GoPro’s CEO believes a simple video editing app holds the key to the company’s future
Nick Woodman thinks QuikStories represents the path forward for GoPro. The company’s founder/CEO doesn’t hold back. “You can say this is the biggest thing we’ve done to simplify the experience of sharing video since the invention of the GoPro itself,” he says matter of factly.
Woodman has always been GoPro’s biggest cheerleader, from its founding in 2004, to the major financial struggles over the past several years that have led many analysts to declare the hardware maker dead in the water. Investors haven’t always agreed with the decisions made under his leadership, but his unbridled enthusiasm has never been in question — and the new app is no exception.Unfortunately, however, it’s not that great. On the face of it, QuikStories is Instagram Stories or Apple Clips for the action camera. It’s the shortest path from a GoPro camera to social media. The app automatically edits clips and photos into a short video, complete with music and transitions. It is, Woodman believes, the missing link standing between the company’s cameras and meaningful mainstream adoption. “Our customers [had] a bottleneck to actually transforming clips into an exciting video that they could enjoy themselves and share with others,” Woodman tells TechCrunch. “QuikStories is the uncorking of that bottleneck and the opening of the floodgates and making it easier for customers to easily take advantage of the GoPro in the form of a story that’s easily generated on their phone.”
Uncorking the bottleneckQuikStories is the product of a refocused company. Four years ago, GoPro reshuffled things, and began rebuilding its software team from the ground up, convinced that it was the way forward for a company that appeared to be painting itself into a corner. Early last year, it bought a pair of video editing companies — Stupeflix and Vemory — for a combined $105 million. Stupeflix’s iOS app, Replay, served as the foundation for this new offering. The change of approach was necessary, Woodman explains, because GoPro’s strategy has traditionally been so focused on hardware. Five generations of the company’s flagship Hero line have resulted in a piece of push-button hardware that’s easy to use out of the box. But while GoPros have become ubiquitous among video professionals looking to capture something from an unconventional point of view, smartphones and social media have set the standard for video simplicity among consumers. “What happens to a business that has been successful in selling a solution that has been incomplete for the consumer?” Woodman asks rhetorically. “What happens when that business fixes that problem and now has a solution that’s very easy for the consumer to be successful with? We believe that can have a dramatic impact on our company because it’s going to have a dramatic impact on consumers.“ As he speaks, it feels as if Woodman is betting a big piece of his company’s future on this simple video editing app — and honestly, that’s not all that far from the truth. QuikStories’ success or failure won’t be what makes or breaks GoPro at the end of the day, but the app — coupled with the smartphone connectivity the company has rolled out in recent years — is a key pillar of its strategy moving forward. It’s a hell of a lot to hang on a single app — particularly one that, as of writing this piece, doesn’t feel fully baked.
Software is hard, tooOur video producer Veanne has spent much of the past few days playing around with QuikStories. The build, it’s worth noting right off the bat, isn’t quite final, so some of the issues may be resolved when the final version drops today. Thus far, the app has only been available in limited release to the GoPro team and a handful of beta reviewers, ourselves included. It’s easy to see how the app could ultimately serve as a useful tool for users looking for the path of least resistance from shooting to sharing. The company won’t go into detail about the secret sauce fueling the choices it makes as far as what to include in a given story, except to say that it has developed an “algorithm to identify ‘highlight’ moments within video,” according to a rep. Veanne was pretty disappointed by the end results of the automated process:
In auto-mode, my final Quikstory highlighted the following: my stubby fingers adjusting the camera, 10 too many clips of trees during the bike ride, the bike falling to the ground, several blurry shots and my dog’s bum — two minutes of ‘meh.’The algorithm leaves something to be desired in this early version, but users can, thankfully, go back and tinker with things after the machine spits out the video. Veanne again:
You have the option to actually move clips around, trim footage, choose a different song, change the duration of the video. Lots of presets filled with colorful filters and whimsical transitions for any mood. It’s a bit cumbersome and glitchy, but fun to tinker with, but the interface ultimately appeals more to the average smartphone user on holiday than the hardcore GoPro enthusiast jumping down cliffs and quarter pipes.The app’s ultimate success will depend, in part, on finding the balance between automation and customization. Ideally the videos it outputs will be strong enough to stand on their own, however. At a certain point, re-editing sort of defeats QuikStories’ primary purpose. After all, there are plenty of options for simple video editing, including recent entries from companies like Apple. There’s some pretty stiff competition on that side of things. Battery life is another major issue at this stage. The camera needs to stay on in order to transfer footage to the app, so things drain pretty quickly. The app also crashed a couple of times during testing, though that, hopefully, is just a byproduct of testing an unfinished version. According to the company, future versions of the QuikStories will be incorporated directly into the GoPro app at some point down the road. The company is currently figuring out how to best do that without removing functionality for pro users — it’s the trap that Apple got caught up in with the release of Final Cut Pro X, which pissed off its base when it traded functionality for usability. “So much of GoPro’s business is the higher end of the market,” Woodman says. “I think what’s important is that QuikStories doesn’t get in their way at all.” GoPro has spent a decade and a half fixated on hardware at the expense of solid software experiences. It’s been clear for some time now that getting GoPro back on track was going to be hard — and that’s doubly true when so much of the company’s plan is invested in a piece of the puzzle that has been neglected for so long. “Hardware is hard,” Woodman says with a laugh. “Software is hard, too.” It’s probably not catchy enough to sell a lot of t-shirts, but it gets the point across. Righting the ship is going to take a while.