Vimeo’s Cameo: Smartphone Editing from Birth

by Hugh BrownstoneLeave a Comment

There’s at least one other way to look at the rise of smartphones as video devices – and where their impact will be greatest. Just ask Michael Constantiner, co-founder of Cameo.

Vimeo needs no introduction to planet5D readers: it’s where the pros go for ultimate control and distribution of their web videos.

But how many of us know Cameo (no, not the 70’s era funk group, and not the thing that Alfred Hitchcock did in all of his films)?

Cameo is a free iOS editing app acquired by Vimeo in 2014 as part of a strategy to embrace even novice video-makers. Completely re-tooled and re-launched just a few months ago, it really is editing-only software – smart, in my book – and extraordinarily easy to use. I used to recommend iMovie for first-time editors; now, I tell newbies to start shooting with an iPhone and edit with Cameo. When you’re ready, you can move up to iMovie on your iPhone (!) and take it from there.

I make these recommendations after speaking with Michael Constantiner, co-founder of Cameo and now a Vimeo employee, and trying the app myself.

It’s their “from-the-ground-up” orientation toward mobile that sets Cameo apart. Michael and I have now spoken twice, and I can’t help but think he’s onto something when he starts talking about where he believes the real impact of smartphone video will be.

Yes, he can talk about product roadmaps and what functions are coming when, and Cameo’s approach to music licensing is relatively novel (they work directly with artists and bands to make their music available to Cameo users).

cameo image

But Michael really lights up when he starts talking about the social impact of storytelling in parts of the world that barely have any infrastructure – yet still somehow have millions upon millions of smartphone users who now have a tool to show the world their lives, good and bad, with a level of intimacy and immediacy never before possible (a new visual grammar, as I’ve written about elsewhere.

You’re already seeing that new grammar showing up in news reports where regular reporters with regular gear cannot go, but it’s just the beginning.

Still, for the moment it’s the short film THE LIFE AND DEATH OF AN IPHONE to which Michael most often refers, a passion project done by American director Paul Trillo and a “Best of Cameo” top pick. It shows how much can be done with so little gear – but skill as always trumps gear anyway.

The Life & Death of an iPhone

And that, in the end, is both the promise and the challenge of fully democratizing video production, as Paul notes when Mike asks him “how do you think mobile devices will influence the future of film?”

“I could say that it will democratize filmmaking and shatter the landscape or whatever. And maybe it will. We'll see more mobile films in festivals, but still as a novelty. However, what I think this does is turn more people onto filmmaking and perhaps at younger and younger ages.

“By basically having no barrier to entry beyond owning a smartphone, anyone can shoot anything. Too much content will be produced and people will need to find ways to stand out. This would hopefully get people to start thinking about about the core of filmmaking and going back to telling interesting stories.

“This will lead to a generation of filmmakers after me that will have learned the tools of storytelling years or a full decade before most people start thinking in that manner. And perhaps when these people graduate to making, you know, “real films,” they will come from a sensibility that is refined and sharp and different than what we've seen in past eras.

To which I will only add: more and more of those people will be outside of the U.S.

The world truly is getting smaller.

To download Cameo (it is currently available only for iOS devices) click here.

(cover photo credit: snap from itunes)

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