Video Storytelling Technology Licensed to UA Startup
A media team from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences worked with Tech Launch Arizona to develop a new technology and spin it out into a company.
The University of Arizona has licensed a new social media and video platform called Filmstacker to its namesake startup company. Developed by the media team in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the system allows users — primarily in educational settings — to create, share and discuss online mini-documentaries.
The Filmstacker development team included web developer and framework architect J.D. Gibbs, graphic designer and web developer Craig Boesewetter, web developer and business manager Matt Rahr, and visual designer Kimberly Daly — all current or former members of the CALS Communications and Cyber Technologies team. Team video coordinator Cody Sheehy led the development effort.
Tech Launch Arizona, the office of the UA that commercializes the inventions stemming from University research, facilitated the process of protecting and licensing the intellectual property.
"What impressed me most about this project," says Joann MacMaster, TLA's director of business development, "was Sheehy's ability to work with the CALS team on the 'Beyond the Mirage' project while simultaneously working with TLA and our extended network of domain experts and advisers to develop a startup company."
Sheehy and the Filmstacker team are continuing to research and develop the technology with the goal of bringing it to teachers and documentarians via existing online learning channels.
Sheehy describes Filmstacker as a fun and intuitive video app, likening the content exploration to developing a choose-your-own-adventure experience. Users search for video clips, then assemble them into their own narrative that they can share with others.
According to Sheehy, Filmstacker "takes the creativity of filmmaking and makes it a social experience for the first time."
"As we continue to research and develop this technology for use in the classroom and for documentary filmmaking, we envision it being implemented in some of the larger leading online learning systems," he says. "However, it has always been our passion to see this technology reach its full potential in applications where people are uploading their own content and mixing it with everyone else's — true collaborative filmmaking.”
According to Sheehy, such social filmmaking could take place at music festivals, sporting events or even during ongoing experiences, such as capturing campus life.
The media platform traces its roots to the award-winning Arizona Public Media documentary, "Beyond the Mirage." The film's production team included Sheehy and other professionals from CALS, the UA Foundation and AZPM, as well as freelancers. The film was designed to raise awareness and understanding about water issues across the state by making virtually anyone a documentarian.
In 2015, "Beyond the Mirage" won the $100,000 grand prize for the New Arizona Prize: Water Consciousness Challenge for its concept for an innovative tool to maximize distribution.
The platform the team developed provides access to a library of video clips online and allows anyone — from students to educators to journalists — to edit them together to create and share their own mini-documentaries on the "Beyond the Mirage" website.
With the help of Arizona Public Media, the hundreds of clips that cover all facets of Arizona's water story have made their way throughout the news media and onto major educational sites such as PBS LearningMedia.
University of Arizona in the News