Brian Blum
February 16, 2012, Updated May 19, 2014
Magisto…not just for cats

Over the course of the last 20 years, we have amassed nearly 100 hours of family videos – clips of the kids when they were little, trips, bar mitzvahs, every single school event (hey, remember pre-school graduation!)

True, a lot of this footage is boring, but some brings back nearly forgotten memories of a time when our kids weren’t yet surly teenagers or brave army patriots.

The problem is that all those memories are recorded on three different types of media: VHS, Hi8 and Mini-DV. The latter is digital so I can import it into my Mac, run it through iMovie and cut out all those extraneous shots of feet and the insides of backpacks. But my VHS player broke years ago and someday soon my Hi8 camcorder will be un-repairable too.

So, like many parents I know, I sent all that footage to a service that digitizes it for you, turning it into DVDs and movie files you can stream on your computer or post to YouTube. Sounds great, right? Except that I still have 100 hours of video (taking up half a terabyte of space on my home server). Will I ever find time to watch it all?

Which is why I was intrigued about a new Israeli startup called Magisto, which I wrote about recently for our sister publication, Israel21c. The company lets you upload clips to their site, then Magisto somehow magically chooses the best shots, adds a smattering of special effects (wipes, swirls, split screens), selects music that you post (or you can use their licensed library of pop tunes), and even ducks the soundtrack down when your two-year-old is saying his or her first words.

The result is a two-minute, fast moving, professionally produced video suitable for uploading to YouTube or, even more importantly, attaching to various key milestones along your Facebook Timeline.

There are certain limitations – you can only post a maximum of 16 clips or 600 MB – and all your Magisto-created videos will have a certain similarity to them. I also found that the audio ducking wasn’t perfect and having a robot choose for you gives you lots of close-ups and action shots, but those might not be what you want. Still, Magisto is here to stay: the company has raised over $7 million.

Ultimately, there’s no substitute for editing on your own, but Magisto’s founders say that no one has the time to do that. And they’re right. It took me weeks to properly edit the footage from our family trip last year to Nepal. On the other hand, my 13-year-old son is less exacting with the videos of his friends jumping off walls and has been having a grand time playing with Magisto.

Note: since my article was published on Israel21c, Magisto has launched an iPhone version, which allows you to easily convert the already-digital video you have on your phone into a Magisto movie. With video capture rapidly shifting to smart phones, that sounds like a killer app to me. Oh, and if I didn’t mention it already, Magisto is free.

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