Posts Tagged With: youtube

The Next Step does Thomas The Tank Engine

I once saw a film called Billy Elliot. It was a grim and slightly edgy drama about an impoverished family in 1980s County Durham, in the heart of the miner’s strike. It was a story about the sacrifices we make to help the people we love, and a father and son discovering what was most important to them. Most of all it was about an eleven-year-old boy defying all the stereotypes to become a ballet dancer in a time when this was considered effeminate, sissy; something Boys Didn’t Do.

If the millennials reading this are having a hard time comprehending this state of affairs, here’s a confession: I have an aunt who got her son to do ballet when he was a child and the wider family generally disapproved. We never said so, at least openly, but there were fears that she was suppressing his masculinity by banning the footballs in favour of the pumps. This was not considered a particularly toxic viewpoint; my aunt, instead, was considered the odd one. She’s also a practising naturist, something else the family never quite squared, although Emily and I followed in her footsteps this summer on a beach near Swanage, where all six of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Essentially my opinion of her has softened quite a bit with the passing of several decades, which is kind of what happens when you get out from the echo chamber of your closest relatives.

Back in the present day, there’s a programme on CBBC that Daniel loves but pretends he doesn’t. It’s called The Next Step and it tracks the activities of a fictional dance studio in Toronto – one of those fake fly-on-the-wall documentaries, only not done terribly well. Characters fall in and out of love and creepy princes set up intense first dates wearing the sort of tuxedo that should have stayed in 1979 where it belonged. There are rivalries and egos and comical misunderstandings. There are girls crying in darkened rooms because they can’t go to Regionals and it’s, like, THE END OF MY CAREER. Most of all, there is dancing. Oh, so much dancing. It’s a shame they never dance to anything good. There’s no Prodigy. Not a whiff of Irene Cara. They don’t even have Walk The Moon, for the love of sanity. There’s a lot of generic stuff that leaves you utterly cold, which is kind of what –

– but hang on, I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you’ve seen it, you’ll know the tropes only too well. There’s the couple whose relationship Gets In The Way Of Things. There’s the squabbling over who gets to do the solo. Meanwhile, girl X has an injury but really needs to dance in this video, dammit, so continues to push herself and lie to everyone else that she’s fine when we all know she’s going to collapse in the middle of that crucial, placement-determining solo. And then there is the bitter rivalry between Michelle and Emily that escalated into a kind of Civil War scenario (which would effectively make Ozzy Peter Parker, right down to the spectacles). Previously, on The Next Step: Riley is tortured by the kiss that she shared with Alfie, but she can’t actually tell us how she’s feeling, so she’s going to express her emotional state using the medium of interpretive dance. You’re a tree, Riley. A single tree, billowing in the wind. Oh, you beautiful snowflake, you.

Most bizarre of all is their penchant for talking heads monologues conducted in the present tense about things that are actually happening at that moment. “I can’t believe Jacqui’s actually doing this,” says Noah, shaking his head. “There’s me, trying to get this segment together, and I asked her for contemporary, and she’s given me hip hop. This is not what I wanted.” This is during the scene, the monologue interspersed in between awkward pauses and some pretty intense staring. Or there’s Kingston, waxing lyrical about a particular routine, while he’s still in the middle of the routine. “The choreography’s tight and I’m enjoying myself,” he says to camera, between pirouettes. “This whole thing seems to be going pretty well”.

There are two conclusions we’ve drawn. Either this is all taking place later and for some unfathomable reason they’re describing it in the first person, or it’s all happening in their heads. I like that explanation – it’s a crummy studio with an inflated sense of self-importance, imagining its own documentary – and this tech-savvy daydreaming doesn’t detract from the authenticity of the experience (or, as Albus Dumbledore would have said, “Of course it’s happening in your head, Riley, but why on earth should that mean that it isn’t real, girlfriend?”). But perhaps there’s more to it than that, and perhaps there’s a bunch of cutting room floor stuff we’ll never get to see.

West [talking head]: I’m feeling pretty confident about this piece now, and getting into it. I like the way Eldon’s working with this piece, and I know I was sceptical about Emily’s choreo, but I’ve gotta say that –

James [off-camera]: West! For fuck’s sake, GET BACK HERE, IT’S NATIONALS!

Still, the great thing about The Next Step is that it features male and female dancers alike, doing all kinds of styles, and the whole idea of boys doing ballet is seemingly never mentioned. Everyone just gets on with it. The Next Step is thus absolutely geared towards both genders (yes, yes, and everything in between, don’t start on that), even if the bulk of the feedback I hear on TV appears to be from young girls. Daniel is now in the latter stages of fandom, having stopped denying that he enjoys it. And irrespective of the rather cynical tone I’ve taken today, I find it pretty compulsive viewing myself. The actors acquit themselves well and there are some beautifully executed moments, like when Elliot the duplicitous bastard (to give him his full rank and title) was exposed for the nob-end that he really was. No one likes you, Elliot. Go back to Broadway.

Elsewhere on the internet, some bright spark decides to take the theme from Thomas The Tank Engine and stick it underneath the ‘Single Ladies’ video, where it turns out to be the perfect accompaniment. So I thought I’d do the same thing, just for the hell of it. There are multiple episodes therein, and the sync isn’t quite as tight as I’d like it to be (thank you, YouTube upload process) but the whole thing just about hangs together. And god knows it’s better than some of the crap they dance to on the show. I just hope there’s no confusion and delay at TNS East. That’d be a disaster

Incidentally, my cousin’s turned out fine.

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The Mine song – Doctor Who edition

Bump. Bump. Bump. Can you hear that? That is the sound of the bandwagon, travelling along the rickety road. I was going to say it takes its time, but actually I’d be wrong. It speeds along in a frenzy, its wheels afire with Facebook trends and retweets and Buzzfeed mentions, and jumping upon it – as I am endeavouring to do, crouched here in the bushes – is not as easy as it looks. You run the risk of wobbling, losing your footing and falling off entirely, and even if you do manage to secure a hold and climb aboard, you’ll find the wagon already crowded with other poor souls who had similar ideas. The wagon may be mighty and fast, but it is full.

I had a go nonetheless, and for this you have my children to thank. I believe I’ve written before about the lunacy of some viral videos. I never understood ‘Charlie bit my finger’, for example, and yet apparently Osama bin Laden had it on his laptop. The Duck Song (I’m not linking; you can look it up) is tedious and cloying, as are its numerous follow-ups. And Thomas developed a rapt fascination with a ten-second clip of a singing dinosaur (and its related video, in which said dinosaur is the subject of a six hour loop), and a bizarre mashup that combines footage from He-Man with a badly produced cover of 4 Non Blondes’ ‘What’s Up?’. For the sake of posterity, both are embedded here.

What’s going on? I don’t know. Do you? To be fair, this is the sort of thing I do, although I wonder how much of it is apeing things the boys have shown me in the hope of creating something that’ll get more than a few dozen hits. Wandering in and out of the study and the bedroom and frequently catching something completely random has given me a window into a corner of the internet I didn’t know existed, and which serves a purpose I do not fully understand. And when it comes to LazyTown, things get even more bizarre. I think I’ve written about LazyTown once in here before – a while back, when we were talking about reversing that Fish Custard video. You may look there for further doses of randomness, should you experience the whim.

For the uninitiated: a young girl called Stephanie arrives in a brightly coloured small town where the lethargic inhabitants are under the thumb of local supervillain, the flamboyant Robbie Rotten, who spends most of his time slumped in his underground lair. Robbie’s posture is so poor it’s a wonder he hasn’t experienced serious back problems, but he’s paradoxically the most active citizen in the entire town, spending most of his free time dashing around its streets and gardens, in a variety of Shakespearean disguises, endeavouring to find ways to keep everyone else confined to the sofa. “I feel disgustingly healthy,” he grumbles at the end of the one episode where this is actually pointed out, and indeed, it’s a hallmark of the self-loathing that seems to drive his character.

