April 06, 2010

Altering Videos: White House "West Wing Week" Video Blog REMIX

Greetings. When we put information on the Internet, there's a natural tendency to assume that we essentially maintain control -- to a significant extent at least -- over the form that the associated data takes. At a minimum, many of us probably don't usually consider the extent to which posted items could be subjected to major outside alterations (whether for good or ill purposes).

Yet the reality is actually rather clear. With virtually anything that's posted on the Net in publicly available locations, there's no telling what sorts of transformations might potentially be in the offing.

This can be particularly true -- in terms of powerful impacts -- with videos. Just because you've posted a video on YouTube, for example, doesn't mean that someone else won't find the "raw materials" of your production irresistible for other purposes.

Experimental case in point -- The White House.

President Barack Obama's administration has just begun posting a "video blog" called "West Wing Week."

The initial offering is viewable at the official White House Web site. It contains some interesting clips and certainly well serves its purpose of providing basic information about administration activities over the prior week. However, it is a bit lengthy at over seven minutes, and -- no disrespect meant -- is rather on the bland side.

A question -- what can we do with this (as it happens, explicitly public domain) presentation -- without adding any new footage -- to morph the original into a video with a very different sort of impact?

With apologies in advance to the White House Staff, let's find out.

First, we can lose the narration (better to let the clips tell the story whenever possible). We'll whip out the ol' digital razor blade, layer in a more comprehensive musical score, then slice and dice and even color correct VP Joe Biden (whose face could never have really been that red in real life, even on a bad day). And before we're done, let's chop at least a couple of minutes off of the total runtime.

The result, West Wing Week REMIX (YouTube) is an example of how by using only the Internet and commonly available digital editing tools (and a bit of imagination, I'll admit) the entire "feel" of a posted video can be significantly altered.

In this specific case, the end result might be viewed in some quarters as arguably enhancing some of the original video's fundamental messages -- but even if this happens to be so, that's not the point.

The same sorts of techniques could be used to undermine or distort easily accessible and alterable Internet videos in ways that could be completely antithetical to the works' original orientations and purposes. And since a properly managed digital workflow typically creates minimal quality degradations to the underlying video and audio tracks, the ability of nonspecialist outside observers to readily detect altered versions may be very limited.

An interesting experiment, indeed.

Just a little something to keep in mind as we (to paraphrase the late Tom Snyder), fire up the computer, sit back, relax, and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the Net.


Posted by Lauren at April 6, 2010 09:57 AM | Permalink
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