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Vine – Will it change the way we feel about video?

Maybe now’s the time to take an approach to video a little closer to the way we’ve learned to use photos and words.

Somebody sound the new platform klaxon! Here we go again…

There’s another new toy to play with. A new toy to learn about, appraise and add to the bulging toolbox of gadgets and widgets that can help a brand express itself. Welcome, my friends, to Vine.

What is Vine?

Put simply, Vine is a platform for video microblogging. Vine is six seconds (yes, just six seconds) of video, shot from – and viewed within – a mobile app. You could describe Vine as a video version of Instagram. Vine does for video what Twitter does for words – offering enough space for a bite-sized idea that’s brief enough to be created, browsed and digested on the move.

What I like about Vine

Six seconds. Brilliant. Six short seconds to say what you want to say or show what you want to show. But is six seconds long enough? Do you remember when Twitter first started to get noticed? “140 characters?” we scoffed. What on earth of any value could be said in just 140 characters? But look what happened. We learned to write in shorter, cleverer ways and to make ourselves understood more simply. Tedious blog posts were made to compete with punchy 140 character ideas. And now video – so often squandering our attention with little reward – has a chance to benefit from the same discipline. A chance to get to the point quickly and impactfully. Boom.

Mobile-only, app-only. At first glance, the inability to upload content from other sources appears limiting. And it is. But if we can’t upload slick edited files shot on other devices we’re forced to keep it quick, simple and real.

We are all now video editors. A simple little aspect of Vine’s design makes it virtually second-nature to cut together several scenes into a six-second montage (or to have some fun with basic stop-motion silliness). To those inexperienced with video (like me), this is enjoyable, creating an instant leap in available opportunities for expression. Of course, there is no guarantee of quality. And just as there are professional photographers who are sniffy aboout Instagram, and journalists who begrudge the voice of amateur bloggers – some people may sneer at the wave of amateur video efforts about to engulf us through Vine. Whatever. The important point here is not about quality – it’s about opportunity.

What I don’t like about Vine

No Android. At present, there is no Andriod app for Vine – just iOS. I imagine this will come soon.

No real web interface. Vine lacks any web interface beyond a simple viewer. No search, no upload, no anything. It’s clear they really want to drive this as a mobile tool like Instagram, rather than inviting any comparison with the likes of YouTube and Vimeo. I applaud the mobile-only discipline involved in producing a clip, but once it exists online, why not set it free with easier ways to view and share?

Lack of support for iPhone’s front-facing camera – If Vine were able to switch to an iPhone’s front camera, the ease of making mini pieces-to-camera would be even greater. Is this omission by design? Do the management of Vine (owned by Twitter) want to discourage simple diary-style clips? Or did they just forget about the other camera?

No simple embedding. Clips can be embedded into other areas of the web, but not simply. It can be done in a sideways fashion by embedding a tweet that includes ‘a Vine’. But if you haven’t tweeted your Vine clip at the time of publication, embedding is not a straightforward task for your average non-techie civilian. Again, this seems a shame. Once created, why constrain the mobility of a piece of content?

No sharing after upload. When you publish your clip, you get the chance – in a way very much like Instagram – to post it on Twitter and/or Facebook. But how about retrospective sharing of Vine clips? Seemingly not possible. Why not? Where is the ‘share’ button that’s fast-becoming ubiquitous in every other app? How do I even find the URL of my clip if I didn’t tweet it? (UPDATE: 06/02/13: Another app update has implemented this retrospective sharing, but with no way of customising the wording of the update. A tweet is creating using the the wording used to caption the Vine clip.)

Buggy location-tagging and Facebook sharing. Adding locations to clips (using Foursquare – just like Instagram) crashes the app everytime I try. And when the app crashes, it takes my clip with it. Start all over again. Also, every time I’ve ticked the Facebook box, my upload has failed to make it to Facebook. (Is anyone else suffering with this?) (UPDATE: 31/01/13: There has been a Vine software update that – for me – fixes the Facebook issue, but I’m still not able to location-tag.)

My big hope for Vine

We all know that video is powerful stuff. But I think we can too often be scared of it. So many times we discuss video content with clients and we hear them say “Yes, we know video would be powerful, but we need to do this properly, with the time and budget for a professionally-edited job”. This hesitancy means video projects rarely happen. Maybe now’s the time to take an approach to video a little closer to the way we’ve learned to use photos and words. Let’s have some fun, let’s make some mistakes. Vine may endure as a medium – or it may not. But if Vine helps us to be less scared of video – more willing to try low-budget ideas and quick experiments, we’ll have crossed another hurdle that’s been holding us back.

A few ideas for Vine

A raft of brands are already on Vine, testing the water and getting to know this new tool. Many of these first experimental clips have been fairly unexciting (and there’s been the distraction of adult content to be dealt with) , but I don’t think it’ll be long before some smart uses for Vine start to appear:

Railways, airports and transport providers – It’s been shown that photos are a powerful medium for communicating news of delays, breakdowns and engineering issues. Imagine a six-second video clip to show rising floodwaters, vandalised trains, or fast-moving queues. More people understanding an issue more quickly.

How-tos – Already, Vine is being used for simple ‘how to’ tips. Cookery, technology, health, DIY. Show someone how to do something. Be useful. be helpful.

Quick tours – Holiday companies, estate agents, even secondhand car salespeople. You now have a way to capture the essential essence of a space and get it online in seconds.

Vox pops – Into politics, fashion, tourism, sport? What do people think about that new idea? Ask them, and then show us what they say. Instantly.

What do you think? How can Vine be used? And do you share my hope that this might be the start of a new way of thinking about video?

 

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