Posts Tagged With: mashup

Uptown Funk: The CBeebies Edition

Do. Do-DO-Do, Do-DO-Do, Do-Do. You’re humming it now, aren’t you? Oh, it’s catchy. It’s one of the most cynically manipulative records since ‘The Living Years’, a cocktail of old sounds under a modern groove, several records ripped off (amateurs borrow, experts steal) in order to make a song that teenagers play loudly through their phones in those evening alcopop sessions in the park, even as their parents dance badly to it at the office disco. It is masterfully produced, expertly performed and I love it. Say what you like about the state of contemporary music; Mark Ronson’s a genius.

I first encountered ‘Uptown Funk’ at Butlins, in February last year, where it featured in the finale of Diversity‘s street dance act. They were tight, they were effortlessly entertaining and I was humming that song for weeks. Winter turned into spring and someone did a lipdub featuring hundreds of classic movies. Then someone else did a montage using dance sequences. Then someone else did the same thing with the Golden Age of Hollywood. I have not linked to any of these because chances are you’ve seen them, and because my own meagre offering – proud of it as I am – does tend to pale into insignificance. But that’s OK. “Always,” said Max Ehrmann, “there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

Here’s a reflection on parenting. When you’re faced with the prospect of bad behaviour, you can sometimes circumvent it by simply upstaging it. One evening in August I had to entertain four tired, slightly fractious children – and a very well-behaved dog – in the van in a Lidl car park while Emily shopped. I did this by turning up the radio, and singing along to ‘Uptown Funk’ at the top of my voice, accompanied by with the sort of extravagant, flamboyant Dad dancing that would make Carlton Banks raise an eyebrow. In doing so I attracted the attention of several passers-by, as well as the cashiers in Lidl, who stared in bemusement while Emily pretended she didn’t know who I was.

When we were done, Thomas said “Dad, that was really embarrassing.”

I said “You think that was embarrassing? You just wait and see what I’ve got planned for your teenage years.”

oBaf2lv

Fast forward to October, and the video you saw at the beginning. I won’t go into the details, except to say that I restricted myself to HD clips only, which is why certain programmes aren’t featured (I’d have loved to have included Big Cook, Little Cook, but the surviving footage on YouTube really is rather grainy). In a way, that sort of self-imposed limitation made things easier, because otherwise you find yourself floundering under the weight of serious choice fatigue. There are so many CBeebies programmes (past and present) in which dancing features. Several shows are featured more than once, partly because they fit but partly because I was exhausted and just wanted to finish the thing. This was as painstakingly down-to-the-frame as anything I’ve ever done, and hopefully it shows, at least in the decent parts.

The first person I showed it to was Alan Gilbey. “It’s good,” he said, “but it needs more Dinopaws!”. Which gave me another idea, but that’s still in the works, so you can’t see it yet. In the meantime, this went on YouTube and round the houses (I’ve been informed, anecdotally, that several people who are in it saw it and liked it) and there it now sits, drawing in a steady stream of visitors. Certainly the hit count – 105,000 as we go to press – is gratifying, and as close to ‘viral’ as I am ever likely to get.

Just in case you’re interested, here’s a list of all the shows featured, in order of first appearance:

Rastamouse
Show Me Show Me
Twirlywoos
Balamory
Let’s Play
Zingzillas
Brum
Boj
Dinopaws
Gigglebiz
The Elves and the Shoemaker
Number Raps
The Lingo Show
LazyTown
The Tweenies
Dinosaur Raps
CBeebies Pantos: Strictly Cinderella
Something Special: We’re All Friends
My Story
The Three Little Pigs
Numtums
Tilly and Friends
Charlie and Lola
Furchester Hotel
Peter Rabbit
Tree Fu Tom
Make Way For Noddy
Kerwhizz
Teletubbies
Justin’s House
Sarah and Duck
Mr Bloom: Get Set Grow
Alphablocks
Waybuloo
Pingu
Small Potatoes
Grandpa in my Pocket
Wussywat the Clumsy Cat
Let’s Celebrate
Baby Jake
Hey Duggee
Lunchtime Song
Same Smile
Mister Maker Round The World
Old Jack’s Boat
Katie Morag
Swashbuckle
Carrie and David’s Pop Shop
Swashbuckle does ‘Happy’
CBeebies Prom
In The Night Garden
The Let’s Go Club

Would I do it differently now? Probably. There are vague synchronicity issues I’d like to fix, mostly near the beginning (I swear the original is correct; I think it happened during the YouTube encoding). On the other hand it mostly works. A couple of scenes still make me wince. But I am pleased, in particular, with the way it unfolds in the last minute. Don’t believe me? Just watch.

