Editor’s note: Today’s Skinny is from Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat.

SILICON VALLEY – Video search engines fail most of the time because they rely upon people to tag keywords of things that appear in the video. But VideoSurf is unveiling today a better way to search through videos. It is launching a beta search engine at theTechCrunch50 event in San Francisco.

The San Mateo, Calif.,-based company is using computer vision technology to literally see into the content of videos and discern how to categorize the video.

The search engine can recognize faces and group videos of celebrities and other people much more deftly than normal engines can. It displays a series of thumbnail frames from various scene transitions in the video to show the user exactly what is contained in the video. These video summaries tell the user at a glance whether he or she really wants to watch the video. You can also pick a particular thumbnail frame to navigate to the part of the video that is the most relevant to you.

Lior Delgo, chief executive and co-founder, said today’s search engines are too blind and can’t get past problems such as video spam, which are disguised to look like interesting videos. VideoSurf also has deals in place to aggregate video from sites such as YouTube, Comedy Central, ESPN and Hulu.com.

The software is smart enough to segment a video into different parts based on changes in the scenery. And it’s smart enough to recognize people and their associations. If you type in “stand-up comedy,” you get a video of George Carlin. The software grabs the most relevant video and ranks it first by looking at the air time and frequency of appearance of the subject of the search. It also returns videos with similar visuals.

With a better index for videos, VideoSurf.com hopes to become a portal for all web video. As it does so, it will compete with Invision.com, which debuted this week at the DEMOfall 08 show in San Diego. Delgo was previously the founder of FareChase, a travel search engine that Yahoo bought in 2004.

The secret sauce comes from VideoSurf’s chief scientist, Achi Brandt, who invented a mathematical formulas dubbed “multi-grid fast computation.” VideoSurf uses those algorithms to compute huge amounts of data in milliseconds. Eitan Sharon, chief technology officer, is an expert in computer vision.

The computation is done in the company’s servers, Delgo said. The company processes tens of billions of visual moments. The company has 22 employees and was founded in 2006. It raised $5.5 million in a round that included former Vice President Al Gore, CurrentTV chief executive Joel Hyatt, and others.