Thanks to Instagram, Vine and your trusty smartphone, amateur videos are seemingly everywhere now. Gone are the days when you only had to sit through the home movies of your immediate family. Now, we’re all sharing the sights and sounds of our daily lives in real time, with all of our followers, no matter how personal or how mundane those moments may be.
So we might as well make them look good, right? The new app Cameo, out for iOS 7 today, seeks to help its users turn amateur footage into high-quality, fully edited, movie-montage-esque sequences. We spoke with one of its founders, Matthew Rosenberg, last week. He gave us the deets on the app that’s sure to spawn endless clips of our friends’ babies and weddings–but will also yield plenty of interesting, concept-driven short films in the right hands.
With the app, users can capture videos in six-second clips on their iPhones, then edit them together into movies with sound, title cards, captions and dialogue, lasting up to two minutes. The videos are shared on a built-in social network, but can also be posted on other platforms, kind of like a mobile, 21st-century version of sitting through your friends’ vacation slides.
The app blends the processes of production and post-production. Users can plug in any MP3 for background music, and can select from a wide range of themes, sort of like Instagram filters with more bells and whistles. Our personal favorite is VHS, which will make your short look like it’s being played from an old videotape, complete with static fuzz at the start.
Cameo is a dream come true for wannabe cinematographers, directors, actors and screenwriters–a short film that previously would have taken a week or more to shoot and edit can conceivably be completed with Cameo less than an hour after its inception, with no equipment but an iPhone.
“We were striving for simplicity and quality,” Mr. Rosenberg said of the app. He and his co-founders, Michael Constantiner and Andy Thompson, also founded group-texting app Fast Society, which shuttered in 2011 after two years. Seeing how users shared content and created stories together on that app inspired them to create Cameo, he said, which they’ve been working on for the last two years. They’ve got a staff of 15 currently, and work out of the English-hunt-chic Fueled Collective co-working space in SoHo.
Crucially, Cameo strives not to take up too much space on your iPhone. To achieve this, the app uploads each six-second snippet to a server rather than storing it on your phone. This ensures the videos are all HD, and high-quality enough to play on a television screen, Mr. Rosenberg said. Up to three friends can edit together, too, and each video can be converted to an MP4 file to share on YouTube and Vimeo.
The founders have doled out beta versions of the app to about a thousand friends and family members, who have used it to capture everything from giant bike rides over the Williamsburg Bridge to pumpkin-picking jaunts to hiking trips in Cambodia, all with soundtracks provided by the user, or sourced from the app’s collection of up-and-coming artists their bicoastal music team aims to pluck from obscurity.
“We wanted to build an app that got out of the way of what you wanted to do and let you tell a story without thinking about it, and let you tell those stories in a beautiful way,” Mr. Rosenberg said.
The app is mainly yielding “the next generation of home movies” among its testers, the co-founder said, and it’s proven itself easy enough to use for even a 65-year-old dad. But can people really be expected to sit through their friends two-minute-long videos when Vine and Instagram get each clip over with in six and 15 seconds, respectively?
“Vine or Instagram [are] great at capturing a moment,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “We’re story-driven. We’re emotional. You can feel a sense of what you’re doing and watching and see what’s happening.”
Vine is mostly used for quick laughs, Mr. Rosenberg added, and it can feel like the only people who matter in that medium are the Vine celebs with the biggest followings. And Instagram video “feels shoe-horned in,” he said. Either way, Cameo’s founders “don’t feel we compete with Vine or Instagram,” he said. Their service is more like the Tumblr to Vine’s Twitter, he added.
He sees Cameo being used for journalism, nonprofits and school projects in the future, too.. And this being the Internet, it’s only a matter of time before people try using it for porn. But we’re waiting to see if the app can prove itself to be a crucial tool that breaks down the costly barriers to making a short film–but even if all it does is make home movies more tolerable, that’s not a bad thing.