Ptch picks up where your static photo feeds on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Viddy, Facebook, and Google+ leave off.
Dreamworks, the animation studio behind Shrek, is backing the iOS app, which launches today and lets users create, edit, and share 60-second mini-movies from their own photos and video clips. Then comes the movie magic. Ptch helps users add title cards, offers soundtrack help with one of more than 80 preloaded songs, and even integrates comments from your social networks. Like other outfits that do Instagram-like treatments for video, Ptch lets mini-movie makers wrap their creations in one of eight styles. You can share new creations on Ptch, as well as on your desired social channels.
Then things get interesting.
Pitch lets you reshape your friends' Ptches—Ptch calls it "living media." For example, if you and a friend both attended the same concert but took videos and photos of different scenes, your friend could create a Ptch that you could then edit as you please—perhaps by adding your own concert photos, or changing the song—before sharing it again.
Ptch attempts to simplify the video editing process to the point where creating a mashup shouldn't take much longer than the 60 seconds you spend watching it.
"We thought, 'Wouldn't it be cool to create a platform where mass consumers could quickly and easily create high production value content in a way that's very social and leverages the insights we've gained from storytelling and visual experience?' " DreamWorks CTO and Ptch head Ed Leonard tells Fast Company.
Leonard oversees 15 full-time employees. A third of them are former DreamWorks staffers—the company is the venture's sole backer—who took paycuts (in exchange for stock) to come over to Ptch. The rest come from outside of the film industry and includes former MySpace and Yahoo executives, as well as serial entrepreneurs.
Ptch will launch as a free app for now, with premium add-ons to come in the future. Those add-ons will include more songs and new styles that developers and users alike will be able to sell in an open marketplace, not unlike Tumblr's theme garden, except premium styles will only cost around 20 cents each. Leonard says he expects the vast majority of people will use Ptch for free, but he hopes to follow the Zynga model where even getting a small percentage of users to pay for premium content translates into meaningful profits, just thanks to the sheer scale of users.
In the long term, Ptch eventually wants to integrate users' music libraries to make the experience more personal, as well as license short flim clips that people will be able to purchase—again, "for pennies," Leonard says—to include in their Ptches. The idea is these short, instantly recognizable clips would be novelties for users and provide new revenue streams for the license-holding studios who aren't making any money from such clips.
"There's a market opportunity there that I think we'll eventually explore," Leonard says. "Being incubated at DreamWorks, thinking about content owners is in our DNA. We're paying very close attention to how this platform respects content while creating new opportunities for content owners to monetize."
But Ptch's biggest selling point—DreamWorks' know-how, clout, and resources—is also a potential sore spot. DreamWorks has played the role of tech incubator for several years, but not always successfully. In 1999, CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and other moguls including Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard announced a new site called Pop.com, one of Hollywood's earlier forays into online video. Pop.com would showcase short-form web content created by famous flimmakers—in essence, it should have been the dot-com era's version of today's YouTube channels. The venture, largely shunned by Hollywood's Internet skeptics, failed to launch, but not before blowing through $8 million in funding. Pop.com's fate—along with those of other similarly-minded app attempts that have failed, such as Color, the much-hyped photo-sharing app—serve as cautionary tales for Ptch and Leonard.
Which means Ptch has to prove it's delivering a high-quality product that demonstrating staying power in the crowded-to-bursting social content arena to convince DreamWorks, as well as new backers in the future. Currently, Ptch doesn't vastly improve on existing services like Viddy. Ptch won't start to get really interesting until it pulls in truly standout features, such as those short famous film clips or integration with your personal music library.
Leonard, however, remains optimistic about his chances.
"When Instagram first launched, everybody went, 'Are you nuts? There are 150,000 photo apps, why would you do that?' But they had a very particular vision about creating something that had a strong point of view and ease of use," Leonard says. "We're trying to do a similar thing in the world of media mashup."
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