(Yeah, you knew that was coming.)

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The Monster Mash

And you have an earworm now, don’t you?

It’s the season for Christmas TV, which means old favourites get dusted off. In our house, at least when I was a kid, it was always The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins – both of which I’ve written about before – along with Scrooged and at least one of the Herbie films. We’ve had quite a lot of luck with Oz, but just yesterday I was trying to show them why Albert Finney’s musical version of A Christmas Carol is actually worth watching in its entirety, and that if they just go through the scene where Scrooge goes to hell on a loop they’re missing out on the context. It fell on mostly deaf ears. I will try again next December.

Certain things do hold their attention. The other week the boys were watching a Loony Tunes Christmas special in which a cantankerous Daddy Duck was taught the error of his miserly ways by three Christmas spirits, aided by Bugs Bunny. It was top-heavy (there is way, way too much messing around in the department store before the ghosts turn up) and the ending was only vaguely satisfying, but it was enjoyable, largely because there’s a substantial supporting role for Marvin the Martian.

And then I thought – well, they’re basically from the same place, aren’t they?

Marvin_Ice

But why stop there? Why not acknowledge the design roots of the Adipose, for example, and mash one of them with the Pillsbury Doughboy?

Adipose_Dough

And well, let’s just say that Madame Vastra wasn’t always based in Victorian London.

Witch_Vastra

Happy New Year, however you spend it.

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Presenting: The smallerpictures Channel Ad

I was doing a little admin on my YouTube channel and it suggested that I make a Channel Ad. This, for the uninitiated, is a homemade trailer, ideally no more than a minute in length, which tells visitors about what you do.

What I came up with only tells half the story, of course – it ignores the montages that I occasionally put together when I’m being serious – but as a summation of the re-dubbing that forms the core of my work, I think it’s reasonably successful. You could look at it on the channel page directly using the link above, if you like, but for the casual reader I embed it here.

It’s been three years since I started doing this, and I’ve loved every minute. Here’s to the next!

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The Minions of Minyos

The Doctor Who / Despicable Me connection isn’t exactly new. As well as the uncanny resemblance between the Minyans above and the Minions that featured in Universal’s animated romp, someone also saw fit to do this:

Des_Who-2

Which, like many works of goodness, is silly, but somehow successful. Despicable Me is wonderful, of course, featuring as it does a fairly generic and not always terribly exciting script that’s brimming with emotional pathos and enlivened incredibly by the presence of the Minions, who steal every scene they’re in. Granted names like Stuart and Kevin and Dave, they stumble through their work at Gru’s lab with unfailing loyalty – those of you who’ve seen the first film will remember the moment that Gru admits the team is bankrupt, before one Minion produces a few dollars from his pocket and everyone else does the same, emulating the ending of It’s A Wonderful Life, and giving the anti-hero a new sense of purpose. And then they go off and blow things up and fight over bananas.

But I remember seeing Despicable Me again recently – and then the sequel shortly afterwards – and thinking that it really was high time someone did something with that scene in ‘Underworld’. You know the one. The classic scene where Alan Lake wakes up inside the crashed spaceship and his captors remove their oversized helmets to reveal large yellow heads. You know the bit I mean.

What do you mean, you don’t?

The unfortunate truth is that while ‘Underworld’ is going to be familiar to the dedicated fans of Classic Who, it’s no ‘Genesis of the Daleks’. Of course, it’s no ‘Delta and the Bannermen’ either. It sits firmly in the middle, consisting as it does of some decent effects in the first episode and then an enormous amount of CSO. There’s a disproportionate amount of running up and down through caves – even more so than usual – and enough references to Greek mythology to keep an undergraduate seminar happy for a good hour or so. Do see it, if you haven’t already. It’s fun, and it has Leela, and – somewhat crucially – it explains the Time Lord’s policy of non-intervention, just as the oft-forgotten ‘State of Decay’ would later go on to explain their pacifism.

For now, all you need to know is that Herrick gets captured by these two, and they interrogate him for the first half of the episode in their revealed, ‘evolved’ form before realising that the giant banana thing really is too silly for the climax of a story, replacing the helmets in time for the Doctor to show up. And that presents a problem or two. Because there are plenty of Minion soundbites. The rendering of Brahms’s Lullaby that closes the above is practically a meme in our house, superseded in frequency only by the occasional cry of “SPAAAAAAAAAACE!”. But it occurred to me early on that I could only use this one scene, rather than all the other stuff with the Doctor, and that meant a lot of looping and a lot of repeat shots and some reasonably precise editing. The result is not the video I wanted to make, and probably not the video most people wanted to or expected to see – it doesn’t feature the Doctor at all, not even a little – but I wonder if the restricted aspect actually improves the whole thing.

It’s a bit rough around the edges. Herrick’s dialogue is extremely quiet and the only way I could match him up with the Minions was to up the volume significantly, with the result that you can hear the feedback practically every time he speaks. But with a bit of luck you’re being distracted by the Minions discussing fruit. The fact that they seem to occasionally echo Herrick’s dialogue was a complete accident, but a happy one, and they’re often the best kind. This remains one of those mashups I created for my children, of course, because I think its intended audience is niche. Mind you, that’s what I said about the Numberjacks vs. Prisoner thing. I may know a little about Doctor Who, but I sure as heck don’t know people. The day that changes, I should probably stop blogging.

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Yo-Who Ahoy

All right. Question one: who in the hell is watching this?

Let me give you a little deconstruction of my Youtube viewing figures. About six weeks ago I uploaded a Flight of the Navigator / Portal 2 mashup which took an entire summer and of which I am really quite proud. It’s got about eighty hits since I stuck it online – some for the full length edit, some for the four minute highlights. This isn’t very much at all, and while I know you can hardly breathe for new uploads on YouTube, it frustrates me that I apparently can’t increase its exposure without spamming people and generally being a pest, neither of which I will do unless my life happens to depend on it.

Perhaps more damningly, back in April I produced a mashup of Willo the Wisp and The Silence. It’s got about three hundred and fifty hits. That’s about fifty a month. And about two hundred of those were in a single day when I referred to it in a Guardian discussion. (I was also rather depressed at the number of people who hit the dislike button, because I really thought I’d made something fun, until Emily pointed out that referring to a video that mocked the Silence in an article that basically revered them was hardly going to win me any fans.)

But this one? Put together in one evening more or less as a joke? Over nine hundred hits in a month. Yes, it’s no Double Rainbow. It’s not even chicken feed. It’s barely even amoeba feed. Still, by my standards it’s practically viral – or as close to viral as I ever get unless someone dies. The same happened with the Numberjacks / Prisoner thing, which as I write this is at 142,000 and rising. The YouTube traffic sources indicate that it’s predominantly people searching for Numberjacks episodes online, presumably to watch with your children, but this doesn’t explain why you’d then want to watch a video that openly sells itself as a mashup. My friend Laura is convinced that it’s probably drunk students at three in the morning, and she’s probably right.

Anyway. This one was basically made for Gareth. We’ve all been fans of Yoho Ahoy! for years, long before Em and I had children, in my case purely because of its offbeat quirkiness. In the same manner as Shaun the Sheep, it’s one of those shows that seems to transcend cultures and communication barriers, largely owing to the fact that there are only two words of dialogue (the titular ‘Yoho!’ and ‘Ahoy!’), delivered in any number of ways by the inhabitants of the Rubber Duck. It’s always clear what’s going on, each episode is brief but eventful, and everyone has their favourite characters (I think mine is probably Bilge, the crazy-haired captain, but honourable mentions must go to Grog, the ship’s cybernetically enhanced cook, who features heavily in this episode and who apparently lost his hands in a fondue accident before the series began).

Then, of course, there was the day I went shopping and found this.

They’re cute and cuddly and THEY MAKE NOISES! Em and I have been trying very hard to cull our soft toy collection rather than buying new ones, but I made an exception here.

There are nearly forty episodes of Yoho Ahoy!, and ‘Fish With Grog’ is the episode that we usually show to people who never seen the show – Gareth informs me that he does the same – and as it’s a popular one with Thomas (who will happily watch it on a loop), it seemed right to honour it here. The idea of redubbing all the dialogue with cries of ‘Exterminate!’ and ‘Delete!’ stems partly from the fact that if you ask a casual fan of the show to impersonate a Dalek or a Cyberman, that’s probably what they’ll do – but really, you need to look at this.

