Graphic artists borrow, artists steal

Sorry to inaccurately paraphrase Mr Picasso, but I’m trying to excuse the fact that I’m watching Top Gear. With a notebook. I’m pretending to be a petrol head, but I’m watching the editing like a hawk. Or a hungry chicken. Whatever.

I’m watching it through the BBC iPlayer. I can’t stand broadcast TV any more – I don’t just want to pause live TV, I want to be able to stop it, walk away, mow the lawn, make wife some tea, watch something else, then pick up where I left off. Frame by frame if I feel like it. iPlayer rocks even if it’s a fraction of the technical quality of broadcast TV. Broadcast TV and schedules and adverts and ‘did you see last night’ are so dead… But I digress.

It’s automotive pornography, it’s without any useful educational content, it’s rather divisive (ho ho! In the extreme dear friend), but the pictures are pretty and the editing is exciting. And there’s lots of bits of metal that go ‘brum’ loudly.

I don’t edit long segments about cars, but why am I occasionally pausing the video and going through it frame by frame, working out what’s done in-camera and what’s in post? Why am I making mental notes about ‘the sound of transitions’? I’m analysing the number of frames in sequences and in beard stroking moments, watching how edits contain more and more sub-15-frame content and ‘glitch’ edits. Pixelation is no longer a ‘whoah’ thing, it represents DV drop-out to the audience, a moment when tape and drum did not connect. So camera shake and rolling frame is out. A ‘blik!’ sound effect and a few random pixellated areas and perhaps a flash frame or two.

Our children are watching this too. My four year old son thinks that fire engines go ‘nee nahh nee nahh’, but of course they don’t – they never have in his lifetime. They go – well, you know what they do. It’s like green screen text in The Matrix – does anyone under forty who is NOT a geek know what a command line is? More to the point, what will my 4yo son make of film scratches, film jumping the gate in projectors? He sees glitches and freezes, he hears the ‘stut-stut-stut-stut-stuttering’ of internet movies starting up in iPlayer. The buddy-blocks of blown bandwidth.

It doesn’t stop there. He associates the ‘washing machine from hell’ flash-loading icon with a busy day for the internet. Ye gods, forget the Oracle of Delphi and the ides of March, we have the spinning beachball of death and the washing machine from hell to tell us it’s a bad IP day for mortals.

Top Gear has been educating an audience with a visual style that’s abrasive (like rinsing your eyes in mouthwash), fresh, dynamic (and very IP unfriendly) – and I’m finding my edit style adapting to match. It’s all very ‘now’, very ‘cold shower’, very ‘mouthwash’ and ‘9 volt battery on your tongue’.

So when I had the chance to show my 70+ aunt my current show reel (it was that kind of afternoon), she got it totally.

Which leads me to a giddy pontification: when octogenarians are totally into blipvert editing, where do we go next?

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