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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Online video editing in the NY Times

I've got a piece in today's NY Times on the rise of online editing services, like Jumpcut, Eyespot, Videoegg and Grouper, which allow you to do rudimentary edits on video clips that you upload to the Web. (Grouper actually has you do the editing on your computer, and then upload the finished product to the Web.) One site to watch in this category, which hasn't yet officially launched, is Motionbox. (A bit more about that site here.) From today's Times piece:

    While sites like YouTube and Veoh have lately become popular for allowing users to share their self-produced videos, Jumpcut is part of a new class of sites that also offer simple tools for stringing together video clips and then adding soundtracks, titles, transitions and unusual visual effects.

    All of the sites...have been introduced within the last year. This summer, they will be joined by another site, Motionbox, based in New York.

    Their shared objective, the founders of the sites say, is to reduce the complexity of video editing and to reduce the cost to zero.

    "We wanted to make video editing over the Internet faster than desktop editing," said Jim Kaskade, co-founder and chief executive of Eyespot, based in San Diego. "We think it will broaden the base of people who are creative, but may not have thought they were, by creating this tool kit for them. Editing video is eventually going to be as simple as sending e-mail."

In the piece, I quote Steven Cohen, a movie editor who was one of the first to use the Avid non-linear editing system on a feature film ("Lost in Yonkers," in 1993). He's one of the tech leaders in the editing field, and he had some other thoughts about these online editing systems, which I wanted to post here:

    Jumpcut seems much slicker as an editor, probably because it's based on Flash, but screen redraws were quite buggy in Firefox Mac and you sometimes saw a blank screen or a screen with lots of stuff missing. Eyespot didn't seem as buggy, but you have to open every clip in it's own window and thus seemed much more awkward to use.

    My feeling is that one of these, or something like them, will probably catch on at least in a limited way. For me, the lack of responsiveness is a real problem, but with faster connections it will eventually improve. What makes it appealing is that it gets rid of the problem of storage, and for that reason it seems very freeing. Let somebody else worry about where all this stuff is and how to back it up! But how much storage can they be offering? It's hard to believe that it would be enough. I can't really imagine uploading hours of DV material. Too slow, and the quality I saw sure wasn't DV. So for now it's for videos made with still cameras or phones or grabbed from YouTube.

    The ramifications are good and bad for us professionals. It raises awareness of what we do, which is important, but it also attracts people to the field, which increases competition. In both these ways it's no different than FCP or iMovie. Just a step further in the democratization of motion media.

    There will probably be stylistic ramifications, too. In the same way that music videos and home videos influenced the style of films, probably these ubiquitous internet videos are going to change our tastes. Already I find a lot of network video seems dull, canned and lacking in originality and spontaneity, probably because most of the stuff I watch is homemade and available on the net.

    I guess, bottom line, online editing seems inevitable. But as a tool, not all that flexible or powerful.


  • I think online video editing probably won't get very far long term - it is SUCH an inefficient way to get things done. MUCH better would be to spend the time making a cheap application for desktop based editing (and there are zillions already) and a good compression and uploading program to make it easier to post something. Pushing source video, perhaps the largest of all possible files, across the internet, and waiting for a response from a server for remote editing is just a poor use of time, resources, bandwidth, etc.

    The success of Google Video, YouTube and all their brethren (and how come and all those aren't getting media attention anymore? What made YouTube so successful anyway?) is drawing new players into the market trying something different. But this particular play is just foolish - as an editor, if someone suggested I edit my footage over the Internet remotely I'd say that's one of the dumbest things I've heard of. I expect these companies and services to go away if they stick to a straight "edit your footage over the Internet" approach. Easier compression and posting? THAT'S an opportunity.

    As for the threat to the editor community - I don't think so - these tools are only valid for extremely short form work, and while the content of YouTube and Google Video MIGHT influence tastes, online editing apps won't play a significant part in that. These guys are a me-too attempt that has no legs.

    At least that's my $0.02 worth.

    -mike from

    By Blogger Mike Curtis, at 3:48 PM  

  • Mike has a point, and I don't think offline video editing tools are going away.

    He misses another point though, which is that there is an opportunity here which is easy collage pieces or mash-ups that draw from the pool of content that a community puts online.

    That gives everyone the ability to act as editors and aggregators, and as the volume of clips continues to increase, those roles become more important to creating paths for visitors to find quality material. It also creates an opportunity for people who don't film things to get involved in the video sharing world.

    That said, I agree with Mike in thinking that these are not a threat to offline editing in the near future. Frankly, I'm surprised that the CEO of eyespot is positioning them that way, and that Steven Cohen seemed to be reviewing things in that context as well.

    To me there look to be two pretty distinct activities, and the overlap is limited. The lines will shift over time, but I think we'll see
    * Most offline editors staying there.
    * Some casual editors moving from iMovie to online editing or a hybrid of techniques.
    * The creation of a new group of editors, mostly coming from people who currently film short clips and upload without editing at all (take a sample of youtube and look at what percent have even the simplest of cuts -- it's pretty small).

    My .02

    By Blogger Jeko, at 6:19 PM  

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