Mobile video is finally here

Last updated 11:03 05/02/2013

Yeah, another column about Vine.

Mobile phones have been able to shoot video for almost as long as they could take photos. Whether it was the terrible quality or the difficulty of transmission, mobile video never really jumped into the big time. You might use it if you saw something really newsworthy, but probably not your dog being cute.

Mobile photography took a while to mature too. MMS (pxts) were far too much work before smartphones, as was uploading a random cute picture to the internet.

Once again, the functionality was there, in theory, but doing so was so inconvenient you barely ever bothered.

I had a cellphone in sixth form with hundreds of photos on it, but the sheer inconvenience of transferring photos from a dumbphone to a PC to the internet kept me from ever uploading more than the most important of photos.

Now, with Instagram and Twitter, I can take a photo of something completely without significance and have it online within ten seconds, if I want.

Mobile video is a few years late, but Vine heralds the start of something great.

Vine allows you to shoot a quick six second looping video, simply by touching the screen when you want to to shoot and not touching it when you don't. It's an incredibly easy way to shoot a tiny video with a few cuts - opening up the possibility of small stop motion animations and the like, along with more traditional videos.

Once you have shot the video, the app basically acts like Instagram. Write a caption (or not), decide whether to share it on Twitter or Facebook, then post it. You can get a whole video out in less than twenty seconds.

Now, we've been able to edit and upload video from our phones for years, but there has been two main obstacles.

First - convenience.

Uploading even a quick no-cuts video with a YouTube app is a whole lot more work than most can be bothered with, unless the video is important.

Editing a video together with multiple cuts? Even more work.

Then, there's the competition. Context is everything.

Uploading a video to YouTube of something insignificant seems kinda wrong unless I make it pretty. That isn't a problem with Vine - because you can ONLY upload cellphone videos. I'm all about intentional constraints - locking people down to a very controlled medium produces very interesting content. It is the appropriate venue for a "look it's raining" video - other video networks are not.

The obvious riposte to this, the one some of you may already be typing out, is that Vine is useless, that our obsession with ephemeral documentation is reducing the variety of life to a series of humblebrags. Fair enough. I'm sure a lot of the content on Vine will be entirely pointless, that it will seem utterly asemic after a few months, but it is a step forward, and they are always interesting.

Is this a flash in the proverbial pan, or a solid step into the future?

Email Henry or follow him on Twitter.


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