Posts Tagged ‘fan vids’

“More Cowbell”: My Avengers Remix Video

30/04

You know what this toolkit needs?  More explosions.

As I noted in my prior post about Disney/Marvel’s partnership with YouTube to facilitate the creation of Avengers remix videos, it appears the available clips are changing daily, thankfully offering more character-driven clips.  When I made the video below  (full disclosure, I made this in about 5-10 min, not my finest or most contemplative work), a solid 37.5% of the available clips were all explosions, and another 40% featured men doing things to cause explosions and/or attempting to evade said explosions.  It immediately gave me flashbacks to the Battlestar Galactica videomaker toolkit, which also heavily favored things exploding/careening through space:

I’m always interested in how the clips included these “authorized” video remix toolkits suggest appropriate uses/creative directions, or which sorts of fan narratives they pointedly constrict.  My aim with this video was to reflect on those decisions:

I fully intended to go back in and spend some time making a proper video, as opposed to this dashed-off, knee-jerk response.  I hope others do the same, prodding at the boundaries of what can or can’t be created, the argumentative capacity of the toolkit, and which strains of remix culture are encouraged or elided (fan vids? parodies?  slash?  fake trailers? etc.),

To give you a sense of the editing/remixing interface:

I didn’t take full advantage off the capabilities here, as the goal was to create something quick-and-dirty that might still be contemplative about my gut response to this gesture from Marvel and Disney.  The song I selected, “Shake the Ground” by Cherri Bomb, was notably the only offering performed by women, but more importantly it struck the tone that I wanted.  Lyrically, I think it actually works fairly well as a commentary on how these “legit” fan video initiatives have a tendency to leave pre-existing vidding practices unacknowledged, or shift the form’s logics back towards the promotional visual language that the industry is comfortable with. Quoth the chorus:

I won’t do what I’m told

I will wear you break you down, take you down

Shake the ground

Your dark sun leaves me cold

I will burn it out, wear you down

Shake the ground 

The image I kept coming back to, and loop repeatedly at one point, is that of a woman being hurled against a cafe table.  The image is quite clearly about the impact of the explosion on this woman’s body, and I suppose I wanted to ruminate on the “impact” of these video remix outreach efforts on female fans and vidders in particular.  The shots of Black Widow at the end hopefully also speak to this, moving from a look of horror, to fighting back, and ultimately a reclamation of the explosion.

I also wanted to use the toolkit in an unintended or unexpected way (cutting to black before the song concludes, rhythmic repetition of images, and so on).  Given more time, I think that making metavids about the limitations of various remix video toolkits offered by the industry could function as a wonderful running commentary on how these sanctioned initiatives are (or aren’t) slowly beginning to engaging with pre-existing fan video practices and aesthetics.  Likewise, I like the idea of speaking back to those developing these spaces through the form itself.

Finally, I must point everyone to the wonderful current issue of Transformative Works and Cultures, edited by Francesca Coppa and Julie Levin Russo, on Fan/Remix Video.  It’s a great starting point for thinking through these industrial efforts towards authorized forms of remixing.  In particular, I had Kathleen Ann Williams’ article, “Fake and fan film trailers as incarnations of audience anticipation and desire,” in mind while playing around with the Avengers toolkit.  To pull from her conclusion:

“Although trailers are often thought of as advertising an end product, these [fan] trailers function beyond the realm of the advertisement and instead suggest that the trailer lasts beyond the release of the feature, not only as an artifact but as a cultural object that can be integrated into new spaces and as a form in which to enact desires for future texts.”

I’ll be curious to see how I respond to the aural and visual elements of my video when I see the film theatrically this weekend- I somehow doubt I’ll look at that women hitting the cafe table the same way.  The temporal experience of creating the video from promotional materials prior to being granted their narrative context is also interesting, as the videos fans are creating this week are inevitably about the the expectations and desires that have been strategically cultivated by promotional paratexts, inverting the conventional production and reception process for fan vids.

Are you planning on making anything with the Avengers video remix toolkit?  If so, please let me know, I’d be curious to hear about others’ experiences.

The Avengers Remix video toolkit

28/04

This week, Variety ran a story about Disney and Marvel’s partnership with YouTube to create a video remix toolkit, including 32 short clips from the film and excerpts of 4 songs from the film’s soundtrack (each track under a minute long), along with clips of dialogue, and a variety of SFX and transition options.  The title of this article?

