Camcorders? So 20th century. These days, anybody who's anybody carries a portable video studio -- also known as a smartphone.
But once you've shot it, how best to share it? A host of mobile apps are springing up to challenge YouTube by offering new ways to splice together collaborative videos, then post them on social media or via private messages.
New just this month in the crowded space are two similar apps called Cameo and JumpCam, which evolved on separate coasts.
Andrew Mager, who works for music-streaming service Spotify, started using an early version of Cameo a couple years ago at the invitation of a friend who helped design it. Mager has recently used the app to shoot a movie of Spotify's new offices in San Francisco and to document a trip to Europe.
"You have your Vines and your Instagram videos," he said, "but this one takes it to the next level."
Mager says that while those short-video apps -- owned, respectively, by Twitter and Facebook -- best lend themselves to spontaneous shooting and posting, "You have to make a Cameo with a purpose." That's because the software lets you stitch together dozens of six-second videos and embellish them with music and special effects.
On the other hand, Mager added, the process isn't nearly as time-consuming as, say, producing a video with Apple's (AAPL) iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. His 90-second office video, for instance, took less than 15 minutes to shoot and edit. And he likes that the finished product can be pushed out on Facebook and Twitter, though it's also possible to share videos and follow people on Cameo's own social network.
Those same sharing and real-time editing features are built into JumpCam, which CEO David Stewart launched last year after leaving a high-ranking job at San Francisco social networking company Yammer. Before that, he worked at YouTube, helping develop mobile technology and syndication deals for Google's (GOOG) video-sharing juggernaut.
Stewart came up with the idea for JumpCam while headed to a wedding where he was best man. He'd asked the bride and groom's friends to send best wishes via cellphone videos, which Stewart then combined using Final Cut Pro and uploaded to file-sharing service Dropbox. "It sucked up a whole weekend for me," he said.
His cloud-based solution, like Cameo's, handles the editing on remote servers rather than on a user's phone. But there are a few differences: Each JumpCam clip can run for up to 10 seconds, and as many as 30 can be stitched into a single video. Cameos currently max out at two minutes.
And while both apps let you add to other users' videos, the collaboration is more targeted on Cameo. "I can invite you via Facebook, shoot with you in real time and my video pops up on your phone -- we literally make a video together," explained Matthew Rosenberg, CEO of the New York-based startup. With JumpCam, an unlimited number of people can participate.
Stephen Dypiangco, co-founder of a new-media studio in Los Angeles called the National Film Society, has used the app to create a number of short films. In one, called "Pass the Egg," more than a dozen people in multiple countries -- none of whom Dypiangco has ever met -- appear to pass an egg back and forth.
"One of the things I really like about it is how it's pushed my creativity," he said. "Once you open it up to collaborators, it can go in a lot of directions you didn't predict."
To be sure, the video-sharing space is littered with risk. Palo Alto startup Color, which drew gasps in 2011 with a $41 million initial funding round, offered real-time video sharing on Facebook but struggled to snare users; it shut down in December. A similar company, Southern California's Viddy, has raised more than $35 million from Silicon Valley investors, but earlier this year suffered layoffs and the departure of its CEO.
But the idea of letting mobile users create and edit bite-sized videos, then share them via social networks, keeps drawing new entrants -- and investors. San Francisco-based Socialcam's most popular channels, typically hosted by celebrities, draw more than 1 million followers apiece; the company was snapped up for $60 million last year by Autodesk, which saw the mobile video app as an ideal way for professionals to share design ideas.
Rosenberg said he and his co-founders are bootstrapping Cameo for now, having learned to keep things lean while building a group-texting app called Fast Society. With both products, he said, "The things we were interested in was capturing experiences -- the excitement of being with your friends." And by moving from text messages to HD video, his company wants to help "turn your life into a movie in real time."
Dypiangco, meanwhile, knows all about making movies: His studio creates YouTube videos in partnership with PBS, and a short film he helped produce won an Oscar three years ago. But after being invited to test-drive JumpCam by an employee with whom he shares a mutual friend, he's jazzed by what he sees as a less passive form of consumption.
"The fun comes from contributing to somebody else's video, or making your own and seeing it become part of a bigger piece," he said. "It's really, really cool to see these different faces from around the world and have them be part of something that I started."
Contact Peter Delevett at 408-271-3638. Follow him at Twitter.com/mercwiretap.
hey look, i'm a movie star!
A growing number of mobile apps lets you shoot and edit videos, then post them to social media or share them in private messages.