Cuts Makes Video Mashups Less Violent

Earlier this week we sat down with Evan Krauss, the CEO of San Francisco-based Cuts, who seemed remarkably calm considering his upcoming release schedule. The online video editing service his team makes is supposed to go into private beta Friday, and public beta a week from then. The UI is still pretty rough, but he promised it’ll be tweaked before the thing ships.

cuts1.jpgUI notwithstanding, I’m pretty enthusiastic about Cuts. It’s less about the features and more about the stuff behind the scenes, which could be crucial to succeeding in a relatively small market where one of the other players has already been picked off (Jumpcut to Yahoo).

Though Cuts helps you add captions, trim video, and insert goofy sounds into a video, it does not alter the source. The Cuts player is basically a wrapper for an embedded video, and doles out your alterations mid-stream. The original is left intact back on the site it was uploaded to, and the view counter ticks up a notch. Users don’t have to upload a video, just point Cuts to Myspace, YouTube, Google, Metacafe, or IFILM (with more to be added).

That trick takes the violence out of the mashup, so it should make copyright holders and creatives happy. Or at least less upset.

When we first talked to Cuts about six months ago, they were gung-ho on making a piece of desktop software that would do the same thing for DVDs — insert edits while a video was playing without altering the source. That product is on the back burner now while the team tries to grab onto the online video bonanza.

What I’m having trouble with is deciding whether video editing is a novelty — as seen in Jumpcut’s contest-oriented business model — or a tool. I mean, it can’t be that good of a tool; Cuts, Jumpcut, Eyespot, and Motionbox alike tout the simplicity of their features. If you really want to mess around with a piece of video, they say, buy a piece of software. The web is for small tasks and instant gratification.

They’re right; it’s good to do a few things well. For instance, I haven’t gotten to play around with it much, but I like Cuts’ embedded email player. Rather than sending impenetrable links, this tool makes your video into a 16k HTML page containing an embedded player that can show the video within the email. Now that could be killer.

In terms of business models, Krauss thinks he can do a better job at getting his tools on video-sharing sites and old school media sites than his competitors have done. He says he has some revenue ideas that shouldn’t interfere too much with the sites, like bringing ads into the caption area. If so, maybe Cuts can avoid hitting the cutting-room floor.

Cuts was a project incubated by Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital and some of his long-time collaborators. It has raised $700,000 to date over a couple of seed rounds and is looking do a Series A round in June. Krauss has significant experience as an internet executive at Excite, AOL, Looksmart, and most recently Yahoo.