Online Video Editing Gets Social: Kaltura Reviewed
Online video editing capabilities continue to improve, and it is now relatively simple to remix your clips online. Kaltura, however, attempts to turn web video editing into a social activity, and does a good job of it.
Ever since the release of JumpCut and Eyespot last year it has been possible to upload your video clips and edit them right from your browser. Since then other players have joined the web video editing game - including the peoples' favourite YouTube with its Remixer tool.
But while online video editing has been around for a while, it has so far been a rather solitary endeavor.
Certainly Jumpcut and Eyespot have run their fair share of promotions whereby users can remix commercial footage. But until now there hasn't been a tool that places community and social editing as its core focus.
Kaltura aims to fill that gap, supplying an award winning service centered around groups building and collaborating on community driven video projects. If you have thought about using video to expand your blog community, to market your business through interactivity, or to promote your organization or group, Kaltura might just be worth checking in on.
Video Editing Meets The Wiki Paradigm
As I have mentioned if you want to get down to some video editing on the web, you already have a number of options, including Jumpcut, Photobucket, YouTube Remixer and the soon to launch Brightcove Aftermix tool (currently in closed beta). But the focus of each is on the individual as remix artist. Sure you can join groups in Eyespot or Jumpcut, but any remixes you make are all your own.
For me, the unique selling point of Kaltura is that it takes the wiki paradigm - i.e. the notion of open-to-all, easy-to-edit documents - and applies it to web video. In so doing Kaltura has also placed a huge focus on making the process as simple and straightforward as possible.
Here is a tool with group collaboration at its heart - anyone with access to your group can upload or import media, and anyone can then create their own edited mashup from this content. And just as wikis have versions, so that you can track back through the history of a document, so Kaltura separates out each edit.
So who is Kaltura for? What is the target audience that will get something from these capabilities? Kaltura has done a great job of putting use-case scenarios right at the forefront of its website - suggesting how it might be used by different groups, and even supplying examples of each.
This strikes me as a smart move, as very often the technology is highlighted at the expense of what it might actually be used for. Kaltura suggest that the following broad groups will get something from giving the service a spin:
- Musicians and bands, who can hand over their music video to their fans, or even have them build one from scratch for an uploaded music file
- Film-makers, who can set up collaborative film-making projects, have users remix a movie trailer, or open source a finished piece for remixing
- Friends and family, who can get creative with their home movies
- NGOs and activists, who could get people involved in their cause through collaborative video editing
- Several others, including X-sport fans and travellers
Of course the use case scenarios are very broad, and to my mind this could make for an excellent tool for podcasters, bloggers and online businesses looking to enhance the community participation element of their web destination. This is made possible via the video embedding capabilities offered by Kaltura and the personalized focus of each Kaltura page set up.
The first thing that Kaltura asks you in the set up process is in fact which type of group you are setting up, so it's clear that community creation is high on the agenda. Among the options, you'll find some great suggestions for how the tool might be put to use.
Creating A Kaltura
Getting started with Kaltura is nice and easy, and is made more so by the inclusion of a straightforward wizard that guides you through everything you need to do.
From here you can choose a name and tag your Kaltura, load in a background image from a number of online services, a URL or your desktop, and then select a colour scheme from a fair range of alternatives. This makes customizing the look of your community page quite simple and means that you can set it apart from the other Kalturas out there.
Other options include the ability to choose from a range of preset font styles for the header of your Kaltura page, each of which have certain connotations, from the extremely pop to grungier looks.
In the space of a minute of two, then, you have the foundation for your community project. All you need to do from there is send out invitations to your contacts, and create an introductory video clip letting visitors know what your project is all about. The wizard guides you through both of these things also, and all in all does a great job of streamlining the set up process. No thought is really required on your part beyond the selection of your images and colour scheme, and that's the way it should be.
Kaltura pages don't have to be open to all, however, and the wizard will also prompt you as to how open you would like your project to be. If you would rather work with a particular class, group of colleagues or just within your family you can create a password protected Kaltura. Equally, if you decide that you aren't interested in the social aspect of the service at all, it is possible to create a Kaltura that only you will have access to.
You can determine who will be able to view, contribute media and edit using separate settings, which gives a nice granular degree of control over projects.
And that's it, once you have created your video invitation, and sent out your promotional emails you are ready for other users to start contributing to the project.
Thankfully uploading and editing are just as simple, and Kaltura has done a good job of supporting external, third-party media-hosting services to make the task of brining in media as simple as it should be.
Visitors to your Kaltura page simply click on an "Add media" button and a new wizard opens up to guide them through the process. They can choose to upload media from the desktop, transfer it across from destinations including Photobucket, YouTube and Flickr, and even run searches from within the wizard.
As you can see, it's even possible to record content right from the wizard using your webcam. This openness to other services is a positive move on the part of Kaltura, and comes as a nice antidote to other silo-like services that insist on you upping content to their platform, even if you have it elsewhere. This is a trend I'm seeing more of lately, and hope continues as it makes a whole lot of difference to consumers.
In addition to being able to bring in photos and images from a similar range of sources, or a URL, Kaltura also has sound covered. What's cool here is that you can record narration straight from your mic - which is great news for anyone who might be thinking of putting a video presentation up on the web - and can also search two different sources of free, royalty-free music for your soundtrack.
Thanks to the joys of Creative Commons licensing, CCMixter and Jamendo can be searched from right within the wizard, and tracks can be previewed and selected right then and there. This is something I haven't seen elsewhere, and is a very cool addition, filling out the range of media available for your mashups.
