baker Blinker's Weblog

First and Second Life at least.

Stegokitty Interview January 22, 2011

MJ: Welcome to Arkiving Synchronicity, the Synchronicity Arkive podcast. This is your host, Arkiver, webmaster of the Synchronicity Arkive. Joining me today is another long-time member of the synching community, Stegokitty, webmaster of The Definitive List. (round of applause from the audience).

Stego, thanks for being here.

S: Thanks for having me, Arkiver. It’s an honor to be here.

MJ: So, your site, the Definitive List is certainly one of the older synchronicity sites on the net. Can you tell us a little about how the site came about and what motivated you to create it?

S: It was in 1996, when I was actually just browsing for Pink Floyd websites, and I stumbled across this single-paged site, describing the combination of TWoOz with the so-called “alternate soundtrack” of DSOTM. It had instructions for the “3rd Roar” setup, and a short list of 10 major syncs to look for in the 1st playthrough, which incidentally is the only playthrough even mentioned. From what I remember, the webmaster stated that the 10 syncs listed was not intended to be exhaustive, but rather to be considered a primer, and that the fun part was to experience the sync for yourself, reaping the satisfaction of finding even more coincidences in your own private viewings.

Well, I tend to be a bit of an archiver myself. I like to list, and categorize things as much as I like to be entertained. And once I’d experienced The Dark Side of the Rainbow for the first time, like most people, I noticed considerably more than 10 instances of lyrical and rhythmic synchronisms. So I decided to start my own little website and take it to the next level — a more exhaustive listing. Since its inception, the DSOTR website has changed addresses three times, and has undergone a slight evolution from being a single page, to being about 40-odd pages, containing audio clips, and lots of related or semi- related images, links to other syncsites, topical articles, and letters from around the globe (including a note from the granddaughter of Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion from TWoOz, and another letter from a fellow whose father actually worked on the set of 2001:ASO). And of course, the site contained it’s namesake — that little ol’ list of syncs that has been used or referenced to in numerous classrooms, planetariums, and midnight showings of DSOTR in movie theatres across the nation. I can’t help but to be happy that The Definitive List has also been linked to twice by Turner Classic Movies, when DSOTM has been simulcast on the SAC along with TWoOz.

Probably a bit differently than most other syncsites, my site has also been a place where folks can read my reviews of syncs on DVD. I don’t sell them, mind you, I only review them for their audio and video quality, and for their entertainment value. Some syncers may find this a bit distasteful, but the reality is that pre-recorded syncs on DVD do exist, and it can’t be a bad thing to try and guide a person in the right direction as much as possible. Besides that, it was a good way to get some new sync experiments on DVD and VHS tape for free! And who doesn’t like free stuff?

MJ: As someone who created one of the early sites for synching, and I recall your site being one of a very few number of us back then, what is it that attracted you to the concept of synching for a website of your own?

S: The Synchronicity Arkive was actually the next website that I found in connection with the DSOTR sync. I believe that, along with my own tendency toward perfectionism in whatever project that I endeavour, it was also the integrity of your website, the care in which the Sync Ark was created, that inspired me to seek to make a companion site (of sorts). I tried to keep it in the same vein topically, without simply repeating what you’d already said. Originality afterall, is an important key to respect and longevity.

The thing that made me want to seek out new syncs was the discovery (again from the Sync Ark) of what is probably the 2nd most widely known sync, 2001:JABTI/Echoes. Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of my favourite films, and Echoes is quite high on my list of PF tunes, so what could be better? It’s like peanut butter and chocolate! This of course, isn’t to say that Echoes and 2001 worked together simply because they’re a couple of my favourites. Interestingly enough though, some time after discovering JABTI/Echoes, my search for a sync I could call my own, was in the works, and after much failed experimentation with numerous films and albums, I stumbled upon, or was rather inspired, to combine a portion of the science fiction film Contact, with Echoes, creating Contact/Echoes, which according to some folks, even rivals Jabti/Echoes in entertainment value, though to my knowledge, is not quite as well known.

