WeVideo Makes Cloud Video Editing Look Like Kids’ Stuff

12/2/11Follow @wroush

Video editing software is way too hard to use.

At least, that seems to be what most consumers think. It explains why most of the videos you’ll find on YouTube and other video sharing sites are so raw, with no cuts, titles, or other effects. Apparently, people have a hard enough time just getting video off their smartphones or videocams and onto the Web; they can’t be bothered to whittle their footage down to just the best parts, or to jazz it up with music, graphics, and the like.

Well, you know what? Consumers are right. Video editing is too hard, especially if your first exposure to the craft is through Apple’s Final Cut Pro, Adobe’s Premiere Pro, Avid Studio, or one of the other professional-level video editing packages. These programs are powerful, but they’re also finicky, time-consuming, difficult to learn, and hard on your computer. (Don’t even bother trying to run them if you don’t own the latest, greatest Mac or Windows machine.) Even entry-level video editing tools such as Apple’s iMovie and Avid’s Pinnacle Studio force users up a pretty steep learning curve.

At the opposite extreme from the professional editing programs are the automated video creation tools from startups like Animoto. To make a slick music video at Animoto, all you have to do is upload a collection of still photos and video clips and select a theme and a soundtrack tune. The startup’s cloud servers do the rest. It’s a great boon for busy people whose videos might otherwise languish on their cameras or hard drives; the only downside is that it takes all the creativity out of the process.

Now there’s a startup that’s trying to stake out some middle ground, by offering a freemium, cloud-based video editing tool that’s full-featured but easy to use, and doesn’t tax your computer. It’s called WeVideo, and it’s led by a Norwegian serial entrepreneur named Jostein Svendsen. If you follow the tech scene in Silicon Valley, you might have heard of these guys—they won a DEMOgod award at the Fall 2011 DEMO conference in Santa Clara, CA. But you probably didn’t know that the software was originally designed for schoolchildren in Scandinavia, or that the startup follows the same principles as the video game business—i.e., if it’s easy enough for kids to use, then at least a few adults should be able to figure it out, too.

I met with Svendsen last month and got the whole story behind WeVideo. I’ve also been trying out the system myself—the video below, made up of clips from a recent weekend trip to Mendocino, CA, is my first attempt. I spent about two hours making it, plus another hour to upload the original clips to the Web. (Story continues below video.)

Now, if you’ve done any video editing at all, you probably did a double-take two paragraphs back where I mentioned that WeVideo runs in the cloud (on Amazon’s EC2 compute infrastructure and S3 storage infrastructure, to be precise). Traditional video editing involves such large files that it’s almost the archetypal desktop application—it’s the last thing you’d expect to see migrating to the cloud. But that’s the whole point of WeVideo, and it’s the factor that Svendsen hopes will allow the company to pull ahead of the other consumer-level video editing providers.

“We’ve found a process which is extremely fast, easy to use, and efficient by utilizing the cloud to take away the bottlenecks on the desktop that have limited people, especially when they’re working with high-definition video,” he says. “Just like YouTube represented a new way of distributing video, we represent a new way of producing it.”

But is cloud-based video editing really ready for prime time? My experiments indicated that it’s close enough to be a decent alternative for non-professionals who might otherwise turn to … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • http://www.lifeofbikes.com Scott Moroney

    This is a pretty cool, and timely idea. With the availability level so high now, video is quickly becoming the standard to catching someone’s attention that a photo was generations ago. I’m interested to check it out and also see where the cloud-based model could be used to collaborate in more professional applications.

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  • sluggh

    I keep getting Ken Burns fatigue. Fighting that as a new user myself.