Dirty bits

I was up last night at some ungodly hour and managed to catch Nabil Elderkin’s video for the Kanye West song “Welcome to Heartbreak”:

Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, but I was absolutely stunned. The effect used is called “data moshing,” and generally you see it in video that has been compressed in some weird way.

I’ve never seen it done intentionally before, but apparently it’s quite common. The video was actually released early because the “Evident Utensil” video by Chairlift uses the same effect (though I think Elderkin’s video seems a lot more deliberate and less random).

After doing some digging around on the web, I found some other videos using the same effect, but none quite as good as this one by David O’Reilly:

It’s subtle and short, but works so beautifully with the music. Quite possibly the best music video I’ve ever seen.

O’Reilly has apparently been using the effect since 2005, but has since declared the fad to be over (probably for the same reasons that T-Pain has killed robot vocal effects). Whether it is or not, however, I find the technique to be beautiful in that it plays with the “glitches” in digital media.

Glitches in certain types of analog media (like the hiss and crackle of a record player) actually do a lot to add to the character of a work. With digital, the perception is that everything should be perfect, crystal clear all the time.

(As an aside, print-based Graphic Designers must deal with this misperception all the time, and it has probably given rise to our favorite pastime: complaining about clients who want to take bad digital art taken from a website and place it into print media).

Sure, I want to watch the game in super high 24060pxqur megapixel definition, but does everything else have to be so clear? I’m not perfect, how can I relate to art that’s perfect? In a roundabout way, glitches inject a measure of humanity back into digital media.

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