Vine lets you record multi-shot videos up to six seconds (144 frames) long on your iPhone and post them to Twitter and Facebook. The app is dead-simple; there are no editing tools. Having witnessed Facebook acquire Instagram, Twitter bought Vine three months before Vine's January product launch. Its closest competitor is Cinemagram, which displays short, looping videos and allows for limited post-production effects.
But Vine solves the producer's problem by letting you record a video by tapping-and-holding once per shot. It solves the consumer's problem by auto-playing as the user scrolls through a feed. In my experience, uploading takes at least a few minutes, even on a strong Internet connection, and the app drains the battery. Scrolling through a feed on Vine is a seamless experience but watching Vines embedded in a Twitter feed is less elegant: for each video, you must click to view it, click to unmute it, and click to hide it -- before its looping gets inside your head.
Whatever uses for Vine the independent film community dreams up next, one sure pearl of wisdom comes from Ferris Bueller: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." So too with Vines.
Indiewire spoke with film distributors, editors and curators about their innovative uses of the app in its infancy.
On February 19, Oscilloscope announced that it would break new ground by releasing Todd Berger's comedy "It's a Disaster" on Vine. "From the moment it launched just three short weeks ago, it was so clear to us that six-second loops of video, edited in-phone, and posted in real time was and will be the future of film distribution," the company wrote. Funnier still, the distributor followed through -- sort of. O-Scope posted 25 Vine clips -- bootleg-style hand-recordings of a screen playing the film (some enhanced by shadow puppets) -- in rapid-fire succession to its Twitter account.
"Very few people actually went through" all the clips, said O-Scope's Josh Fu. "They're very tedious -- they're unwatchable, frankly," added the distributor's co-president Dan Berger. "Part of it for us was doing it so shittily that people would take note." But several in the comedy, tech and film press took the announcement literally. As Berger explained, "You're a comedy writer and you just read [the equivalent of] an Onion article and somehow you didn't grasp that. That was fascinating to
us." O-Scope's point is not that Vine is inherently mediocre, but rather than Hollywood, in its anxiety over new media, sometimes dives into new technologies thoughtlessly. As Berger put it: "Let's make light of it. Let's treat it really legitimately but every step of the process do it illegitimately, in a terrible way."
The lesson of the O-Scope stunt is not what they did but that they were first to do it, and used the novelty to build buzz. The confusion may have been a headache for the company's publicists, but it helped the film cut through the clutter. "We got exactly what we were hoping to get out of it, which was raising awareness for a film that exists in an indie space where everyone is always fighting to raise awareness for their film," Berger told Indiewire. The tongue-in-cheek approach also helped the studio stay true to the core values of its late founder Adam Yauch, who rose to fame as MCA of the Beastie Boys. "All of our press releases -- even when they have serious content -- have jokes in them," Berger said. "It's a brand that's so inflected by Adam's sense of humor."
Berger promises that the studio has some more tricks up its sleeve.
Next: Vine trailers...for classic films?