Posted on

With bjork in the bitstream

Mtv plays with formats to make video clips www-ready

The interactive broadband revolution, with movies, documentaries and art videos delivered to the home via the internet, always seems to be just around the corner, and has been for some time now. However, most home users still have the problem of transmission rates to fully enjoy network-ready interactive digital movie formats. Mtv, the broadcaster that made the music video popular, is now trying out a format called webeos or i-clips, which is supposed to translate the video clip into the www, bandwidth-saving but clickable. Krystian woznicki has been exposed to the flickering per second and reports from the front of networked home entertainment.

Since the end of august, the online platforms of the music television channel mtv have been enriched by interactive clips. What is called webeo in the usa is called i-clip in germany. "A new media format", as promised in the accompanying declarations, these internet clips are not, at least from a technical point of view. Scripted (programmed, you shouldn’t really call it), the clips are in macromedia director and flash, packaged in shockwave.

The interactive online clips, which meet and hopefully exceed all our expectations, seem to be still in the test tube of the laptop virtuosos, so much should be said in advance. The fact that mtv’s webeos and i-clips don’t necessarily hark back to the experimental video art of the 1960s was to be expected. So let’s look at the experiment with online clips on its own terrain, from the special position mtv occupies in the entertainment world.

Mtv aesthetics at the end of the 90s has settled in a strange in-between area, in a kind of esoteric futurism: often close to the creative interfaces of our time, often very close to our own aesthetic needs, but also somehow caught in a vacuum of lulling foams and dreams removed from reality.

The american mtv.Com also relies on popular acts like busta rhymes, bjork and moby for the webeos. The german branch, on the other hand, organized a competition a few weeks ago to popularize the format among artists and viewers. It is interesting to note that the music station involved design schools and freelance teams of young designers. This can be seen as a bit of a gamble, but also as a smart move to test the possibilities of the format and get hip content on the server.

Students between berlin and frankfurt have worked on interactive clip implementations for acts like ian pooly, tocotronic and gonzales. They should combine the interactivity of the internet with the audio-visual possibilities of a conventional (video) clip. However, the interactivity is limited to being able to switch picture elements and sound tracks on and off, the relationship between picture and sound and the timeline as a whole cannot be influenced (no scratching, please).

To "i’ve seen it all" bjork’s acclaimed video director floria sigismondi worked on the video – and a whole team for the implementation of the video as webeo. For the online catch even a shorter version of the track was recorded, probably to keep the download time within reasonable limits and perhaps also to accommodate the rather limited attention span of a monitored audience "eyeball culture" to meet the eye. While the music floats forward with a rather weak quality – compared to mp3 – carried by string passages, users can click on certain areas of the screen to see bjork’s handwritten lyrics flicker across the monitor or to realign and change the sound.

The future lies in the past for now

The authoring tool used has a striking influence on the visual language. Nothing has remained of the flow and slickness of digital television productions. Rather collage-like, individual frames are layered next to and on top of each other. Bjork’s body, which is frozen like a statue, is driven into the picture and not beamed in with elaborate special effects. Remarkably, the eye and eyeball devices are a leitmotif throughout the clip. In the beginning, bjork’s eye sockets emit spheres that, like glow worms, bathe the post-cinematic space in soft light. Later, ornamental slats in the form of a shutter form the frame for the image.

This anachronism is reminiscent of the beginnings of film, and also of the fact that the way forward is rather backward – to limitations of what can be done with the moving image. Since the webeos are intended to be as sales-driven as traditional music videos, the animated sequences are supplemented with information about artists and publications.

Let’s take a quick look at official self-representations of mtv’s creators. In their eyes, the i-clip format is to be in the internet age what music videos were to television: a revolution, nothing more, nothing less. In an explanation it says:

"Just as mtv helped the video clip make its breakthrough in the 1980s, mtv is now tapping the internet for a new media format, the i-clip."

Is it not basically but exactly the opposite? N a similar way to other entertainment companies (z.B. Time warner and disney), mtv is naturally looking for ways to distribute its core content, the music video, via the internet. The search for internet-specific implementations is a necessity. It has long been known that offline content providers such as daily newspapers are only really of interest online if they produce content specifically for the web. However, has mtv really hit the jackpot with the introduction of webeos and i-clips??

After all, interactive clips are no longer a novelty. With formats such as quicktime or netmedia player, to name just two of the best-known, a huge playing field is opening up between professional and amateur video offerings on the net. Another creative arena is offered by the free game engines such as z.B. Quake or doom. Telepolis recently reported on interactive clips as a marketing strategy, using the example of the marketing channel pop.Com reports. New offers and formats are constantly coming out of the ground. Streamsearch, a search engine specializing in streaming files and multimedia files available for download, was launched in february 1999 and, with its enormous database, it is not without reason that it is regarded as one of the most popular search engines in the world "remote control of the internet". Currently, there are more than two million files on the site – entertainment, news, sports, music, cinema, lifestyle, and even web-only special events. The database grows by 25,000-50,000 links a week and is expected to exceed 5 million within a year.

Sure, this is the supply side. But how do the access numbers look like? The online video of fullerene productions for the duran duran song "someone else not me" already considered an internet hit, for no more than 15,000 downloads in june. Front-runner in internet cinemas as ifilm.Com but allegedly reach the 1 million mark. Even the daily press now predicts that computer users will soon be searching for video files with a similar frequency as they have been searching for music files and, before that, text files.

But before internet clips become the new hype after napster and mp3, at least the mtv germany website needs a little more juice. As the company recently announced on its website, the last monthly statistics were at approx. 2 million page impressions and that is for a quite popular channel that is just happy to have finally overtaken viva, not very impressive. Whether this is a sign of the not yet resounding success of the i-clips or of a less-than-optimal design of the site as a whole, will become clear with future access figures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *