Arcade Fire, QOTSA and Bob Dylan: The rise of the interactive music video

An interesting trend has sprung up in the cash-drenched and often-pretentious world of music videos, one that has huge potential.

More and more bands (well-funded bands, I might add) are seeing the potential to make videos that their fans can interact with in one way or another, so that no two people experience the same video.

It all started back in the summer of 2010, when Arcade Fire teased the launch of the third album ‘The Suburbs’ with an “experiment” with the then novel technology of HTML5, as supported by Google Chrome.

The result was ‘The Wilderness Downtown’, a half-constructed music video for ‘We Used To Wait’ by Chris Milk, which fans could customise by putting in the name of their hometown.

Tapping into Google’s burgeoning Street View image library allowed the video to superimpose imagery from the viewer’s hometown into the scenes, reflecting the themes of the song in an intelligent and, to my knowledge at least, completely innovative way.

If you haven’t already, I urge you to try it. It’s quite an eye-opening and rather personal experience, as you see places you remember from your childhood overlayed with a music video.

arcade fire the wilderness downtown we used to wait interactive music video

After that it all went quiet for a few years, but Arcade Fire brought back the idea this summer in anticipation of their fourth album, ‘Reflektor’.

The new project, called ‘Just A Reflektor‘, goes one step further by asking you to turn on your webcam so that you can star in the video, as well as tracking the movement of your mouse so that different sections of the screen come into focus.

In truth, the effect created was pretty cheesy and seeing my gormless face staring back at me during the climax of the song was hardly gratifying and a bit of an anti-climax.

Thankfully the torch has now been picked up by two more acts, who have refined the idea into something simpler, more easy to adapt, but no less impressive.

Queens of the Stone Age’s new single ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory‘ is played out across several rooms of a haunted house, with the band playing in one room and some actors creating a cryptic scene in another.

In the areas between, you can click through a book of lyrics, click through to iTunes to buy the accompanying album ‘…Like Clockwork’ and plenty more besides.

This is a huge improvement on ‘Just A Reflektor’ as you feel in control and curiousity compels you to explore and even start again in case you missed something.

For what it’s worth, the band have published their own Director’s Cut on YouTube to draw people into this eerie world:



Not to be outdone, even dear old Bobby is getting in on the act, and with quite a fitting choice of song.

This is partly because ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ was released in the days before music videos, but also because it was part of Dylan’s controversial electric period, where he departed from his bluegrass acoustic protest music roots.

In the video, which was posted online this week, you are given 15 TV channels to flip through, and on all of them the actors are lip-synching along.

This allows for brilliant, often comic, juxtaposition. When I watched it through, I laughed at a street reporter asking a random member of the public: “How does it feel to be on your own, like a complete unknown?”

In the end, I settled on an East Coast rap rendition for its sheer unlikeliness.

Give it a try for yourself and you’ll find that making up your own music video as you go along is a very addictive and empowered experience.

I can only hope more bands take this idea and run with it. My money’s on Muse going one better than their live videos that allow you to simply switch camera angles, but the possibilities are literally endless…

Advertisements

Ferrero Rocher – may contain nuts

There are many reasons why people read this blog. Some are just curious and stumble across it by the suggestive WordPress tags above. Many are loyal friends, press-ganged into reading by Facebook statuses and/or Twitter updates. Judging by the number of views of my CV, some may even be potential employers.

The most fascinating of all are people brought here by random Google searches. Some popular results which have lead people to my blog include:Ferrero Rocher

Chris Jefferies, Journalist (fair enough)

Jimmy Carr, Jade Goody, sick joke (one I’m particularly proud of)

Ferrero Rocher (sorry, what?!)

It seems that, despite my effort to ridicule Robert Mugabe and his taste in the cheapy dinner party chocs, they are still massively popular amongst Google searchers, with this image query bringing me hundreds of hits over the past few months. So in the spirit of overpriced chocolate that gets stuck in your teeth, I have great news:

Ferrero Rocher have been cleared of Hazlenut fraud

The relief must be palpable across Europe, since Ferrero are also responsible for the hazlenut deliciousness which is Nutella. Had this case gone the other way, I’m not sure how the French would have coped.

trufflesA fantastic example of an obscure angle being milked to lighten up the business section, (much like this blog post, you may say), so I salute the Beeb for their ingenuity. And they are not the only ones who were taken in by this nugget of a story, with The Times and The Scotsman following suit. So you can rest safe in the knowledge that Ferrero are not being dishonest in the hunt for nutty perfection.

Except for the fact that Rocher are tacky, unfulfilling and unimaginative. If you’re going to a dinner party and want to impress, take some time and make these instead.

Stop Googling To Save The Planet – Has It Come To This?!

Happy New Year! I’ll drink to that. Milk, please. Two sugars.

Don't overfill the kettle, don't fly if you can help it, and oh, stop using Google...
Don't overfill the kettle, don't fly if you can help it, and oh, stop using Google

2009 – It’s the year to save the world, right?

Not if you’re reading this. Chances are you got here via Google, or you’ve at least used it once today, correct? The monopoly Google holds over the search engine niche is comparable only to Tesco and supermarkets, but until now no-one has raised major concerns about the Californian giant’s near total dominance.

Stop press!

In an infuriating article in this week’s Sunday Times, we are told that performing two Google searches produces as much CO2 as boiling a cup of tea and, more frighteningly, that the technological industry gives off more CO2 annually than the aviation industry. The reason for this, according to new research from Harvard, is that Google operates several huge data centres across the world which are all consulted each time you search, resulting in more comprehensive results, but more CO2 emitted on net.

The choice of comparison here is particularly cutting. Not boiling a full kettle of water and cutting down on flying are two simple steps to reducing your Carbon Footprint, and by placing Google emissions above them makes personal small steps seem all the more pointless. It makes me feel like it’s too late to reverse all the bad we have done, and that my petty efforts are insignificant.

I wrote last month of how hard it is to cut back on air travel because of personal inconvenience, but we cannot hope for people to cut back on their internet usage. I shudder to think of the millions of times I have Googled something out of sheer curiosity or laziness. Google is a key research tool for journalists everywhere, and is usually the first port of call. Furthermore, many people, my parents included, set Google as their homepage and search for “hotmail” instead of bothering to type the URL into the address bar.

In both cases it’s just like Pandora’s Box – once we have developed this technology and have seen the amazing things we can do with it, we cannot simply close the box and go backwards. In this case, the onus lies with Google to clean up their act and make their search engine more energy efficient. But is there anything we can do to help? Is it realistic to ask people to use the internet less for environmental reasons? Or is this just needless scaremongering?