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Experimental music video changes every time you play it

Filmmakers used algorithms to hijack random video content.
Steve Dent, @stevetdent
03.24.17 in AV
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Artists and scientists say breakthroughs are often "lucky accidents," but one band is basing an entire music video on that premise. The song Midnight Oil from UK-based Shaking Chains uses algorithms to select semi-random bits of video from the hundreds of hours uploaded every minute on YouTube. The result is a music video that's completely different every time you view it.

"I sought to obliquely reframe the stuff we subject ourselves to (whether beautiful, distressing, mundane, frivolous or eroticized) and algorithmically cut them into a new context," band member Jack Hardiker tells Vice Creators.

The algorithms select footage based on keyword searches chosen by the band, though it declined to name what they are except for one -- "Black Friday Fights," the Thanksgiving brawls that happen in stores across the US over flat-screen TVs. Still, "the search terms are not fully fixed either -- it's an evolving list ... the content can come from anywhere," says Hardiker.

I sought to obliquely reframe the stuff we subject ourselves to (whether beautiful, distressing, mundane, frivolous or eroticized) and algorithmically cut them into a new context.

Once the machine selects the video, it assembles into a complete montage set to the music, just a few moments before you play it. "What follows has the potential to fascinate, or could well be routine -- but each time is different," the page reads.

The videos I watched included images like twerking, runway models, puppies and makeup videos, animal documentaries, security camera images, child beauty contests and disasters and war footage. As such, it gives a kind of strange snapshot of the current zeitgeist "through my search terms and the viewers' attempts to make sense of the sequence," Hardiker says.

He also notes that while they're a new, small band, they hope the film lives on beyond the cycle of the song itself. "What might it become a year from now? It would be dependent on what's happening a year from now, on what the internet holds for us then." You can check it out here.

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