Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Autodesk Goes "Social(cam)" -- The Power/Promise of Mobile Vid Sharing -- Yeah, We Got That!

Another important announcement yesterday in the world of online video -- mobile video sharing in particular.  Autodesk -- a leader in development and 3-D rendering software for video pros -- just acquired start-up Socialcam (a company with only 4 employees).  If you don't know Socialcam, you should.  Socialcam is one of many app developers focused on becoming the "Instagram for video", but its pedigree is different.  And, get this -- Autodesk is paying a whopping $60 million for this tiny company (4 employees) that builds essentially an app (of course, it is not "just an app" -- it is the most popular app on Facebook right now).

Why?  Because Autodesk is the latest much larger fish to recognize that there is serious gold in "them thar hills" of consumer video sharing.  After all, each of us has an HD video camera in our pockets virtually all the time (in the guise of an iPhone or Android smart phone).  Autodesk smartly wants to be ahead of the curve in tapping that largely-untapped-to-date market opportunity, which I believe ultimately will be massive.  After all, nothing is like video -- you are literally capturing priceless moments in time that still pics can't match.  And, Autodesk believes it has a unique story to tell here -- offering its professional filters, among other things, to make the vid sharing experience potentially more compelling than others.  In the words of Socialcam's CEO Mike Seibel, "We'll take the best of what the pros have and be able to bring those tools to everyday people."

But, in the words of Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom, video is "hard."  Very hard.  Scratch that.  Very VERY hard.  Autodesk is banking on the fact that Seibel and his team have figured out all of the heavy lifting.  And, it is an impressive and experienced team.  They are, most definitely, video experts with a rich pedigree.

We respect that, because we here at Sorenson Media know how uniquely complex that video animal is -- nay, have internalized this -- and have solved these "hard" problems for over a decade.  As just one example, we have powered all video sharing on memory-sharing giant Shutterfly for over two years now. 

Further, and less public, we already have built and proven out a full consumer-focused mobile, and private (secure) "store and share" eco-system.  And, we come to this consumer video "store and share" game with literally scores of years of directly relevant online video experience that is tough to beat.  We know the hard problems -- we have felt that pain -- and we have worked through that pain to solve the vast majority of them.  

Video is a very different animal than photo sharing for many reasons -- including both (1) the sheer size of data, and (2) the complexity of doing it "right" (i.e., retaining HD video quality and optimizing video delivery to any device in our multi-screen world).  Speed of sharing (uploading the video, transcoding the video, delivering the video) and doing that all "right"(i.e., not dumbing down the HD video quality) are extremely difficult challenges to solve.  Fast file uploading is essential, as is world-class transcoding.  And, let's not forget a key ingredient emphasized by Autodesk -- professional filters.  We have those in spades -- it is one of our core competencies here at Sorenson Media.  That, together with other patented technology, is part of our "special sauce" to make every single video look as good as possible.

We feel we may uniquely have all the other ingredients necessary to make consumer video storing and sharing a drop-dead easy and compelling experience (we were the first video technology behind Apple QuickTime, Macromedia/Adobe Flash, and YouTube after all).  That's why Shutterfly trusts us.  That's why significant others are interested in our consumer-focused private mobile video "store and share" solutions.

And, make no mistake, consumer video sharing will become a massive business -- so long as it is easy and so long as the video looks really, really good ....

One final post-script -- let's not forget that mobile video sharing is not just for consumers.  Think of the applications for business and the enterprise.  For entertainment companies, add critical security layers -- among other things -- and, bam!, you have a true mobile digital dailies solution.  Yeah, we got that!  For ad agencies, same thing -- review and approval, bam!  Yeah, we got that!  Want to add in locked down education-based sharing?  Well, you know the drill by now ....

Bravo Autodesk and Socialcam.  You are smartly early here to tap this overall mobile vid sharing  opportunity.  Others are surely watching you.  And others will surely follow suit ....