Posts Tagged With: videos

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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Daleks: Lost in Translation

Watch this, and then cast your minds back a few weeks, to ‘The Witch’s Familiar’.

You remember that one, right? It sort of got forgotten, really, in the general melee of confusion that was series nine. There were Zygons and immortals and people hiding beneath bedsheets and eventually there were TIME LORDS, but before all that, we had Daleks. Specifically we had Clara Oswald hiding inside a Dalek in order to sneak into the Skaro citadel to find the Doctor.

Those of you who recall the scene in which she’s strapped in will remember the conversation she tries to have with Missy. “Say ‘I love you'”, says Missy, to which Clara replies “EXTERMINATE!”. Cue comedy scene with Michelle Gomez leading up to a chilling finale in which she eventually convinces the Doctor – after something of a narrow squeak – that she’s Clara, and not a disgusting mutant.

“Well,” says Gareth, “to be fair, no Dalek has ever said anything other than ‘exterminate’ and similar simple phrases. No conversations or speeches or anything. Honest. It’s a bit poor. And doesn’t really make sense – so when the Daleks want to exterminate you, and are threatening to exterminate you, and are preparing to exterminate you, they’re actually saying ‘do stay still, there’s a good chap’, and it just sounds like they’re saying ‘exterminate’?”

That’s entirely possible, of course, although it’s more likely that the Daleks would have been conditioned to say ‘Exterminate’ and that this is something that had been built into the travel unit in case it ever happens to be occupied by a non-Dalek, which makes about as much sense as there actually being room in there for Clara in the first place, but I think we can all agree that ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ stopped making sense the moment the vampire monkeys turned up, so I think we can let it go.

Letitgo

(Sorry. I’ve given you an earworm now, haven’t I? Both of you.)

Anyway. It was a silly scene but it did give me an idea: an idea that took me an hour to shape into something tangible. This was an easy one to do, as it was simply a case of finding appropriate Dalek-led exchanges and giving them appropriate subtitles. You could probably do this quite effectively with New Who as well, but given that I wanted to include a particular exchange in which a Dalek’s vision is impaired, I stuck exclusively to the 1970s and 80s. Stories used for this, in order of first appearance:

Planet of the Daleks
Destiny of the Daleks
Resurrection of the Daleks

The Doctor appears a couple of times, but this isn’t really about him at all, of course. And please don’t tell him about these problems the Daleks are having with their language filters. It’ll crush him.

By the way, if you’re not up on early 90s UK children’s TV, the blinded Dalek’s wails that he “cannae see!” are probably going to confuse you. In which case this suitably iconic TV moment might provide a little insight. For the rest of us, this is simple nostalgia.

Gosh, they look so young…

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Holby City meets Batman

“Sorry,” say many American readers, “What meets Batman?”

Holby City is my one concession to soapdom. I can’t commit to Eastenders. If I want to be depressed for hours at a time I can listen to Joy Division. I don’t need Phil Mitchell and his nails-down-a-blackboard gruffness, or tales of abortion or domestic abuse. Coronation Street isn’t any better these days, particularly since the Duckworths left. Soap operas and me don’t really go together. It’s like an allergic reaction. I had a friend who watched Eldorado (one of Verity Lambert’s rare failures) in the 1990s. I endured fifteen minutes of it on his bedroom TV, and I had a nosebleed.

But Em and I can spare an hour a week, and besides, Holby isn’t miserable. It’s usually downright hysterical, sometimes on purpose. Neither of us have any extensive knowledge of medicine but even I know that accuracy takes a firm second place to dramatic impact. Patients are wheeled into the hospital and receive their operations within hours. There are no major problems with sanitation, apart from the write-the-headlines MRSA scandal that saw the downfall of Michael Beecham in 2005. Most of the orderlies and nurses appear to be English. God, even the food looks reasonable.

Crucially, patients very seldom die. There are near misses on the operating table, of course, usually caused by arrogance or staff who are sleeping together. I would be willing to bet that the unorthodox solutions that invariably save the day would only work on a human body that was wired up completely differently, but this is television, and thus it matters only if you happen to know that. I was at an author’s session in Cholsey last week and got talking to a heart specialist. “You must watch medical soaps and point and laugh,” I said. She broadly agreed.

