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How epoch Strives to Reinvent the Online Video Experience

Now that the SFIFF has wrapped up, it’s time to take a closer look at the Presidio-based startup epoch, which developed the iOS app used by filmgoers to preview trailers of dozens of films at the festival.

The company has four co-founders, two–John Root Stone and Lucas Heldfond–based here, and two–Nimrod Ram and Avner Shilo–in Tel Aviv.
The latter two are the tech guys with backgrounds in Israeli intelligence.

“We like to say they are like a Tech Seal Team Six,” says Stone.

In this case, their challenge is to help build a tool that can sort through the massive volume of video constantly flowing online to provide what Stone calls an “effortless, personalized experience.”

The UI is, as you might expect, highly visual and optimized for the iPad. They are organized into channels, early examples of which are:

  •     Delicious - food channel
  •     Exotic - travel/national geographic
  •     Thrill - adrenaline/extreme
  •     Creative - artistic
  •     Glamour - romantic
  •     Inspiring - motivational, inspiring stories
  •     Newsroom - investigative/political
  •     Smart - Learning/BrainPicking/TED
  •     Funny – Comedy
  •     Futuristic - Sci-fi


The films are already playing as you open the app; you swipe right and left to view other films in that channel, or up and down to change channels.

But the core of the experience presented by epoch is how well it can select quality videos you want to watch, and the team knows that.

“Only about 90 percent of the problem can be solved at a technology level,” says Stone. “It is essential that there is a human element as well. We have an in-house team of people who love film and work as contractors.”

“The algorithm reduces the firehouse,” adds Heldfond, “and people do the rest.”

As for personalization, epoch is like Pandora – the more you use it, the smarter it becomes at choosing videos you will like. But the challenge with video is bigger for a number of reasons.

“Pandora has its music genome and maybe 35 million songs,” says Stone. “But that much video content is uploaded to YouTube every 21 days. Music you listen to repeatedly. Videos not so much.”

As I was talking with this team, we discussed how the underlying technologies and capabilities of devices to shoot digital films have been changing so rapidly that we don’t really have a good name for this content yet.

After all, “video” is a few iterations in almost everyone’s rear view mirror by now. So maybe these guys or someone like them will come up with a new name that will stick.

Meanwhile, the consumer app is awaiting approval in the app store, and should be available any day now. I’ll update this post when it is.