One of the things I think is so attractive about both of these syncs is the short time commitment. They both utilize the Echoes track from PF’s Meddle album, which is 23 minutes long, and they both only feature a portion of either film. There’s no time to get bogged down in “dead air” so to speak. Plenty of bang for the time spent. This is a very important theme in my theory of syncing, which is to neither overtax your audience, nor to make him feel like he’s wasted his (or her) precious and irretrievable time. Another good example of this short time commitment is the syncs that Baker B has done with the avante garde animated films by Larry Jordan. Short features like these relieve any perceived pressure on the audience, of the feeling that they might have to sit through a very time consuming experience. Besides that, the syncs Baker made work really well. My favourite of these is “Sophie’s No. 9”.

MJ: Since your site did pre-date the “second wave” of interest in DSotR, as typified by the MTV News segment but also all of the other media attention, how did that affect you, and your Definitive List site?

S: Well, firstly I have to say, I was so pleased to see your name included in that MTV segment. You gave very thoughtful and intelligent answers. I felt like I knew a celebrity!

I certainly got a lot of new visits to the Definitive List during the 2nd wave, and that’s probably set a standard for even today’s daily visits (presently an average of 194 per day). More importantly, the 2nd wave is really when the Definitive List became even more definitive. Prior to the 2nd wave, the Def List mainly consisted of my own observations, along with a few contributions here and there by early DSOTR enthusiasts. Now, I’d have to say the majority of the syncs listed in the Def List are those which have been donated by site patrons. The Def List remains to this day a cooperative work between myself and fans of the DSOTR from around the world. Any sync suggestion that I think is universally noticeable is added to the Def List, and credit is given to the contributor on the “Wall of Fame”. The Def List still accepts sync suggestions, but the ones that are actually approved and added to the List are now very few and far between, and one must expect as much, seeing as it’s been going on for almost 11 years now. The pickin’s are gettin’ mighty slim, but every now and then, there’s a surprise.

MJ: You mentioned that shorter time commitment of Contact/Echoes or JaBtI, as part of their appeal. What do you generally look for in synchs that you watch “all the way through”? Have there been any others that particularly stand out to you? Also, do you have any particular method when you’re developing ideas of your own?

S: Typically, when I’m checking out another syncer’s project (whether pre-recorded, or via manual setup) I’m looking for a particular feeling, a drawing in, a kind of “mood magic”, as a friend of mine once described his experience of my only full length feature sync Darkest City. I admit freely of this, my own creation, that there are some low spots here and there, but the key to this sync is that it grabs you right from the start. The music is working with the imagery appearing onscreen from the first moment, and it doesn’t let up until the end of that particular track, which happens to be Sysyphus Parts 1-4, from Pink Floyd’s UmmaGumma. Afterward there are valleys and peaks of interest, but culminating in a rather interesting, intense ending, using a large portion of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells II. However, throughout the experience, even though there’s very little word-to-action syncs, there’s this dreamy feel to the selected music, which matches the dream-state imagery of the film. I believe that this is an important factor to its success. I’ve yet to receive a bad review on it.

With that said, even if a sync doesn’t happen to “grab” me from the start, I’ll still sit it out for a good twenty-odd minutes before I start feeling “had”. It’s a good thing that I keep this practice for two reasons: The first reason is that some syncs really do start off a little slow but accelerate as they go along. A great example of this, in my opinion, is “Alice On The Wall”. It takes several minutes for this one to really take off, but once it does, it moves along at a nice clip. It wavers a bit here and there (like most long syncs), but then it kicks into high gear, especially during the trial sequence.

The second reason giving a sync about a twenty minute test time is that I’ve got better things to do with my life than to sit and watch and listen to something that’s not really entertaining. Another part of my philosophy of syncing is this: If there’s really only a short part of a film that actually works with the selected audio track, then snip down the sync to something more watchable, and less intimidating — as is the case with JABTI/Echoes and Contact/Echoes. I technically could have made two short syncs from Darkest City — the beginning portion and the final portion, but really the middle isn’t bad — it’s actually got several really good spots in it, just not quite as fully flowing and intense as the front and back ends are.

