I’ve made the mistake of joking once about a one-second video app. To me, one-second videos just seemed so out of touch with reality, and yet so in the trend of ultra-short mobile video platforms that a one-second app would statistically, and satirically, be the next best thing to do.
Only a week later, I would flip through a magazine to see that Drew Barrymore just loves using her one-second video app. What? It was like the bad moment in a horror movie when the punk kid who sneers at Freddy Krueger only ends up getting swiftly annihilated in a vengeance killing.
I realized— oh. It’s here. It’s already here.
1 Second Everyday is an app that lets users record one second of every day of their lives, effectively creating a lifetime supercut for the purpose of capturing and evoking memories. One second, the app stresses, is all it takes to bring back a whole day’s events. And it’s taking off. Creator Cesar Kuriyama states that his app’s downloads are in the hundreds of thousands.
The reality of a one-second app shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. Every new video application attaches another seemingly arbitrary number of seconds to cap off the clip. Instagram Video’s is 15, and Vine’s is six. The new video record-and-edit app MixBit’s is 16.
But what do these numbers actually mean, if anything? What do the seconds in a clip say about what and how much one can convey, about the process of creation, about the user themselves?
Vine’s video technology itself is not new, but the format is revolutionized when the users are given limitations to what they can do. Like Instagram and Twitter before it, a confine to what can be created only fosters creativity. Uniform photos, 140 characters, six seconds—through constructing boundaries to work within, they’re giving users a challenge.
Vine users have stepped up to the plate. The app is notorious for the culture that has thrived since its inception, a grassroots movement spurred by competition, creativity and early-adopting youth.
But highly produced, artistic videos are not Vine’s mainstay. The essence of “The Now,” and the instant gratification of immediate share-ability is what users tend to explore in their videos, capturing raw, unedited, in-the-moment slices of life. The app has been used to record and share certain cultural moments as well, making Vine videos a tool for real-time and citizen journalism.
In all of these attributes, the six seconds of Vine are meant to provide a window for other viewers to inhabit a fleeting instant behind another person’s pair of eyes, a very Being John Malkovich moment indeed. Six seconds is just enough time to create a compelling story, to pack enough information about an occurrence, to show viewers what had just happened.
One second, it turns out, is just for you. 1 Second Everyday also provides a window, but only for the user to look back into the past. The app lets users take a one second video of every day of their lives, which the app then sutures together to create a supercut of the user’s month, year, generation.
Of course, other people can view the compilation, but one second is just not long enough to convey an accurate story about that day for an outsider’s eyes. The app’s main purpose is to reveal a window for the user themselves to look in and shed light on the past, a tool to trigger memory.
Kuriyama states, “I have seconds that look incredibly boring, but represent ridiculously meaningful events in my life, and I have seconds that look gorgeous, but may have been relatively insignificant days of my life. Each second is a secret code to myself that only I know the hidden meaning of.”
According to Kuriyama, viewing one second of an event is just enough time to evoke a whole memory of an event, or an entire day. Recording just one second of an occasion also lets users spend their extra time not recording or not taking photos to be present and experience the moment as is.
A five-second difference in video length between Vine and 1 Second Everyday might not seem to amount to a lot, and in the physical sense, it does not.
But the truth is, it’s harder to film short. It’s more difficult to convey a story in six seconds or in one second. The basics have to stay in, and clarity is a must. The questions then become how and who? How does one creatively and intelligently fit enough information into a few-seconds clip? And who is watching?
If you are seeking to share an experience, a few more seconds to unpack the moment will be necessary. If the viewer is just you, you might only need one second to convey all the message you need.