Back in the 1960s, 35mm film cameras like the Arriflex became so small and light they enabled a new style of fleet-footed filmmaking known as the French New Wave. Then portable video cameras and, a few years later, digital HD video brought the "filmmaking" process into the hands of a new kind of independent cineaste. These days it's easy to shoot professional-looking video on a shoestring budget.
Except for the editing. A serious video editing suite, like Final Cut Pro or Avid Media Composer, is quite expensive and requires a powerful computer to run on.
Enter Tubifi, a cloud-based DIY video editing suite that may enable a whole new New Wave of its own. It even comes with a built-in social network for creative talent, and direct access to thousands of stock video clips, photos and music.
Oh, did I mention that it's free?
A fully functional free video production suite aimed at ad agencies, marketers, and PR companies, Tubifi provides seamless, searchable access to a huge collection of stock video, images and music to make your videos explode from the screen. Tubifi provides a great way for small businesses to create their own promotional videos, deploy impactful video marketing and advertising, or hire it done with help from some industry friends. A Tubifi Professional account is absolutely free except for the cost of stock footage you buy. You get up to 100 gigabytes of free storage, and unlimited use of the online video editor.
Final Cut Pro In the Cloud. Not.
Initially, Tubifi's designers thought they were building something like Final Cut Pro in the cloud. Martin Heller, Chairman of Tubifi, disagreed.
"For one thing, there wouldn't have been a computer in the world that could run it," he explains. "It would have been like trying to boil the ocean. So I introduced them to the idea of MVP—a Minimum Viable Product. First you build something for creative professionals, and then you add other roles." Heller believes that the MVP approach has been absolutely key to Tubifi's success. In any case, the company rolled out a beta at the Demo show in October, 2012, and the product went live early in 2013.
The Three-Legged Stool
In fact, Tubifi's video editing platform does work a lot like Final Cut Pro, but it's far less intimidating. You upload all the media you'll need to make your video: images, music, video, voice-over, titles. You add stock footage using Tubifi's streaming interface. Then you drag the various elements into the time-line, adjust start and stop times of each element using a click-and-drag mouse-driven interface, and fool around with the "married" rough cut until you're happy with the result. You don't pay for any of the stock footage or music until you finalize the video.
For Heller, the editing platform is the seat of Tubifi's three-legged stool.
- The first leg is the primary customer—a producer, say, or an ad executive, or a small business owner who wants the video made and might do some of the editing herself.
- The second leg is Tubifi's seamless interface with stock houses that allows you to search, preview, edit, and customize thousands of streaming video and music clips without downloading or paying for them until your video is ready to go. That means the video can be reviewed by the full team before any final decisions are made or paid for.
- The third leg is the Tubifi Creative Network, a social network of editors, actors, composers, writers, and voice-over talent…all of whom can be hired to collaborate and contribute.
"So it's all of the above," says Heller. "And it's the power of combining all of the above. Businesses can view profiles of creative talent and select collaborators based on portfolio style, areas of expertise, and other information in the talent's profile. Talent can build and share quick concept-videos to show concept to small businesses. And those businesses can invite selected producers/editors to bid on the project."
Making the Pitch
Tubifi offers different capabilities for different kinds of customers. If it's a high-end agency Heller advises them to use Tubifi for making pitch videos. "You can spend $30,000-$40,000 for a pitch video," he says, "and it takes a month. Whereas on Tubifi you can make a pitch video in a day, maybe shooting a few minutes with your actors but mostly using stock."
For smaller agencies or businesses he suggests making most of the actual ad on Tubifi and then, if necessary, bringing it down to a Final Cut workstation after they've selected all the stock, uploaded their own material, done a rough cut, and gotten approval from the client. "All the media will come down," he explains, "all the edits will come down, and you can just pick it up from there in Final Cut Pro or Premiere or on an Avid workstation."
Tubifi faces the same issues that many startups do, especially startups that are breaking new ground: paying for marketing, being clear enough about the vision to get investors interested, and maintaining a sharp technical focus. Tubifi's primary cash flow comes from taking a small percentage of stock media sales and production funds for video projects on the site. Its biggest need right now is wider marketing.
Promotion aside, the next step in the business plan involves continuing to ramp up the user base. "So we're doing the inexpensive things," says Heller, "and they work. We're doing blog posts, and we're sending out a lot of email. The email in particular is working really well. Essentially it's driving people to check out the platform—and once they try it they stay and use it. The product has to lead the marketing."
Apparently someone is doing something right. In its first month, Tubifi's user base has grown rapidly, from 100 to 800 users, and according to Heller reactions have been overwhelmingly positive.
Tubifi's collection of stock video providers is equally impressive. It includes three video vendors: Getty Images, Pond5, and Wavebreak Media. For images the sources are Wavebreak Media and BigStockPhoto. And two audio partners are onboard: Pond5 and Killer Tracks. SmartSound, a special kind of music vendor that allows you to adjust the length and style of the music cue to match your footage, is a recent addition—and Tubifi has a waiting list of six or seven stock providers waiting to sign on.
Video More Than Ever
Businesses need video more than ever. Video is essential for being seen on mobile devices, being shared across social media, engaging web site visitors and email recipients, and advertising online. Tubifi says it's committed to making it easy to craft quality videos in the cloud. But there's one thing they don't mention. It's fun!
As part of the research for this business profile, I took a few hours one afternoon to build a small video on Tubifi promoting my book, Heaven Before I Die—A Journey to the Heart of New Orleans (ebook version). It was much easier than my previous attempt with Final Cut, and (I must admit) huge fun as well. It was almost impossible to tear myself away from my "research" and back to writing. My Inner Filmmaker may need to take further advantage of this exciting new resource in the cloud.
And apparently I'm not the only one.