April 26, 2018

Promo Tool: Making Videos with Lumen5

Close up on a button for video with text: Creating Easy Video Content

I had a different post planned today, but I’ll get to it next week. Instead, I’m going to share my distraction with you. *grin*

I occasionally get emails for deals from AppSumo. AppSumo is one of those “dangerous” sites that lets you know about special discounts on business (and business-related) tools, and too many times, the deals are hard to pass up. However, I’ve gotten several really good deals through them: the Pro version of the Layers theme I use here at my site, DepositPhotos bundles, etc.

One “secret” deal that’s going on now is for Lumen5, a super-easy video creator. I wasn’t really looking for a video creator tool, but the AppSumo deal is for a free Pro-level account for a year.

Free, huh? Okay, fine.

Yesterday I got the deal and started playing with it. Hmm, it’s supposed to make it easy to create videos from blog posts or other writing in just a few minutes. It includes your watermark and free image, video, and music files too?

Needless to say, “playing around with it” turned into a several hour distraction. *smile* Let me share what I discovered about Lumen5 and how we might use it for promotion.

(Disclaimer: I swear this isn’t an advertisement. I’m just sharing my giddiness at finding a new, fun tool, and the deal—which upgrades a normal free account to the Pro version for a year—is free. *grin*)

What Is Lumen5?

If we’ve spent time on social media, we’ve likely seen plenty of quick—one minute or less—videos in our feed. We might have even heard advice to add more videos to our blog or social media updates to increase shares and engagement.


— Socialbakers —


— Twitter —


— Syndacast —

Here’s an example (made with an Enterprise version of Lumen5) that many of us probably saw for Amazon Go’s register-less stores:


But it’s usually a lot of work to piece together a budget-friendly video—figuring out a plan, creating text, choosing available images or video clips, finding free-for-the-taking background music, and then getting all those elements to work together at the right pace. That’s time most of us don’t have.

Lumen5 wants to make video creation easy and fast—within minutes—by letting non-technical users focus on the story they want to tell in the video and letting artificial intelligence handle all the other details.

What Makes Lumen5 Easy and Fast?

It’s that aspect of artificial intelligence that speeds things up. That, and a fair amount of not letting perfectionists like me tweak every aspect. *snicker*

Video content helps engagement, but how can we make it easy? Click To TweetThe idea is that we input (through a link or copy and paste) text to use and click on the sentences with ideas we want in each slide. After that, the artificial intelligence takes over and guesses at the background visuals (still images, video clips, or icon graphics) to use behind the words for each slide.

The artificial intelligence also takes care of the timing (how long to display each slide), as well as visual transitions between slides and text animation. None of that is tweakable, but most wouldn’t care—especially for a quickie video meant for social media.

What Does the Artificial Intelligence Do?

Lumen5 explains:

“Once the storyboard has been compiled, we use Computer Vision technology to match each scene with relevant photos, videos, and graphics…

The duration of each scene is algorithmically determined based on the number of words in the scene, text positioning is intelligently placed to avoid covering important subjects such as human faces, important keywords are automatically emphasized and highlighted with your brand color, and a credit scene is generated at the end of each video to help you stay compliant with copyright laws.”

How Good Is the Artificial Intelligence?

Is it perfect? No.

Of the two videos I created yesterday, one—based on a blog post—came up with great suggestions (I’m not sure I changed a single image), but the other—based on one of my books for a book-trailer-ish video—needed every graphic swapped out. For some reason, it thought my short story about a shapeshifting gryphon needed images of fish? *snicker*

I’d guess the included images and videos are mostly business related, settings like city or nature, or still-life Instagram-style displays. In other words, some topics will generate better suggestions than others.

However, as I mentioned above, while the timing, transitions, and animations aren’t tweakable, the graphics are. We can search the built-in graphics library for keywords or upload our own visuals.

How Easy Is the Creation Process?

Step #1: Create Storyboard

From the inputted text, select sentences to create a slide for each idea we want to focus on. Once selected, we can change the text, highlight different words, choose a different text size, and select different placement on the slide.

(Click on the images if the animated gifs aren’t working. Newsletter readers will have to click through the post to see all the videos and images.)

GIF of choosing sentences for video slides

Step #2: Decide on Visuals and Background Audio

Use what Lumen5 suggests, search for keywords from the built-in library, or upload our own visuals…

GIF of searching different keywords in media library

…and swap graphics if necessary.

