Smule’s Strum: An ‘Instagram for Video’ That’s Set to Music

This iPhone app turns 15 seconds of video into mini-music videos you can share.

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The mobile world has a bunch of apps which are striving to do for video what Instagram did for photo sharing — most notably Viddy — and it’s not obvious that it needs another one. That might seem to be bad news for Strum, a new iPhone app which most assuredly would like to be the Instagram of video.

But Strum is from Smule, the company behind such music apps as Ocarina and Magic Piano. And it has a music-themed approach to the Instagram-for-video challenge, based on the company’s own proprietary artificial-intelligence technologies, which gives it a feeling all its own.

It’s a tad difficult to describe solely with words, so do me a favor: Watch this representative Strum video, then come back here. (I’ll wait.)

To share video with Strum, you shoot a short clip with the iPhone — up to 15 seconds. Then you apply a filter. Like Instagram filters, Strum ones fiddle around with color and other visuals, sometimes giving a video an old-timey look. But they also perform quick edits, often looping a bit of the action repeatedly. At the moment, there’s even a Christmas filter which adds synthetic snowflakes tumbling down the screen.

And most important of all, they filter the audio as well as the video. Strum filters generate music — which doesn’t sound exactly the same for any two clips — and retune any speech on the soundtrack, oftentimes leaving the speakers sounding like they’re singing or rapping.

All of this is done without your intervention; as with Instagram, it’s easy to preview several filters before you commit to one. The results feel like tiny music videos, which you can share via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and text message as well as within the Strum app.

Strum, which Smule provided to me in pre-release form for a sneak peek, will only take off if it attracts a community of creative people who love to share videos and peruse ones shared by others. And although I had fun rummaging through clips strangers had filtered and uploaded, I’m not sure how engaging the video and audio effects will be once the novelty starts to wear thin. (The company plans to add new filters over time; most will be free, like the app itself, but some will run you $2.99 a pop.)

For now, Strum is very much worth checking out. It may be an Instagram for video, but it also deserves to be appreciated on its own quirky, inventive merits.