The editing console built into Kaltura does a pretty good job of stripping back to the basics, while supplying all the things you'd expect from a consumer-grade video editor: transitions, limited effects, titling capabilities and a timeline-based editor are all present. If you've ever used iMovie (at least up to the current somewhat odd version) or Windows Movie Maker you will be instantly familiar with what's on offer here.
Any clips in your project will automatically be loaded in, ready for you to drag and drop onto the timeline. Just as is the case with other video editors you can easily edit the in and out points of your video using a simple scrubber tool that appears directly beneath your currently selected clip. This way you can trim down your footage and get rid of anything that you don't want to include.
Once on the timeline, you can click on a little tab next to your clip to apply a transition. This will open up a new dialogue in the control panel of the editor, from which you can preview the small handful of transition types on offer, and apply your choice when you are happy with the results.
It's also possible to make use of a text tool to add captions and titles, and you have a choice of colours and fonts to select from, in addition to having control over how long your text will stay on screen - measured in seconds. These are the kind of basics you would expect from a simple video editor on or offline, and Kaltura treads the right line between simplicity and inclusion of key features.
Finally, and this is something missing from the latest edition of iMovie to many users chagrin, you can alter the volume of your soundtrack at any point in time by simply tweaking the levels within the timeline. This means that you can bring your soundtrack up and down in the mix in relation to in-video sound, as well as being able to create your own fade-in and fade-out effects.
In short Kaltura provides a functional, effective editing tool that isn't going to wow the pros, but likewise won't scare away newcomers to video editing, which strikes me as a happy medium.
Kaltura has managed to create an innovative tool that sets itself apart from the growing competition in the online video editing sphere by placing a strong emphasis on community media making. The addition of third-party media sources, which are very nicely integrated into the media creation wizard, is also a great feature, especially bearing in mind the almost infinite musical possibilities opened up via the Creative Commons licensed music sources featured.
Not only is the concept a simple and effective one, but the execution of it is for the large part excellent. Simplicity and the ability to quickly customize content have been foregrounded here, and it really pays off.
FInally Kaltura should be commended for the excellent screencast video support offered onsite, which guides you through the three phases of production, from the creation of a page, to the addition of content, and finally the editing of videos. There are a lot of services that could learn a thing or two here about easy-access "documentation", and the video format works perfectly.
The Bad, and The Ugly
My biggest complaint is that the quality of the video created within Kaltura - or imported into its player - is somewhat lagging behind the overall industry standard. As we move towards Adobe HD support most players in the market have upped their game, offering reasonably sized players and improved quality, even when utilizing Flash 8 rather than Flash 9. The Kaltura player is on the small side, but this could be forgiven.
The biggest issue for me is the relatively poor quality of video in all of the clips that I visited - there is noticeable pixelation throughout which really detracts from the viewing experience. When YouTube outperforms you in video quality (and by a long shot) you have something to worry about. Hopefully this will be addressed in future, as obviously a medium as visual as web video is won't do so well if the quality remains low.
On a much lesser note and far more dependent on personal taste, the aesthetic sense of allowing users to upload a background photo is to me questionable. Let's put it this way - Kaltura pages look a lot more like MySpace profiles than they do Facebook profiles, and that is all that needs saying. On several occasions my eyes politely requested me to turn away from some of the garish colour-clash riddled pages on display.
Like I say, this is more a matter of taste. Video quality on the other hand is something that anyone will notice, and this is the only thing letting down an otherwise awesome service in my humble opinion.
You can see below a quick clip I created with Kaltura, using the webcam recording mode:
Note that the video player above gives you options to grab the widget for your own webpage, but also to add video of your own, or edit the current clip, which are cool features.
Kaltura is a social video editing tool that makes it very easy to set up a simple community video page, bring in media from around the web, and open it up to be remixed and contributed to by members of your group or the entire web community. As such it places a much stronger emphasis on the creation of single-function video communities than its nearest competitors.
The support for third party services like Flickr, YouTube and even ccMixter are very welcome, meaning that it is possible to get your project started with a minimal of hassle. If you have music, photos or video uploaded to existing services, you won't have to go through the process of re-uploading to yet another closed silo, which is a smart move on the part of Kaltura. This kind of data portability is what Web 2.0 is all about.
Kaltura offers a simple, intuitive editing interface, and has provided excellent screencast video support for the key tasks of starting a community, uploading media, and mixing it with the video editing application. It's clear to see why this was popular enough to beat 39 other services to the Peoples' Award at the recent TechCrunch40 event.
On the downside, video quality is quite low, with noticeable pixelation in many of the clips I took a look at. This aesthetic issue is compounded by the somewhat MySpace-esque design capabilities offered to users. The results of being able to upload background images, for instance, can make for some utterly unpleasant design, and I would recommend that Kaltura look to Facebook for deisng tips and utilize a less-is-more approach in future.
Nevertheless, these are small issues and to some extent matters of taste, far outweighed by an innovative concept likely to appeal to bloggers, podcasters, businesses and organizations looking to promote their work through community, interactivity and the ever popular video medium.
Well worth a look.
If you'd like to learn more about Kaltura, you might want to check out the following links:
- Crunchbase profile of Kaltura
- TechCrunch - Kaltura Wins Spot as 40th Company at TechCrunch40
- Interprete - Kaltura, lowering the bar
- WebWare - Kaltura lets groups edit videos
- Killer Startups - Kaltura.com - Collaborate to Create Videos
Originally written by Michael Pick for Online Video Editing Gets Social: Kaltura Reviewed"
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