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Social Media Quests for Its Next Holy Grail: a 'Video Instagram.' But What Might It Mean for Filmmakers?

11.23.12 @ 11:30AM Tags : , , , ,

Instagram has proven to be a social media force to be reckoned with, and none of the major players already entrenched (or looking to break into) that world are treating it lightly. In fact, several are attempting to reinterpret its model in some fashion or another for a more video-based type of platform. There are already a few startups offering Instagram-type creation and integrated sharing, though it’s unclear what staying power or growth any of them will have in the long run. If one does start growing roots, an ‘Instagram for video’ could become another prime facet of the increasingly cross-pollinated social media ecosystem. But what, if anything, does this all mean for we who deal in pretty moving pictures as our profession?

The Next Web has pointed out a number of video-agram-type apps to keep an eye on, and it doesn’t seem like anyone is all that interested in discussing or thinking of the matter without the analogy to Instagram — including companies designing the apps themselves. Now, regardless of your personal take on Instagram itself, as The Verge points out, Instagram struck gold (and continues to sit on it) due to its winning three-way combination of elegance (intuitiveness, simplicity, directness, whatever you’d like to call it), user-empowering artistic filters, and the enthusiastic community using and spreading the app and their work. Is Instagram an engine for creating and proliferating works of art, or bi-products of a novelty? The ubiquitous filters may certainly be seen as a gimmick, but I hesitate to totally discount Instagram photos as artistically destitute. The way I see it, it’s a bit of both art and novelty — maybe think of it as a new brand of hyperactive pop art, with the ‘pop’ now really putting the population back into the ‘popular.’ And if the Instagram community appreciates the works within it, who are we to condemn them?

On the other hand, of course, our bread and butter — the moving type of image — is dear to us, and may be an area in which to tread more softly. To be successful though, these apps won’t be thinking of the things we find ourselves often concerned with. Gradational, spatial, and temporal resolution are effectively non-issues in this hybridization, or at least thought of in a completely different light. Strangely, I found myself left with sort of a strange, maybe acrid sort of taste in my mouth by the straight-video efforts of community/apps like Viddy. Perhaps stranger yet, I was far more intrigued by the models that took a middleground stance on motion — particularly Cinemagram and the even newer Lightt. Maybe its unfair to judge a whole service based on its content when these are all still fairly young, but still, the “living stills” approach seems to have more legs to me. That’s a Cinemagram you see there at right — and yes, it’s literally just a looping GIF. Super basic, but kind of cool despite (or because of) that very fact — and when tied in to an app-based community directly, things like GIFs are not something to be ignored.

Lightt, on the other hand, may just be the candidate to strike the balance between novelty value (again, something not easily discounted) and a moving-pictures sampling and sharing network. Commenters on The Verge’s excellent coverage of this topic pointed out that ‘Instagram for Video’ already exists — and that it’s this thing called YouTube. The way I see it, however, is that things like Cinemagram and now Lightt can provide (and furthermore, promise) what YouTube may not — it’s virtually impossible for you to lose interest in a single piece of media. After all, each one occupies such a microcosmic time scale that even if you don’t care for a ‘cine’ or a Lightt ‘highlight,’ who cares? It’s not like you’ve wasted all that much of your life watching it. This is conceivably true of Viddy as well, but these other two apps eschew the rest of the considerations of actual video, not just attention-span and bandwidth — and that smells more of potential viral popularity than a mini-YouTube social-app, in my eyes (or, nose, I guess) at least.

Especially if internet and mobile consumers can eventually come to a unanimous decision (if ever or at all) on which videogram-style option takes hold, it’s important to note that it will affect us, at least in some ways. Here’s a hypothetical situation, admittedly a bit hyperbolic: the closer to video these things get (with success), the less time potential viewers will be spending viewing videos, and the more time they’ll be spending browsing slideshow montages. Think of the everyperson on the morning subway commute. Which is easier, less intensive, and more convenient to preoccupy yourself with — pro content on YouTube, say, or super-quick friend-uploaded highlights?

