Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Strobee, the story so far

For the past few months I've been working on a re-imagining of video-sharing. But I'll set someone smarter than me summarize it:
Since Jon's announced that (even with slightly dodgy spelling), I might as well write a post a little about the project...
This has been a long road, starting with a GCSE (a high school qualification) in Media Studies many years ago. I spent a very happy few days with a bunch of friends creating a trailer for "Starship Troopers". We discovered that by far the most exciting approach (for 15 year olds without any video editing experience), was to find all the short clips of people shooting guns (it was quite a violent film), and put them together. We could get away with this in-class as we'd just been taught about a technique called "montage". We got a good grade for the project, but moved onto other things. (Apologies for video/sound quality, it was recovered from VHS tapes).

More recently, and due to a lot of travelling and cycling, I bought an early action-camera. Compared to a SLR camera or smartphone, these are great because they're robust and easy to use. After a trip to Thailand I was left with loads (32Gb) of footage that was mostly wobbly, with noisy audio, and generally a bit shit, so I tried editing it down into something people would want to watch (here's an old blog post). I tried a few attempts at "professional" editing by carefully constructing a narrative, but I came to the conclusion that there wasn't enough footage to build one. Plus, there was no chance to go back and shoot more. In the end I found that taking many short clips was a very robust and fast way of manually editing a movie from bad footage.

The greatest observation that came out of this process was that selecting the short clip to use wasn't very hard. As long as there was sufficient variety, and the clips kept moving, people wanted to watch more. Much more than if I tried to show them a wobbly 40 minute clip of me trying to feed peanuts to an elephant. What I thought was interesting video, wasn't interesting at all to other people - they just wanted to see all the different things I did on my holiday.

When I found myself with some free time, I decided to automate the process - so Strobee was started as a bit of a startup. This started off as a desktop software project, but it became clear that the project belonged on the web.