Animoto, with Boost from Amazon GPUs, Goes High-Definition

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wedding photographers, who typically resell the videos to their own clients, and realtors, hotel managers, and wineries, who use them for marketing, Jefferson says.

But Animoto still cares about average consumers, so it’s busy converting more styles to HD and creating better mobile apps—“This year we’re going to be investing very heavily in mobile, but making sure there are ways to monetize it,” Jefferson says. If Apple allows iOS developers to include an in-app subscription option in future apps, that could make Animoto’s iPhone app more profitable, as it would allow free users to upgrade to one of the premium plans, he says. An iPad app may also be in the works, but that depends in part on whether Apple’s anticipated iPad 2 includes both front and rear cameras, which would enable users to both shoot and assemble HD videos on the same large-screen device.

To handle all this work, Jefferson says the company plans to roughly double its staff this year, from 40 to 80, with about 30 engineers and marketers eventually working from San Francisco (as he always has) and the rest in New York.

Ultimately, Jefferson says Animoto is about helping users make snazzy, shareable videos without having to learn their way around complex desktop software like Apple’s iMovie or Microsoft’s Windows Movie Maker. Part of the startup’s advantage over potential rivals is a patent-pending “Cinematic Artificial Intelligence” engine that makes editing decisions based on the characteristics of a musical track—beat, tempo, energy, rhythm, and climactic elements—as well as attributes of the user’s images. “This whole process is part of our secret sauce to emulate what real Hollywood directors and editors do,” Jefferson says.

But while the visual effects may be handled by sophisticated algorithms, users themselves still have to capture the images, decide what order they should appear in, and choose a soundtrack. “It’s about creation, but creation as a means to an end,” says Jefferson. “What you’re really trying to do is share with your friends and family. When you sit down to iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, there is anxiety, because it’s work that has to be done. Animoto wants to relieve that creative anxiety altogether.” And provide a high-definition way to share precious memories.

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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