Vine was hardly the first iPhone video app with social networking ambitions. Well before Twitter's six-second clip shooting and sharing service, there was Socialcam, which launched in the Spring of 2011. The free app was more intended as an Instagram for video, since it offers effect filters like its still-photo forerunner – something not possible in Vine. You also don't get the six second limitation – which could be either a plus or a drawback, depending on your tastes.
Since I last looked at Socialcam, the app was bought by design software giant Autodesk, and the stability and quality of the app shows this provenance. Let's dig in and see how Socialcam compares with the Johnny-come-lately of video apps.
To get going with Socialcam, you can sign up using your Facebook or Twitter account, or create a new account using your email address. When I signed up with a Facebook account, I was automatically following the feeds of all my Friends who've used Socialcam, as well as those of any entities I'd liked on Facebook.
You start out in the app with a view of your newsfeed of videos. Five buttons along the bottom control your view – Videos, Popular, Record, Friends, and Activity. Under each video entry in your stream there are big Repeat and Like buttons, with comments below those. Happily, this newsfeed is limited to showing three comments, so you can easily scroll down past any video. To see all comments, you just tap the text bubble icon.
Notifications for every activity you can imagine are set on by default, so if you don't want constant iPhone interruptions, I recommend limiting these in Settings. As with any social network worth its salt, you get a profile page with a user pic, cover image, bio line, and you can even specify a "Spirit Animal." The profile also lets users scroll down a feed of all your own videos. You can make your feed private, so that only users you approve can see your videos.
One of Socialcam's cooler features comes into play once you click that red Record button at bottom centre of the screen: Swiping left and right selects live filters, like Kodak, 1970s, watercolour, grunge, and an extreme "electronica" option. Several of these are very cool looking.
Viddy also offers these Instagram-like filters, but they’re more appealingly presented, and it adds the ability to turn on the camera light and pause recording with a tap. Another thing I wish Socialcam would do is tell the user to hold the camera horizontally, as Directr does.
There's no limit to the length of a Socialcam video, and while that’s more flexible than Vine, it can have a downside in the potential for longer, boring videos. Of course, the incessant repetition when you play short Vine videos can be just as annoying.
Pincam, a close competitor of Socialcam, tries to solve this problem by automatically detecting and removing dull spans of time in your video, but that app isn't as easy to use as Socialcam. Another competitor, Directr, takes the most pro-video approach, having you build a mini-movie by filling in set-timed storyboard shots. But that also requires more setup and effort than Socialcam.
Title theme and music
Next you add a Title, a simple line of text. After that, you choose a Theme – like MTV, classic, news, or travel – which sets your font display and animation. At this point, you can also choose form 20 background music options. Tapping on the tile for any of these choices plays the music for you, so you won't be surprised by the results when you’re done. However, when I chose music, I didn't hear it when I played the video back in my Socialcam feed. I then noticed that a slider control let me increase the volume of the background music, and all was well.
The only problem: I couldn't go back and remix or re-edit my existing Socialcam videos within the app. But happily, you can give the Socialcam treatment to existing videos in your Camera Roll – some competing apps only allow you to deal with video shot on the spot. This means you could trim the video with the iPhone's own video editing capabilities and then use it on the video social network.
After these choices, the next page in the process has you identify any Socialcam contacts appearing in the video, and choose the particular contacts who should see the video, then you can specify where to share the clip – which we'll talk about next.
Socialcam excels at sharing and web presentation. Unlike when you use Vine, you can scroll through your whole Socialcam feed in a web browser. It's a fully-fledged video social network, with a leaderboard, favourites, commenting, profile pages – the whole nine yards. As with any self-respecting social network with ambitions of becoming a force in society, you'll even see some celebrities in the most-followed list – I saw MC Hammer, Madonna, and Soulja Boy. A lot of sports teams and brands also have Socialcam pages. A Pinterest-style popular videos page lets you infinite scroll down in a "waterfall" view.
The app also gives you generous non-Socialcam sharing options, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Socialcam saved all my videos to my iPhone's Camera Roll, which is kind of what you'd expect, though you'd be surprised at how many apps don't do this. The service also allows viewers to share your video in their timeline. They can Facebook, tweet, email, or SMS text message the videos, but not download them.
After experiencing Vine, which I often find too clipped, Socialcam videos, which are often ten times longer than the Vine allowance – a whole minute – do occasionally seem tedious. Socialcam offers a lot more options, with cool filters, background music, and more flexible sharing options. It also offers far more than Vine in the way of web presentation – but Viddy offers everything Socialcam does and more, in a nicer interface.