You see what I mean, right? I know the Daleks have a history with cries of ‘Exterminate!’, but if you examine the classic series the Cybermen really don’t say ‘Delete’ very much at all pre-2006. Never mind the fact that in ‘Doomsday’ the so-called seminal scene in which the Daleks and Cybermen try and talk to each other is about as interesting as watching a computer play Scrabble with itself: the whole episode is basically a fanboy’s wet dream, and not a very good one at that.

Anyway. The biggest challenge I had with this was finding instances of ‘Delete’ that weren’t surrounded by other stuff. There are plenty of ‘Exterminates’. (Not to mention the fact that someone had helpfully put every single one of them into a YouTube compilation that I used for reference.) But finding an audible ‘Delete’ that didn’t have guns or Murray Gold’s intrusive score in the background was harder than I thought. In the end I could only locate one, and it’s not a very good one, but at this point I really didn’t want to switch exclusively to ‘Exterminate’. So it’s in there, and I added a couple of K-9 clips for good measure. This dilutes the effect even further, but at least it keeps you on your toes.

It was hard to finish: this was a tinkering video. I said before that I did it in one evening, but the problem was knowing when to stop, because I kept coming up with new ideas. The use of the TARDIS noise is one such example; so too is the collection of effects I stuck in towards the end of the episode when they’re throwing stuff out of the window. Basically the whole thing is very silly. And it could probably have been much better, or at least more polished. But the boys all enjoyed it. And in this instance, that was actually all I cared about. Yoho!

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Flight of the Navigator: Portal 2 / Wheatley Edition

Let’s get this out of the way: Flight of the Navigator is mostly crap.

I don’t mean to urinate all over your eighties memories. Truly I don’t. I’m not one for nostalgia existing for its own sake but I recognise that certain things that have dated badly were very much products of their time, rendering their mockery superfluous. There is no merit in sneering at the apparent sexism in the works of Enid Blyton, for example, simply because (right or wrong) it was how most people thought back then. The same goes for Tintin and The Congo, a work that’s come in for its fair share of controversy over the last few years because it’s a still-very-famous example of the casually accepted racism of its time. Dumping on cultural attitudes or stylistic idiosyncrasies gets you lots of recommends over at the Guardian, but it’s not big or clever. That such attitudes are no longer as widely held ought to be enough without making all sorts of left-wing comments about language too far out from our times to be politically correct.

No, if you’re going to mock Blyton, mock her for her derivative and formulaic storytelling – as Joyce Grenfell memorably did – and look at the content, rather than the style. Because as far as style is concerned, Flight of the Navigator mostly holds up. The CG / stop motion effects used to portray the ship were quite astonishing in their day and still don’t look too bad some twenty-six years later. The puppet aliens are fun and convincing. And Alan Silvestri’s Synclavier-created score is frankly one of the best things he’s ever written, and still gets played in my car from time to time.

But the film itself? Gaah. It’s a third-rate mashup of serious and ‘fun’, where the tense, conspiracy theory first half degenerates into farce once David steps on board the ship. Structurally it’s about as robust as a play centre built by the Challenge Anneka team. There’s far too much preamble, and then once the ship actually takes off, there’s a lot of arguing, heaps of eighties slang (which is fine, really, it’s a product of its time), and dancing to the Beach Boys. That’s not to mention the dialogue – which sounds like it was written by a first-year undergrad on a Film Studies course – along with the frankly woeful performance of Joey Cramer. Paul Reubens does his best, hamming up the performance of Max the Robot with the silliness that the script deserves, but even the presence of Veronica Cartwright couldn’t save this turkey.

None of this matters when you’re a kid, of course, and even if the movie has dated badly, I’ll freely admit that as a boy it was one of my favourites, at least for a while. After wearing out our VHS tape in the late 1980s, I switched off from Flight of the Navigator until 2004, when Emily and I watched it one evening under the influence of a 70cl bottle of gin, which rendered it absolutely hilarious. Then we promptly forgot about it again, along with most of the other things that supposedly happened that night. But it was in the opening quarter of this year, when I was playing through Portal 2 with Joshua, that Disney’s playful romp once more permeated my consciousness. Because it occurred to me, exploring the corridors and test chambers and dark underbelly of Aperture Science, that Wheatley – the imbecilic (but lovable) robot that accompanies you throughout the first part of the game before [WHOPPING GREAT SPOILER] is an absolute dead ringer for Max. Well, sort of.