If you’re a regular viewer, you’ll be aware of the Holby Staples – the things that happen in every episode. In no particular order:

  • A senior doctor will finish an opening conversation with a patient by bombarding a nurse with jargon: “FBCs, U&Es, LFTs and an MRI” (BTW, BBC, this really is all a bit OTT)
  • Character-with-emotional-crisis is paired with patient-with-similar-emotional-crisis; at some point one of them will advise the other and the Holby regular will emerge from the experience a wiser person
  • Problems occur during surgery. The heart monitor (or something) makes a melodic ringing sound to indicate irregular pulse, flatlining or brain death. The maverick surgeon will do something brilliant.
  • There will be a heart-to-heart either on the bench or outside the front door (or, if they’re feeling brave, on the roof)
  • Elliot Hope will be seen shoving a pastry in his mouth.

Oh, and a while ago I made this.

Holby_City_map

Anyway. This week’s episode featured a hostage crisis that grew out of a botched operation (arrogance, this time): an antiques expert spent half the story handcuffed to the chief neurosurgeon, who had his fingers wrapped round a live grenade. An already implausible story was stretched to breaking point when the armed response unit showed up and decided that their first priority was to shoot the unfortunate widower in the head (an action that breaks every rule of hostage negotiation and which would in any case have set off the grenade). In the end, plucky nurse Adrian Fletcher – guilty of several recent mistakes and looking for redemption – managed to get the grenade out of the building in an improbably long seven-second dash up the corridor.

So, Batman. Obviously. I mean, take a look.

(Parenthesis: If you’ve seen The Dark Knight Rises you will recall that precisely the same thing – minus the ducklings – happens in its final act, and that the Caped Crusader once more manages to save the day through an act of apparent self-sacrifice. It is monumentally stupid, but so is the film. And don’t get me started on that cafe scene. Really. Don’t.)

Assembling this was a challenge. I had about four or five seconds of usable footage that had to suffice for four different cycles, and there is thus a lot of mirroring and reversing. The interspersing clips were all found on YouTube, and the final explosion – if you hadn’t worked it out – is from The Dark Knight, which is coincidentally a much better film than its immediate successor. But the 1966 Batman movie is better than both of them.

And Katie Hopkins? Well, doctors and medical staff are supposed to preserve life, where they possibly can. But I think we can probably make an exception here, can’t we?

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Doctor Who: Switching Channels

In 1992, John Ritter (Three’s Company, It) and Pam Dawbey (Mork and Mindy) starred in Stay Tuned, in which an unmotivated couch potato and his long-suffering spouse inadvertently make a deal with Satan and wind up stuck inside their TV. There they are forced to escape from a variety of pastiches – The Dukes of Hazzard, Wayne’s World and Star Trek all feature – before winding up in a Salt-N-Pepa video. It is thoroughly silly, and twenty-five years later, it is ripe for a remake.

This is not that remake. But it is as close as I’m ever going to get to it, given my limited editing skills. And it has Muppets.

Switching Channels – as I have called this, even though I’m not entirely sure that’s the right title – started life as something very different. I’d originally envisaged a sweeping, rambling narrative that took in the entire Pond backstory, from encounters in Leadworth to farewells in Manhattan, by way of spaceships and mines and factories. It was going to be called The Ballad of Amy and Rory, and it was going to be epic. The Doctor and Amy would look up at the sky in horror to see a giant Zebedee jumping over the hedge, as in this Goodies episode (I haven’t timestamped the link, but the moment in question is at 7:10, if you were wondering). River’s announcement that “I’m your daughter” would segue into the Eastenders theme, because I always thought that would have made for a better ending. (Actually, the episode really ought to have finished with Amy bellowing “I’m not telling you what to do. I am not your mother!”, before River screams “YES YOU ARE!”.)

Best of all, I was going to juxtapose the Doctor’s tearful farewell to Amy in the New York cemetery with extracts from this.

It would have been fun, and I almost managed it, but in the end I couldn’t find a decent helium-recorded version of ‘Annie’s Song’ that didn’t have dialogue playing underneath it. Someone clever could probably rip it from the foreign language DVD and re-pan the stereo tracks. I even went down that road myself. So maybe another time.

But there was also going to be another segment in the middle that saw Amy and Rory fall into a TV set, and it was during the process of becoming increasingly frustrated with the other bits that I realised that a little streamlining was in order. So out went the other bits, and in came the the metaphysical post-modern silliness that you’ve hopefully just watched, unless you decided to scroll down and read this first (in which case scroll up again. Go on; we’ll wait for you).

The main inspiration for this stems from 1990s children’s television. If those of you who’ve never heard of Tots TV could bear with us a second:

Is_It_Just_Me_3

You see what I mean.

