The internet was supposed to be a democratizing platform free from limitations and boundaries. But these days it seems that web users are happy to embrace services that impose certain restrictions. There are countless social networks and blogs out there, but Twitter, with its 140 character limit, is the most popular — just like there are numerous ISPs to choose from, but even those that impose download restrictions remain popular.
Similarly, there are numerous ways you could record video footage, but Vine only allows for the creation of clips up to six seconds long. Despite this, it is proving incredibly popular. I had to take a look to find out what all the fuss is about.
Vine gets off to a suitably cinematic start with a slightly pretentious, ultra-soft focus video depicting a hot air balloon sweeping majestically across a blurry landscape; before being abruptly cut off in its prime. Neat looping is clearly a talent that is hard earned.
There is potential grounds for complaint here as the balloon clip — which one might very reasonably assume to be indicative of what you can achieve with the app — stretches to around eleven and a half second. This is almost twice the length of anything you are actually able to create in Vine, but perhaps I’m being a little picky…
After this minor diversion — and so early in the review, too! — it’s time to get back on track and see just what Vine has to offer.
Newcomers to the service can sign up for a new account using existing Twitter credentials, or by handing over an email address and choosing a password.
You can also assign yourself an avatar in either case, but however you decide to sign up, you can start using the service very quickly.
Actually using the app is very simple. You can choose between recording with the front or back camera of your phone, and it’s good to see that it’s not necessary to record a full six seconds in one go.
Instead of hitting a record button, recording only takes place when you keep your finger on the screen. This means that you can record in short bursts, take individual photos for a stop-motion video, or fill up all of the available time in one take. Weirdly, there’s no landscape option. Videos are square so this is not an issue, but if you’ve become used to turning your phone on its side for recording, now is the time to get out of that habit.
When you’re happy with the results, you can post directly to Vine as well as share your footage via Facebook and Twitter.
There’s nothing really wrong with Vine, but when there are numerous other ways to share videos online, it does make you wonder why?
Raisin the Standard
I guess part of the appeal of Vine is — just as with Twitter — that you are forced to be concise. Video making can be a tremendously self-indulgent hobby, but here you simply have to get to the point. In fact there is a whole movement of Vine users who have decided to use the medium to create mini-tutorials on a huge range of subjects.
You might think that six seconds is never going to be long enough to convey anything other than the simplest of ideas, but you would be surprised what people have been able to come up with.
It might be a cliché to say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but it’s only a cliché because it’s true. And think how many pictures you can cram into six seconds of video. Vine is also about getting creative; finding new ways to put across what you’re trying to say, inventing new forms of visual shorthand, and cutting out the crap to create tight narrative.
Part of the reason Vine does prove so popular, and will continue to do so, is at least in part down to the resurgence of interest in that most ancient — and once derided — of image formats; the animated GIF. Sites such as Imgur are host to perfectly looped footage, silly cartoons and much more. Vine can be used in the same way, but it can also be used to create photo slideshows, tell a story, give tutorials, create stop-motion animations and so much more.
The Social Aspect
A large part of Vine’s appeal is the social side of things. It’s not just about getting your output out there, it’s also about discovering other people who make interesting videos. You can follow people you like, they can follow you, hashtags are used to categorize things; sound familiar?
But Vine is not without competition. Instagram — the service more readily associated with heavily filtered images taken on camera phones — also offers the facility to share short video clips. Where Instragram trumps Vine is in video length. While Vine is limited to six second clips, Instragram users can revel and indulge in an almost Peter Jackson-esque 15 seconds.
Ultimately, Vine provides an interesting way to express yourself, have fun, and be entertained by others. It is essentially video Twitter and it’s the sort of thing you’ll either love or hate — it’s difficult to be ambivalent about Vine.
What this is not:
- going to set the world on fire
- YouTube for Twitter
What it is:
- well implemented
It is easy to be cynical (‘analyse, despise and scrutinise’ — ten big points for getting the song reference, by the way) about apps like Vine, but accept it for what it is and it has the potential to become your new social networking infatuation.
Twitter with video -- a service that has the potential to be great, but is in danger of remaining tediously average.7
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