October 29, 2013

Automatic videos: Do you care?

Google today unveiled a new “Auto Awesome” feature that’ll stitch together video montages with zero effort from you. It’s said to work like this.

By coincidence, Magisto got another $13 million in funding today to do essentially the same things, and they claim to have 13 million users. Plenty of others (Ptch from Dreamworks, Qwiki from Yahoo, etc.) are playing in similar territory. 

My question: If this stuff is so great (and free), why don’t we see anyone creating & sharing it? (Or do we and I’m just old/blind?)

You can read studies—not that you need to—that list the top reasons people say they don’t share videos: Watching it takes too long, it looks bad (shaky, poorly colored), and it sounds bad. Unsurprisingly, services like Google’s go after these problems: Automate everything (no creation time commitment), chop it into short segments (lower viewer time commitment), slap on some color looks, blow away the recorded audio, and apply stabilization.

Are the results something you value? What would you care about more? (I know what I want, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.)


Posted by John Nack at 4:09 PM on October 29, 2013


  • Eric Peltier — 5:29 PM on October 29, 2013

    I have to agree with you, who cares?
    I think this idea of treating videos like pictures is off,
    It’s one thing to shoot videos for fun but when it comes to creating something people care about and sharing it to the world, I don’t think an automated app can do the trick.

  • Trevor Dennis — 3:38 AM on October 30, 2013

    DPReview has just mentioned a University of Texas research project that shows that learning photography has a very healthy effect on the mind. At the same time the above organisations are doing their best to dumb down photographers and videographers to the lowest common denominator. What is so tragic is that these automatic features don’t just nullify the apparent benefits of being creative with a camera, they also take a lot of the joy out of it by making it too easy.

    Actually, I have just considered tools like Warp Stabalizer in PremPro and After Effects, and perhaps I’ll go with the auto-fixer-upper features after all.

  • dcfreelancelot — 6:14 AM on October 30, 2013

    It’s understandable if Adobe wants to have a web-based “easy button” for editing video if for nothing else than just to compete with Google, etc., but whatever you do, PLEASE don’t dumb down your existing tools to the lowest common denominator for the sake of enthusiasts. Easy can be fun, but lazy is uninspiring.

  • Bryan — 8:01 AM on October 30, 2013

    As a person who just spent literally days putting together a video from a bunch of GoPro footage… Hours sifting through hours of footage trying to find highlights, hours crying because most of the footage I got was too shaky, hours playing with the Warp Stabilizer filter trying to get the right combination of settings that made things look right (the default settings and Youtube’s stabilize features just didn’t look right and often compromised the field of view), hours deciding on how I wanted to color correct, and then almost an entire day rendering (Warp Stabilizer + Synthesize Edges takes forever) and uploading… In the end I was disappointed with the result. I knew it could be much better. I can see how people are frustrated with making videos.

    There is so much more effort involved than just posting a picture to Facebook and Instagram. Orders of magnitude. And you’ll likely get better feedback from posting a picture because it also takes almost no effort or time investment from the person viewing it. They can look at a picture in their feed, hit the like button within 5 seconds, and be on their way. I got positive feedback while the viewer was waiting in line at Starbucks.

    Video is so much more demanding of the viewers time, their internet bandwidth, their attention… And on top of that, there are factors that can get in the way of the viewer’s enjoyment of the video. The video I made doesn’t fare well at lower bandwidth or on a smaller screen (all the detail gets lost). It benefits slightly from the soundtrack that the person in line at Starbucks probably doesn’t want to listen to.

    Technology has broken down a ton of barriers and allowed for ever more convenient and detailed information capture and transport, but I feel no matter how great video capturing and sharing gets, it’s always going to take the back seat to photo sharing for most people. Videos longer than Vines will probably remain a hobby for those dedicated to sharing their experience. Or scary supercomputers.

    Here’s my video for reference (if it allows me to post it).

    • ProDesignTools — 11:06 AM on October 30, 2013

      Well, arguably even the best video in the world will not achieve its purpose if nobody watches it!

      Maybe that’s why these answers are coming to market to make the medium more “consumable,” even if the process does dumb it down and lose nuance.

      Is there any way to have both? I.e., let guys like Bryan do it the professional way, but provide solutions for quick-and-dirty when desired as well…

      I did like that video Bryan!

    • John Stevenson — 3:45 PM on October 30, 2013

      I think you should be very proud of this Bryan – great output, cleanly capturing both the scenic and action elements, and which doesn’t give away your processing struggles at all (which is always a happy ending!).

  • John Stevenson — 8:48 AM on October 30, 2013

    It would be too easy to just say that the apparent lack of take-up in video sharing is due to there being no capability (yet!) to produce a short clip which transitions into a fake Polaroid look and then fades in a light leak … But in fact this is yet another example of the “trinity” situation, where the user, the software and the hardware all sit at corners of a triangle and it’s hard to figure what to target in the middle of that.

    Certainly if you look at the hardware, an argument could be made that the key trend there is not with smartphones. Rather that new model compact cameras with a Wi-Fi module (and IS) are offering fewer distinctions between capturing images in burst mode and recording video in HD. The user can now burst at 10 fps (jpg format, 12 Mpixels) or stick to 1080p60 streaming to mp4. And then immediately upload their captures … all for well less than $500.

    Then at the software “corner”, I suspect it’s gonna be fruitless to “dumb down” pro-level tools to fit the opportunity here. Starting at the bottom and heading upward seems preferable – use the auto-correction plus manual override scheme (as per Google, which got instructions on that from its user base in fact, and which also essentially mirrors what the camera makes good with to the user in the first instance).

    I read this just a couple of days back: http://tinyurl.com/m4aea62 – it makes some of the same points as you have John. It’s clear that a well-crafted helper app could gain a decent return, with two lines of output (individual/personal and commercial) both open. For me some key things needing ground-level solutions are:
    – editing (re: enhancements, just above simple corrections) in software on a tablet – feasible or not?
    – effects, as creative output end-points (beyond those demoed by Vivoom via the link you provided) – a good target or not? – if some spatial plus color transformations are included, then this can offset some of the problems you note (“shaky, poorly colored”)
    – mixing/overlaying stills and video clips (also with effects included ..?)

  • Art Swalwell — 7:23 AM on November 01, 2013

    Seems to me, Lightroom is heading in the right direction. If they can get a functional version of LR on a tablet that allows you to work with a decent representation of a RAW file and do edits as well as metadata with an auto update when you get back to the home network, LR will be tablet able. I really think they are doing it backward though because of how tech is becoming available.

    How about this. Everybody shoots video. Create a tablet and or phone app that lets you chop and pop and adjust color and maybe do some filters. (Chop and pop for cut and put segments back together.) Simple, fast, no strain and outputs a video that is resolution suitable for phones and tablets.

    Probably already exists right? What if you could quickly and easily download a 4K file into the app, do your thing, have a video to review at that level and then get the edits to return to the original file parametrically as a starting point.

    Phone videographers could use it and be satisfied, pros could use it as a tool to get the basic edits done, even on site and clean it up. You might even get some crossover from amateur into using the pro software.

    My guess is, you’ve already thought of this in one way or another. I’m not expert enough to know what all it would take. Seems to me it is similar to the smart object concept. You’d need to be able to convert the video from whatever resolution to something small enough to work with and then do the edits to a metadata container that could apply to both the low res and the high res video. I guess that it would be similar to what is going on in PS with video but with the ability to take that smart container created in PS into Premier or After Effects and apply it to the high res file in such a way that it could be refined with better tools.

    Probably what you’re already working on. While you’re at it, a “real” PS app that translated a smart object wrapper from a small working file back to the original wouldn’t be all bad either.

    Simple really, just apply what LR is doing to video. I’d be willing to have just a small subset of the tools that are available in AE and Pr for now. BTW, could you have that available right after Christmas? I’m expecting a new 70D from Santa.

    Good luck!

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