Reviewing Animato for Real Estate and Mozilla Ubiquity, two of the latest tech tools for real estate professionals.

By Petra Jones

Putting together a professional looking property video can be time-consuming. Even when you’ve mastered the practical skills of taking wobble-free video, panning and zooming, there’s still the problem of editing and combining video clips with images, adding commentary and publishing the finished video presentation in an accessible format on the web. This is where Animoto comes in – a video creation platform that aims to reduce the time it takes to produce a professional video from hours to minutes. Animoto ( uses an intuitive step-by-step wizard approach to creating videos with Cinematic Artificial Intelligence technology to help with things like post-production.

Established in August 2007 as a video creation tool for a general audience, Animoto quickly gained two million fans on Facebook and 300,000 users of Animoto’s App for the iPhone. But in September this year, Animoto for Real Estate was introduced along with the news that online real estate brokerage Redfin ( will equip their agents nationwide with Animoto for Real Estate accounts.

Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman says, “Our research shows that a prospective home buyer will look at the photos of a house nearly 20 times over in the 24 hours before making an offer. Internet consumers spend one-third the time touring properties than their traditional counterparts once did. So the challenge for listing agents all comes down to creating an online experience with high emotional impact. The way Animoto couples music, motion, text and photography creates a far more powerful medium for selling a home, with higher conversion rates than photos alone.”

While video tours or podcasts of listed properties are nothing new, the idea of being able to produce them faster without the need for specialist editing knowledge sounds attractive. Launched in San Francisco at the 2009 Inman Real Estate Connect conference, Animoto supports a wide range of video formats including MP4, avi, mov, flv, mpeg and mpg. Videos up to 200MB in size can be uploaded and there are editing facilities to add or delete images in an existing video, rearrange images, or change the soundtrack. A blue “Video Toolbox” button underneath the completed video provides email options and enables the video to be published on other websites like Facebook or a blog.

You can try Animoto for free by registering to create 30-second clips. The Pro version is based on a $249 (US) annual subscription service and is free from Animoto’s branding with scope for unlimited full-length video creation and access to pre-licensed music from Animoto’s library of 300 songs. A three-month trial of the pro version is available for $99 (US).


Ubiquity allows you to map the property locations and email the map within your message to clients using email.

Ubiquity allows you to map the property locations and email the map within your message to clients using email.

Another new innovation worth considering is Mozilla Lab’s free tool Ubiquity. We all spend vast amounts of time surfing the Internet doing repetitive tasks like searching Google and checking today’s weather report for a viewing, or emailing a map of a property location to a client. Each time the problem is the same – we have to go to a website and wait for it to load before we can search, map a location or do the simplest of tasks. This is where Mozilla Ubiquity comes in. It’s a plugin for the Firefox browser that allows us to type shortcut commands.

Let’s say you’re interested in the local weather forecast. You simply call up Ubiquity by pressing the ctrl key and space bar together on your keyboard then type weather. Ubiquity is intelligent enough to analyse your IP address, work out where your office is based and display the weather forecast for the local area.

Ubiquity can also provide other shortcuts to save you valuable time. Typing map followed by a zip code instantly provides you with a Google map of a property location that can then be emailed straight to a client using a Google Gmail account. This is an important step forward as the map itself is included in an email rather than a link. It also means you can view maps from any webpage without having to wait for Google maps to load in a separate tab or window. While Ubiquity is limited at the moment to Gmail, there are signs Mozilla will extend this functionality to other kinds of email accounts in the future.

Besides weather and mapping features, Ubiquity lets you search all the big search engines from Bing and Google to Yahoo without having to type them into your address bar and wait for them to load. Ubiquity will let you search and preview the results simply by typing the name of the search engine – for example, Google followed by your keywords. While these shortcuts might only save you five or six seconds each time you hunt for information, over the course of a year they represent significant savings in time.

Best of all, you can create your own custom search commands. If there’s a website you regularly search, you can create your own command to search that website remotely without ever having to type in its URL address and wait for it to load again. Go to the website you regularly search, then press ctrl and spacebar to call up Ubiquity and type “create search command”. Click outside Ubiquity then click in that website’s search box using your mouse, give your new command a name and you’re done.

With shortcuts available for many other daily tasks, it’s worth installing Ubiquity in your Firefox browser or considering changing your browsing habits by trying out Firefox. The Ubiquity plugin can be obtained by visiting and clicking on “Get it now”. Ubiquity includes features for publishing status updates on professional social network accounts like Twitter and Facebook, plus useful dictionaries, Wikipedia searches and translators, which can be used simply by highlighting a word or paragraph. With plans for Ubiquity ultimately to be able to cope with mapping entire property listings automatically, it’s worth keeping an eye on this new plugin tool.

Posted: 2009-12-28 08:09:27

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