Syncs that have stood out to me, which have become the most influential are “multi-tiled” syncs (to use a Bakerism), as they are the most artistically and thoughtfully produced. The first one of these types that I’d ever witnessed was Dave Bytor’s “Rush/Wonka Project”. Dave did several other of these type syncs, including “Rushian Matrix”, all of which are composed with multiple tracks by a single artist. Another important multi-tiled sync was Baker B’s sync “Syd’s 1st Oz”, which uses multiple tracks by multiple artists. I basically followed direction in my production of Darkest City. Dave Bytor also did a really different type of multi-tiled sync, if indeed it can be considered as such, with “Being Geddy Lee”. This sync has very little music to it at all, and mostly consists of portions of radio interviews with Dave’s favourite band, RUSH. It’s really an odd piece. So odd in fact, that the first time I experienced it, I really didn’t like it. I shelved it for at least a couple of years. I don’t think I even watched it all the way through the first time. But I did end up watching it again, close to a year ago, and I actually enjoyed it so much that I watched it a couple more times. BGL is definitely not a sync for newbies, nor is it even for most people. I don’t know if I’d watch it again for a quite a while, but I do admire the incredible planning and hard work that went into making it. Both Dave Bytor’s and Baker B’s multi-tiled syncs are actually constructed in a method that is more akin to, in my imagination, as what the Wizard of Oz looked like behind the curtain, moving levers, rolling valves, flipping switches, and pushing buttons. From what I understand, there are two or more VHS players cued up or rolling on at the same time, along with some pre-recorded tracks or CD’s set to cue. It’s a bit too much for me to keep up with (besides, my wife wouldn’t allow for the mess it must create). Instead, I use some high tech audio/video software from Sony to put my projects together, which incidentally allows for much higher quality productions. However, I still haven’t the time even to make a sync even with this helpful software. I’m actually in the midst of creating a music project for children, which takes up virtually all the free time that I have, other than watching Red Sox baseball, and the few television shows that I’m addicted to such as LOST.

As far as my personal syncing method goes, my best referential model is probably Darkest City. The creation of Darkest City was my first major departure from the repeated playthrough method. In the creation of Darkest City I used what might be called the “timing and mood” method. Firstly I looked for an audio track that simply fit a particular time slot that I felt defined a specific portion of the film. Then I would try out the several time-correct tunes that I’d culled from my collection of CD’s and downloaded tracks, to see which (if any) had the right mood or feel to it for that particular scene. But I wasn’t looking for songs with lyrics or titles that sounded like they might fit. That’s a little shallow in my opinion. However, even though I completely ignored the lyrical connection, I discovered that every now and then, seemingly appropriate words for the scene tended to show up in several of these selected songs per the imagery onscreen. An added bonus!

MJ: What do you feel is the state of the larger synching community today? Has your participation in that community waxed and waned (kind of like my own), or stayed relatively constant?

S: I’m probably unknown to many in the larger syncing community unless they’ve happened upon my website, due to my sparse presence on the Sync Ark. However, you were kind enough to feature at least one, if not two of my syncs, Darkest City (and possibly Contact/Echoes?) as a Featured Synch.

I do plan to try and spend a little more time in the Sync Ark than I have in the past, but from what I’ve noticed in the postings on the occasions that I’ve visited, there appears to still be a good amount of activity going on. There’s new talk of the hope of another “shared” project, which is an exiting thought, whether I’m included or not.

I stepped aside from posting on the Sync Ark a few years ago, as I discovered that all I was doing was getting aggravated at the direction I perceived syncing to be going. People were coming up with syncs overnight. Large quantities of so-called “valid” syncs were being posted by people left and right, as if all it takes is your favourite album and your favourite film slapped together, and by golly it’s just gotta work! It just seemed to me that any hope of validation of a true art form was being crushed, either by people who just wanted to be in the spotlight for the moment, or by people who just didn’t get it — or both. I got a little preachy, as I tend to do sometimes (it’s a weakness I admit to) and I figured it’d be better for me to make an exit than to make an enemy, or two, or 70.