GIF of dragging and dropping images to slides

So far, the artificial intelligence doesn’t seem to select background music. But we can search by mood from the included music library.

Step 3: Customize Our Branding Elements

We can give our videos a consistent look by adding a watermark, changing our highlight colors, picking a different typeface, uploading a logo, and including a call-to-action.

GIF of changing colors for video style

What’s My Verdict?

As I said above, I tested the application with two videos—one non-fiction from a blog article and one fiction for my short story, Unintended Guardian.

The video for one of my recent posts was fast and easy, and the process worked as it was supposed to. The system started me off with the blog post title and its guess at an appropriate graphic.

I then chose a few more sentences for the points I wanted to make and edited the text for better clarity and brevity. Each image the A.I. chose for those slides was “close enough” for a quickie video.

Choose music, add branding elements, and boom. Done. This video took about 15 minutes to make, and much of that was learning the tool.

The other video—the one based on my freebie short story—was a different matter. None of the guesstimate images were even close, inserting a bunch of ugly fish photos. (Maybe it thought my shapeshifting gryphon character was a deformed mermaid?)

Searching for appropriate images to swap out took a little more effort, especially as I wanted a rhythm of video, still photo, video, etc. for every other slide. I suppose I could create perfect images and then upload them, but that was defeating my purpose of showing what could be done fast and easy.

I also put a touch more effort into the text size and placement of words. Even so, I only spent about 30-45 minutes on this video, as Lumen5 still pieces everything together without any work on my part.

(Update: A day after this post, I spent another few minutes creating a custom call-to-action slide (the graphic below) with the 3D Promo Tool I found last year.)

If we have a blog, getting this tool—especially for free—is definitely worth it. Supposedly, once we have an account connected to our blog, the tool will automatically create a draft video for every blog post we publish. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Update about “Instant Videos”

Here are two more videos I created based on the automatic drafts the system created from my blog feed. The first one is from a post last week, and the second one is for this post. Each took about 20 minutes to tweak a few graphics and style details.

Final Thoughts

If we don’t have non-fiction work to promote, I’m not sure how this tool compares to other free options for creating book trailer videos. This certainly could work—especially if we’re not perfectionist about making tweaks (or if we want to restrain our perfectionist tendencies)—but other tools might be better options.

Either way, this tool is stupid-easy to use. Everything is keyword based and drag and drop. But that stupid-easy comes with a price in limited features, such as not even being able to “undo” a mistake, etc. For videos where we just want fast and easy without worrying too much about details, this tool can’t be beat.

Check out more about Lumen5 at their online tour, which also shares several name-brand examples of videos, such as McDonalds, Nike, Tesla, etc. And then try to contain yourself before getting distracted all day. *grin*

P.S. If you miss the AppSumo deal, you can still use the tool for free. It just won’t have all the Pro-level features from the deal.

Have you seen branded videos on social media? Do they catch your attention more than just text or still images? Have you tried creating your own videos (and if so, how did they work)? Do you have ideas for how to use videos for promotion? Do you have favorite video tools?

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Comments — What do you think?

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Bran Ayres
Bran Ayres

Welp, I’m totally getting this. I think it would be a great tool for my blog.

Elizabeth Randolph

BIG WARNING! If you have limited bandwidth, this will eat it up. I can’t believe it. I made a video for my book and started illustrating a short story. My satellite internet service went from 90% to 11%. Good thing I checked. OMG! I have to be very careful for 3 weeks

This was as fun as can be and easy too. Maybe someone knows an offline way to do this.

Kate Rauner

Thanks for the promocode! One thing I quickly learned – “Pro” does not include “premium” content. I tried Lumen on a post I had previously writen and, I must say, the AI is an idiot. I think I replaced every single “frame.” But this is fun! And I could see it eating my days. Easy, fun, but not fast in my big experiment of making one video. Maybe, to use the AI feature, I’ll need to write for Lumen5. Now, if I can just drag myself away from Lumen 😀

Kerry Gans

As a professional video editor with a *wee* bit of a perfectionist streak, the idea of an AI picking the pictures and the length of time each is up made my eyelid twitch. I would definitely be a “from scratch” girl! But is sounds like a good option for a lot of people. Thanks for sharing!


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