Look, I’m aware that some things probably shouldn’t be thrown together. Baileys and Coca-Cola, for example (I know this from experience, having tried it). The happy, carefree, multi-lingual world of the three small puppet children in Ragdoll’s 1990s extravaganza is streets away from the thoroughly twisted sight of Amy the Peg Doll careering through George’s doll’s house in the final act of ‘Night Terrors’. But I refuse to accept that there wasn’t at least a part of the concept design that wasn’t influenced by it, however subconsciously. It was therefore an obvious starting point – and from there, other influences followed. The Scooby Doo / Doctor Who thing, for example, is something I’ve talked about before, but if you don’t fancy reading all that, just have a look here:

Is_It_Just_Me_4

And so on and so on.

There are rough spots. The Third Doctor scene isn’t as I’d hoped it would be, because of the non-existence of certain lines that Arthur Darvill never said (and probably never will). I shot the animation over the course of a single hour, and boy does it show. I make no excuses for this except that I was on childcare duty and Edward kept wandering in and jogging the table (which is why the landscape keeps moving around). The lighting is inconsistent and the figure placement even more so, but the animation itself is comparatively smooth by my standards. I’d love to be Oliver Postgate working in his garage, but it’s the middle of the summer and I have to keep breaking up the Minecraft squabbles. Besides, our garage is full of junk; you couldn’t swing a cat in there, let alone a Soup Dragon.

There is a point at which any artist or creator has to stop with the polishing. I’m comparatively scrupulous over my blog posts – even more so when it’s paid work – but I often think that with the videos I draw the ‘stop polishing’ line somewhat prematurely. It’s cost me in the past – I still regret the occasional glitches and random, almost subliminal frames in some of the early stuff that wasn’t trimmed properly – but I’m also at the stage in my life where I care less than perhaps I should. When you have only so much time, and (in my case) only so much technical expertise, it is sometimes better to get something done than to get it perfect. Russell T. Davies knows this, perhaps, better than anyone, as his confessions in The Writer’s Tale only re-affirm.

So I’m happy with this being rough. The Beatles’ first album was notoriously rough, and everyone loves that. Besides, being ‘rough’ means that it’s finished. And I’m glad it’s finished, because now I can go and do something else. That tribute to ‘Logopolis’, for example, or the Withnail and I mashup I’ve been tinkering with for months. I have more ideas than capacity to implement them successfully, but this isn’t a career; this is a bit of fun. And I’m happy for it to be fun, and nothing else.

Still, I wish I’d managed to fix ‘Annie’s Song’.

(Incidentally, if you were wondering about the significance of the blocks in the background during the animated bit, they’re there for a reason. But I’m not going to tell you. It really ought to be obvious.)

 

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The Gospel of John: the Elbow version

It’s been a busy week, all told. Thomas’s party (improbably Lemony Snicket-themed) is next Wednesday and we are still up to our ears in cake plans, brainstorming sessions for games and the sheer rigmarole of chasing people for RSVPs. (Dealing with a few ambiguous or non-existent responses is comparatively easy if you’ve invited thirty or forty children: worst case scenario, you wind up overcatering. When you’ve only invited seven or eight, that’s half the party.)

I am also leading worship on Sunday, and this led to the thing you see above. I wanted to depict the resurrection (the subject of this week’s service) in montage form, rather than just playing a couple of clips.  The first problem was finding suitable source material, and The Gospel of John – from the Visual Bible series – turned out to be a second choice. Son of God, which reuses footage from the 2014 Bible TV series and combines it with new material, has more striking visuals, owing in part to its larger budget. Sadly, there just wasn’t enough – the resurrection and ascension are dealt with in about four minutes flat, so it’s gone on the back burner for another time. (There is also the 1999 Jesus mini-series, but it’s so horribly Americanised I really didn’t want to touch it.)

What strikes me throughout this was the ambiguous mood. I’d anticipated a gradual buildup to the reveal of Christ (that first clear shot, in the Garden of Gethsemane, is quite deliberately placed) and then a jubilant release for the coda, with multiple shots of smiling, overjoyed disciples. In the end, you make do with what you have, and that turned out to be a sea of troubled faces. But that works, largely because I can’t help thinking my own reaction to a resurrected Jesus would be one of similar ambivalence – elation at seeing him again, coupled with shame and despair that I’d let him down a couple of days back.

The song choice was never up for debate. I’ve been wanting an excuse to assemble something to ‘One Day Like This’ ever since discovering Elbow a few years back. While not quite their creative peak (Build A Rocket Boys is a better album) there are few anthems by them – by any band, come to that – which carry such a sense of euphoric triumph. The song’s about waking up next to someone and realising that you love them, but it seems to fit the mood. And as much as I live in fear that it’s set to become our generation’s ‘Hey Jude’ – with a wrinkled, balding Guy Garvey hoisted out onto the stage in thirty years’ time to lead the Olympic crowd in a grand singalong of a tune that’s been played to death – I’m glad I finally got to use it.

