I chose this tool without doing any research, relying on my faith in the internet that such a thing would exist when I finally googled it. Lo and behold, there were so many I still don't really know where to start. The difference between something like this and a nifty little widget is that this isn't one unique device created for a nifty little purpose (concrete examples fail me this close to graduation, lets say a visualizer- an especially unique and trippy visualizer) but is rather a concept, as elementary as cut and paste on the simplest word processor.
Before I get ahead of myself though, I should say that there are plenty of rippers that exist as these sort of self-inclusive widgets, mostly for PC. VDownloader and KeepV are examples of decent freeware desktop rippers for windows that can rip into several different formats, with the latter having the advent of a built-in format converter (something a reliable freeware version of can be suprisingly hard to come by). As is the fate of the software spectrum for Mac users, there is all of one reliable desktop application for OS that I have found - GetTube. Whatever. At any rate, I am going to ignore these partisan desktop apps in pursuit of a reliable, unbiased web app - not only because the assignment was to find a web tool, but because it reveals (for me anyway) the beautiful simplicities of digital information that underly all the crazy confusing tangled code that I'll never understand and the possibilities it provides for piracy and mischief.
These various web apps were the easiest to find, yet the hardest to sift through in terms of tangible differences between each one. The one aspect of their simplicity which struck me is that to use all of these rippers, you simply paste the url into a box on the website which then downloads the video to your desktop. videodownloadx.com is probably the simplest to use of them all, but along with KeepVid, the downloaded files have strange extension names that must be changed manually to flv (the extension for flash videos). To sidestep this and the whole flv thing if you want (most editing software doesn't support flv yet), I reccomend Zamzar, an online ripper/converter in one that supports many different video sharing sites and file extensions.
Anyway, now that we've picked one, I can continue making my point. Using something that is essentially metadata (the url) to rip an entire video fascinates me. It is merely a signpost that points to the spot where code is stored and can be copied quite easily. It had never really occurred to me until recently that when I watch a video on the internet, my computer is processing code that it has the capacity to remember, simple as that. This just flips the switch. more on this concept in the next post - lip service time. Zamzar is based out of the UK, and while you can pay for more options and larger file sizes, the best stuff is still free. Their name is inspired by a Kafka character, and on their about page they have a simple mission statement: "To provide high quality file conversion for as many file formats as possible." Perfect.
In my mind, if it is part of the media stream in the grand scheme it is fair game, whether that takes the form of graffiti on an especially nauseating billboard ad or a humorously re-cut trailer of a mainstream film. The now-incredibly-popular street artist Banksy has a fantastic quote about why he defaces advertisements (bear with me here): "You owe the companies nothing. You especially don't owe them any courtesy. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don't even start asking for theirs." Now ripping/remixing isn't vandalism because the original is left intact and not by any stretch are all youtube videos promoting or advertising something, but the idea that someone knowingly put it out there, maybe didn't shove in under your nose, but put it in a public place means I can do what I want with it artistically. Reminiscent of the artists plight: whatever meaning you placed in your work often has no bearing on how people interpret it. Once you put it out there, it is not yours to control anymore - it is the rest of the world's to experience and manipulate and derive meaning from. This is getting long-winded - the fact is with Zamzar and others, not only can you keep your own personal library of videos and have the abilitiy to dodge copyright law, it is absurdly easy and fun to generate remixed or reappropriated content and contribute to the leveling of the playing field. It is your right as a human introduce your own viewpoint to the conversation. Here is a means.
Ludovico-treat-them-to a powerpoint, I decided to assemble a few key videos from YouTube to form the cornerstones of my presentation.
Here is a wonderfully graphic and explicit example of a user-generated remix. Using only basic communist film theory in conjunction with Zamzar and a twisted sense of humor, we see the saccharine innocence of kids' TV collide with the violently sexist message of Lil' Jon and as a result - we laugh like hell. Oh the possibilities...
damn copyright hawks
My own attempt at user-generated content feat. Zamzar and Final Cut Pro. The eerie silence you hear is the result of YouTube's copyright hawk - a program that scans your videos for copyrighted songs (it is immune to EQ'ing, pitch-bending, re-recording... essentially all pirate stand-bys) and cuts out the video's tongue. While it is frustrating that I cut the entire video (using clips from Berkeley in the 60's and The Last Picture Show) to the song, it is a perfect example of an obstacle a user-generator may face and also brings up Zamzar's usefulness as a means of capturing soon-to-be-censored videos.
the mother of all funk chords
After my frustrating brush with copyright law I wondered how I could sidestep my way into an original soundtrack and stumbled upon someone who had already perfected this. How about a song constructed entirely of how-to videos for musical instruments. The funk exists in the ether- assemble it as you see fit.