Sadly, in my absence, I ended up missing out on many good conversations, and missed out on possibly being included in projects such as Shared Fantasia, which, by the way, once I finally got a copy of on VHS, I thought was very well executed by everyone involved. Each syncer took thoughtful consideration as to which audio tracks to use for their particular portion of the film. I was truly impressed with most of it . . . and jealous … but in a good way. I just like to see care given to any project.

Quickly though, getting back to the first question about the state of the sync community — from what I’ve gathered, especially in some of the fairly recent board postings, the person who once referred to himself as “O” has been excommunicated. I do admire the kind of “grief” (if that’s the right word) that you seem to feel in the ejection of a member of the sync community, as it shows that it wasn’t an act you committed arbitrarily, or hastily. To tell you the truth, the “O” character was another reason why I kept away from the Sync Ark for so long. I saw nothing but hard times with a cat like that. So, I believe his dismissal was a good move, for the health of the community, and hopefully for himself. I’m sure it’s with the same idea that any good church would have in the excommunication of a member. The idea isn’t to sentence the person to eternal banishment, but with the hope of “repentance” and renewed commitment in peace.

MJ: I think you nailed it there, a good chunk of my ambivalence about being the benevolent dictator. It does often feel like a conflict with my own “absolute free speech” values, I guess. But I do think it highlights some of the negatives about the Internet itself, that rather messy interchange of commerce and bashing and just general bad behavior that sometimes passes for the exchange of ideas. And it can certainly be a slippery slope trying to balance it all.

How do you balance the feedback and contributions you get to your own site? Any major challenges you’ve faced in running a synchronicity site?

S: Since my site is not interactive in the same way as is the Sync Ark, I don’t have that much to really keep up with. Any harsh stuff is either discarded immediately, or if it’s interesting enough, it’s posted in the LETTERS section. I’ll typically post any feedback that I find unusual or interesting, and most of it is positive.

Strangely enough, I have received some hate mail — mostly from people who, obviously out of ignorance, think I have to man the website at all times, and feel it necessary to inform me that I have no life. Of course, it makes me wonder why they’re looking for something they consider such a waste of time. I suppose it’s similar to people who hate Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh but listen to their shows anyway.

The way I handled this one guy who was particularly abusive, was by posting his emails on the website for everyone to read if they so desired. I also included his full email address and encouraged anyone who was willing, to send a “love letter” to mister what’s-his-face with my blessing. Well, it appears that after a few months of receiving messages from folks telling him they think he’s an idiot, he grew weary of it, and apologized, begging me to remove his hateful letters from my website. So I did. Afterall, who am I not to forgive one who asks it of me?

The only other real challenge has been putting up with dispicable cyberpirates. You and I both have had problems with these lazy good-for-nothings copying and pasting our years of dedication and hardwork to a webpage design program and publishing it to the Internet with their names pasted all over it! Every now and then I still do a little Google search, using key words, to see if anyone has wholesale ripped off either of us … again.

MJ: How would you say the hobby of synching has affected the rest of your life? Baker and Karl both mentioned a lot of artistic and philosophic ideas, as well as new music and movies that the hobby exposed them to. Are there any stand-out experiences that synching hit you with, maybe, that you wouldn’t have run across without the hobby?

S: I can certainly understand why someone with such a vivid imagination and writing skills as Baker, and someone as sensitive and observant as Karl, would find syncing to be philosophically interesting. If I hadn’t chosen to relegate syncing in my own mind, to the level of simple entertainment, I might find myself philosophizing over it as well. Baker has some mind boggling sync doctrines that I have only recently begun to get my head around. I believe these “doctrines” help Baker to think very deeply and concisely about what he is doing, and how he plans to execute any given sync project he’s working on. He’s quite the pioneer and trendsetter in the sync community, and I admire his work as well as his humility. Again, because of my lack of participation in the Sync Ark for such a long time, I’m unable to recall any sync projects created by Karl Tune. Perhaps there’s bunches of them. Perhaps there’s none. And if the former, I’d really like to experience at least his favourite sync creation or discovery, as he was an early viewer of Darkest City, and had so many good things to say about it. However, if the latter is so, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, I think someone who is willing to observe other people’s sync ideas is a rather important, convenient, and useful resource. There is in fact, an art to sync observation. I believe an effective sync observer and critic should be able to honestly assess a sync, and either encourage in one direction or discourage in another. I say this also in defense of the many who prefer to simply enjoy experiencing syncs that others have created, rather than making syncs themselves. I’ve heard some negative things about “watchers” that I think is rather unfair. Afterall, if everyone was an artist, who’d hang the paintings of others on their walls? Everyone would be too busy trying to get someone to notice their work. Artists need patrons, and patrons need artists. It’s an important, symbiotic relationship.