My brother-in-law, incidentally, does not share my fears about the fate of ‘One Day Like This’, stating that he “can’t see Guy Garvey allowing that to happen”. And he’s probably right. Elbow can fill an arena in ten minutes, but when it comes to creative choices, I really can’t see them selling out.

Elbow

Well, probably not.

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WhoTube

A while back, there was a circulated post doing the rounds containing a bunch of ‘honest’ logos and slogans. Here are four of my favourites.

Logos

It’s that last one that always gets the biggest laugh. YouTube is ten years old this week, and while we may talk about the way it’s redefined the music industry, the film / TV business and the way we use the internet in general, it’s the cats that stand out. The very first video uploaded was a guy standing in front of elephants at the zoo, revealing nothing even remotely interesting. That wasn’t the point, but I do wonder if people watched that first video – uploaded merely to show that you could, rather than because it had something significant or amusng to say – and thought that this was the intended ethos.

It would certainly explain a lot of what follows. I like to think of YouTube as a colossal ocean, where the whales take the form of cats, pandas, Psy videos and Minecraft tutorials. Underneath you have the sharks – film trailers, celebrity vloggers and X-Factor clips (and, somewhere, Katie Hopkins). By and large, Doctor Who videos are the tropical fish that populat coral reefs – there in abundance, but when you’ve seen one clownfish you’ve seen them all.

If the videos themselves are the fish (and the rights departments are those colossal trawlers that plough through the waters, lapping up fish left right and centre) then the video comments are presumably one gargantuan oil slick. There are occasional moments of brilliance, but most popular YouTube videos are saturated by spam, illiterate stupidity and right wing bile. The ability to type in ‘funny cat videoz’ requires minimal intellect, which is presumably why all the stupid people hang out here. The worst thing you can do is respond to it, but people do, either out of boredom or because they’re not aware that you should never feed the troll.

Amidst the sharks and turtles and catfish there are the minnows. You know – the ones that never get beyond a thousand hits. They’ll show up in the searches eventually, if you’re prepared to trawl through the thousands of near-identical bigger fish that are easier to spot. But generally they just swim around their own patch of the ocean, not really being seen by anyone. Sometimes they’ll pick the company of bigger fish, largely in the hopes of being noticed along with them, which is fine if you don’t get eaten alive.

Most of my videos are minnows. I’m OK with that. I don’t think I’m ever going to make the impact on the blogosphere that I’d like to, and in many ways that’s a good thing. Notoriety can be a poisoned chalice. I’ve learned over the years that the act of creativity – of putting something back, and being a contributor rather than a consumer – is enough of a reason to keep going, even if I’d be lying if I said the remote prospect of fame didn’t matter at all. Each time I hit the upload button I live in hope that whatever it is I’ve spent hours putting together will go viral. Nothing has, as yet, although I’ve had a few that have performed reasonably well, in chicken feed terms.

I started this purely as a hobby – a chance remark that Emily made at the beginning of 2011 that gave me an idea, that led to more ideas, and so on. There are millions of people like me all over the world – and for most of us, mashing is the closest we’ll ever get to doing anything tangible within the film industry. For most of us, this is enough.

Today, to celebrate ten years of YouTube, I’m re-posting five of the Who-related videos I made that I’ve always wished had done better. Someday they might. But if they don’t, that’s fine too.

The Whole of the Moon

 

A Town Called Mercy – The Silent Movie

 

Dalek Johnny (Doctor Who / Fast Show)

 

Everybody Hurts: The Gridlock Edition

Doctor Who Meets the Goodies

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Let’s do the time loop again

There’s a bit about halfway through ‘The Claws of Axos’ when Jo Grant and the Doctor are trying to escape from an alien spacecraft, and Jo is very close to losing it. In order to focus her, the Doctor is yelling multiplication sums in her ear, while Katy Manning (who really doesn’t have much else to do in this story) is screaming “I CAN’T! I CAN’T!”. It was great, largely because I’ve been in maths lessons just like it.

As I go to press it’s about 10 pm (GMT) on Groundhog Day, and Punxatawney Phil has predicted another six weeks of winter. That’s fine. His prediction rate levels out about 39%, of course (higher than the Met Office) but even if we’re destined to be surrounded by snow, I don’t really mind. Being English perhaps invalidates my opinion, of course, but I will never truly understand this particular quaint tradition. It’s one thing being afraid of your own shadow, but when we have to be afraid of a groundhog’s then I can’t help but wonder at the state of the world.

