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AnyClip for your personal movie magic

Posted By David Shamah On December 3, 2009 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments

With Israel’s AnyClip you just key in a description of your favorite movies or movie scenes on the Internet to relive those magic moments over and over.

 

AnyClip co-founders Nate Westheimer (center) and Aaron Cohen (right) accept the Audience Choice Award at TechCrunch50 in September.

If you get a warm, fuzzy feeling when your favorite movie gets a rerun on TV, you’re going to love AnyClip from Israel, a new service that makes it easier for you to watch your favorite movies and movie moments legally, online.

But perhaps even more important, AnyClip could be the vehicle that finally allows Hollywood to feel comfortable enough with the Internet to grant viewers online access to films. Either way, the doyens of the tech world seem to agree – the Israeli company was chosen as one of the top Internet ideas at this year’s TechCrunch50 competition.

For movie lovers, there are as many reasons to love AnyClip as there are “movie moments,” those magical scenes that take us away to a special time and place. “Eventually, we hope to allow users to search out their favorite moments from all movies ever produced by Hollywood – and then move on to movies produced elsewhere, like in India, Russia, etc,” AnyClip co-founder and product VP Nate Westheimer tells ISRAEL21c.

Along with CEO Aaron Cohen and a staff of about a dozen “film fanatics,” as Westheimer calls them, working in the Jerusalem office, the AnyClip team has built a search engine that allows users to key in the attributes of a scene and watch it directly in their browser.

“For example,” says Westheimer, “if you’re a fan of the movie The Sixth Sense and like the scene where Bruce Willis is talking to the kid’s mom in the living room – but not really having a conversation, since Bruce Willis is really a ghost – you could type in ‘Sixth Sense’ and ‘living room scene,’ and you’ll get the clip you’re looking for. And,” he adds, “if you’re a fan of living rooms on film in general, just type in ‘living room,’ and you’ll get a full array of living room scenes.”

It’s ethical and Hollywood’s covered, too

“When searching for a scene from a movie, people describe moments in so many different ways, from dialogue and plot description to hazy memories of shark attacks and flying cars,” Cohen explains.

“This creates really engrossing and thorny computing problems,” he adds. “If someone searches for ‘dead shark,’ do they want to see Roy Scheider blowing up Jaws (i.e. action on screen) or Woody Allen lamenting the ‘death’ of his relationship with Annie Hall (i.e. dialogue)? The AnyClip platform incorporates tools to handle these issues and more.”

It should be noted that AnyClip hosts or links full versions of movies – not just specific clips – which the search engine parses when seeking scenes, so viewers can watch not just the most popular scenes (“Food Fight!”), but any scene.

While it is possible to watch movie clips on services like YouTube, according to Westheimer, the experience on those sites leaves much to be desired. “It’s hard to find the exact clip you want; you end up wading through a lot of irrelevant clips, and the quality is usually very poor.”

Besides, it’s unethical – and while it has a hard time keeping up with the flow, the YouTube people pull down illegally posted commercial film clips as soon as they find them, because the studios aren’t getting paid for their use. And of course, there are the numerous torrent and file sharing sites, where users download films directly to their computers. Either way, the studios are losing money.

Movies in an Internet age

But AnyClip has Hollywood (or Bollywood, for that matter) covered, too. Besides the folks who watch the movies, AnyClip will help the people who make the movies to finally get fair treatment online.

While the music industry seems to have figured out how to handle the Internet era (i.e. the iTunes store), the movie business is still feeling its way in a world where it seems that more people are watching multi-million dollar movies online for free than paying to see them in the theaters. AnyClip can help movie studios to finally break into the online business, monetizing their content – including older content that is just sitting on the shelf right now, Westheimer asserts.

“Thirty years ago, Universal sued Sony to prevent them from making and distributing the BetaMax, which the company claimed would infringe on their copyrights by letting users record films from TV. Universal lost, and as a result, we have a home video and DVD industry today worth $20 billion and $25 billion respectively,” Westheimer relates. “We understand the reluctance of the studios to trust the Internet, when they’ve been burned so badly until now. It’s going to take time to change attitudes, but we believe we have the tools they need to deal with the online video revolution.”

One way AnyClip does this is by providing opportunities for viewers of clips to purchase films from sites like Amazon or iTunes. Using pre-negotiated fair use rules, AnyClip limits clips to four minutes, and provides links to purchase sites.

And that’s just the beginning. AnyClip’s API (Application Programming Interface) is where the action is really going to be for the studios, says Cohen. “Imagine being able to purchase clips for use in games, greeting cards, personal videos, educational software… The sky’s the limit,” he says, and each of these channels represents a way that studios can monetize content – going far beyond the movie releases, DVD sales, and international and TV distribution rights that they concentrate on today.

Thousands waiting for an invitation

Either way, whether it’s via the search engine or through applications that will be developed using the API, “we are committed to making sure that artists and content owners get compensated for their rights,” Cohen says.

Besides the Israel development team, AnyClip has half a dozen people in New York and Los Angeles who are working on licensing the content and making deals with studios and content owners. So far, Westheimer says, there has been a great deal of interest and the company hopes to close arrangements with several large studios in the near future. And the fans, it seems, can’t wait; there are thousands on the waiting list for an invitation to the site.

In the end, the studios know they have no choice but to move forward. “DVD revenue is dropping for the first time since the format’s introduction,” says Cohen. “Piracy and Internet video-on-demand from the likes of Amazon, Netflix and iTunes are changing consumption patterns. Economic realities have forced audiences to reassess their entertainment spending. One way to stanch the bleeding in the Home Video Market is to reinvigorate the value locked in our memories.”

Cohen describes the potential latent in AnyClip’s four-minute clips: “They may encourage a purchase, rental, or download of the entire film. At minimum, they reunite the movie lovers with the art and the artists who brought them such joy. This reaffirms loyalty and interest in the future work these artists produce. That’s called ‘promotion.’ AnyClip evokes memories and channels them to enhance the values of the world’s great film libraries,” he explains.

All that as well as easy, ethical movie watching and an attractive entry point for studios to join the Internet age – that’s the “movie magic” AnyClip is aiming for.

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