Eoghan Kidney is one of those frighteningly talented people. He’s created a vast collection of beautiful things across a range of disciplines, directing films, animations and music videos with an endless roster of Irish and international acts. More recently he has moved into virtual reality, building his own headset then an interactive VR game based on Ulysses which immerses headset wearers in the world of Joycean Dublin.
Trailer for We, The Masses, a film by Eoghan Kidney
And most recently Kidney has been working on Rotor, a web app which makes creating music videos easy. Users can upload a song and video clips (though they can opt for stock video instead) then the app analyzes the music’s tempo, beat and loudness to build a video around it, integrating one of several visual styles. After further customisation the video can be downloaded.
Though there are already lots of music video apps around–Fly makes editing simpler, while Dublin-based Whole World Band and FanFootage offer a platform for collaborative music videos–but none of them are specifically targeted to bands in need of a simple but good-looking video. If anything it seems more like ViddyAd, another Irish startup which creates almost-instant video advertising, only Rotor is more customisable and integrates music. The tagline is “If you’re not being seen you’re not being heard“, and Rotor addresses that problem with style.
Interested to find out more about Rotor (which goes into soft launch this month) I spoke to Kidney at his office, where I was instantly distracted by the stacks of books about Joyce, the Oculus Rift sitting casually on a desk, and the pictures of mythical beasts pinned on the wall.
Hi Eoghan! So I read the profile of Rotor in Motherboard. Has it changed much since then?
That was last year, it’s changed a bit since then. We’ve lost team members and brought new ones on. And the user interface has changed, we’ve developed the styles the algorithm behind the styles quite a lot.
With Rotor you can choose the style your video will be made in–are those styles based on pre-existing, human-made videos? How does it work?
It’s kind of a whole new thing. We’re not imitating an old paradigm. We wanted to look at the tools that are out there already, what can we make of them, and work out a new, visual way to promote and share music. You see videos online now that were made by the musician, or directed by them…We wanted to work alongside how we interact with technology now, rather than back when we’d arrive home from school, turn on TV and get our music delivered delivered that way watching the charts.
How does it work?
You upload the music and the computer analyses it, then you choose a style and Rotor kind of stitches the video together. It gives artists a kind of instagram way to make a video, one that simple and slick but still does a good job. It gives them some control without using editing and compositing tools like After Effects or Premiere.
How long does it take to make a video?
A few minutes.
Is it weird creating something that’s almost making your job as a music video director obsolete?
No, not at all. It’s just creating a new tool, something that doesn’t exist yet. It’s not like you invent the paint brush and put the pencil out of business. It’s exciting, working out whether people want that tool, whether you can solve a problem.
It’s really interesting in the context of bands who have had overnight success online. Or say the idea of the lyrics video that’s a placeholder until something more expensive is made..
You get musicians trying to make videos with no money, and the less money they have the higher the risk what they make is going to be a load of shite. So there’s a need for video content, especially among up and coming musicians, amateur musicians, anyone who wants to share their music online but needs another way of reaching out.
With Rotor you can incorporate stock footage–where does it come from?
We have clip packs for now, but we’re hoping musicians will add to it with their own footage to, bits of video they have on their phones. The stock footage is stuff we’ve shot ourselves, some creative commons videos, there are more in the works.
What are the results like? Are there videos up on YouTube now with the Rotor watermark still on them (the free option for using Rotor is to keep a watermark)?
It’s not launched yet. We did a closed beta test, just to test the strain the rendering will put our cloud computers under. The next launch will be a soft launch–we don’t want a rush on the thing, but we’d like people to get a sense of what it’s like, without restricting it to anyone in particular, just to see what kind of people use and share it.
Where is music shared most now? I can only really think of Soundcloud and Bandcamp and stuff as music-specific social media..
YouTube. Last year it became the largest music discovery platform in the world. Bigger than Spotify, iTunes, anything else. YouTube playlists are where people are discovering music and listening to it the most. Especially with the amazing success of Vevo. What the major labels managed to pull off with Vevo is incredible.
With sound quality with Rotor, can it work on less polished music? Could you create videos to live music?
Like as a VJ tool? The engine that we’ve created has potential to be used live, for sure, but it’s not the product we’re developing. Maybe in the future? But there are other products like VJ Platform that are doing that already. We’ve been inspired by VJ culture and VJ tools, and we’re collaborating with VJ artists in a way, using their knowledge base and creating content for the web. There’s a lot of stuff out there already: we’re trying to appeal to people who don’t have access to the more complicated editing tools.