I didn’t watch the Bill Murray. I’ve seen it, more than once. I have wondered, many times, what I’d do if stuck in a similar loop. Probably finish that novel, except that presumably hard drives don’t survive the loop, and are ceremonially wiped at the end of each day. So, too, Phil’s body clock and physical state is reset at the beginning of each twenty-four hour period, so I couldn’t even write something and then save it to a Flash drive before swallowing it for safekeeping. Anomalously, throughout all of this the synaptic nerves in his brain were left absolutely intact, allowing the accumulation of knowledge, and suggesting perhaps that the loop was endured on a metaphysical, rather than purely scientific level. Groundhog Day may be the strongest cinematic argument we have for the existence of the soul, outside What Dreams May Come, which no one talks about, largely because it’s crap.

But I was watching ‘The Claws of Axos’ last week and the end of the final episode – in which the Doctor traps the Axons in a time loop – really did strike me as having great potential. If you’re going to have a scene that talks about a time loop, particularly in such a roundabout way, then it’s a joke waiting to happen. Red Dwarf got there first, of course, with a scene that has been done to death, but here it is for posterity.

“Most people seem to remember the RD scene for: ‘So what is it?’, ‘I’ve never seen one before – no-one has’, ‘I think we’ve encountered the middle of this conversation’ and ‘somebody punch him out’,” said Gareth. “And then say these in a random order.” It’s true; this one is up there with the Knights who say ‘Ni!’ for oft-quoted tediousness. (If you must quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail at parties, do Tim the Enchanter. It’s funnier, and if you get the inflection right you’ll have them rolling all over the kitchen.)

My initial thoughts were to try and emulate the scene from ‘White Hole’ by chopping and pasting it around so that the middle of the scene happened at the end, with the ending happening in between, and then random repetitions. It was a mess. It’s very hard to do that in a way that makes sense. So I abandoned that and had the Brigadier stuttering ‘T-t-t-time loop’ like Damien at the beginning of that godawful cover of the Rocky Horror song. It was ridiculous, and only when I could feel Nicholas Courtney turning over in his grave (presumably after being prepped for nano-conversion) did I have a rethink.

All of which led to the video you saw at the top. It took me an hour. It then took me another half hour after I showed a rough cut to Gareth and he suggested taking out some of the random silliness in the second half and focussing on the time loop. At some point I may show you that rough cut, but today is not that day. There’s always tomorrow.

That’s assuming, of course, that tomorrow comes at all…

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The Creation, Mister Maker Style

Well, it is a Sunday.



I haven’t done a video in ages. There was a flurry of activity in the first part of the year, amidst all the old Who watching and trips to the job centre. Somewhere along the line there was an acknowledgement that freelance writing is what I do now. Since then, any time I’ve not spent child-caring has been mostly working on a portfolio, or generating all those memes that occasionally do quite well on the internet. When the novel is finished, I will go back and look at a few of the dozen or so projects I’ve got stewing. But this one? Well, this one was Josh.

We have made it a rule to try and attend our local church on a Sunday, whenever we can – they’re following a thirty week series called The Story that takes you through the Old and New Testament, or at least the Hebrew-centred bits of it. The resources are a condensed version of the New International Version of the Bible and a selection of children’s adaptations. There are also DVDs and YouTube clips, at least some of which contain those time-lapse painting things that are always great fun to watch. Services with our children can be a minefield: the church is extremely accommodating, and there’s no judgement or criticism, only wide-armed acceptance and great love, but we often have to take at least one of the boys outside to calm down. Throughout all of this we are determined to stick to it, because if we can’t teach them to behave in public, who will?

Still, there are some weeks when you don’t make it, and on this particular Sunday, the day after our London visit, everyone was exhausted, so we had a quiet morning at home. And that was when Josh – who, like most nine-year-olds, is normally ensconced in front of Minecraft or CITV – surprised me, largely by showing that he’s actually been listening during those fidgety children’s talks. I’d not been up long that morning when he revealed that he’d spent about an hour on Mister Maker’s Magic Paintbox. Mister Maker, for those of you unfamiliar with him, is the onscreen persona of Phil Gallagher, a sort of Mark Speight on Prozac who dashes around manically preparing a series of artistic creations. He has a talking cuckoo clock (with no cuckoo), a gigantic arts and crafts cabinet and a huge following in the Far East. It’s a far cry from the leisurely paces of Tony Hart, but the boys enjoy it, as do I.

