Trash is a new startup promising to make it easier for anyone to create well-edited videos.
Social video is an area that CEO Hannah Donovan knows well, having previously served as general manager at Vine (the video app that Twitter acquired and eventually shut down). She said that in user research, even though people had “really powerful cameras in their pockets,” when it came to editing their footage together, they’d always say, “Oh, I’m not technical enough, I’m not smart enough.”
Donovan, who also worked as head of creative at Last.fm, said she “got curious about whether we could use computer vision to analyze the video and synthesize it into a sequence.”
The result is the Trash app, which comes with a straightforward tag line: “You shoot, we edit.”
Donovan demonstrated the app for me last week, shooting a few brief clips around the TechCrunch New York office, which were then assembled into a video — not exactly an amazing video but much, much better than anything I could have done with the footage. We also got to tweak the video by adjusting the music, the speed or the “vibe,” then post it on Trash and other social networks.
Donovan founded the company with its Chief Scientist Genevieve Patterson, who has a Ph.D. from Brown and also did postdoctoral work with Microsoft Research.
Patterson told me that Trash’s technology covers two broad categories. First there’s analysis, where a neural network analyzes the footage to identify elements like people, faces, interesting actions and different types of shots. Then there’s synthesis, where “we try to figure out what are the most cool and interesting parts of the video, to create a mini-music video for you with a high diversity of content.”
The app should get smarter over time as it gets more training data to work with, Patterson added. For one thing, she noted that most of the initial training footage used “Hollywood-style cinematography,” but as Trash brings more users on-board, it can better adapt to the ways people shoot on their phone.
It’s starting that on-boarding process now with what Donovan calls a “creator beta,” where the team is looking for a variety of creators — particularly talented photographers who haven’t embraced video yet — to try things out. You can request an invite by downloading the iOS app. (Donovan said there are plans to build an Android version eventually.)
Trash has raised $2.5 million from sources as varied as the National Science Foundation, Japan’s Digital Garage and Dream Machine, the fund created by former TechCrunch Editor Alexia Bonatsos. Donovan said the startup isn’t focused on revenue yet — but eventually, it could make money through sponsorships, pro features and by allowing creators to sell their footage in the app.
And if you’re wondering where the name comes from, Donovan offered both a “snarky response” (“I don’t give a damn and I don’t take myself too seriously”) and a more serious one.
“We believe that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure,” she said. “With filmmaking, as you know, there’s a lot of things that get left on the cutting room floor. That’s one of the product concepts, in the longer term, that we want to explore.”