Stephanie is aided in her efforts to revitalise the town’s energies by Sportacus – a tracksuited hyperactive sports nut who descends from his airship at the beginning of each episode, and with whom Stephanie establishes a strange, borderline inappropriate relationship. Mercifully, she also has her own peer group, all with their own foibles: Ziggy (sweets), Pixel (video games), and Trixie (no respect for authority; dresses like bad Iron Man cosplay). And then there’s Stingy, a haughty, selfish and deeply materialistic child who practically screams white male privilege; by no means irredeemable but known throughout the LazyTown cinematic universe as being an utter bastard.

It’s a curious fusion of techniques that hearkens back to Sesame Street. Stephanie, Sportacus and Robbie – being the most overtly physical people in LazyTown – are all played by live actors, while everyone else appears in puppet form. It’s the sort of thing that throws you when you’re visiting Butlins and catch the live show, in which the puppet characters appear as fully grown humans wearing character masks; the effect is rather like a freshly regenerated Matt Smith bellowing “LEGS! I’VE GOT LEGS!”. (Sesame Street Live is similarly disconcerting, although it’s partly because Elmo was so goddamned huge.)

Perhaps the saddest part about the whole thing is the news that Stefán Karl Stefánsson (extra credit: find me a more Icelandic name than that, if you can), who plays Robbie Rotten, is suffering from terminal cancer, although he’s apparently improved. Meanwhile Kim Jong-un is the picture of perfect health, and you wonder if there is a God.

LazyTown is replete with songs, most of which are downright irritating, but it’s two in particular that have made the viral rundown. There’s ‘We Are Number One’ – which you can see in the post linked above, although be aware that the version I embedded is backwards. And there’s the ‘Mine’ song – Stingy’s big solo, remixed and Photoshopped and warped beyond all measure all across the internet, whether it’s a ridiculous zooming effect or (a personal favourite) the coming of the apocalypse.

And there comes a point where you figure that joining them is better than failing to beat them, and that’s how we got here. This took about an hour and a half to put together, most of which was scouring transcripts for appropriate shouts of ‘mine’, not to mention ripping them from the Doctor Who episodes. And as a special prize, the first person to tell me every episode I used gets one of Ziggy’s sweets. And an apple. It’s what Sportacus would have wanted.

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Walk Like An Egyptian: The Boohbah edition

I know where this started. It started in three places: Stratford-upon-Avon, Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and Teletubbyland.

Let’s begin at the end. The Teletubbies are amazing. Parents do not understand them because parents are not supposed to understand them. People who complain about the gibberish and repetition are missing the point. Conversely, people who complain about Tinky Winky’s penchant for skirts and handbags (not to mention the colour purple) may be on to something. That’s another argument for heads wiser and less cluttered with cultural references than mine. Still, I’ve raised four boys on this stuff and they’ve all thought it was brilliant.

Heck, when I was a student even thought it was brilliant. Teletubbies were bright and cute and somehow rebellious, a cultural revolution of peace, love, harmony and sloth in a world that was increasingly pre-occupied with Getting Stuff Done. I was nineteen and could feel the elbow in the ribs about careers fairs. Teletubbies was regression therapy in a world that demanded you were clever, in a world of Wittgenstein and Beckett and Virginia Woolf. They were great. Years later my wife and I will use the theme for the first dance at our wedding. I have some of it on video. No, you can’t see it.

Meanwhile, back in the more or less present day, someone does this.

It’s one of those moments when you realise why God gave us Joy Division. It shouldn’t work, but it does. It is the sort of thing Ian Curtis would have loved. Actually, scratch that, Ian Curtis wouldn’t have loved it at all. He’d have said “I don’t want my song laid over those fookin’ Muppets”, or something similar. I wouldn’t have blamed him for this. It is the same in Doctor Who: I love ‘The Horns of Nimon’, but Tony Read does not, and I can’t say I hold that against him.

