Tech start-up of the week: Rotor

15 Mar 2014

Diarmuid Maloney, co-founder, Rotor

Rotor is a Dublin and Belfast-based start-up that has developed an online tool for creating music videos. It allows musicians – or anybody – to create quality music videos quickly, easily and inexpensively, right from within their own browser.

“We’re developing a new generation of creative tools in parallel with the ways in which digital media is being consumed today and the high demands for quality online content,” explained co-founder Diarmuid Maloney.

Rotor’s target market is the musician, he added. “It’s never been more important than it is now to have good video content.

“For example, YouTube has become one of the largest music-discovery platforms in the world. If an artist doesn’t have an engaging and compelling presence online, then audiences will walk away and the artist gets lost in the noise.

“High-profile acts like Daft Punk or Beyoncé don’t have to worry because they have the resources, but the majority of musicians don’t. They do, however, have the exact same requirement for music videos. So we’ve developed Rotor as the solution.”

The founders

Rotor has three founders. Eoghan Kidney is an award-winning music-video director and animator. He’s won awards such as the IMTV Best Director and Best Music Video.

Tim Redfern is an interactive artist and visual effects developer. He was a lead developer on the Playhouse project, which transformed the Liberty Hall building in Dublin into a giant, interactive, low-res TV screen.

Maloney is a creative technologist and graphic designer who has worked mainly on promotions and interactive media systems.

“Collectively we have over 25 years of experience in the music industry and we’ve witnessed the problem we’re solving first hand,” said Maloney.

The technology


On the surface it’s quite simple. The user visits Rotor’s website and creates an account. To make a video, he or she uploads the song, selects a style for the video from Rotor’s catalogue, uploads some video footage from his or her phone or computer, or chooses from Rotor’s stock library, and then hits ‘go’.

“Rotor can do the rest. If they wish to be a bit more hands-on, then they can be,” Maloney said.

“We’re developing a simplified editing system that will allow the user to tweak the video to his or her liking. The way it works under the hood is bit more complex.

“Rotor analyses the music and extracts certain features from the song. It uses these characteristics, along with the chosen style and the uploaded clips, to generate a unique music video.

“We’ve managed to devise a way of distilling years of music video-production techniques into algorithms that will do the hard work for the user,” Maloney added.

“With Rotor we will provide a tool that allows musicians to extend their creativity from the composing of music to the production of video content to accompany that music, without the headache of having to learn new skills and software.

“Rotor will enable the user to be creative without the tedious procedures. If we can supply a product that lets every musician, from every genre, create great music videos without large costs and difficulty, then we’ll be happy.”

From beta to mass market

Having just launched a private beta version of Rotor, Maloney said things are going quite well for the company.

”We have our private beta version which we’re continuing to test and the results are impressive. There are a couple of record labels using the system in trial mode and they are happy with the videos it’s producing for their artists.

“We’ve managed to get this far without giving away equity and that’s mainly down to the help of the Invest Northern Ireland’s Propel programme, but we’re currently seeking investment and have a couple of offers on the table.

“The next step is the launch of our public beta version at the end of April this year.”

Pursuing your passions

Maloney acknowledged it’s never easy developing something that’s unprecedented.

“So we’ve had to take it on the chin when we found ourselves having to rework or rethink certain approaches – but that’s all part of the process. There have also been times when we’ve just had to persevere while waiting for funding to come through!”

He also acknowledged the Irish start-up scene.

“There’s a great start-up scene in Ireland at the moment. I’ve met so many people with great business ideas that are really making headway. After visiting start-up scenes in other countries it was evident that the Irish scene was up there with the best, particularly in Northern Ireland.

“There is so much support coming from Invest Northern Ireland at the moment, particularly the Propel programme, which has really helped us solidify our business plans, and Belfast is one of the best cities to get your start-up off the ground.”

Maloney’s advice to other start-ups: “Don’t hide away with your idea. Get as much advice as possible, as early as possible. Be ready to accept criticism as a positive thing and don’t give up.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years