Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sunday Fun

I spend some time trying to track what fun sorts of new things are emerging that a community with the really big broadband Lafayette will soon have could turn to its advantage. One of the most interesting things to emerge from the new online world is the ability to make things--the web has never been as solely passive medium. Making web pages was only the start. Blogging now seems obvious and you've been able build whole websites online for awhile now. Recently I've been fascinated with the recent "web 2.0" online applications that take that further, making it possible to work collaboratively on word processing, spreadsheets, and "to do" lists--to name merely a few examples--that never exist on any individual's computer.

You have to wonder how far that trend can go...surely, you'd think, there are some things that are just too processor and storage intensive to make doing them online really sensible. Apparently you'd be wrong to think so. The most obvious candidate for being the last bastion of offline creation would be video editing: it requires tons of processing and massive storage. Even so several companies are offering simple online video editing.

Jumpcut, VideoEgg, and EyeSpot all offer free video services--you upload your raw video and then editing, storage, and distribution are all done online. It is changing the way that people make videos. Here's what a New York Times article (since gone behind the pay wall) had to say about that:

The sites make possible new kinds of collaborative editing. A group of parents attending a school play can upload all their video, and then edit a single version of the play that makes use of the best shots. Or a vacationer who returns with a shaky shot of the Grand Canyon can incorporate another person’s river shot into the video — the home-movie equivalent of stock footage.

And later:

Many of the earliest users of the online editing services report two changes in the way they capture and assemble video. First, they tend not to use their camcorders as much, because the tendency with a camcorder is to record long, meandering stretches of birthday parties and parades, which are time-consuming to import to a computer and edit. Instead, they record more impressionistic scenes of a few seconds or a few minutes, using a digital still camera or a cellphone.

Second, even if they have experience using more powerful, PC-based editing software, they find themselves using the online services more often when they are working with the shorter snippets — and trying to assemble them quickly for a grandparent in a distant city.

Jan McLaughlin of North Passaic, N.J., makes three or four short movies a week, often using her Nokia cellphone. She spends only about 5 or 10 minutes, on average, refining her video with Eyespot.

"It's the difference between making a gourmet meal that takes days, or throwing something in the microwave," Ms. McLaughlin said.
If you travel to the sites you'll see that people are pushing into some very different places. The little videos you find there are mostly don't feel like movies at all. "Moving pictures" have pretty much been stuck in the patterns established by the written short story genres--pretty much all video tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end. That takes time and tight planning. You can't tell a good story quickly. The devices of cinema--jump cuts, flashbacks, and multiple story lines were all first devices used to enhance written stories. But these little videos aren't about stories. They are atmospheric. They share a little bit of the way that their creators experienced something. They have a very impressionistic feel. They are something new and hence hard to describe.

Worth thinking about though: collaborative impressionistic short pieces. The seed of a new truly video-oriented model of what to do with moving pictures?

Worth thinking about. My new cell phone takes 15 second videos...hmmn. Anybody have any experience with this. Love to hear about it.

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