For bringing video creativity to the mobile mainstream. Considering the massive amount of video we all shoot on our phones, there’s a surprising dearth of easy-to-use mobile video-editing tools. What if you want to craft and share something longer than the prescribed six or 15 seconds, without needing to learn a complex app like iMovie? Tim Novikoff, CEO of Fly Labs, saw an opportunity here, launching three mobile iOS video apps last year: Fly, Clips, and Crop. All three were featured as #1 on Apple’s list of Best New Apps. The first and most popular app, Fly, lets users edit together videos with the help of creative gesture-based features like dissolve transitions and split screens. You can add music and voiceovers, all on your mobile device. “We tried to make something that was really, really simple, that allows you to play around with the medium of video creativity in an effortless way,” Novikoff says. Fly hit 1 million downloads in January, and Clips, released in December, is already at 100,000 downloads. “We make things that make video editing delightfully simple,” Novikoff says.
For its automatic editing technology that’s almost as good as a human. During nearly any event, be it a friend’s birthday party or a Beyoncé concert, our first instinct is to lift our phones out in front of us and press “record.” Disney researchers wanted to harness our obsession with filming everything and create something useful from all that footage. Its automatic editing algorithm, unveiled over the summer, determines what separate cameras at the same event are focused on, and uses this knowledge to decided when to cut to a different shot, just as a human editor would. The result is a smooth, multiangle retelling of a memorable event. In a side-by-side comparison of Disney’s technology and a video editor’s work, it’s hard to tell the difference. The technology is still a prototype, but Disney researchers think it could be used one day to shorten editing time and, of course, help enhance magical memories.
For online sports content millennials can’t stop watching. The Whistle Sports Network launched on January 1, 2014 with a goal of providing sports content to young people that isn’t laced with scandal or peppered with ads for alcohol and violent movies. It’s hard for a new company to gain the rights to live sporting events, but the network doesn’t want them anyway. According to founder and CEO John West, its target audience—millennials—have an attention span for video of about seven minutes. To accommodate this, Whistle focuses on interactive short clips like how-to videos and behind-the-scenes athlete interviews. And in one year, the network amassed more than 1 billion views, 225 channel partners, and 13.5 million YouTube subscribers, making it the largest sports destination on YouTube.
For letting us watch video with long-distance friends. This free tool lets users watch videos online while simultaneously video chatting with their pals. For example, if your favorite show is Orange is The New Black, simply log in to Netflix via Rabbit, share the provided chat link with your long-distance partner (or partners; you can invite up to 10 people to a room), and watch the show together on your separate computer screens. “We wanted to make people feel like they were sitting together in the same place,” says CEO Michael Temkin. After a rough beta launch in 2013 plagued by a limited Mac-only functionality, last summer the company got its act together and redesigned Rabbit as a web app, which took off, adding 400,000 users by the end of 2014 and increasing its user base by 10 percent a day. Users are incredibly engaged, Temkin says, spending an average of two hours watching screencasts on the site. “If you think about embedding that experience on somebody else’s website, that means more time on site, ad views, and revenue,” Temkin says. No surprise that multiple partnerships are in the works for 2015, as well as a mobile app.
For making a business out of positive, insightful content. In an ocean of online violence, scandal, and sex, SoulPancake is an intellectual oasis. The brainchild (cocreated with his two friends) of actor Rainn Wilson (aka Dwight Schrute from The Office), SoulPancake has been around since 2009, but 2014 was arguably its banner year. The company focuses on “positive, uplifting content” that resonates with millennials, asking them to chew on life’s big questions, like, “What happens after we die?” and “What is the collective destiny of humanity?” in the form of short but powerful YouTube sketches. After surpassing 1 million YouTube subscribers early in 2014, SoulPancake rode that wave of momentum to launch several new series, and parlayed its success into a spot on cable TV, hosted by Participant Media’s Pivot TV channel.
For its incredibly simple video-editing tool. A few years ago, this stock-photo marketplace predicted the rise of video and added a video business to its offerings, letting customers browse more than 2 million stock clips for their projects. Revenue for this side of the business has nearly doubled year over year, but Shutterstock noticed a workflow problem: Some customers were downloading a bunch of videos, creating a mockup in a different program to show their team, and in the end, using just a fraction of the videos they originally downloaded. This was wasting customers’ time and energy. So to make their lives easier, and to keep them on Shutterstock, last year the company unveiled a prototype of an in-browser video-editing tool called Sequence. It is simple, intuitive, and an early success, with high engagement numbers (three times that of Shutterstock’s other video pages) and global interest. It not only simplifies workflow, but it opens the door for amateur video editors who aren’t ready for a professional tool like Final Cut Pro.
For doing interactive online video the smart way. Imagine a future where every video is touchable, and every time you tap a person, place, or thing, you’d automatically be served up more information on whatever piqued your interest. Cinematique is making this a reality with its touchable video technology. No need to reach for your smartphone to search for an actress or piece of clothing you just saw; one tap automatically tells you about the actress or how to purchase that shirt she’s wearing. On the back end, creators can glean insights from seeing what objects received the most taps. “The data coming back in is truly giving content creators and brands and publishers a framework to create better content,” says founder and CEO Randy Ross. Brands, particularly fashion brands, look at this technology with dollar signs in their eyes. In 2014, Cinematique went from 60 brand partners to nearly 300, including big hitters like Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Gucci, Stella McCartney, and Gap. Users spend 350 percent more time with Cinematique clips compared with noninteractive online videos, touching on average five and a half items. What’s next? Cinematique is partnering with infrared-glass manufactures to bring touchable video to public spaces.
For bringing sports coverage to cord cutters. One of the biggest reasons many people still pay exorbitant prices for cable TV packages is sports channels. But that may soon change, with the launch of Dish Network’s subscription web-TV service, Sling TV. It will let users stream ESPN over the web for $20 a month. CNN, the Food Network, and the Travel Channel are also part of the lineup. Paired with a Netflix subscription and HBO’s much-anticipated subscription service, Sling TV could complete the television trifecta, finally letting sports fans wriggle free from the grasp of cable companies.
For its successful move into original content. The video-sharing service beloved by creatives made its first push into original content last year with a web series, High Maintenance, that follows the kooky clientele of a marijuana dealer in Brooklyn. Vimeo released the show’s first four seasons for free and amassed a devoted fan base and loads of acclaim. In 2014, the company devoted part of a $10 million grant to the show’s fifth season, and decided to experiment with charging: $2 an episode or $8 for all six-episodes. Would fans pay for a show they love, but were used to getting for free? According to CEO Kerry Trainor, following the fifth season release, High Maintenance generated more money in two days than it would have through YouTube ads over the past two years.
For giving teachers the power to use video as an educational tool. Teachers are turning increasingly to YouTube to supplement textbook lessons for students. The problem? Just watching a video doesn’t guarantee students retain any of its information. That’s where Zaption comes in. Its web app enables anyone to take online video and add interactive elements, like review questions, paving the way for deep learning. In 2014, Zaption released its freemium product, adding 50,000 new users—mostly K-12 teachers—in the last half of the year, according to CEO Chris Walsh. Teachers are particularly fond of Zaption’s analytics, which shed light on where kids are getting stuck and how many actually watch an entire video. And students can see their own progress in the analytics. Thanks to a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Zaption’s mobile app came to life in the fall, meaning students can easily access educational videos wherever they are, “rather than being tied to a desktop, let alone a school-based desktop,” Walsh said.