For a while there, it looked like the internet killed music videos, or at least their traditional channels. Instant access on YouTube meant that MTV’s Total Request Live became irrelevant, and the channel began to focus almost exclusively on developing its ever-trashier reality TV content. But the new technologies and social qualities of the web have also given rise to a new generation of interactive music videos created in collaboration with designers and artists.
The most recent example of the genre a pop-up site/video designed by Studio Moniker called Do Not Touch, for the Dutch band Light Light’s driving new-wave rock song “Kilo.” Before the video starts, we are warned that the video is recording our mouse movements. Fair enough. Then the music and the adventure starts. Pictures and prompts start flashing across the screen, with a swarm of mouse pointers responding to the commands. Catch a green dot — point to where you are or where you’d like to go — point to a silhouette your gender — stay within the shifting green area. It’s like a coloring book for the web.
The dancing flock of cursors tracks the movements of the viewers who have watched and interacted with the video before you, hence the tag of “crowd-sourced music video.” What’s provocative and different about Do Not Touch is that it provides an awareness of the mass of viewers that accrues as a piece of media goes viral on the internet: As the numbers escalate, the arrows flood the screen. Creative Applications has an interesting look at what Do Not Touch looked like early on, with just a few tracked views. Now, if you play through the video, it’s almost impossible to see your own cursor in the mass.
Studio Moniker’s work follows up on a growing trend for web-based interactive videos. OKFocus, the agency led by web-savvy creators Jon Vingiano and Ryder Ripps, recently made a video for Tanlines’s “Not the Same” that took on the appearance of a Photoshop window. Users can drag and drop the different band members, choose their own filters, and tweak the video to their own preferences. The program’s tool icons are replaced with instrument — click one and remove or add the instrument’s sound in the mix.
Chris Milk’s “The Wilderness Downtown,” a website create for The Arcade Fire’s song “We Used to Wait,” was one of the earliest mainstream online music videos that took full advantage of the potential of digital space. The site prompts viewers to enter the address of their childhood home or hometown, and then pops up various browser windows that come together in a moving collage. A youth is seen running through the streets of an anonymous town. Eventually it becomes clear that that town is your town. Milk appropriates imagery from Google Maps to make viewing the video a unique experience for every user, tapping into the nostalgia and buried emotions we all have for the places we grew up.
With the help of responsive HTML5 and the multimedia resources of the internet, artists are innovating on the static format of the music video and turning it into something more suited to the Facebook generation. These days, we want our media to react to us as much as we react to it. Film and animation is not enough — we passed through the Harry Potter moving picture era a long time ago. Now it’s time for the social music video.