Anyway, the joy behind the Magic Paintbox is its replay function, in which you can spend a while making an image and then review the drawing process in all its sped-up Flash-based glory, while Mister Maker himself shouts encouragement in the background. And when Joshua – completely unprompted – told me he’d made this story of the creation of the Earth, I knew it was too good to just leave on the website. It was a story we had looked at very recently, as part of an Advent series that starts with the fall of man and ends as Mary and Joseph bed down in Bethlehem – it’s impossible to really appreciate the Christmas narrative without its wider ramifications, just as it’s impossible to really appreciate that iconic closing scene in Dirty Harry until you’ve watched it in context, or appreciate ‘Memory’ unless you’ve actually seen the whole of Cats. What struck me about this was how Josh had managed to get the whole narrative in there, and all the important points, while retaining an attention to detail that I couldn’t have managed at all. Suffice it to say that he’s a far better artist than I am.

I ripped the replay video from the web using Movavi Screen Capture, which I knew would come in useful someday, and then Josh recorded his narration on my phone. We knew it would work better with music, and The Truman Show – a deeply religious film on many levels – seemed an obvious choice. While I was uploading this to YouTube, Daniel was working on his own video, which I really ought to finish at some point, once I can work out what to do with his narrative. I may not get the chance to do videos much these days, but my children have, it seems, inherited their parents’ creative spark, and the knowledge that we did at least one thing right makes all the fighting and squabbling and sleepless nights utterly worthwhile.

And on that note, we’re off to church.

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Somewhere in the crowd there’s YouTube

“You vajayjay. Who does that?”

The words stared at me from the desktop monitor. They were real, tangible, irreversible. The cat out of the bag. I’d been flamed before, of course, and it wouldn’t be the last time. But this came out of nowhere and had no real explanation. No real context was given for the source of the sender’s contempt, beyond the link he’d referred to, and even then no explanation was given.

There’s something rather disconcerting about receiving a negative comment like this for the first time you try out a new hobby. Let me give some context of my own. It was early 2011 and I’d just uploaded a video – my first public upload, in fact. The mashup was crude and technically juddery, but reasonably coherent in what it was trying to do – and, if I say so myself, even reasonably funny in places. It had taken me hours. And the first public reaction I got was one of complete contempt. I wouldn’t mind so much but I didn’t even understand it fully, although I got the gist. I’m so out of touch I even had to look up the word ‘vajayjay’ in the urban dictionary.

Welcome to YouTube, folks. I cried because I had no shoes. Then I looked at a YouTube comments thread and it completely destroyed my faith in humanity. There’s no point discussing it in detail. If you’ve ever looked at anything that’s reasonably popular you’ll see that the occasional nuggets of goodness in the post-video ramblings are eclipsed by spambots, viral messages about angels and good luck, irrelevant political discourse and flat out racist / sexist / homophobic abuse. I don’t think I need to give you examples. The Guardian got there first. One Direction videos are the funniest, of course, its fans and haters alike descending in spirals of ever-increasing profanity and vitriol, to the extent that Dead Parrot produced a rather amusing reconstruction using professional actors. Stop reading this for a moment and go and watch it. It’s brilliant.

Where were we? Oh yes; John Hurt. Now, my videos rarely amass enough views to achieve anything that might be even close to viral. I’m like the microscopic edge of viral. In a way, that’s OK. I fight and fight for YouTube traffic through clever tagging and appropriate tweeting and uploading at just the right moment, but there’s a part of me that knows that any sort of fame I achieve, however slight and however fleeting, is only going to be a millstone. Having a blog that no one reads and a channel that few people (in the grand scheme of things) actually look at means that the pressure’s off. I don’t have to worry about outdoing myself. I don’t have to give my audience What They Want. I can produce the videos I want to produce and everyone’s happy – everyone except me, of course, when I’m crying into my pillow at night because I can barely amass a hundred hits on a montage that took me a week and which I’m immensely proud of while some guy in Florida films his cat PISSING ON A WATER VOLE and it’s got almost as many views as Rebecca Black, and none of the death threats.

Blogging is always about the validation, whatever anyone says, and my YouTube channel is no different. It’s nice when people respond. And it hasn’t been all bad, not by a long stretch. I was overwhelmed, for example, with the sudden (and very positive) response to Dalek Zippy, which suddenly took off when Roy Skelton died not long after it went online. People loved it. I had suggestions for alternatives or constructive improvements, all nicely phrased and decently convivial. It even made Doctor Who Magazine a few months later. The same thing happened with the Red Dwarf mashup, which got to the Daily Mirror. It’s no Double Rainbow, but you take what you can get.