Also 1997: John Cusack, then just about Hollywood’s hottest property, stars in Grosse Pointe Blank, in which a disillusioned hitman returns to his home town for a high school reunion. It is worth seeing if only for the scenes between Cusack and Dan Aykroyd, in one of his finest ever roles. But there is one scene where they are inside the high school gym and everybody is getting their groove on to The Bangles. It may have been that moment I sat bolt upright in my chair and thought “Holy shit, ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ is awesome. How come I never noticed?”

It really is awesome. There’s nothing quite like the sound of a band trading verses, which is exactly what happens here. Boyzone’s ‘No Matter What’ is notorious for it. And on Heaven For Everyone, the final, effectively posthumous studio album, there’s a song called ‘Let Me Live’ – to all intents and purposes a rewritten ‘Take Another Piece Of My Heart’ – in which Freddie, Roger and Brian all take a verse each, and it sounds like one of those lovely communal efforts even though you know it probably wasn’t. John is characteristically silent, unless they decided they didn’t like his vocals, which is reportedly what happened to the Bangles’ drummer. Never work with children, animals or your siblings.

There is a bit in that video that I remember vividly from my childhood, and that’s the moment when –

Supposedly Susanna Hoffs was looking at different members of the audience, which explains the eye movement. Whether it really was to overcome stage fright we may never really know, but it’s an important point and we will come back to it later.

Fast forward to 2003, and Emily and I are poking around the shops in Straford. It is our first weekend away together. We will visit the bard’s house, try out a few of the pubs and go to see Taming Of The Shrew (still the best Shakespeare production I’ve ever seen, even after all these years). It is release day for Order of the Phoenix: I insist on finding a local independent bookshop to buy it. Two years later, with far less cashflow, I will have abandoned such pretentions, although perhaps not entirely.

Ragdoll Productions have their offices in Stratford, and there is a shop at the quieter end of town: amidst all the cuddly Teletubbies and Rosie & Jim memorabilia there is a TV showing something that will terrify me to the depths of my soul, and it is this.

“What on earth are we looking at?” I ask the young man on the till.

“Oh, it’s, like their new thing,” he says. “It’s called The Boohbahs.”
“Boohbahs? What are they, when they’re at home?”
“They’re atoms of energy. And they do dancing and there are story bits.”

That’s basically it. A pod full of bulbous particles who rest in cryosleep until awoken to do a bit of cavorting in a huge white space while frightened children watch from the comfort of their living rooms. It is Teletubbies, minus the charm. The central concept is much the same: colourful characters who dance around and tell a story. The problem is that the story and the Boohbahs aren’t really allowed to mix. There is an opening dance number (more on that in a moment), before a group of ethnically diverse children push a gigantic parcel through a portal into what passes for the real world, where its contents are delivered to a strange extended family. There’s Mr Man (who resembles a portly Laurence Fishburne), Mrs Lady, Brother and Sister – presumably on some sort of overseas student programme, from the way they’re dressed – two grandparents, and a dog. After the story – delivered exclusively in narrated mime, presumably to aid international dubbing – we return to the pod, where the Boohbahs do another dance which is loosely related to the events of the episode, before going back to bed.

But they’re seriously creepy. There’s no way around it. The whole presentation is halting and uncomfortable, replete with pauses and silences, broken by sneezes and 1970s sound effects. The Boohbahs themselves are silent puffballs with no visible presence and nothing to differentiate between them save the colour scheme: beyond this they are, to all intents and purposes, absolutely identical. There’s a futile attempt at a roll call: “Humbah! Zumbah! Zing Zing Zingbah! And the others whose names I’ve forgotten because they have no obvious personality!”. And they all line up, with almost military precision, staring hard into the camera like one possessed, before performing an array of oddly hypnotic dance moves. I pride myself on my ability to understand the way children’s programmes work but even I can’t explain this monstrosity. Is this why army recruitment is down?

