of the clip and then you can drag the white bar seen above to choose what portion of the video you want. By default, the audio on your video is muted. If you want the sound on the video to be heard, click the little speaker icon and Animoto will handle all the volume and ducking issues.

On to step two, music.

You can either choose a song from their library or you may upload your own MP3 files. The audio files must be in the MP3 format. Click here to read Animoto’s tutorial on how to make a non-MP3 file into an MP3 file that Animoto can use.

When finished select “Continue.”

Step 3: Customize the video.

Here you can change the speed of the photos in the video, you can choose a Short or Full Length video. You have the opportunity to change the video style. When you have that configured, time to press “Continue.”

On the next screen you can add some information about the video and change the thumbnail. When you think you are ready click “Create Video.”

You’re all done!  Animoto will now create your video. Depending on the length of your video, it might take a while to go through this process. Animoto will e-mail you when your video is done. (Be sure to check your spam if you don’t get the e-mail or just log back into Animoto to see if it is ready.)

When the video is complete, you will be able to watch the vid in a low res file (240p).

1. Click the “Share” button to quickly share your video on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Blogger, Posterous, WordPress, Tumbler, etc. This button will also allow you to e-mail folks about your video or just give you a direct URL to the video.

2.”Embed” will give you the code needed to embed your video on a wiki or blog.

3. To download the video file, click “Download.” You can download a low res version of the video for free. The Ninja recommends that you spend the three buck to upgrade to 480p version to download to burn to your DVD.

4. Use “Export” to send the video to YouTube or SmugMug.

5. Under the Tools menu you can have Animoto remix your video and create a new video or you can delete the video.

6. There are a few quicklinks to put your video on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or e-mail.

That is the essentials of creating a video using Animoto. You can always return the My Videos page to view, delete, rename or create a brand new movie using those pictures. If you have purchased the upgrade for the DVD quality, you will see it directly under the 240p version.


A Few Ninja Tricks Using Animoto:

If you are anything like the Ninja one little three-minute isn’t gonna cut it. Animoto limits your song to 10 minutes and that still isn’t quite enough for the Ninja.  Here are some ideas to skirt around the 1 song/10 minute limit.

Open up Garage Band (Mac) or Audacity (PC) and drop in three or four songs and combine them into one file. Make sure it is no more that 10 minutes long. Save the new file in an MP3 format and upload to Animoto to use.

Still not long enough? Create two movies and then pull those two videos into iMovie (Mac), Windows Movie Maker (PC), or Jaycut (Online) to cut the two videos into one video.

Once you have completed the video you just need to burn it on a DVD and then duplicate it. (Duplicating it can be a pain. Thankfully the Ninja’s church has a DVD duplicator that they let him use to make short work of coping the DVD, otherwise you will have to sit there and do it one by one. Check your resources. If you have lots of time and cash you might try a self publishing outfit like Lulu to make copies but you will have to have the video done WELL in advance of the last day of school and its going to cost you, making 25 DVDs with a Jewel Case is going to set you back $148.75 and I don’t think that included shipping.)

Pedagogically Speaking…

Now creating a video to give out to your class is a very basic use of this tool. What if we turned over the simple but powerful tools to our students? What could they do?

Maybe they could create a pretty rockin’ timeline using pictures found on the internet. Or create a short story told with both pictures and a small amount of text. Perhaps they can demonstrate a step-by-step procedure, show off geometrical shape or their letters. (Check out the examples movies at the bottom of the Animoto Education page.)  Leave your ideas in the comments.