I’ve most definitely been exposed to a good amount of new music, and perhaps a few new films here and there, because of syncing. I even find myself watching movies differently. While I’m watching and experiencing the original film at one level, the intended level, there’s a different level in mind that’s busy assessing whether or not this film, or a portion of it, would be a good candidate for syncing. This is a little frustrating for me since, as I’ve mentioned previously, I have very little time for this sort of creative activity, though I wish I had more. However, if I do get the opportunity to once again delve into the creative aspect of syncing, I believe the information I’ve been storing up so far, could be quite helpful for future sync projects that I have in mind.

Finally, then there’s the contact with people whom I otherwise would’ve probably never met — the online sync community, even if that contact (so far) has been much less than someone such as Baker or Karl, who’ve remained rather active for many years therein. And then also, in the regular world, there’s the little thrill that I get when someone who enjoys good music and movies, after learning that I like Pink Floyd music, asks me if I’ve ever heard about the cool combination of DSOTM with TWoOz … which leads to a knowing grin on my face, and the surprised look on theirs when I display my website on their computer, and they respond with a “Yeah! I’ve been to this site before. This is yours?” It’s sort of an odd kind of fame, but it’s fun just the same.

MJ: On the question of internet “fame”, you mentioned earlier that your site had been referenced by TCM in particular, but I also recall your site mentioned in a few of the articles and reports that the Arkive was in, back in 1997. What do you think of your internet fame, and have you had a lot of contact with the writers/reporters of these stories, or do they just reference your site without talking to you?

S: In the same way that you must feel good when the Sync Ark is referenced in numerous articles, and is linked to on numerous other websites because of it’s integrity, it’s craftsmanship, and the amount of usable information, I too get a sense of gratification, in the feeling of a job well done for my own site, when the Def List is mentioned in an article, in a chat board posting, linked to on a site that I previously knew nothing about, and of course when it gets the attention of a well-known television station. Another instance of my site being linked to without my prior knowledge, while still giving me a rather happy sense, was discovering it linked to on Wikipedia, on the topic of the DSOTR sync. It’s also referenced on the site, specializing in Urban Legends.

I’ve been interviewed twice concerning DSOTR by so-called respectable venues — once by Gabe Honig from VH1 television, and another time by Dan Stubbs, from the British music magazine “Q” (not to be confused with “Q” magazine published in the US, which has nothing to do with music), but I’ve seen neither article in magazine, nor on television. It may be that since I neither watch VH1, nor subscribe to “Q” magazine, I’ve simply missed it in both directions. Other than these two instances though, I’ve mainly discovered my site being linked to on sites, the webmaster of which I’ve never spoken. I don’t mind of course, but it would be cool to actually see the TV and/or magazine interviews come to fruition.

MJ: To jump back (again), to that experience of plagiarized bits of websites, have you heard much from those who think synching itself is a “derivative” or “uncreative” art form? I guess I’m always curious how people think about copyright, that’s certainly become one of my own interests/obsessions. And I think it is a tough thing sometimes to balance, especially when synching as a hobby does kind of advocate making use of copyrighted materials in ways that the original creators didn’t foresee (and some might object to, if they’re control freaks).

