Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How to make a supercut: it's about power

There are a variety of things one might say about this Slate story, ranging from the fact that after 14 years it's still the case that, to a first approximation, no one who makes stuff understands 17 USC 1201, to the question of why supercuts fascinate some people (mainly, it seems, guys) while others go for political remix or vidding.  The creative heart wants what it wants, and what it wants is to use what it knows to make something new.  I certainly recognized the author/supercutter's description of what some might call "flow":
These aren't the most compelling three minutes you'll ever experience. But they were shockingly fun for me to build. Time whizzed by as I pieced the whole thing together. When I mentioned this to [technical consultant/friend] Chris, he told me he sometimes stays up all night working on an edit. "It's just the right balance of puzzle-solving, technical detail, and creative choices to keep your brain endlessly engaged," he explained.

I began to understand why all these folks are scrambling to teach themselves how to use editing software. Unexpectedly, I also got a taste of the supercutting urge. I think I now see what drives people to cut even in the absence of monetary reward: In the midst of scanning through all those New Girl scenes, plucking out bits and repurposing them, I noticed a new and unfamiliar little jolt of power was coursing through me. I had asserted my dominance over this slickly produced piece of media. The show was subject to my whims—defenseless against my editorial scissors. I could have done anything to it. Talked over it. Played farting sound effects. Slapped a photo of my face in the middle of the screen.

This sense of autonomy is something that would have been extremely difficult to achieve until the relatively recent past. Before digital formats and easy computer editing programs, an amateur like me would have had little hope of reshaping an entire TV series to fit his own vision. Now anybody with an idea and a laptop can play visual media god. "I sometimes feel like a magician," Chris told me when I confessed that my editing experiment was swelling my ego. "Editing is a powerful way to interact with the modern world."

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