Quick video clips emailed from a friend — whether rubbery dancing babies or dirt-bike wipeouts — can be more entertaining than some of the lavishly produced short films found online. That’s partly because the shared experience of a friendly e-mail easily creams the isolated feeling of watching almost anything on the Web. Sites try to fill that emptiness with viewer comments, ratings, and message boards. And some also collect those oft-passed-around video clips — Heavy.com’s Contagious section (www.heavy.com) is a good one, while 3BP.com (http://www.3bp.com) is full of those baby-hitting-dada-in-the-groin type moments. But this week we see the debut of a new site, Alltrue.com (www.alltrue.com), that ingeniously stockpiles those sidesplitting videos while also recreating some of the dynamics of e-mail.
Every Tuesday evening at 5:30, the staff of Alltrue gathers in a conference room in downtown Manhattan to view the latest additions to the site. The week I was there, the clips included a pigeon regurgitating peanuts, a prankster persuading some girls to run away screaming on cue because they were being filmed for an asteroid movie, and a middle-aged man wearing a suit and tie dancing madly to the music inside a Virgin Megastore. (In a related story, the site will soon have about 50 hours of backstage footage that includes the Smashing Pumpkins, Sting, Metallica, and Beck.) While much of the new material is captured or produced by Alltrue staffers and freelancers, the site will ultimately be fueled by viewers sending in their wacky amateur videos. Think of it as America’s Funniest Home Videos multiplied by Tom Green, with submissions organized into categories like ”fight,” ”sex,” or, my favorite, ”blow it up.”
The best part, though, is a bit of technology Alltrue uses that lets viewers drag and drop six clips into a bin and play them in sequence. It will also create a Web page for the selections, which means you can gather six exploding-melon moments and e-mail the URL of the Web page to a pal. Or, using the site’s built-in buddy-list function, you can instantly notify your friends whenever something new blows up on the site. Now imagine something like this a few years into the future, when you’re connecting to Alltrue through a TV set with a high-speed modem — suddenly interactive television isn’t just about playing along with Jeopardy!
Traditional TV and film producers ”don’t understand the mentality of people on the Web,” says Alltrue’s founder, Tim Nye. He’s right, but to be successful, Alltrue’s pranks will have to be more entertaining than the bits produced on Letterman or Candid Camera, and its viewer-submitted videos will have to be funnier than America’s Funniest. Because even though Net technology makes TV look dumb, much of today’s Web content is only half as smart.