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In my Scientific American column this month I noted that micro video has become enormously popular: very short videos, or moving photos—or something in between. Phone apps like Vine have lit this new category on fire.
Even though Vine got all the headlines when Twitter bought and backed it, dozens of apps follow the same principle; call it ultrashort-attention-span theater. Here are a few examples that, if the concept intrigues you, are worth exploring. All are available for iPhone; most are for Android, too.
- Vigi (free): Vine rocketed to fame because of Twitter's interest, but it wasn't the first micro video app. Vigi is very similar: capture five-second clips and share them with your network. Vine's ability to stop and start within a clip (it records only when you're touching the screen), though, opens it up to far more creative options.
- TwitVid, TwitLens (both free): They do one simple thing very well: shoot a short video clip and post it to Twitter.
- Viddy (free) and SocialCam (free): These are something like Instagram for video: In addition to shooting and sharing short videos you can dress them up with filters (special effects). Viddy clips are 15 seconds long, max; SocialCam doesn't have a time limit.
- Lightt (free): This app has been aptly described as "social stop-motion." You record a 10-second video, but the app snags only a few stills from that clip; the result plays back like a video in fast-forward. You can post these jerky clips to Facebook or Twitter, share them with your circle or watch the rest of the world's Lightt cycles.
- Cinebeat (free): This one records a short video—and then turns it into an auto-tuned music video, processing your syllables so that they have rhythm and pitch.
- Snapchat, Poke (both free): These apps are designed for snapping photos and videos that self-delete a few seconds after your recipient views them. These apps have become a tween-ager phenomenon.
- Cinemagram ($2), Kinoptic (free), Flixel (free): These three let you play around in the new category that is emerging between photo and video. In these apps you animate only part of a photo. (Here are some artsy examples from movies: http://iwdrm.tumblr.com.) You shoot a short video clip, holding the phone (camera) very still. The app freezes the frame everywhere except the spots where you scrub your finger. In that area, the video plays. A street scene might freeze all the cars but show a person walking. A girl in a mirror could be stock-still as her reflection moves. A restaurant interior photo could feature a ceiling fan as the only movement. Once your masterpiece is complete, you can apply color filters and post to social networks.
All of these apps have a high novelty value, if perhaps not a long-lasting one. But they clearly illustrate that, at least for this moment in Internet time, there's an intriguing new entity that falls squarely between photo and movie.