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Prisma adds art filtered video, GIFs coming next

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Art filter photo app Prisma is adding a big new feature to its iOS app in an update landing today: support for videos.

The app, which lets people turn their selfies into cartoonies by using deep learning algorithms to process photos in various graphic styles, quickly surged to millions of downloads in a viral splash after launching this summer. And just as quickly spawning a rash of fast following clones.

As well as creating arty selfies, users of the Prisma iPhone app can now turn snippets of video up to 15 second long into playable animations by selecting one of the nine filter styles currently available — and waiting for the app’s AI algorithms to weave a frame by frame transformation.

Turning a boring shot of a hallway into a moving comic book in a matter of minutes (as per the clip example below).

Videos can be recorded in the app or selected for processing from the camera roll. You’ll need iOS 10 for Prisma video to work, and a little patience as it can take more than a minute to process a clip depending on length, resolution and which model iPhone you’re using.

Android users will have to be more patient — as there’s still no support for video there.

Prisma says it’s planning to add offline photo processing to the Android app first, in “a week or so”, after which co-founder Aram Airapetyan says they’ll “jump on a video development”. “Android is a tough guy,” he adds.

Processing time for Prisma video on iOS is around two mins for the iPhone 6; 55-60 secs for iPhone 6s; and half a minute for iPhone 7, according to Airapetyan, although in my experience videos seemed to finish process a little quicker than that on average.

All processing is done locally on the device so expect your iPhone hardware to heat up a little as you play around with remixing videos as mosaics or Munches or manga-style cartoons.

Next up on Prisma’s iOS to-do list is adding a GIF creator — with looped video touted as coming “very soon”, aka later this month.

Rough round the edges 

Prisma video on iOS is just a beta launch at this stage, with Airapetyan touting improvements in quality coming down the pipe, and an expanded choice of art filters to style clips — adding their intention is to make all Prisma’s photo processing styles available for video, and add some new ones too.

They’re not first to the punch with art filtered video, though — others, such as the startup behind photo processing app PicsArt, got there before them. (In PicsArt’s case siloing video processing into a second standalone app, called Magic Video).

But Airapetyan is dismissive of rivals’ efforts. “We’re faster and better, taking into account the fact that we’re launching videos in beta, as the final quality will be much better,” he argues when asked how Prisma video stacks up against PicsArt’s take.

“We’ll also increase the photo styles’ quality within a couple of weeks,” he adds.

It’s fighting talk, but Prisma is clearly now having to play catch up with the competition, thanks to its early viral success.

At this beta stage the quality of Prisma video also has some rough edges. More polished looking results are possible with Magic Video — although personally I prefer the simpler Prisma interface vs all the toggles and layers available in Magic Video (but if you prefer a greater choice of editing options and tools you’ll likely disagree).

In a quick test of Prisma video ahead of the new feature launch I found results looked a little crude and were less immediately appealing vs Prisma’s art filtered photos — with a tendency towards producing flickery footage.

That said, as with the art photos, different Prisma filters can yield pretty radically different results, some of which look better than others. So you’ll want to spend some time playing around with different styles.

I found there was typically at least one style that looked interesting if not entirely pleasing. So there’s certainly fun to be had here, although perhaps less instant viral potential vs the snap and share gratification of art filtered selfies.

Here are a couple more test clips I made — using the ‘Gold Fish’ and ‘The Scream’ filters respectively:

And here’s a longer form video made by music group Tweed, apparently incorporates Prisma’s tech (although — take note — the app has a hard stop at 15 seconds of video, so you’re not going to be able to create anything as long form yourself using just Prisma, just yet)…

For both video and photos Prisma’s app does not offer as many granular controls for processing as PicsArt’s two apps do. But Prisma’s simplicity is very much part of the viral appeal here IMO. Nor does Prisma require you to register just to process a few photos… But sure, horses for courses — if you want a more fully featured image editing app then Prisma is not it.

Looking purely at the photo filter effects, I also personally prefer Prisma’s results — finding PicsArt’s results generally more garish. But again that’s a matter of personal taste.

Despite — or perhaps because of — its single feature focus, Prisma continues to rack up downloads. It tells TechCrunch it’s now had around 70 million downloads at this point, just over three months after launch.

Back in August it was running at 55M+ downloads — and the app’s early popularity attracted speculation over the summer about whether or not the team would raise VC funding to keep developing or else get snapped up a social platform giant like Instagram or Snapchat keen to beef up its own in-house content creation talent.

In the event, Prisma has done neither. Instead it has started monetizing usage via sponsored styles that are available in the apps.

Currently it has one sponsored filter launched (called Gett), with another slated as coming later this month. And the team does not seem as if it’s about to accept a big outside investment.

“I think we’re ok,” adds Airapetyan, responding to a direct question about whether they’re raising funding. But whether a new kid on the block app with millions of downloads but no social sharing platform of its own, and a bunch of copycats seeking to eat its lunch, can turn a cool feature into a sustainable business remains to be seen.

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