It’s fun to browse for music videos online. It’s even more fun when the viewer can actually participate in the creation of the video itself. Such is the case with “personalized videos,” the latest advent in music video-making.
The shining exemplar of this newfound approach is called The Wilderness Downtown, and it’s the main feature at its website. The site is basically a full-on multimedia experience set to a song from the latest album by indie-rock group Arcade Fire; though, the experience is not nearly as much of a testament to the band as it is to the capabilities of the technology it employs. It represents a true feat in modern interactive storytelling.
Before starting the video, the viewer is asked to enter the address of the house that they grew up in. While it plays, the video gathers data from Google Maps and incorporates both overhead and street-level footage of the viewer’s childhood residence into the playback. This creates a truly unique (and intensely personal) viewing experience for any participating viewer. Different addresses will return different playback results, meaning that the video is different for everyone. As we watch, we’re captivated by the nostalgic imagery of our hometown neighborhood and taken aback by its seamless integration into the overall narrative. At the end of the day, it simply must be seen to be believed!
Wilderness is encoded exclusively in HTML5 to ensure the fluid playback of its sprawling visual and contextual scope. This means that you’ll need a browser with HTML5 support (like Google Chrome or Opera) to experience the video—so be sure to download it at home and check the site out. It really is quite remarkable!
Also noteworthy is the interactive art venture called The Johnny Cash Project. Its website showcases a user-generated music video of a song from the singer’s posthumous album America VI, released in February of 2010. The term “user-generated” is perhaps the simplest way to describe the video, but it’s not entirely accurate. The video is a landmark achievement in what’s referred to as “crowd-sourced” art. Crowdsourcing is a collaborative process by which members of a large group are designated several small, specific tasks—the ultimate aim being that their individual efforts will coalesce to form the whole of the project.
In the case of the Cash project, the endeavor is to create an evolving video memorial to the iconic musician using artistic input from the site’s visitors. Essentially, everyone is allowed to contribute in their own small way to the overall visual design. Visitors at the site use a customized drawing tool to create a unique rendition of one specific frame of video. Here’s the clincher: there are over a thousand frames to the video; and since each frame is a different person’s artistic take on the subject matter, the end-result is basically a moving and changing portrait. It’s stylistically diverse but intimate in tone. And again, it simply must be viewed to be truly understood! By the way, it’s recently been nominated for a Grammy Award (Best Short-Form Music Video). Take a look at the main site (linked above) or watch the video on YouTube.
Artistically, these approaches represent a bold new step in music video filmmaking. Allowing the viewer to participate in the creation and development of a video is an intriguingly modern touch on a decades-old concept. We’ve had the technology to do so, but now we’re seeing it applied in a more accessible fashion.
There will always be a growing need for advertisers, marketers and distributors to engaging more directly with consumers and target markets. Can this personalized approach be applied to branding in some way? Should individuals be allowed to participate more directly in the expansion of a brand or service using interactive media?
Heading image is a screenshot from The Wilderness Downtown. All rights reserved.