At first blush, it may not be obvious what’s different about JumpCam, a new iPhone app for taking and sharing short videos. Interface-wise, it’s a dead ringer for Instagram and a number of other programs for sharing photos and/or video clips, with a never-ending, scrolling feed of videos and a bunch of buttons along the bottom. Does the world need yet another one?
Maybe so. JumpCam is built around a feature that isn’t anywhere near as plain-vanilla as its look and feel. Rather than just letting you share clips with friends, acquaintances and perfect strangers, it lets you collaborate with them, piecing together shots into mini-movies, which can grow and evolve over time. David Stewart, its founder and CEO, recently gave me a preview.
Every video-sharing service has a different theory about how long video clips should be to encourage maximum creativity and stifle tedium. For Instagram, it’s 15 seconds; for Vine, it’s six. And with JumpCam, the limit is 10 seconds a clip. But that’s a per-clip limit, and a JumpCam video can consist of up to 30 clips from multiple contributors, allowing for long-form creations, by the standards of these sorts of apps: up to five minutes total.
Stewart told me that JumpCam’s not-so-inventive interface was an intentional design choice: The company decided that it made sense to give users something comfortably familiar, tweaked to allow for the service’s unique features.
What can you create? Well, here’s Billy the Banana’s World Tour, a joint project by eight people. (As the fact that it’s here shows, you can embed JumpCams on other sites, as well as share them via Facebook, Tumblr and other means.)
When you post an initial JumpCam clip, you can specify who else can contribute to it: everybody, just your friends or only people you specifically invite. JumpCam automatically creates a title sequence that shows everybody’s avatar photos, and it highlights individual contributors’ avatars as their sections of a video play.
You can apply Instagram-style filters (which affect the entire video) and shuffle around clips or delete them. The heavy lifting of applying videos and stitching everything together is all done on the cloud side, not on your phone. (JumpCam plans to introduce an Android app soon.) People can continue to add clips to a video until the 30-clip limit is reached.
Like Billy’s adventure, some JumpCam videos involve planning and storytelling. Others are devoted to off-the-cuff conversation — like a discussion of favorite ice cream flavors. In other words, depending on how you look at it and how you use it, JumpCam can be either a fancier, video-centric Instagram or a Twitter that lets you see and hear the folks you’re chatting with.
At the moment, the service is full of stuff from beta testers, many of who are in the Philippines and New Zealand. As with any sort of social service, it’ll only fill up with compelling content if lots and lots of people use it, and it’s most likely to be interesting to you if at least some of those people are your friends from the real world or other social networks. Whether it manages to compete with already-big networks like Instagram and Vine will be a test of the mass appeal of its group approach. It’s a neat idea that’s worth trying.