S: I do believe in the right of the creator of a work of art, be it film, music, fine art, photograph, etc., to have the last word on how his work is to be handled or reformed. However, I think most artists themselves, if there were some way of mutual compensation, or if they happened to have any interest intellectually in it, wouldn’t mind having their songs sync’d up to films or their films to songs. Afterall, there are plenty of “rap” tracks that either have some classic rock riff as the backbone to their urban poetry, or they include soundbites of one sort or another of someone else’s song scattered throughout. And it seems that there are some, but very few lawsuits against rappers for this practice. I don’t think of syncing as being similar to rap though. I think syncing is actually more akin to magazine collage, only syncs move and have sound. But similarly, the collage artist typically takes images and texts from magazines or other publications, along with other found objects, and perhaps their own original work, and arranges them on a surface, in a new and heretofore unforeseen manner, creating something new from something old, or previously existing. So, is syncing derivative? I would say yes, but so are Spoofs and Parodies. There are in fact Parody laws that allow an artist, such as “Weird” Al Yankovich, to use the exact tune of a previously existing and popular song, and the exact rhythmic arrangement of words, only inserting new words that make the song say things that have little to nothing to do with the original intent, usually in a comical manner. Mad Magazine makes fun of existing, popular films, and the law allows even for film artists to parody the same in the form of motion picture. Think also of “fan films” such as those created by fans of Star Wars. It’s a little different, in that in these there are typically new situations, but all of the characters come along with their preconceived attributes. George Lucas probably could make a big stink out of it, and he may actually have, but one can still to this day find “extensions” to the Star Wars legacy on the Internet, as published films. These illegal videos haven’t been removed Perhaps some day they will, but it’s things like this, and the fact that it’s such a global thing — this remixing and “mashing” as it’s called, of previously existing works of art. The Grateful Dead is a fine case of the creator of a work of art not being overly concerned about the copyrights. When the band was together, they used to freely allow fans to record and even to distribute taped concerts.

As far as opposition to syncing, I’ve had very few people give me a hard time about it, but this may not be the case with some of the more prolific syncers out there. While I can understand to a degree, why someone might consider a “straight” sync as being uncreative, though for a good sync, it takes at least someone who is keenly observant, I can’t understand how one would think that multi-tracked and multi-leveled syncs are uncreative. Actually I received a pre-recorded DVD sync that has DSOTR – a straight sync, with overlapping sound effects and royalty free video footage. It’s a rather interesting and new twist on an old sync that definitely took a lot of time to put together.

The only “legal” way of syncing presently is the instructional method, where a person says “use this album and this film, and start the CD at this point”. There’s absolutely nothing illegal about that, which is why I get such a kick out of people who want to insist that Pink Floyd really did DSOTR on purpose, but because of the fear of copyright repercussions, didn’t mention anything about it. That’s absolutely ridiculous! There’s not a thing in the world that a copyright owner could do about a band that says “Hey, if you like, you can play our album to this film, and it works like an alternate soundtrack”.

Similarly related, I don’t know if it’s actually illegal to simply make a pre-recorded sync, which is really the necessary method incorporated in the case of multi-layered, multi-tracked syncs, if it’s done for personal use. Afterall it isn’t illegal to make a copy of a CD or DVD that you already own, for personal use. And so long as people aren’t selling these pre-recorded syncs, I don’t know for sure if anyone would really even care if folks traded their “wares”, so to speak. But I do believe if we’re ever going to make any headway in this artform, we’re just going to have to start doing it this way — recording them and trading them. Even in the case of the people who were selling syncs on DVD, their houses weren’t raided by the FBI. They were given a written warning to “cease and desist” all activity. In some cases, they’re given the warning at least twice! Most likely after that warning, it’s the 3rd strike, and you’re out. The Feds come-a-crashin’ down the door. But again, we’re talking about parties who were most definitely selling the copyrighted materials for profit, not simply trading them, at no profit. Afterall, it’s not illegal to resell a used CD or DVD, though, of course, neither of them has been altered.

I’d really like to get my more complicated or obscure syncs into the hands of fellow syncers, such as Darkest City, or Glass Side of the Moon, or even a little project I made using an old Popeye cartoon, sync’d with “Hello! Hooray!” by Alice Cooper and Devo’s version of “Satisfaction”, but I can’t afford the stamps. I’d definitely be more encouraged to send them out if, in turn, someone else had one of their own pre-recorded syncs to trade back with me. Perhaps we could give each other honest assessments of the other’s work and vision.

