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Video as Grammar: The Supercut

By - November 07, 2011

As early as 2003, which was the first year I began writing this site, I wrote about the idea of “video as grammar.” By this I meant (and mean) that I foresaw a day when our culture communicated with itself using video much as we currently use text.

In order for this to happen, a number of things had to fall in place. First, we needed tools that allow for quick and easy “video processing” – we need the Microsoft Word for video.

Second, we need access to a large “vocabulary” of video that we could annotate, cite, cut, paste, and repurpose.

Third, we needed what might be called cultural resonance – a reason for folks to want to communicate using video.  We have a remix culture, but it’s still pretty much the domain of obsessives and professionals. For now.

And fourth, we needed a legal framework that didn’t sue everyone into oblivion for simply expressing themselves.

It’s clear we’ve passed the first two hurdles – there are tons of great video editing suites, and YouTube et al pretty much took care of the second issue.

In the past week or so, Andy Baio and Kevin Kelly have pointed out what might just be the glimmerings of how we are going to address the third: The Supercut. From Andy’s post announcing his new site, supercut.org:

For the last few years, I’ve tracked a particular flavor of remix culture that I called “supercuts” — fast-paced video montages that assemble dozens or hundreds of short clips on a common theme.

Many supercuts isolate a word or phrase from a film or TV series — think every “dude” in The Big Lebowski or every profanity from The Sopranos – while others point out tired cliches, like those ridiculous zoom-and-enhance scenes from crime shows.

Since 2008, I’ve added every supercut I could find to a sprawling blog post. With nearly 150 of these videos, and more being added weekly, it’s turned from a blog post into a minor obsession.

Thank God for Andy Baio’s obsessions, is all I can say. The Supercut is an extremely powerful form of speech, and I can imagine it evolving into our cultural vocabulary in any number of ways. One to watch.

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3 thoughts on “Video as Grammar: The Supercut

  1. “By this I meant (and mean) that I foresaw a day when our culture communicated with itself using video much as we currently use text.” – Sounds like a good guess to me. Looking at what the Khan Academy is doing with education… makes sense.

  2. michael held says:

    The supercut idea reminds me of Akufen’s microsampling album ‘My Way’ from 2022 http://www.monochrom.at/cracked/reviews/Rev%20Akufen.htm – unfortunately his text on how he approached microsampling from the albums inner sleeve is nowhere to be found anymore. Was something along the lines: Every morning surfing the air waves, recording snippets, remixing them into new beats … it finishes with “Its time to take some risk and break some rules”. Time someone does this for video.

  3. Babel leather says:

    Every morning surfing the oxygen waves, documenting snippets, remixing them into new beats. Christian Louboutin Babel leather boots finishes with “Its time to consider some threat and break some rules”. Time somebody does this for video.