It’s more convincing when Max is flashing blue instead of red, and to be fair, there are only so many ways you can do spherical robots with big eyes before they all start to look the same, but you get the point. As far as the script is concerned, the presentation and characterisation of Wheatley is arguably Portal 2‘s high spot (along with all those wonderful monologues from Cave Johnson, of course). The humour in the game is about as subtle as a house brick, but if you’re not giggling away at the mashy spike plate, there’s something seriously wrong with you. Anyway, at some point or another – probably while I was driving or eating, that’s usually when I get my ideas – I must have thought “Ooh, Flight of the Navigator would be really interesting with Max’s voice taken out and Wheatley’s put in”.

This was this year’s Darth Gene, in that it took me an entire summer in between weeks away here and there. The longest and most laborious job was sifting through Wheatley’s dialogue – there is a ton of it, and I spent over a week (on and off) listening to over eight hundred voice files. There was a lot of expository narrative that was unsuitable – anything that mentioned GlaDOS or the portal guns had to go – but I wound up with enough usable material to have probably created this from scratch using entirely different dialogue. Because it was all ripped directly from the game it was easy to place, and all I then had to worry about doing was stitching up the audio with various engine sounds and bits of the score, which I was fortunate enough to have on MP3.  So it was a long job, but it hangs together much better than many of my other more recent efforts.

Because you’re all busy people, I should probably let you see the highlights version as well – it’s half the length, and lacks narrative cohesion, but it’s a decent selection of the best bits (of course it is. It wouldn’t be called ‘highlights’ if it wasn’t). Still – the full-length cut embedded above, if you have the time, is the video I originally intended to make (unlike the aforementioned Darth Gene, which is arguably better in its trailer format). I suppose the creation of this was therapy, in a way, in that it enabled me to exorcise a few demons, with some success – sadly it’s still not effective enough to exorcise the ghost of Joey Cramer slumping onto his arse in a hideously-decorated 1980s riverside property wailing “Please…where’s my mom and dad?”. But hey, it’ll do.

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On The Road Again

It’s been far too long since I posted a smallerpictures video.

When I was twenty years old, I got into Hospital Radio. There followed three not-so-glorious years of trailing round the Royal Berkshire Hospital orthopaedic wards meeting elderly ladies awaiting hip replacements and incapacitated bikers after work on a Friday, and then spending my Saturday mornings playing a curious mixture of Meat Loaf and Val Doonican on the request show. My co-host and I memorised the jingles and took it in turns to quote them aloud to each other while the microphone was off, which came in very handy on the day the cart machine broke and we managed to fulfil our quota of three an hour with a strictly a capella performance. I got to know the tricks, the techniques, the art of sequencing – which records to avoid (‘Spirit in the Sky’, ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’, ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’) and the ones that we’d basically worn out due to endless re-requests (‘Release Me’, ‘Danny Boy’, ‘Distant Drums’ and that bloody Titanic song). And I was living at home and had no social life to speak of, so it filled up the weekends.

It all ended in tears, with me no longer on speaking terms with the committee – there were faults on both sides, me being young and outspoken while they were apathetic and inept – but boy, did I listen to a lot of music during that run. And I associate Canned Heat with that time, having acquired this particular song on a driving compilation I’d bought while I was still a sixth former (and can no longer find, which is annoying because it was one of my better Various Artists collections), but finding it was a decent way to fill five minutes (extended version) while you went to the loo. And the first thing that occurred to me when I heard it was wait a minute, what’s Kermit the Frog doing singing this?

Soundalike gags are nothing new. There was speculation years ago that Kermit might actually have been Michael Stipe under an assumed name (it’s probably the other way round, actually, but you get the idea). And I remember hearing Macy Gray singing ‘I Try’ for the first time, and – well, have a listen.

You see what I mean, right?

YouTube has an amusing video that sequences images from ‘Going Up The Country’ – Canned Heat’s other household hit – to stills from Muppet films, shows and album covers. I managed to go one better and do a reasonable lipdub – the 1979 feature film, with its road trip theme, being an obvious choice. This was uncomplicated in approach, if fiddly in execution to actually put together: finding appropriate imagery from the film to go along with the psychedelic blues was fairly easy (there are some priceless visual gags, and I got lucky with Rowlf and his harmonica). For the vocals, it was just a question of going through and finding mouth movements that more or less tied in with Alan Wilson’s vocals, and then moving back and forth a microsecond for the best fit possible. (I’m still convinced that the upload is slightly out, although my original is in sync.)

Oh, and see The Muppets. It’s worth it for 80s Robot alone…

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