Mike Isaac

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New Mobile App Vyclone Aims to Remix Social Video From Every Angle

Instagram proved there is such a thing as a billion-dollar app. Now everyone wants a shot at being the next messiah. Naturally, Instagram’s photographic medium laid the foundation for the current round of contenders: Video.

The space is already stiff with competition. Viddy, Socialcam, Klip, Mobli — all are fighting for dominance in the space. And now, yet another competitor is throwing its hat into the ring.

Vyclone, the mobile application brainchild of David King Lassman and Joe Sumner, made its debut on Apple’s App Store on Thursday morning as a social video application that aims to disrupt the already-crowded space. How, you ask? By incorporating another social layer into the app with multiple cameras.

It works like so: Imagine you’re at a concert. You begin filming the band using Vyclone while a friend of yours on the opposite side of the mosh pit decides to do the same. And perhaps yet another two friends in the balcony film their own 60-second clips.

After all three finish shooting and uploading their footage to Vyclone’s servers, the app algorithmically cuts and edits a video using the four (or fewer) different video streams, creating one supercut out of all the footage. The app figures out who was shooting at that moment using GPS location data, and automatically includes those streams of footage into the cut.

After all that is said and done, you’ve ended up shooting and editing a live music video from multiple angles over the span of a few minutes. And if you don’t like the clip it creates, you can go back in and edit it yourself, applying an array of filters and choosing your own angles.

The idea first came to Sumner when he was on tour with his band in Lithuania two years ago. The band had sold little in the way of records, yet many in the audience were singing along to his songs.

“Everyone was filming,” Sumner told me in an interview. “At the end of the tour, there were already hundreds of videos on YouTube. I thought that surely there had to be some way we could connect all of these videos together.”

Thus, with the help of tech vet Lassman and a team of about 13 engineers based in Los Angeles, Vyclone was pieced together over the course of the next two years. The app obviously isn’t exclusive to concerts — the two tell me it’s great for storytelling in general, be it at a well-attended event or among a few friends on their own — it just happened to come to Sumner after a show.

The newly remixed clip, of course, is socially sharable. You can choose to share it with only the few friends you’ve shot it with (the “crew”), with everyone in your immediate vicinity (the “crowd”) or with everyone. If you choose the latter, that clip is pinned to the location from then on, so that other Vyclone users who visit your location in the future can see that video — day and date — pinned to the map view inside Vyclone. You can also save the clip to your iPhone locally, which means you can upload the video to YouTube and share the link out via the Web.

A few caveats: The friends must be within 120 feet of one another, as that’s the limit Vyclone currently puts on its GPS sensors. Also, you’re limited at the moment to a max of four different video streams.

These aren’t, however, the largest limiting factors. First, there’s the problem of audio. Instead of cutting between audio inputs depending on what angle you’re viewing from, Vyclone clips use only the audio from the camera that began recording first. When that ends, it switches over to the track that plays until the end. That means even if you’re watching someone talk in one part of the video, you may not hear their voice.

Second, there’s bandwidth, a problem which is fairly obvious in nature. Lots of video data transfer on 3G networks isn’t going to move fast, and can stutter up the video feed at times. Even if Vyclone sticks around long enough to the age where we’re all using 4G devices with great LTE reception, there’s still the matter of exceeding your data plan. Sticking to Wi-Fi when using Vyclone is probably best.

Finally, there’s the user problem, one that any would-be social network faces. The app doesn’t succeed unless it has a base of users to collaborate on clips. So if it doesn’t catch on with crowds — or at the very least, with your immediate circle of friends — it’ll just be a lot of single-frame videos like we’re already seeing from other social video apps.

These issues notwithstanding, Vyclone is fun as heck to use. And the technology is super exciting to think of its uses in other, larger networks. Imagine a company like Google, pouring its all into social right now, buying Vyclone and incorporating it into Google+. It’s directly in line with Hangouts, Google+’s popular group video chat application.

Or perhaps Vyclone makes it a media play, selling to a company like Livenation. The music giant could easily market the social video sharing aspect to its customer base to attract them to more concerts.

But acquisition isn’t at the top of their minds today (so they say). Backed by an initial funding round of $2.7 million led by the likes of A Grade Investments (Ashton Kutcher’s venture outfit), with contributions from Livenation and Dreamworks, the team is pushing ahead to truly win in the social video space. “Our focus right now,” Lassman says, “is getting this product out and into the hands of as many people as possible, making them aware that they no longer have to record videos in isolation anymore.”

Will Vyclone “win” social video apps? I don’t know. After all, Socialcam did just sell to Autodesk for $60 million. Still, Instagram set the bar for winning. We’ll see how well Vyclone does.

Here are Sumner, Lassman and I shooting our own video during our interview last week. Pardon my excessive use of the word “dude.”

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald