Cuts Makes Video Mashups Less Violent


Earlier this week we sat down with Evan Krauss, the CEO of San Francisco-based Cuts, who seemed remarkably calm considering his upcoming release schedule. The online video editing service his team makes is supposed to go into private beta Friday, and public beta a week from then. The UI is still pretty rough, but he promised it’ll be tweaked before the thing ships.

cuts1.jpgUI notwithstanding, I’m pretty enthusiastic about Cuts. It’s less about the features and more about the stuff behind the scenes, which could be crucial to succeeding in a relatively small market where one of the other players has already been picked off (Jumpcut to Yahoo).

Though Cuts helps you add captions, trim video, and insert goofy sounds into a video, it does not alter the source. The Cuts player is basically a wrapper for an embedded video, and doles out your alterations mid-stream. The original is left intact back on the site it was uploaded to, and the view counter ticks up a notch. Users don’t have to upload a video, just point Cuts to Myspace, YouTube, Google, Metacafe, or IFILM (with more to be added).

That trick takes the violence out of the mashup, so it should make copyright holders and creatives happy. Or at least less upset.

When we first talked to Cuts about six months ago, they were gung-ho on making a piece of desktop software that would do the same thing for DVDs — insert edits while a video was playing without altering the source. That product is on the back burner now while the team tries to grab onto the online video bonanza.

What I’m having trouble with is deciding whether video editing is a novelty — as seen in Jumpcut’s contest-oriented business model — or a tool. I mean, it can’t be that good of a tool; Cuts, Jumpcut, Eyespot, and Motionbox alike tout the simplicity of their features. If you really want to mess around with a piece of video, they say, buy a piece of software. The web is for small tasks and instant gratification.

They’re right; it’s good to do a few things well. For instance, I haven’t gotten to play around with it much, but I like Cuts’ embedded email player. Rather than sending impenetrable links, this tool makes your video into a 16k HTML page containing an embedded player that can show the video within the email. Now that could be killer.

In terms of business models, Krauss thinks he can do a better job at getting his tools on video-sharing sites and old school media sites than his competitors have done. He says he has some revenue ideas that shouldn’t interfere too much with the sites, like bringing ads into the caption area. If so, maybe Cuts can avoid hitting the cutting-room floor.

Cuts was a project incubated by Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital and some of his long-time collaborators. It has raised $700,000 to date over a couple of seed rounds and is looking do a Series A round in June. Krauss has significant experience as an internet executive at Excite, AOL, Looksmart, and most recently Yahoo.



Liz Gannes

I asked Cuts CEO Evan Krauss if he had any comments regarding your concerns. Here is his response, somewhat edited for clarity at his request:

We are in crunch-time but here goes..

As for Ryan’s comment, I only know of one other company that supports playback editing vs save-editing from multiple video sites – BubblePLY. It’s a whole different ball game for us – our editing tools support video sources that we can’t control. Others manage the video, uploaded on their services neatly prepped for their specific editing environment.

As for Alan – Cleanflicks purchased DVDs, edited them, and sold or rented them. They were shut down in the end because the altered the original video and then profited from the resale. A competitor of theirs, Clearplay, however, was not shut down because their service controlled playback of the original DVD in a special DVD player that used a USB stick and filters downloaded from their site.

The “is it right question” – god that’s a big one. It’s a long discussion that I cant do justice to in the time that I have. In short – we live in a connected community now where information & content flows like liquid. The fact that it’s digital is new, but it’s been happening for thousands of years. The Bible is a mashup of all things. Our focus is to offer tools to help people communicate ideas and express their creativity.

alan dickson

“That trick takes the violence out of the mashup, so it should make copyright holders and creatives happy. Or at least less upset.”

Do you mean the violence of having to edit, or the violence of having your creation altered by someone else, without your permission?

The interesting thing about this approach is that it’s the video equivalent of “framing” someone else’s webpage in your own webpage.

There were a lot of court cases about that in the 90’s and it was firmly decided by everyone that it would not be allowed or proper to do.

Then came the court cases for software altering works that the Director’s Guild filed against Cleanflicks (
for letter users buy DVDs and play them without the violence, sex or whatever they didn’t like.

Note here on the Cleanflicks site that they lost:

So that’s the end of that. I notice that very few Web 2.0 companies pay any attention to copyright issues when they build and they have no sense of history (2002 was the Cleanflicks casee era).

Cuts is cool, but I wonder if they are only going for material licensed for remixing, or if they are just going to do it to everyone?

One the one hand, we should have a culture that wants and allows the complete remixing of cultural artifacts without thinking that the creation is less because of the later alteration. On the other, it’s currently and explicitly against the law.

But for now, you don’t show Cuts being very considerate of what the creators want, and to me, that seems part of building any good Web 2.0 business.

Liz Gannes

Thanks for the comment, Ryan.

I feel like to the user it makes a difference that with Cuts you can grab a movie from another site rather than having to upload. When I’ve been playing with the other sites I haven’t noticed anyone else who does it this way, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

Ryan Shaw

“The Cuts player is basically a wrapper for an embedded video, and doles out your alterations mid-stream. The original is left intact back on the site it was uploaded to, and the view counter ticks up a notch.”

This is the way most online video editors work–some systems do it server-side, and some client-side, but in either case the edits are just metadata applied dynamically to original media sources.

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