GV grad finds success in iPhone app

GVL / Rane Martin
GVSU Almnus and Grand Rapids resident Kyle Hilla. Hilla created the CollabraCam app for Mac devices.

Rane Martin

GVL / Rane Martin GVSU Almnus and Grand Rapids resident Kyle Hilla. Hilla created the CollabraCam app for Mac devices.

Dan Spadafora

Kyle Hilla knew he could make multi-camera shooting and recording simpler; he just had to break his iPhone first to get the idea.

“Well honestly the idea came from breaking my first iPhone and getting a 3GS, starting to shoot video and then reminiscing my first job out of college at WKGV,” Hilla said. “We were running hundreds of feet of cable, heavy cameras… and something popped in my head and I said, ‘Wow, what if we could make this easier and there was no need for cables?’”

Hilla, who graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2000 with a degree in film and video, worked at the Wyoming, Mich., cable access television station assisting volunteers operate multi camera video at high school football and basketball games. It was this experience which led to his idea and ultimately CollabraCam.

CollabraCam is an app for the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad that lets the user manage up to four devices as cameras, recording video and audio simultaneously with the user holding a fifth device controlling it all.

“No Internet connection required – it’s over wifi,” Hilla said. “So let’s say you know you want to shoot somewhere where you know you’re not going to get a good internet connection, you can use a hot spot or you can take a router that plugs into the wall and all you need is a network to be broadcast.”

Before employing an outside company to develop the app, Hilla went to GVSU for his initial development needs, but eventually decided to go outside of the university.

Jonathan Engelsma, an associate professor in the School of Computing and Information Systems at GVSU, connected early in the process of creating Collabracam.

“Kyle is a great innovator who also has the guts and persistence to succeed,” Engelsma said. “It’s wonderful to see former GVSU students like Kyle go out there and bring their ideas to fruition. Kyle and I were in touch early on about his app idea, but what he really needed was a team that could commercial software development.”

Launching in February 2011, CollabraCam is touted on the Apple app store as “the world’s first multicam video production iPhone app” and “defining the future of collaborative mobile video production.”

With CollabraCam retailing at $5.99, Hilla says the app has been downloaded about 4,000 times and is hoping for more in the future.

In the 15th Annual Webby Awards, CollabraCam was nominated for Best Use of Mobile Video, losing only to MLB.com, and was selected as Official Honoree for Best Use of Device Camera.

“Right before our third update, we made it to New and Noteworthy and moved to What’s Hot,” Hilla said. “When we were featured we got lots of hits. It’s trickled off since then but I have an update in the works and we will see if we can’t make the rounds again.”

As of right now, Hilla says the app is not paying any bills but it is feeding itself with plans for improvement in the future.

“I’ve got big plans for CollabraCam,” Hilla Said. “One of the biggest user requests is having a single source of audio, so one camera would be the audio. The other ideas, obviously there is a large interest in live streaming.”

Also in the works for CollabraCam, Hilla hopes the iPhone 5 will have the sufficient processing power to allow for the app to shoot in 720p.

Besides CollabraCam, Hilla has plans for other apps, one being a single camera user app and the other app, which Hilla declined to speak about, would be a gaming app aimed towards college students.

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