They’re inspiring, artistic, goofy and worthless. Often all at the same time. And they’re going to take mobile interactive marketing by storm. Why? Because they’re SMALL…

Welcome to the world of Vine, those 6-second mini-video productions that have given many millions of people new ways of indulging themselves with motion selfies. Currently the app is on 11% of iPhones and rising. It is therefore not surprising that brands have started adopting them to keep fans and wanna-be fans in the loop on the latest developments. Most brands are just dipping a toe in thus far, but this will change.

Editor’s note 6/21/13 – Here is a great rundown of some brand-generated Vine videos from Convince & Convert.

As for the tale of the tape, Vine videos are 480 pixels square, and hover at below a megabyte in size. They are delivered almost exclusively through Twitter, so they are optimized for a mobile experience. This is why they are designed to be small: People expect interactive features to be sprightly, so with the smartphone’s screen size along with the typically dodgy connection speed it makes sense that Vine videos sacrifice Panavision for Polaroid.

This is where it gets fun…to me, anyway…

Space Bag® For Web Video
The predominant video format for mobile web is MPEG-4 because it is designed especially for low-bandwidth video/audio applications. An acronym for “Moving Pictures Experts Group,” MPEG-4 can handle data compression for other types of files as well, but it excels at the complexities of audio and video. The way MPEG-4 compression works is to combine some of the methodologies of not repeating high-frequency color patterns and of applying “temporal redundancy” which basically means instead of redrawing the entirety of each frame, it just redraws the differences between frames. Thus, the more complete movement and the more fine color detail there is, the more of the frame must be redrawn, and thus larger the Vine video will be.

Embedded in the MPEG-4 standard is the audio portion which is compressed using the AAC method (which happens to be the default or standard audio format for YouTube, iPhone, iPod, iPad, Nintendo DSi, Nintendo 3DS, iTunes, DivX Plus Web Player and PlayStation 3). An acronym for “Advanced Audio Coding,” AAC is a “lossy” compression methodology. “Lossy” means that the base audio file is compressed by discarding some of the data. The effect is a smaller audio file that sounds acceptably good, but nowhere near the CD-quality audio that the source material began as.

It’s a trade-off. Life is full of them.

Here are four technical (and one non-techy) facts you might want to keep in mind about Vine:

What makes some Vine videos smaller than others?
As described above, the contents of each frame are what determines the file size. Having a largely homogenous background or a simple, bold color scheme without too many shadows will generally be easier to compress down, and will thus make a smaller file.

Should I eliminate sound to make the file smaller?
No need. The MPEG-4 compression method bakes the audio track into the overall file. Technically even “silent” Vines have audio. So if audio makes the Vine better, by all means include it.

How long should a Vine take to load?
This all depends on whether the user is on a nice clean 4G or WiFi, or if they’re stuck with a spotty sub-3G connection. An average 3G connection overs at around 1,100 kilobytes per second, so a Vine video should load in about a second. Could be longer, could be shorter. You have less direct control over your audience’s experience with your Vine video than you might like.

Can we host our own Vine videos and use our own Global CDN to ensure speedy downloads?
No. Vine is hosted by a server farm that is owned by Twitter. As a matter of fact, it was reported by the sharp and highly entertaining Mike Isaac that the reason Twitter bought Vine was to start up a video hosting service. Rest assured, Twitter has a vested interest in getting it right. So let go.

Who owns the Vine videos my company posts?
Good news here. You own your own content. The maybe-not-so-good news is that by using Vine you grant them worldwide permanent rights to basically do whatever they want to with the content in terms of displaying it and changing the format to suit their purposes.

It is the compact nature of the Vine experience that makes them such a great candidate for becoming the next Internet wildfire. Even though mobile technologies are almost frighteningly futuristic, that super-smartphone you keep in your pocket is still subject to weak WiFi or a janky 3G connection. So, as remarkable of a phenomenon as Vine is, it is still subject to the one universal truth in life: size matters.