Neil Mansilla | Director, Developer Platform and Partnerships
December 01, 2011

Developers Take On The Video App Challenge


Vertically focused hackathon events are the most challenging for developers. They must often abandon their comfort zone of project ideas and APIs they're familiar with to build something compelling and useful within the constraints of the contest theme. Themed hackathons are wonderful at extending a developer's skill set and expanding his or her creative horizons. Video Hackday SF did just that for over 40 developers, who collectively built 13 video apps that day.

Mashery helped organize Video Hack Day SF, a 12 hour hackathon dedicated to showcasing app innovation and creativity in the world of video. A barrage of video and media API providers attended and supported the event, including YouTube, Rotten Tomatoes, Netflix, Rovi, OpenTok, Zencoder and Our good friends at TokBox opened their office to host the hackathon at their San Francisco office.

The grand prize ($750 Apple Store gift card) went to YouBomber (demo video) by Tom Saffell -- an app that enables annotating YouTube videos with both voice and graphics. Tom's app was also selected as the best use of the YouTube API, winning the YouTube spot prize (Logitech Reveue for Google TV). YouBomber allows the user to play a YouTube video, draw on it, record voiceovers, stop and resume playback. When the user is done annotating, the video is replayed smoothly with all of the newly added content (drawings and voiceovers). Despite the app not being compliant with YouTube's terms of service, Jarek Wilkiewicz, developer advocate at Google, still chose this as the winning app based on it's usefulness and execution.

The Mashery spot prize (GoPro HD Hero 960 wearable HD camera), went to Screen Jumper by Abraham Williams - a Chrome extension that, as you browse Twitter, recognizes movie titles within tweets and injects movie trailers (YouTube), movie ratings (Rotten Tomatoes API) and movie schedules of nearby theaters. To the point that I made earlier about vertical hackathons, Abraham (a seasoned developer) was exposed to the YouTube and Rotten Tomatoes APIs for the first time ever, and now has new platform knowledge and experience in his toolkit.

One of the most heralded apps of the event was Ragatzi (demo video) by Semira Rahemtulla and her team -- an app to helps distant family members stay connected by video conferencing and simultaneous video viewing. Ragatzi also won a spot prize from YouTube for use of their API. TokBox selected Ragatzi as the winner of their spot prize (two Bose Quietcomfort 15 headphones) for the best use of the OpenTok video chat API. Semira is taking her app to the next level, parlaying her app into a new startup.

If there were an award for the most energetic demo, it would go to the team that built -- an app for recording 8 second video-based movie reviews, mashing up OpenTok API for video archiving and the Rotten Tomatoes API for movie review and other meta-data. The builders of believed that the reviewer of a film could express his or her passion (or lack thereof) much better than the written form. Now that I've had some time to reflect, I can actually imagine using for both publishing and consuming product and movie reviews.

The Rotten Tomatoes API team selected Movie Fights for their spot prize ($250 AMC Movies gift card) -- an app that lets a user select two movies to duke it out, and the one with the higher Tomatometer score wins in a dramatic graphical display. The graphic animations were well done, and they received bonus points for demoing live on an iPad.

Overall, the video themed hackathon was wonderful. Developers challenged themselves by exploring and learning to use new video and entertainment APIs. Platform managers and evangelists were helping developers, and developers reciprocated by providing unfiltered feedback and recommendations to the providers. And we'll never forget the all-you-can-eat Kung Fu Tacos. We ended the night with pizza, bagels, beer and auto-tune singing performances. Luckily, nobody had their video apps recording those performances.

Check out some event photos on Flickr.