MJ: You touched on a lot of the points I find fascinating about copyright issues in general. Depending on who you listen to, things like making personal copies of CDs aren’t legal at all. The RIAA, the trade group for the record labels, has “gone both ways” on that exact thing, actually. In court discussions they’ve allowed that people are allowed to do that, but their own website used to say that that wasn’t allowed (it may still, I haven’t checked lately).

I think that’s what really interests me about copyright, that it’s really about control, rather than creativity. As copyright has gotten extended over the years, it’s become less about making sure creators are compensated as it has about whomever “owns” the rights having that absolute control. You mentioned that you do support an author’s ability to control how their work was used. If an artist requested that their work not be used in a synch, would you pull your ideas using that work?

S: That’s a good point, and I agree as far as one who is simply the owner of the copyright, rather than the creator of the work. It’s a bit ridiculous. Think of it this way. Michael Jackson owns virtually every Beatles song. Every time you buy a Beatles album, you’re paying Michael Jackson. Everytime a Beatles song is played on the radio, Jacko gets paid. Paul McCartney, from what I understand, gets paid via his work with Wings and from projects afterward, plus, of course, all his investments, including, his owning the rights to Buddy Holly’s music. I seriously doubt that copyright ownership laws are going to diminish. It’s property that someone paid for, just like a house, a car, real estate, or a cat.

I believe that I might acquiesce, if indeed the originating artist insisted that I not use his material in a sync. I can’t help but respect the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into creating anything original. I know what it’s like to go through that process. And for someone to simply snatch my “baby” away and do with her what he wills is a rather chilling and disturbing thought. There are time limits to keep people from using a particular original work, but afterwards it’s basically up for grabs. I think that perhaps the time limits are too long, but that’s neither here nor there, and nothing that I can change. However … the more I think about any possible scenario of original creativity vs the “other guy” doing something new with that creativity, and the reasons for the exclusive and absolute right of the artist over his work, the more I see what appears to be valid reasons against it. So I’ll have to step down for now until I actually study the matter further. Otherwise I’m simply speaking out of ignorance, giving knee-jerk, emotionally based answers, rather than thoughtful, informed answers.

At the same time though, when we’re talking about syncing, the way I’m suggesting, no one is making money from it, so does it really count as far as copyright infringement? People have been recording music from the radio, or from their LP records onto audio cassette, and programs from TV onto VHS tape for many, many years, all to be used privately at home, or in a car, and not for profit. However, of course, I could be totally wrong. It’s definitely a complicated issue, and I’d be willing to bet you know a great deal more about it than I do.

MJ: Yeah, it certainly is a complicated issue, and puts a general damper certainly on commercializing a/v synching. One of these days, I mean to do at least one (maybe more) of my “Arkiver’s Reflections” blog entries on the whole copyright thing, just to share some thoughts and also some of what I’ve picked up in reading up on the issue.

I do think though that it is something that the community always has to keep in mind, especially when the boundaries between commercial and non-commercial start to blur. Obviously, we are all also fans, and, I’d say, at least for the most part, fans who purchase/support the artists doing the creative work that we’re making use of. I personally think they’d be crazy to try and crack down on the synching community, when so much of what we do is to share that enthusiasm and interest in the very material they’re trying to sell people. With the recent decline of market/mindshare that the entertainment seems to be facing, it would seem to me that they would be fairly receptive to the kinds of activities we do, in the synching community.

S: One thing we have to remember is that syncing, with the exception of the “instructional” method, is illegal art. That’s the way it is for now, and unless copyright law changes, it will remain a kind of criminal activity. However, so is driving 5 miles over the speed limit, but not too many cops will pull you over for that. If they did, the case would probably be thrown out of court and the officer would receive some harsh words from his superior for being “petty”.

With that said, I’m not really personally afraid about trading syncs, especially via a “closed” system such as the Sync Ark. Certainly, the Sync Ark is a public forum, but the trading would be between those within the community. It’s not something that would really be monitored by copyright owners, based especially upon what I’ve seen occurring with the people who either have in the past, or even to this day continue to sell syncs online. It seems that copyright owners, from what I’ve gathered, are looking to prosecute people who are either publishing copyrighted material on the Internet, or selling it.

