[iDC] Re: notes on media remix

Curt Cloninger curt at lab404.com
Wed Apr 19 21:42:47 EDT 2006

Hi Lev and all,

 From the excerpts below, I don't think "remixability" is the right 
word.  Maybe something like "synesthetic cross-processing."  Remix 
(because of the "re-") implies sampling discrete sources of media 
content and mixing them up again.  The emphasis is on the quotation 
and recontextualization of pre-existing sources.

Applying a motion blur to rotating typography in after effects is 
taking a formal technique from photography/film and applying it to 
typography.  This isn't really remixing, admixing, or even mixing. 
It's more like hybridizing.

And of course there's nothing inherently digital about it.  Man Ray 
blurred type in the black and white darkroom.  Saul Bass animated 
type in his movie titles.  Yes, digital software suggests such 
synesthetic cross-processing and facilitates it.  But remix is the 
wrong word.  It already has too many residual connotations from hip 
hop culture.  Remix is about palimpsest and collage.  You seem to be 
talking about a kind of synesthetic cross-processing independent of 
any intentional conceptual dialogue with pre-exisiting, 
cultural/historical media content.


>Message: 2
>Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2006 01:22:44 -0700
>From: Lev Manovich <lev at manovich.net>
>Subject: [iDC] notes on media remix
>To: <idc at bbs.thing.net>, Geert Lovink <geert at xs4all.nl>,	Eduardo Navas
>	<eduardo at navasse.net>
>Message-ID: <C06B4164.39EF4%lev at manovich.net>
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset="ISO-8859-1"
>Greetings to everybody
>My Pratt Manhattan gallery lecture earlier this month was my first public
>presentation of some ideas on media remix I have been developing lately; a
>long text Understanding Metamedia which goes into details will be posted on
>my web site next month.
>I am not sure if I was successful in presenting the ideas correctly at this
>time - but for now, I wanted to add to the discussion two text statements
>which summarize what I wanted to convey in the lecture and what I am trying
>to develop in more detail in the forthcoming text.
>I am giving another talk in NYC this coming Saturday April 22 where I will
>try to approach these ideas again from a somewhat diffirent POV than in the
>previous talk:
>The first segment is from my article "Abstraction and Complexity" (2003):
>One result of the shift from separate representational and inscription media
>to computer metamedium is proliferation of hybrid images - images that
>combine traces and effects of a variety of media. Think of an typical
>magazine spread, a TV advertisement or a home page of a commercial web site:
>maybe a figure or a face of person against a white background, some computer
>elements floating behind or in front, some Photoshop blur, funky Illustrator
>typography, and so on. (Of course looking at the Bauhaus graphic design we
>can already find some hybridity as well similar treatment of space combining
>2D and 3D elements ‚ yet because a designer had to deal with a number of
>physically distinct media, the boundaries between elements in different
>media were sharply defined.)
>This leads us to another effect - the liberation of the techniques of a
>particular media from its material and tool specificity. Simulated in
>software, these techniques can now be freely applied to visual, spatial or
>audio data that has nothing to do with the original media. In addition to
>populating the tool pallets of various software applications, these
>virtualized techniques came to form a separate type of software ‚ filters.
>You can apply reverb (a property of sound when it propagates in particular
>spaces) to any sound wave; apply depth of field effect to a 3D virtual
>space; apply blur to type, and so on.
>The last example is quite significant in itself: simulation of media
>properties and interfaces in software has not only made possible the
>development of numerous separate filters but also whole new areas of media
>culture such as motion graphics (animated type which exist on its own or
>combined with abstract elements, video, etc). By allowing the designers to
>move type in 2D and 3D space, and filter it in arbitrary ways, After Effects
>has affected the Guttenberg universe of text at least as much if not more
>than Photoshop affected photography.
>The second segment comes from this new long text Understanding Metamedia
>which will be available shortly. In this segment the idea of media
>remixability is developed in relation to visual langauge of moving images.
>However just as I tried to do this in the lecture, I am working to apply the
>idea of medix remixability to other areas of digital media.
>The use of After Effects is closely identified with a particular type of
>moving images which became commonplace to a large part because of this
>software ‚ „motion graphics.¾ Concisely defined by Matt Frantz in his Master
>Thesis as „designed non-narrative, non-figurative based visuals that change
>over time,¾  motion graphics today include film and television titles, TV
>graphics, dynamic menus, the graphics for mobile media content, and other
>animated sequences. Typically motion graphics appear as parts of longer
>pieces: commercials, music videos, training videos, narrative and
>documentary films, interactive projects.
>While motion graphics definitely exemplify the changes that took place
>during software revolution of the 1990s, these changes are more broad.
>Simply put, the result of this revolution is a new hybrid visual language of
>moving images in general. This language is not confined to particular media
