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