The biggest problem with Boohbah, of course – and in all likelihood the reason it’s not repeated – is that it uses Chris Langham for the voiceovers. Not that I have any personal beef with Langham; he’s brilliant in The Thick Of It and whatever he may or may not have done I always believe in separating art from artist. But Langham’s history makes it awkward. This is perhaps being a little generous to Boohbah, of course, which could just as easily have been pulled from the schedules because it’s honestly a little bit crap. And in general, we try not to think about it.

Last scene of all: a couple of months ago. I’m watching YouTube videos with Edward and I notice this.

Heck, they dance, don’t they? Why not do something with that?

So I did. And here it is.

I make no apology, but I throw myself upon the mercy of the court.

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Remastered: A Town Called Mercy, Silent Movie Style

There are different types of YouTube comments. Some heap undeserved praise to the point of sycophancy. People will tell you that a mediocre product is the best thing they’ve ever seen on the internet; it is crucial above all else to ensure that you do not start to believe your own hype, because therein lies artistic complacency and the excessive inflation of ego. At the other end of the scale are the downright abusive. I used to be polite; these days I’m inclined to argue back, albeit without letting them see that they’ve got to me. I’m not suggesting you should ever feed the troll, but sometimes you can poke it with a stick.

Somewhere in the middle there is a sweet spot; a small compartment of users who offer something that actually might be considered constructive feedback – the people who say “I liked this, but have you tried…?”. For instance, there was the chap who told me my Kraftwerk montage was a little too long. He was quite right, and were I to redo it now I’d go for a shorter edit. There were the numerous people who pointed out the mistakes in the Red Dwarf mashup – a hard lesson learned about when less is more – to the extent that I gave it a substantial overhaul in the tail end of last year and made something I actually almost liked.

Then there’s the silent movie I did three and a half years ago. Generally people seemed to like it, but a comment I got a few months back got me thinking. “Speed it up just a little more and put it slightly out of focus,” said a user named cemeterymaiden1. “It will look authentic I think! :D”

And that’s great. I can work with that. It did need to be faster, and it did need a little blurring round the edges. That’s the sort of comment I love receiving, because it is constructive without being disrespectful. It makes a welcome change from this –

I’ve decided, after careful reflection, that most Doctor Who fans are fucking idiots.

[coughs]

In any event: when I decided to retouch a few old projects that never quite lived up to their potential, this one seemed like a prime candidate. Most of the changes are cosmetic – loose frames tucked, timings adjusted. Then I ran it through a gaussian blur and tinted it with sepia, rather than the black and white I originally used. I’m still not sure how authentic this makes it as a result – my knowledge of silent movie production techniques isn’t as comprehensive as it ought to be – but it’s a Western, dammit. It looks cooler.

“Don’t you think,” said Gareth when I posted the original, back before ‘Day of the Doctor’, “that the joke about the Eccleston cameo is going to date rather quickly?” He was right, of course – it’s not something that bothered me at the time, given that all it did was time stamp the original, but the remaster replaces it with a gag that’ll never go out of style, even if the BBC eventually follow through on it.

The original is still up there, if you want to take a peek. But I’m happier with this one. Some things don’t need changing. But sometimes you reap the benefits when you do. Happy trails, y’all.

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Walk the Dinopaw

At some point, I’ll write about the second half of our London trip, the as-yet unidentified companion, and a bunch of other stuff I’ve been thinking about. Funny how having no series of Doctor Who to look forward to keeps you busy.

In the meantime: this is one of the tightest (and most unified) things I’ve ever done. It was semi-commissioned by Alan Gilbey, who sort of asked for it after he saw the ‘Uptown Funk’ video. And it’s not as if we need an excuse to listen to ‘Walk The Dinosaur’.

Anyway, it gives you a good idea of what Gwen, Bob and Tony get up to when they’re not prepping for Towel Day. Enjoy your Sunday, won’t you?

Dinopaws_21

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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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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

Categories: Crossovers, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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!

Categories: Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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