Youtube began in 2005 with this video of one of it’s founders at the zoo, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNQXAC9IVRw It is remarkable for how unremarkable it is. Nothing unexpected happens, nothing explodes, no comedy ensues. It is exactly this kind of mundane material that was never possible before the democratization of the means of production. Expensive film that was once reserved for only the wealthy, was cut into smaller and smaller sizes to make it a relatively affordable option for families. In the 30’s and 40’s only the very wealth could afford to shoot home movies, the 16mm developed around WWII democratized this some and then in the 50’s 8mm was even more common place (kodak film history). But it was the introduction of the cartridge based Super 8 film in the 60’s that really made home movies possible.
Even though more affordable, the technological limitations and relative expense meant that the vast majority of family films took place during special events, family vacations, birthdays, and graduations. Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome,” celebrated this simple fact with the observation that with kodachrome;
“They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, Oh yeah”
While the song is admittedly about still photography the same holds true for the use of such film stock in the 8mm and Super 8mm film cameras that democratized film production. In addition to being reserved for special occassions, such filmming also involved a kind of aesthetic of sunny days due to the hunger of the film stock for light. This combined with the color rendition and the stuttered motion of 18fps lends itself to a dreamy nostalgia that links together material shoot today with a nostalgia for an earlier era of family movies.
Video, in its various incarnations, e.g vhs, 8mm, betamax, offered an even less expensive option. This made it possible to shoot the mundane. The technological advancement in home video largely took place in the realm of form factor. Cameras like the first Ampex video cameras went from heavy shoulder mount cameras to the small handheld camcorders that we know today.
This change in size and weight as resulted in a shifting aesthetic, moving video away from the vocabulary of feature film production to the shaky kinetic quality of handheld models. The addition of lcd monitors as detached the camera from the perspective of the human eye to that of the extend hand.
Will all of this newly collected materail, shows like America’s funniest home videos dug through these hours of footage to find that rare moment of the mistake, the trip that becomes comedy. Such clip shows predate the viral videos of online video sharing sites.
So if Super 8 gave use sunny days and video gave us reality tv and the event gone wrong, what has digital video and online video sharing given us? Is it the video confessional, that face lit by the computer screen recording their thoughts? Is it video conferencing, the skype call to relatives in different time zones? Is it the viral video, the video that everyone else has seen in a sea of competing content?
“The means of production”
instruments of labour (tools, factories, infrastructure, etc.) and subjects of labour (natural resources and raw materials)