Still. I have a theory about YouTube users, and why so many of them are the scum of the earth. You have to have a certain amount of coherence to be able to respond to a newspaper article, no matter how ill-conceived your arguments or how despicable your views. Conversely, it takes very little effort to type in ‘FUNNY CAT VIDEOZ’ on your smartphone interface and then leave a negative comment. The best part is there’s no accountability. No one’s going to come back to you about it. No one will knock on your door and beat the crap out of you, the fate of the internet trolls at the end of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. (And answering honestly, is there a single person amongst us who hasn’t wanted to do this at least a little bit to someone we once encountered online?)

But if YouTube is like a big wall that’s ripe for anonymous graffiti, I sometimes want to find out the thinking (or lack thereof) behind what people are writing. I question the logic, for example, of anyone who says “I want my thirty seconds back”, because chances are it took them at least a third as long again to write down that they wanted their thirty seconds back – time which, if time were as important to them as they maintain, could have been spent devising a potential cure for cancer or the world hunger problem. Just because you can say a thing, it doesn’t always follow that you should.

There’s no real point engaging with the stupid or moronic, but not everyone who leaves negative feedback on the internet is stupid or moronic. Some of them just don’t understand. Some of them miss the point. I’m probably tempting fate by even engaging with anyone who seriously thinks that an obvious clip collection could be called ‘fake’ when the item description (and the other comments – why oh why don’t people read the other comments) makes this abundantly obvious. That’s like complaining when you find out that Spinal Tap aren’t a real band. You can click a mouse. Don’t expect us to think for you as well.

But still. Some of those comments have stuck in my memory. Some I’ve responded to; some I ignored. All are the exemption, rather than the rule. Perhaps that’s why they stick in the craw. But occasionally I’ll bite back. It may be about re-education or pointing them in a different direction. It may be about explaining something that I later realised was ambiguous when I originally posted. Or it may simply about being right. In any case, here are a few choice nuggets.

 

The Doctor’s Facebook Film

“No Rose? No Martha? No Donna? No Amy and Rory? No Clara? No Sarah Jane? No River?” (Various people)

 

Response (not sent): No, because I had a minute or so to summarise fifty years of television, which meant that some people were for the chop. In terms of episodes, New Who is a drop in the ocean. Sorry if your favourite characters are missing, but to be honest I don’t really give a shit. So are some of mine. And I think we’d all rather forget about Martha, wouldn’t we?

 

The Paranoid Android Invasion

“Some people have too much time on their hands.” (Facebook comment)

 

Response (not sent): I get really cross when people tell me I have too much free time. I don’t watch much TV. I don’t play sports. I don’t go out drinking or clubbing. The time I spend in front of a computer screen doing this is the same ‘free time’ that people spend crocheting, or painting, or slumped in front of Call of Duty, none of which I do. Free time is relative.

 

 

The Numberjacks Vs. The Prisoner

“not verry good\cool” (faisal habib, YouTube)

 

Response (sent)Learn to spell, kid.”

 

 

Darth Gene (trailer)

“Gay.” (hardskull999)

 

Response (via email):

“‘Gay’?

I mean, I congratulate you on your astounding dexterity and skill with words. That must have taken you all of, what, two seconds? As opposed to the video you describe as gay, which took me several weeks, on and off. What have you done today that’s constructive?

We should clear something up. Did you mean ‘gay’ in the homosexual sense? That’s one particular reading of the Star Wars trilogy – the imagery of Luke Skywalker flying down the trench and shooting his load into a small hole is not lost on some people (google Charlie Brooker Star Wars, for example), nor is the homoerotic love triangle between Luke, Leia and Han Solo (who quite clearly has a thing for Luke). And there’s an awful lot of homoeroticism in the portrayal of the unreconstructed Gene Hunt from Life on Mars, whose voice I used. So that’s a fair point.

Or perhaps – this has just occurred to me – you meant ‘gay’ in the happy, hearts-and-flowers sense, which is much better. I did intend for this particular video to be upbeat and amusing, so perhaps I’ve succeeded. If that’s the case, may I apologise profusely for my somewhat bristly opening paragraph. I hope you can forgive my negative assumptions; it’s just I’ve dealt with so many trolls, haters and idiots over the years that – like driving – it’s always best to assume the worst: that way no one gets hurt.

What’s most likely, of course, is that you meant ‘gay’ in the derogatory, generally insulting sense. In which case you’ve added nothing of any value to the internet this week, and have simply come across as an ineloquent twat. Congratulations.”

 

Two days later:

“gay as in happy its funny”

 

(I win that one.)

 

 

The Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors hold a video conference

 

“Fake so fake saw all of those episodes”         (WhenLifeGivesYouLemons, YouTube)

 

Response (sent): Of course it’s bloody fake. What the fuck did you expect?!?

