12seconds.tv Brings Video Recording to the iPhone…Sort Of

12seconds.tv has just launched a new iPhone app ($0.99) in the App Store that allows you to output video files from your iPhone and share them with your friends on the web. It’s just not the video that you had in mind. This clever little app lets you take three photos, or pick them from your photo library, and then add a voice note over a nicely animated slideshow, complete with Ken Burns effects.

The name of the service comes from the maximum length of any video, just 12 seconds, no more (and no less either, at least from the iPhone app). The videos are uploaded to the 12seconds.tv community site where you and your friends can view them, link to them, or embed them in a web page.

The 12seconds iPhone app has a very different feel from staring into a webcam. The ability to select the photos and have some control over the composition of the video before recording the audio creates some distance between the author and the video. The result is something that still feels intimate and personal, but has a stronger sense of telling a story, even in 12 seconds, than you might get from talking into the camera.

Here’s a quick video demonstration from Sol Lipman of 12seconds.tv.

What’s Good?

The whole process is fairly simple and relatively painless. To select your pics, you can take snaps right in the app, but I think most people will prefer to take pictures with the built-in camera app and then switch to the 12seconds app to select the existing pics from the camera roll. After you’ve selected your pictures you can record audio to go with the animated slidshow.

You can sign up for an account on the 12seconds.tv community site from within the app, but most of the settings and configuration is done on the web page. You can link your Twitter account to your 12seconds.tv profile so you can automatically send out a tweet when you add a new video.

What’s Less Than Good?

One frustration is that there is no “undo” for any of the steps in creating your 12 second video. If you select the wrong picture, you have to press “back” and start over. If you mess up your audio note, you have to start over. And starting over here means from the beginning.

Because the app is tied so closely to the 12seconds.tv website, it does not work at all if the web page is down or if the iPhone is in Airplane Mode. You can take pics with the camera and save them in the camera roll, but you’ll have to select your three images and record your audio when you are in range of a network connection, preferably 3G or Wi-Fi. Edge is just too slow to upload video reliably.

Video Twitter?

The 140 character limit makes Twitter more accessible and certainly less intimidating than writing a full blog post when you want to just share a random thought, witticism, link, or just complain. The constraints of 3 pictures and 12 seconds will have a similar effect for video micro-blogging. It’s enough to share a moment, but not so much that you actually have to script anything out. Of course, what makes Twitter popular is that there are 6 million or so other people throwing their voice into the wind, and some are paying attention to you. The future success of 12seconds is going to depend on how quickly the rest of the world picks up on the idea of sharing 12 second videos.

Is It Worth It?

12seconds.tv is not the video recording experience that we were hoping for, but I actually think that the unique constraints of three images and 12 seconds is interesting in itself. If you are out and take a few snaps with the iPhone camera, you could post a link and comment on Twitter, or you could actually talk about what’s happening and convey a lot more with your own voice. I think the possibilities are worth looking into. Of course, the real trick to see if I keep my interest in 12seconds.tv is if my friends adopt it and I stay engaged.