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The New MTV is Where M is Me

I have not even seen a glimpse of MTV for at least 10 or 15 years. I am so old I can remember when the “M” stood for “Music”:

I can remember the riveting teen age moment when MTV first launched- it was radical, different, spoke to me– and it felt at the time like a game changer (not that I knew there was a game)- and I was there from the start. It was like maybe how future people will be writing about their first experiences with the web or YouTube or … It was jam packed with media. It had a fast pace, It had edgy graphics, and had I know it was a word then– it had snark.

And it felt so personal- the first “VJs” were all young(ish) and unknowns (quick, how many can you remember? I failed too, had to look it up).

I think it was Martha Quinn who was my favorite- so perky…. They were… different from everything else on TV.

Now it seems almost camp and retro. It was still packaged and broadcast. It was one to many.

That was then.

But now I am now the VJ, and I can do more than just play commercially programmed content like a jockey– I am making it. I am chopping it up, slicing, dicing, and julienne frying things into new content. The heck with the “M” being music, it is all about Me.

I have done a few of these (2?) videos which are essentially like music videos except the music is open content from really unknown artists and rather than bands parroting recordings, the images are montages of creative commons licensed images. It feels though… like a music video.

Last year I was largely inspired after seeing Martin Weller’s EduPunk video (yanked from YouTube, thank the net for to do my first one as a teaser for the 2008 NMC Symposium Rock the Academy: Radical Teaching, Unbounded Learning.

This all occurred to me after I spent a few hours assembling media and composing this teaser video for the upcoming NMC Symposium on the Future:

This one was meant to provide strong visuals for a mixture of the future as either utopian or the opposite, plus some things that suggested technology, alternative energy, food, and of course, a lot of human imagery.

What follows is my own process documentation…

  • I scour flickr for creative commons images using Compfight searches on tags. I cannot recall all the tags I tried- likely “future”, “utopia”, “farming”, “energy”, “joy”, “protest”, “factory”, “leap”, “hungry”, “technology”….
  • I download the larger image, usually 1024 x 800 some and also keep a text file with the name of the flickr image creator (for providing credit). It’s easy to get caught up in the search and not track this info, and more tedious to have to go back and find it later.
  • I’m still using a 2006 version of iMovieHD (long story, but it works for me) and because of the way it imports stills (it remembers if the last one you did used Ken Burns or not), I do a single image import, then use the media editing tools to make sure it is zoomed out and NOT set for Ken Burns. Then I can drag and drop the 200+ images I collected.
  • I start with a simple title edit (black background) and select a font/color to use for the rest of the text.
  • Next I then start tossing them on the timeline, moving around to try and have images that go together. This is just to get the sequence about where I want it. If there are text slides between sections, I add them as well.
  • I then look for a music track using ccMixter all Creative Commons licensed tracks made by people mixing other cc licensed samples. They are always unique (well, it can take a while to dind one that is not really weird or just wrong, but I have always found mine in about 20 minutes of searching and listening). I save the URL for the tracks I select- I usually choose 3 or 4 but usually stick with one). I import the audio to the sound track. If it is not long enough, I copy/paste it to the other track, and overlap the start/end so I can fade them in/out to each other.
  • Now I go back and start editing the duration of the stills. I hardly ever do Ken Burns and use no transitions- I want all fast cuts. My images are on screen for anywhere from around 1-3 seconds, and try to vary the duration to generate effect- a series of staccato quick changes can be like a rat-a-tat snare drum roll or you can stretch them out to slow down the pace. I cant say I am a rhythm expert, but learning as I go. I do want it fast paced.
  • Once I have music match and images set, I leave audio at the end to add the credits track, and fade the music to end at the end of the imagery.
  • I think export two versions- first is a high end MP4 for YouTube with settings:
    • MPEG-4 (MP4) using H.264
    • Data rate: 1411 kbits.sec
    • 1280 x 720 image size
    • Frame rate 25 fps
    • Key Frame: automatic
    • Under Video Options- Best Quality (multi-pass)
    • AAC Audio, 44.1 kHz, 128 kbps

    and then another MP4 for playing from our NMC media server:

    • MPEG-4 (MP4) using H.264
    • Data rate: 672 kbits.sec
    • 480 x 360 image size
    • Frame rate 30 fps
    • Key Frame: automatic
    • Under Video Options- Best Quality (multi-pass)
    • AAC-L (Music), 44.1 kHz, 128 kbps

    and then upload

It is a fun thing to do, but I am also interested in experimenting more with the video end of it. Again- I keep the video dead simple- no transitions (beyond the built in fades of the title clips) and pretty much dead on stills presented in quick succession.

So that is the new MeTV.

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. Brilliant video – reminds me of Koyaanisqatsi. I’m teaching an media production course this year. I think I’ll have them create a similar project and sending them to this description of your workflow as an example of how to put something like this together.

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