"I do believe this will change the world," Ed Leonard, the CTO of DreamWorks said to his colleagues about a year ago. He's talking about "living media," an idea he's been stewing over for some time: photo and video content that friends can grab and remix and repost as they please. One year later, Leonard is no longer CTO of DreamWorks, but that doesn't mean he's left the company's office complex in California. Leonard asked for one of the building's old storage rooms to get a startup off the ground and the company couldn't say no. "DreamWorks is all about the intersection between technology and creative ambition," Leonard stated proudly — the company provided both money and space to the startup, now 15 people-strong and called Ptch. The video sharing and remixing app launches today, hot on the heels of yesterday's Vyclone. It appears that the mobile video editing and collaboration category is about to heat up.
Ptch is structured much like Socialcam and Viddy — it has a news feed full of videos created by people with followers and likes and comments and a contrast-stitched thread lining its top bar. The bottom navigation bar is almost exactly like Instagram's, button for button. At least initially, Ptch looks like a yet another video-sharing app, but once you tap Create, you'll see that this app's priorities are a bit different. First off, it doesn't hate other apps. Second, Ptch lets you take pictures or clips from other people's videos and embed them into your own.
Ptch has no issue bringing in photos and video from all the other apps you use like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Viddy, and Tumblr. This is immediately evident once you plug in your credentials for each app and suddenly your entire photo library from each one shows up inside the "carousel" — where you pick photos and videos for your video. You can drag down photo and video content from your various streams (plus your Camera Roll, of course), shorten and lengthen clips, add captions, title cards, change "styles," (which are like themes), and add music. It's all fairly straightforward, and while Ptch doesn't have all the bells and whistles of iMovie on iPhone, it intends to make movie-making and slideshow production more accessible. If you tap Play, your video immediately renders on a server and streams back to you in real-time — the only limitation is the length of a "Ptch," which is 60 seconds.
"We're all about leveraging the value that's around."
Once you've created a video, you can export it to any of your apps or social networks. Simply because it's platform agnostic, Ptch is already a lot more useful for editing video since you don't have to go through the pain of digging up the content you're looking for. "We're all about leveraging the value that's around," Leonard said. One unique aspect of Ptch is that when you add captions to a photo or video you've grabbed from Facebook, the app pulls in attached comments from the social network in case you want to use one. Leonard imagines a future where captions inside a video auto-update when people post new comments on Facebook — it's not such a far-fetched idea, since Ptch lives in the cloud.
Leonard says that he took everything he learned about video compression and effects while working at DreamWorks and applied it to to the app, but in ways that you likely won't notice. Most of the video compression and streaming technology inside the app comes directly from DreamWorks, which has produced movies like Shrek and Madagascar. While you won't find any content related to the movie studio in the app, particle effects for certain filters and the app's uncanny ability to pull down multiple video clips in seconds are the result of Leonard's experience there. "We declared war on progress bars," he said adamantly. It's kind of cool when you tap "Reptch" and the various pieces of a video start appearing on your phone as if they were already in your Camera Roll.
"We declared war on progress bars."
Ptch has its share of problems, like how long it takes to thumb through your entire Camera Roll since it's represented by a horizontal strip of images, but these kinds of issues can be fixed. Leonard's underlying technology is sound, and while Ptch doesn't have the granular technical settings (like audio levels) an app like iMovie will have, it's pretty impossible to screw up a movie while using it. The app reminds us a bit of Mixel, Khoi Vinh's image remixing app that lets you grab components of another person's image and use them in your own image. Like Mixel, Ptch has community collaboration in mind — and much of the value in using the app rests in that community. When everybody's uploading videos, you can grab assets from other videos and use them in your own. It's a risky proposition, however — Mixel has an engaged community, but that community is a small one.