(Photo by Tony Abraham)
Kevin Free is a self-described “movie fanatic.” That title is not an embellishment. The only thing Free loves more than the movin’ pictures is watching them with friends. So, he developed an app that allows users to watch their favorite movies on their mobile devices, then stream that media directly to multiple friends’ devices, with both audio and video in blissful synchronization.
It’s called Cinema-Sync, and it started as a piece of untitled software Free built to watch movies with friends.
While pursuing a degree in computer science from Western Maryland’s Frostburg State University in 2012, Free was yearning for a real challenge. The everyday hum-drum of undergraduate programming classes was underwhelming. He’d long for the weekend, when his friends would gather to watch movies, play video games and of course, scarf down some pizza.
And if some friends couldn’t make it to the party, that was cool, too. They could still join a gaming session with ease through their consoles. But if they all wanted to watch a movie together? No dice.
“People will set up a shared screen or a Skype call and try to relay audio while they’re watching a movie,” Free said. “With video games, you can go on Xbox Live or Steam. There’s nothing that lets you do that for movies.”
That snag provided Free with the programming challenge he’d been waiting for.
Fast forward three years, and the Newark-based Free has a fully functioning prototype nearly ready for deployment.
“It’s real-time media streaming on a peer-to-peer network,” Free said.
Though Cinema-Sync is Free’s brainchild, by no means is it a one-man show. When they’re not working at their paying jobs, Free has a team of six friends working on the software for — well, for free (sorry, Kev). Plus, the startup has a stacked team of advisers, including VisionMine CEO Coley Brown, Arcweb CEO Chris Cera and Robin Hood Ventures angel Glen Gaddy.
Free said the first step from here is to fund Cinema-Sync and pay team members, which he’s hoping to do through a recently launched Kickstarter campaign. After that, the sky is the limit.
“The technology can be applied to anything,” he said. At a recent SPIE Electronic Imaging conference in San Francisco, Free said there was interest from law enforcement in using his technology to stream dashcam footage from patrol cars to officers approaching a crime scene.
Free said he’s always open to suggestions — in fact, he thoroughly enjoys feedback. Odds are, he’ll alter and adjust the software just to please users. “I do that regularly,” he said. “I encourage people to send me an email telling me what they want to see in the software, because I’ll do it.”
Still, at the end of the day, for him, it’s all about watching movies.
“I saw the new Terminator,” Free said. “Arnold is still great.”
Expect a mobile preview release of Cinema-Sync before the end of the year.
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