Vine: 6 things people have learned about 6-second video

From a story by Finlo Rohrer BBC News Magazine

Twitter’s video app Vine, which allows users to record and share six-second clips, has generated masses of hype and media coverage. Why?

It has already been billed as “Instagram for video”, alluding to the photo-sharing app that Facebook bought for $1bn last year.

It’s not the first mini-video sharing service. Tout, which allows users to post 15-second videos, launched in 2010. There’s also Cinemagram, which creates animated gifs out of photos.

But the impact of Vine, with the powerful backing of Twitter, has been almost immediate.

Here are the 6 top genres already making that impact…

1. Stop motion animation is alive and well
Spend even a short time on Vine and you’ll see stop motion animation has never gone away. The technique, which goes back almost to the very beginning of cinema, involves capturing a frame or two, moving an object, and then repeating the process. Vine nudges the user to try stop motion. The tutorial suggests filming in bursts rather than a single six second clip. Users touch the screen to record, take their finger off, pick a new shot, touch the screen again. It might be shoes jerkily propelling themselves across a wooden floor. Or M&Ms arranging themselves into a word. Or an apple being eaten in little bites. And some of the stop motion looks to have been time consuming to assemble.

2. Ads work at six second length
Like so many new social media platforms, advertising agencies have been quick to seize on the potential of Vine. The ads have an amateurish feel, albeit that the amateurishness is executed in a totally professional manner. In a sense, online advertisers have been dealing with a six-second-ish limit for some time. That corresponds with the five seconds many advertisers have before a user can skip an ad on YouTube. “There was some degree of scepticism about how useful Vine would be to advertisers,” says Gordon MacMillan, editor of Brand Republic. “People joked now we need a six-second ad strategy. But seeing some of the early vines you can see how creative they are.” The wave of Vine adverts from everyone from General Electric to Gap will mostly have been produced by digital marketing type agencies rather than in house, MacMillan says. They will be looking for the first six-second video to go viral. “The better-made stuff, even in six seconds, will have the potential to spread.

3. People tend to do rather than say
What Vine seems not to be so far is a series of six-second videos of people talking to the camera. Even where people use a continuous six seconds, footage of people doing things dominates. You see six seconds of a baby walking across a carpet. But not yet the six-second biopic. There is a great deal of art and self-conscious mini-filmmaking. But much of the stuff thus far is still people filming the first thing their eye chances on. There has already been advice on how to use Vine to boost your career.

4. Artificial limits help hype a social media offering
The limit of six seconds is a big part of the hype in the media about Vine. Just like Twitter’s 140 characters, the artificial barrier is a good handle for mainstream media to report the trend and make it comprehensible to those already not swept up by the hype. The slogan “six-second videos” is the perfect marketing tool, it has been noted.

5. Aggregations of Vine are mesmerising
There are already a number of websites that mine the Vine app for users’ videos. Vinepeek and Justvined are real time aggregators of vines. Vineroulette creates a wall of themed vines. There’s a mesmeric quality to watching any of the aggregators. A bewildering carousel of six-second slices of ordinary life rolls past. People film in their offices, homes and schools. People film the traffic. And plants. What would be agonisingly boring for three minutes, or even 30 seconds, on YouTube is an entirely different proposition at six seconds. People have already edited epic compilations of vines, real life remixes put to music.

6. Cats/porn dominate every platform on the internet
Just like YouTube, any significant amount of time spent looking at vines will be peppered with footage of cats and dogs. As with animated gifs, the six-second cat dancing video is perhaps the internet’s most shareable item. It’s also well established that porn is quick to colonise any new service. Vine is already fighting a battle against porn, particularly after an episode where an explicit video was accidentally featured as an editor’s pick. The service has reportedly restricted porn-related tags.

The embarrassing incident is a reminder that nothing ever really changes.