Categories: Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Everybody Hurts: the Gridlock Edition

In the first instance: montages of Doctor Who scored to ‘Everybody Hurts’ are all over the internet. Said videos are usually a composite of Doctor / Rose scenes (heavy on ‘Doomsday’, for obvious reasons) or shots of random characters crying, drenched in pathos, with occasional (mildly tenuous) links to the lyrical content. I say this in utter confidence despite not having actually watched any of them in their entirety, because that’s YouTube in a nutshell.

That’s not a dig, of course. Montages are arranged and sequenced for emotional impact, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve done quite a few myself, at least one of which I’m reasonably proud of. But look, here’s the thing: I’ve always prided myself on trying to do stuff that is relatively fresh, and if someone’s planted the flag first I am hesitant – with certain exceptions – to do a different take on the same source material. And then the idea came, not in a thunderclap or with a light bulb appearing over my head like a cartoon character, but in the process of preparing material for a Sunday evening service, and the realisation that R.E.M’s video for ‘Everybody Hurts’ is set in a traffic jam.

And a hell of a traffic jam it is too. The camera pans and swoops, almost documentary-style, in and out of static vehicles, as the silent occupants find their hidden thoughts broadcast in terminal text across the screen in what is, to be honest, a gross invasion of privacy. They come from all walks of life and at least two ethnicities: some of their issues are transparent, others more subtly rendered. Meanwhile, the rest of the band join the traffic: Michael Stipe, bearing a curious resemblance to either a priest or a Hassidic Jew, takes charge of the situation by walking over the top of the stationery cars, becoming genuinely upset just before the third verse, and then seemingly summoning the upset passengers with the simple power of his voice. Unshackled from their mechanical confines, the crowd silently walk down the highway and then vanish, like something out of the first Left Behind novel.

I’ve always loved ‘Everybody Hurts’, but seeing this video for the first time – back in 2001 or thereabouts, when I bought the DVD – was an incredible experience. It completely changed the song – a song that’s always been said to resonate particularly with teenagers, and which indeed may even have been written for teenagers, but which, accompanied by these visuals, somehow seemed to transcend intended age. It was a video I played to myself in an empty house the day my grandmother died, with a moment in the third verse (you know which, if you’ve watched it) causing me to weep buckets. If that sounds emotionally overwrought, it probably is, but it’s also the sort of sob story that will get you through an X-Factor semi-final, so don’t knock it.

Of course, R.E.M.’s video – amazing as it is – is heavily derived from the opening of Fellini’s 8 1/2, which is included here for posterity.

(One of these days, you know, posterity is going to have to drop me an email – or at least leave a comment – thanking me for all the times I’ve done this for her. Honestly. I go to all this trouble to source links and all I get is silence. Ungrateful cow.)

I put this together over two or three evenings. The first thing to do was to re-watch ‘Gridlock’ in order to trim all the unusable footage. The rule of montage construction is to avoid moving lips where possible, as it distracts from what’s going on in the background, and I wanted lingering close-ups of the characters in their vehicles so that I could drop captions in underneath. This is fine, except that the Doctor Who editing process is designed to cram in as much as is humanly possible within the space of forty-two minutes, so lengthy stares are at a minimum. There were quite a few, but not enough, and that’s why there’s some mirroring / reversing going on, as well as a number of special guests, whom you’ve no doubt encountered by now if you’ve seen the whole thing.

There’s anchoring throughout. If you look, there are waypoints that mirror the original: the Doctor’s descent through the lanes of traffic emulates (or is at least designed to emulate) Stipe’s journey across the cars in the R.E.M. video. I also needed an appropriate ending, and the image of the cars flying up through the roof, as if to heaven, was an obvious choice. Aside from that, it was just a question of digging out the characters and finding out what they might be thinking. It turns out that most of them think in puns. Who knew?

Finally: this is respectfully dedicated to someone who’s having a hell of a week. She knows who she is. And I can’t help thinking that it shaped the second half. Most of the captions were designed to be fairly ridiculous – Martha’s internal pleading for Milo and Cheen to ‘Stop singing. Stop singing. Stop singing’ was essential, but perhaps more interesting was the death of the Face of Boe, which lent itself to inclusion towards the end. The result is a curious hybrid of the straight and the satirical – but I suppose Doctor Who always worked best when it managed to be funny and moving at the same time, and while I’m not saying that this is necessarily either of the above, at least it’s something decent to aspire to.

Emily and I touched on this last night when we were discussing stats and hit counts. “Have you actually watched it yet?” I asked.

“I have,” was the reply. “It got silly, didn’t it?”

“Actually,” I said, “I think it got serious.”

Categories: Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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