A Brief History of Subversive Remix Video Before YouTube


Click to view my full article via TWC

An article and video collection I put together was recently published in the Open Access journal Transformative Works and Cultures. The full piece entitled “A history of subversive remix video before YouTube: 30 political video mashups made between World War II and 2005″ is licensed under creative commons and can be viewed for free online via the TWC website.

I first began recording and remixing TV commercials back in 2003 as a response to the US lead invasion of Iraq. At the time I’d only seen a small handful of what are now commonly referred to as video mashups. I certainly had no idea that what I was doing on my computer was part of a long underground remix video tradition which can be traced back to almost  the very beginning of moving picture technology.

Over the past few years I’ve seen a number of great remix video collections but none that really focus on the dynamic pre-youtube history of the genre and none that include the obvious intersections with fannish vidding traditions (which date back to at least the mid 1970s). While my collection is not meant to be a complete genealogy, I do believe the works I chose are representative of the subversive remix video genre over the past 60 plus years.

For the purposes of creating this history I used five essential criteria to decide if a transformative video work fit into the political remix genre.

  1. Works appropriate mass media audiovisual source material without permission from copyright holders, and rely on the fair use doctrine (or fair dealing in the UK).
  2. Works comment on, deconstruct, or challenge media narratives, dominant myths, social norms, and traditional power structures—they can be either sympathetic to or antagonistic to their pop culture sources, sometimes both at the same time.
  3. Works transform the original messages embedded in the source material, as well as the source material itself.
  4. Works are intended for general audiences or do-it-yourself (DIY) communities rather than academic or high-art audiences, and thus tend to use familiar mass media formats such as trailers, television ads, music videos, and news segments as vehicles for the transformed messages.
  5. Works are DIY productions and rely on grassroots distribution methods such as VHS tape duplicating circles, underground screenings, and, eventually, self-hosted Web sites. Since its launch in November 2005 many subversive video makers now put their works on YouTube.

Below I’ve embedded the YouTube playlist I put together including all 30 remixes from my article. I’ll do my best to keep them all online and fight the inevitable tide of bogus content ID matching takedowns. Please make sure to check out the full TWC journal article for an overview of the subgenre and descriptions of each video in the collection.

EXTRA: Martin Leduc of Carleton University in Ottawa Canada also wrote an interesting article inTransformative Works and Cultures about how my own remix video work has changed over the last decade or so. Make sure you check out his article which is titled The two-source illusion: How vidding practices changed Jonathan McIntosh’s political remix videos

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Remix Gendered LEGO Commercials with HTML5 Video

New LEGO Friends mini-doll with LEGO Alien Defense Unit traditional style mini-figure

In January 2012 the LEGO Group released their “LEGO for girls” line called Friends which includes a series of pink pastel colored kits focused on the lives of 5 Polly Pocket style mini-dolls. In the TV commercials these mini-dolls bake cupcakes, go to the beauty shop and take care of pets. In contrast LEGO produces over a dozen themes marketed primarily to boys which feature aliens, cops and robbers, space battles, knights and pirates. The TV commercials for these LEGO lines focus on action, violence and combat based play scenarios.

I thought a good way to illustrate the absurd gender stereotyping in each set of ads was to drop them into my HTML5 Gendered Advertising Remixer web app. Sure enough the remixing tool produces some hilarious and insightful gender juxtapositions. Read more about this project on the blog and try the remixing LEGO’s commercials for yourself!

NOTE: Please make sure to upgrade your web browser before remixing

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The LEGO Violence Collection

A short remixed supercut made from 22 LEGO television commercials for 12 different LEGO themes released between 2009 and 2012. LEGO’s marketing aimed at boys has become progressively more aggressive and violent over and now focuses primarily on conflict and combat play scenarios.

This video montage was originally created for Feminist Frequency’s webisode:
The LEGO Boys Club – LEGO and Gender Part 2

All the ads used in the remix are listed below in the order they appear:

Read More »

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The LEGO Friends House is on Fire

Uh oh the LEGO "Friends" house is on fire! Now what?
So what happens when something in the would of LEGO Heartlake City catches on fire? Since there are no fire or medical services in the new “LEGO’s for girls” Friends theme I guess they’ll just have to call the boys to put it out. This is the kind of absurd situation that arise when toy companies perpetuate ridiculous gender stereotyping.

Since 2005 LEGO has produced 27 firefighter kits for their regular LEGO City theme which is marketed to boys. Those sets include a total of 51 mini-figures. Only 1 of them is female.

This image was originally created for Feminist Frequency’s video web series on LEGO and Gender (on which I also volunteered as a digital researcher).

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Buffy vs Edward: HTML5 Pop-Up Video Edition

buffy popup video poster

HTML5 poster attribute image for the demo

Last year I used the HTML5 <video> element combined with the PopcornJS framework to dynamically display source media data in separate boxes around my Donald Duck Meets Glenn Beck remix as the video played in real time. This time around I was interested in exploring ways to layer data directly on top of the video itself.

A few months ago during the 2011 Open Video Conference I began a conversation with Brian Chirls of the Mozilla Popcorn team about the possibility of creating a pop-up video style template for PopcornJS.

In order to demonstrate video data layering I thought it’d be fun to mimic the style of VH1′s classic Pop-Up Video show using my viral remix Buffy vs Edward. Over the next couple months Brian and I brainstormed how pop-ups could best be implemented using a Popcorn Maker template so that anyone could easily create their own pop-up videos. At the official alpha launch of the Popcorn Maker tool during the 2011 Mozilla Festival in London Brian had a working version of the template up and running. I was even able to hack together a 1st rough draft of this demo to show at the MozFest closing circle.

Click above to open the Buffy vs Edward pop-up demo

Now that I’ve had some extra time to iron out the bugs you can see pop-up demo for yourself. There are 70 separate pop-ups with data covering everything you ever wanted to know about Buffy vs Edward including production notes and even a few tips for dealing with real-life stalkers. Please make sure you are using the latest Chrome or Firefox web-browsers. I hear from others that it also works in the latest Opera as well as the newer Safari desktop and ipad versions (sorry iphone users Apple currently disables inline video playback and forces videos into full screen mode without the pop-ups). Click here to open the Buffy vs Edward pop-up video demo!

A few notes on my authoring process

This time around I used the newly released Mozilla Popcorn Maker app to assist me in the PopcornJS authoring process. Back when I built my Donald Duck demo I had to individually hand coded each annotation into one giant XML document. Thankfully the Popcorn Maker has now made everything a whole hell of lot easier.

Pop Video template options

Before I opened my Popcorn Maker project though I had to transcode my video file into a open video format that plays nicely with HTML5. I picked WebM for this demo – which I was able to easily encode with the nifty FireFogg encoder plugin for Firefox.  I also used a fallback mp4 file type for Safari and ipad since Apple doesn’t natively support Ogg Theora or WebM. Once that was done I hosted the video on my server, plugged the video URL into Popcorn Maker and selected the “Pop Video” template.

At that point I was able to simply drag and drop each pop-up on the timeline and see the result almost immediately in the video box above (See screen-grab of my workflow inside the app below). After placing a pop-up on the timeline I could just double click to open the options window to enter my text, set the pop-up duration and choose an icon.

When finished, Popcorn Maker gave me the option to export a basic HTML page with my project embedded which I tweaked to fit the style of my own website. Since this demo had so many pop-up elements and took over a month to complete I also made extensive use of the JSON export function to save/back-up my progress into a text file as I worked.

Workflow inside the Mozilla Popcorn Maker app

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