“Disney, Marvel offer do-it-yourself ‘Avengers’ vids: YouTube software allows fans to craft legit remixes from pic”

There are myriad problems with both the toolkit and Variety‘s legitimization discourse that I’d like to get into, but first let me say this: Generally, I love the idea of giving fans HD raw materials to create their own remix videos.  I love that these tools might allow some fans who tend to think of themselves as consumers rather than creators an entry point into other forms of fan production.  I love that these “authorized” remix contests/tools at least begin to acknowledge both the creative and promotional value of fans to the success of media franchises.

Here’s what I don’t love:

– Of the 32 clips provided to me to work with (and they appear to be changing daily), here’s generally how they break down in terms of visual content, with the Misc. category composed of things like the obligatory group shot, Loki looking menacing/sexy, etc.:

Clip content breakdown for Disney/Marvel's Avengers remix video toolkit

I get it.  I do.  They wanted to stick with images from the trailer (hence, no spoilers for fans to get testy about), and the trailer is designed to sell the generic action of a superhero blockbuster.  These are clips of promotional materials from which fan-produced promotional materials are designed to be generated.  As the Variety piece championing the move by Disney and Marvel tellingly notes:

“[This] marketing move is seen as the latest way to make moviegoers, especially younger ones, feel as if they’re part of a film’s campaign.”

Not part of the film, or a community surrounding the film, but part of the campaign.  Thus far, many of the remixes made with this tool are quite impressive in terms of their professional polish and their ability to mimic the aesthetic language of promotional paratexts, but the lack of any character interactions provided as raw material inherently limits what’s produced. More diverse clips would inevitably lead to more diverse creative uses, and while the diversity of explosions offered here is laudable (Jets!  Buildings!  A Cafe!  Taxis!  More Taxis!  And hell, why not make a taxi explosion clip trilogy while we’re at it!), it also feels like a none-too-subtle attempt to overdetermine what “narratives” people use the tool to tell.  At its core, The Avengers is about relationships, but you wouldn’t know it from the range of clips provided.  Save for a pair of nano-second long clips of various male members of the team exchanging blows (not enough to construct anything slashy, trust me, I made a valiant effort), there are virtually no shots where two characters interact, and the limited character shots that are provided tend to be interrupted immediately by those pesky explosions, making it difficult to create a video that ruminates on the relationships between members of the team.

[NOTE: I just checked back on the site and they seem to have swapped out some of yesterday’s clips with more character clips, so perhaps some of these complaints can be dialed back depending on which stable of clips you’ve been given.]

– The obligatory terms of service stranglehold, which as usual forces the remixer to waive all rights to their creation.  To wit, see the load page for the remix interface, and a selection from the terms of service this main pages links out to:

Remixers, ye be warned...

Mickey seems awfully pleased with himself...

My central concern is one that won’t surprise anyone who has read my work, or Julie Levin Russo’s excellent work on Battlestar Galactica‘s videomaker toolkit.  Not only do these “authorized” efforts fail to meaningfully reach out to pre-existing fan vidding communities, they seem to aggressively dissuade the forms of remix that have been historically created by women.  This isn’t to say that many female fans aren’t using (or enjoying using) this new Avengers remix platform, simply that if this is a model towards “legit” fan remix video that implies that this is a potential effort to displace or dissuade those “illegitimate” forms.  Those that stage an argument or a counter-reading, ruminate on the dynamics between characters or queer them, or take the narrative in a new, unexpected (e.g. unsanctioned) direction.

There is also something to be said here about the fallaciously gendered construction of both comic book readers and the audience for franchise films.  In both cases, women continue to be treated as surplus audiences, and perhaps are considered surplus remixers here as well.  Efforts like these from Disney and Marvel are tend to be discursively framed as a decisive break from the industry’s prior prohibitionist response to fan production (commonly manifesting in the form of cease and desist letters and other methods of legal censure), taking a more collaborationist approach to fan culture and fan production.  While this might mark a step in the right direction, we need to continue to be critical of what modes of creative censure come attached to these collaborationist gestures, and which audiences they court.  The big issues here: industrial cooptation of fan labor, ownership/authorship within copyright culture, ideological censure, seem to recur with the release of each new video toolkit, and to my mind mark an ongoing need to consider how prohibitionist efforts evolve, become more covert, or create legitimizing discourses around “sanctioned” modes of fan engagement.

The Avengers video remix toolkit ultimately speaks to the growing popularity of remix culture, and the shifting cultural and technological landscape that is facilitating it, without meaningfully engaging with those communities of practice.

In my next post, I’ll show you what I created with the Avenger Remix video toolkit, and discuss what I hoped to convey…

Spoiler alert: I didn’t skimp on the explosions.