My goodness, even Cinemagram’s only official YouTube upload is so quick you might sneeze twice and miss it:

An ‘Instagram for video’ can never replace what we do as filmmakers, nor would it ever truly threaten filmmaking outright — I don’t think anyone’s going nearly as far as saying these things. Nor can applying a pre-designed filter displace the careful planning, execution, and post corrections we may be performing. Amateur video is what it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s illegitimate content or considered unworthy of viewing by the average consumer. As such, we are often fighting for attention span and ‘how much I care’ bandwidth. I think it’s important to stay abreast of these motion-visual apps to know what we may be competing with — if not in comparability, then in general viewer interest. I haven’t gone into half the app-specific detail here that I could have, so if you want to know more specifics check out the article from The Verge below.

How do you guys feel about each of these ideas? Are they all in good fun and spirit, putting low-res short-impact creative power into everyone’s hands (literally)? Or do you feel that they are a waste of even a smartphone’s camera to create, and a waste of precious time to indulge in?

Link: Is the Hunt for the ‘Instagram of Video’ a Wild Goose Chase? — The Verge


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 25 COMMENTS

  • did I just arrive on the strange side of the internet? these animated gifs are nice for a second or two, but after the fifth one it get`s very boring, this cinemagram thing is even worse, feels like a video in fast forward mode…why not take the short route and air just video noise? sorry, it`s not directed at you, dave, but I`m heavily wondering how this stuff can exist at all and it is heading…

    • Ben Howling on 11.23.12 @ 3:17PM

      the internet is full of animated GIFs. it’s only a natural progression that the technology to create them be handed over to the masses in an easy to use fashion.

      personally, i find well done cinemagrams to be stunning. try this, and it might change the way you feel about where this stuff could go:

      the day that low power, hi-def, e-paper like screens exist as a cheap commodity will be the day that my, and many other people’s, walls will be covered in animated photos like the walls of Hogwarts.

      • Cinemagraphs should be good for some types of advertising. Web advertising and Point-of-Purchase are two that come to mind. When I first saw them, about a year ago, I was impressed.

        Cinemagraph poster, at a mall, would be usefull to entice people to go the the cineplex to view your film.

    • the folks that created the particular kind of animated GIF that became known as a cinemagraph used it in a way i think is actually indicative of a the potential. these apps don’t seem to capture that at all. they’re just GIFS mostly. which is fine, just not cinemagraphs. and i don’t think a proper cinemagraph encroaches into filmmaking at all. its purpose is entirely different (save the basic to all media which is to tell a story).

  • The problem with Viddy is the HUGE amount of garbage that masquerades as content. I couldn’t remove it fast enough from my iphone when I tried it out. Viddy content when I checked it out, was just a huge waste of my time.

  • People tha think that they are creative will scoff-at-it, and people who are actually creative will find a way to us it to promote themselves, and make money. Same as it ever was!!

  • More crappy “vintage” filters, this time in motion? lol

  • While a gradually shortening attention span is something to worry about, the YouTube generation hasn’t eaten into the huge profits of terrific flicks like Skyfall and Lincoln. On that same thought, I don’t think filtered GIFs like the one in the article will endanger what we do on the net.

  • There is an app called Viddy… 15 second videos.

  • I don’t think this hurts filmmaking. I think it actually adds to it. I was just writing a post on my blog about using the Ipad to shoot BHS footage when I saw this article. BHS footage is almost essential to low budget film promotion (and certainly big budget as well). So, I think an app like Lightt can really help with film promotion. Imagine being able to shoot decent video and quickly edit/grade it for upload to youtube to document the making of the film. Its easy, quick, and anyone can do it, even your other crew & cast!

    • Dave Kendricken on 11.28.12 @ 4:19AM

      Loved the post Peter, and thanks for the mention! I think promoted Lightt ‘highlights’ or the like from high profile users or productions could definitely be a viral marketing strategy of the future.

  • If a Feature Film is a Novella and a Short Film is a Short Story. This is the Haiku of Cinema. And that isn’t a bad thing.

  • Don’t we have a video instagram, isn’t it called Youtube?

  • I am a big fan of social media for teaching, learning & promotion.

    What if we/you as film makers actually produced the content for others for this media?

    We could earn money, control the creative & build a rep too?

    This medium is not going away; it’s new; we have the tools/knowledge & ability to use it to our own advantage.

    I see this as a whole new outlet for our desire to create & show our work.