Video mashup is often used as a general term for re-edited video footage that uses two or more audio/video sources to create a new video.
20th Century Video Mashup
In the pre-YouTube days before video editing software was available for home computers, this kind of work had to be done “manually,” literally cutting and splicing film together, cutting videotape, or “dubbing” back and forth between one VCR and another.
Many would point to the “compilation films” of Esfir Shub as among the earliest example of video mashup. Shub was a documentary film maker in the early days of the Soviet Union, when Russia was a hotbed of avant-garde artistic experimentation. She constructed documentaries from other films and found footage, to create an unusual kind of historical document, as in her Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (1927). This is a documentary about the years leading up to revolution in 1917, and mixes together newsreel footage, stock footage, and original footage shot by Shub to create a 90-minute feature. The film was silent (sound movies were just beginning then) and the commentary is relatively sparse, simply showing inter-cut images from multiple sources (the sources not being identified or evaluated, but treated as objective records of events). In a sense, most or all documentaries are “video mashups,” of course, but the compilation genre has a unique feel.
Among the most famous historical antecedents of today’s video mashups would be Joseph Cornell’s Rose Hobart (1936). Cornell, a well-regarded and influential surrealist artist is best known for his “boxes,” three-dimensional collages that tend to be romantic and nostalgic. A bizarre introvert, Cornell became obsessed with the actress Rose Hobart and managed to purchase a copy of one of her films, East of Borneo (1931). He re-edited the footage to focus entirely on scenes of the actress and interspersed images of a documentary about an eclipse to create a surreal, non-narrative impressionistic film. He also removed the soundtrack and replaced it with two songs from a record he bought at a junk shop. The final “work of art” is 19 minutes long. When he “exhibited” it, he would project it through a plate of blue glass and slow down the speed slightly.
In the 1960s, Canadian Arthur Lipsett began making mashup videos under the sponsorship of the National Film Board of Canada, which was responsible for much groundbreaking work in documentary and animation in those days.
Very Nice Very Nice (1962) mashed up still images with disparate audio to create a sound and image collage of the modern world in line with the views and techniques of fellow Torontonian Marshall McLuhan:
Another good example of his technique can be seen in Fluxes (1968), which jutaposes video and motion picture footage and stills with audio from other sources to create often darkly absurdist combinations.
Dara Birnbaum, Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978)
Christian Marclay, Telephones (1995)
iPhone “Hello” ad rip-off of Marclay (2007)
It is interesting to see that many of the approaches explored in these avant-garde art videos anticipate the developments in genres emerging from amateur remixers on YouTube. Marclay’s “Telephones” is a supercut; Lipsett’s “Fluxes” mixes audio from one source with video from other, incongruous sources (sitcom with laugh track over Nazi war criminal trial); Birnbaum’s “Wonder Woman” has elements of supercut and also the noisy and annoying sensationalism of a Poop.
An interesting compilation of politicized video remixes before the age of YouTube can be seen here:
21st century video mashup
A video mashup combines two or more video sources to create a new video.
Some important genres of video mashup:
- YouTube Poops
- Trailer mashups
A video mashup that shows examples of a particular meme, concept, image or theme from a variety of sources.
Supercuts.org: “A fast-paced montage of short video clips that obsessively isolates a single element from its source, usually a word, phrase, or cliche from film and TV.
Purpose: Typically humour, entertainment, homage, or celebration, but sometimes used with a politicized or subversive intent.
Some supercut examples:
A trailer mashup creates a movie trailer for an imaginary or tv series. Typically it mixes audio and video from different sources.
Probably the most typical trailer mashup takes the audio from an existing trailer and then puts video imagery from a different film or films to comment on or undercut the audio:
The reverse may also happen.
More complex trailer mashups involve the actual creation of new trailers for existing films, often with original voiceovers, music, etc, to make an interpretation of the contents of the film unlike that intended by the original film makers.
Redubs take video sources and dub new dialogue over them. The genre probably originated in people sitting around watching tv with the sound down and then voicing absurd or satirical dialogue for the characters onscreen.
One very common type of redub are the NFL redubs done for the YouTube channel Bad Lip Reading.
Because the shots of players and coaches etc in NFL games often have no attached audio in game coverage, it’s possible for viewers to speculate on what they are saying, with absurdist results.
Redubs also sometimes have more serious or subversive intentions, though. The dubbing of NFL players, for instance, could have them discussing domestic matters, exchanging love talk, or talking like children. These could be merely absurdist, homephobic, or intended to open up new possibilities for masculine identity.