>forms. And while today it manifests itself most clearly in non-narrative
>forms, it is also often present in narrative and figurative sequences and
>For example, a music video may use life action while also employing
>typography and a variety of transitions done with computer graphics
>(example: video for Go by Common, directed by Convert / MK12 / Kanye West,
>2005). Or it may imbed the singer within the animated painterly space (video
>for Sheryl Crow¼ Good Is Good, directed by Psyop, 2005.) A short film may
>mix typography, stylized 3D graphics, moving design elements, and video
>(Itsu for Plaid, directed by Pleix collective, 2002 ).
>In some cases, the juxtaposition of different media is clearly visible
>(examples: music video for Don¼t Panic by Coldplay; main title for The
>Inside by Imaginary Forces, 2005). In other cases, a sequence may move
>between different media so quickly that the shifts are barely noticeable
>(GMC Denali „Holes¾ commercial by Imaginary Forces, 2005). Yet in other
>cases, a commercial or a movie title may feature continuous action shot on
>video or film, with the image being periodically changing from a more
>natural to a highly stylized look.
>While the particular aesthetic solutions vary from one piece to the next and
>from one designer to another, they all share the same logic: the appearance
>of multiple media simultaneously in the same frame. Whether these media are
>openly juxtaposed or almost seamlessly blended together is less important
>than the fact of this co-presence itself.
>Today such hybrid visual language is also common to a large proportion of
>short „experimental¾ (i.e. non-commercial) films being produced for media
>festivals, the web, mobile media devices, and other distribution platforms
>The large percentage of the visuals created by VJs and Live Cinema artists
>are also hybrid, combining video, layers of 2D imagery, animation, and
>abstract imagery generated in real time. (For examples, consult The VJ book,
>VJ: Live Cinema Unraveled, or web sites such as www.vjcentral.com and
>www.live-cinema.org. )  In the case of feature narrative films and TV
>programs, while they are still rarely mix different graphical styles within
>the same frame, many now feature highly stylized aesthetics which would
>previously be identified with illustration rather than filmmaking ‚ for
>instance, TV series CSI, George Lucas¼s latest Star Wars films, or Robert
>Rodriguez¼s Sin City.
>What is the logic of this new hybrid visual language? This logic is one of
>remixability: not only of the content of different media or simply their
>aesthetics, but their fundamental techniques, working methods, and
>assumptions. United within the common software environment, cinematography,
>animation, computer animation, special effects, graphic design, and
>typography have come to form a new metamedium. A work produced in this new
>metamedium can use all techniques which were previously unique to these
>different media, or any subset of these techniques.
>If we use the concept of „remediation¾ to describe this new situation, we
>will misrepresent this logic ‚ or the logic of media computing in general.
>The computer does not „remediate¾ particular media. Instead, it simulates
>all media. And what it simulates are not surface appearances of different
>media but all the techniques used for their production and all the methods
>of viewing and interaction with the works in these media.
>Once all types of media met within the same digital environment ‚ and this
>was accomplished by the middle of the 1990s - they started interacting in
>the ways that could never be predicted nor even imagined previously. For
>instance, while particular media techniques continue to be used in relation
>to their original media, they can also be applied to other media. (This is
>possible because the techniques are turned into algorithms, all media is
>turned into digital data stored in compatible file formats, and software is
>designed to read and write files produced by other programs.) Here are a few
>examples: motion blur is applied to 3D computer graphics, computer generated
>fields of particles are blended with live action footage to give it enhanced
>look, a virtual camera is made to move around the virtual space filled with
>2D drawings, flat typography is animated as though it is made from a liquid
>like material (the liquid simulation coming from computer graphics field),
>and so on. And while this „cross-over¾ use by itself constitutes a
>fundamental shift in media history, today a typical short film or a sequence
>may combine many such pairings within the same frame. The result is a
>hybrid, intricate, complex, and rich visual language ‚ or rather, numerous
>languages that share the basic logic of remixabilty.
>I believe that „media remixability¾ which begins around middle of the 1990s
>constitutes a new fundamental stage in the history of media. It manifests
>itself in different areas of culture and not only moving images ‚ although
>the later does offer a particularly striking example of this new logic at
>work. Here software such as After Effects became a Petri dish where computer
>animation, live cinematography, graphic design, 2D animation and typography
>started to interact together, creating new hybrids. And as the examples
>mentioned above demonstrate, the result of this process of remixability are
>new aesthetics and new media species which cannot be reduced to the sum of
>media that went into them. Put differently, the interactions of different
>media in the same software environment are cultural species.

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