Dear music video directors:

Why is that "RGB split effect" still not going away?

I have a new theory on it, though: it's nostalgia for the kind of gear that everyone had back in the 19A0s -- back when we all watched our LaserDiscs on small 3-gun front-projection televisions, and every time someone slammed a door in the house, the guns would twitch out of alignment. You remember that, don't you? Don't you?

Seriously though, I think the only time this effect has been put to good use was in Extraball by Yuksek and Amanda Blank, but in that case the halftone dots make it clear that they're referencing mis-registered print, not video. Most often you see it used as an apparent reference to "old, broken televisions" but televisions never broke that way so what the hell.

Here's a more typical offender, which I happened to see just today. Raised black-level 20% to make it feel "old-timey"? Check. Inserted video "glitch" effects that have never, ever occurred in nature? Check. (e.g. 0:36, 1:03).

See that filter-sweep knob on your fancy DJ mixer? Yeah, don't use that.

Other things that make me immediately hit "next" on a video without watching it:

  • Precocious children. Seriously, stop having ten-year-olds lip-sync your music while doing cute or terrible things. It's not original. It's not creepy. It's just boring. (Ok, I will grudgingly make an exception for M83. And there is a Zombie Exemption. But these outliers are very few and far between.)

  • Traditional animation of the hand-drawn, paper-cutout or stop-motion variety. I feel weird saying this, but I have come to despise hand-drawn animation. Every time I see it in a music video I assume that what happened is that someone's final project for their first-year animation class just had a soundtrack slapped onto it. (That goes double for anything that was obviously made with Flash.) It seems cheap and lazy.

  • Live performance videos. You have to be almost-impossibly charming to make a two-camera live shoot not be boring. It is not the same as being there.

  • Videos made entirely of repurposed "found footage" of old industrial films. I have a huge amount of respect for the Prelinger Archive, but come on... seen it.

  • And of course anything set next to a pool or a car, but that's an indicator that it's not really a music video but is actually a softcore porno with a soundtrack extruded from some kind of autotuned Ministry of Sound pink slime machine.

I watch a lot of videos. I have opinions.


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27 Responses:

  1. James says:

    Alternative hypothesis:

  2. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one to think that a music video that's nothing but concert footage is just phoning it in.

  3. (evil)amy says:

    I feel you on the hand-drawn animation. It's a fun idea that was hipstered into bloody, bloody submission.

  4. TimeDoctor says:

    Font lyric videos are rapidly approaching the mediocroplex as well:

    T&S are great but that video is no good.

    The best of the kind is this goodie from DVNO:

    • jwz says:

      Lyric videos are a blight. They're just as worthless as a slow pan across press photos. Youtube should have a "Thanks for wasting my time" button.

      • Jake Nelson says:

        I started labeling videos according to a scheme about a year ago:
        1. high-production video
        2. normal video
        3. concert video
        4. placeholder/ token video (lyric / simple visualizer / slide show)
        5. not a video - one still + audio.
        3-5 are distressingly widespread on Youtube nowadays.

        I will once again also note my opinion that anyone who likes to fill their videos with flash-to-white from a dark screen should be locked in a zero-photon room for an hour, then have 5000K lights flashed on in front of their face once a minute until they promise never to do it again. I'm light-sensitive, so y'know, personal issues, but also lingering ex-professional ones.
        Seriously, people, flash to black, not white, then afterimages work in your favor! Most of the stop-motion-esque effect of strobes (which is cool) is due to afterimage being suddenly replaced by new data that's a jump away. White flashes mean the purple-green afterimage of the entire screen obscures whatever you show after it!

        • Jake Nelson says:

          Forgot, I also subdivide 1 and (to a lesser degree) 2 into A "'pure' music video" and B "short film". A still has just the song audio throughout, B has the video-of-the-song mixed in with something else. Duran Duran's Girl Panic is an excellent example (in multiple senses of the phrase) of 1B.

  5. hattifattener says:

    The Extraball video kind of makes me think of those color-separation cameras from the '20s and '30s, but I don't know that they ever failed quite like that either.

    My peeve is videos that put film artifacts in footage that's supposed to be glitchy video and vise versa— c'mon, guys, if you're going to go to the trouble of carefully imitating "old-timey" imperfections, at least imitate the right ones.

    (Who am I kidding? There's probably no care involved, there's probably just a single "Artifactiness" slider in their software.)

    • NotTheBuddha says:

      There's probably no care involved, there's probably just a single "Artifactiness" slider in their software.

      INXS' "Need You Tonight/Mediate" won Video of the Year in 1987, and features similar vertical "artifacts", color-bw transitions on some of the figures, and (rather more) z-axis play:

    • Owen W. says:

      Magic Bullet Mojo and Looks are what you're looking for. Your description of the slider is not far from the truth:
      (MB Looks does most of what you see in that vid, like the anamorphic flares)

  6. You have seen Adam Buxton's Amazing Music Video, though, yeah?

  7. Richard says:

    Precious Children exemption, surely?
    And the people demand an answer: outlier or unacceptable?

    • pavel_lishin says:

      The second link is exactly what popped into my mind when I read "precocious children", and then I realized I probably wasn't using the same definition of "precocious" as jwz was.

      Also, this.

      • Steen says:

        I had the same thought on "precocious children." Sometimes I think Aphex Twin is singlehandedly attempting to destroy the Myth of Childhood.

  8. badc0ffee says:

    Maybe whoever came up with this is mis-remembering the effect here:
    Except "cross-colour artifacts" tend to go blue-orange or purple-green, and don't grow and shrink.

  9. badc0ffee says:

    Allow me to share a good video (that you've probably seen):

    • Steen says:

      I'm not complaining about what is certainly a fine video, but in the context of a discussion of anachronistic error effects, having a soft vignette on the cyriak robo-vector stylings is a little weird.

  10. Another thing which needs to disappear: The "Broken MPEG" effect. Seriously, why are you trying to make your video look like a broken video file?

    I apologies for the horribleness of that song; though it's suitable in light of the horribleness of the music video.

    • jwz says:

      I actually get a kick out of that effect, but I've only seen it done three times or so. It would certainly wear out its welcome fast if it were more common.

  11. Thanks for the link to the Prelinger Archive. I thought the current standard of driving in China was bad, but then I watched and realised reckless chaos is part of the standard progression.