Even so, as I mentioned earlier, I probably intend to publish some of my own short syncs to a venue such as YouTube. There’s already several syncs out there on YouTube. The only thing I can see the copyright owners doing would be to force YouTube to delete said published sync, and perhaps issue a “verbal” warning to the source of the publication. But so far, no one’s deleted the ones already published to YouTube. So it seems that for the most part, like you said, Arkiver, it has more to do with control (and ultimately money) than with creativity. So long as money isn’t changing hands, there doesn’t seem to be too much fuss going on.

On the plus side, I ended up “meeting” this guy (I believe through a link sent to me by Baker B) named Rich Aucoin. Rich is a Canadian singer/songwriter, who had already previously recorded an album, but after discovering the DSOTR and other syncs via the Sync Ark and the Def List, decided to see if he could sync a film to his own album. He used “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”. The way he did it though, was to actually “trim” the music slightly to fit the film, and along the way, he added little sound effects here and there. I’m in the midst of working up an interview with him, but he’s on tour at the moment. His music’s actually pretty good. For anyone interested they may visit “myspace dot com slash r-i-c-h-a-u-c-o-i-n” . The full version of the sync is posted on his site, and is getting quite a bit of interest. If you choose to watch the sync, once you start the video, it takes several minutes for it to start, because there’s a bunch of black screen with what sounds like Rich reading something for a rather long time. If you’ll look at the playback bar at the bottom of the miniscreen, there’s two dots, just click on the first dot to slightly advance the video.

Another good thing publicity-wise, is that, as I previously mentioned, the folks at TCM have, in some sense already tipped the hat to syncing, in a rather large and public way, by simulcasting DSOTM with TWoOz on two or three occasions. And in a more local setting, the aforementioned planetariums, midnight movie showings, and sync showings and discussions in classrooms from high school to college are helping to spread the word as well. Will these efforts make syncing legal eventually? Only time will tell.

MJ: Indeed it will. So, moving on… what lessons or ideas would you want to share with someone new to the idea of synching, about how to approach this hobby? This community?

S: I would suggest that a person approach the hobby of syncing with a sense of wonder, expectation, and in the case of manipulated or multitracked syncs, a sense of creativity — all the while with the heart of a treasure hunter. Syncing is a hobby with unexpected turns, and enjoyable results, as well as frustrating results, depending on just how picky and persistent you are. In all honesty, one may expect to see some syncs in any possible combination of film and music. I doubt there is a single film in existence that will not sync at least a few times here and there with any album in existence. The part where the treasure hunter’s heart comes in, is where you’re not just looking for a shiny coin amidst a sea of sand, you’re looking for a treasure chest full of Pieces of Eight! You’re either looking for the natural sync that will nearly rival DSOTR, or you’re the sync-artist who has chosen some music and some imagery from a film to create a fresh perspective on both media, and to place the one experiencing the sync into an altered state of consciousness, and a profound sense of “Wow! This is cool!”

The thing to remember though is the old cliche, “never give up”. I’d also add, “don’t compromise”. Be prepared for lots of experimentation and lots of failed attempts. Be prepared for plenty of boredom as well as plenty of excitement. Sifting through hours and hours of film footage, trial and error with song tracks, or whole CD playthroughs can be tedious work, but if you’re willing to stick it out, and able to keep yourself from just grabbing the first thing that comes along, shouting “I’ve found a sync”, you’ll actually find something worthwhile not only to yourself, but to others as well. The old saying “nothing worthwhile comes easy” is true in just about any possible scenario you can think of, and it certainly applies to syncing. Don’t ever think to yourself that a weekend with your CD player and a DVD or VHS player is going to give you an instant and successful sync, because it won’t. You’ll only succeed in being an uncreative, time-wasting, oblivious and self-important nuisance who does nothing but add yet another forgettable, so-called legitimate “sync” to the unfathomable depths of the list of syncs on the Sync Ark.

I would suggest to one new to the sync community to jump right in, or ease in — whichever your style is, with enthusiasm, and a willing-to-learn-and-to-contribute spirit. For the most part, the folks in the sync community are friendly and talkative, and love to share ideas, and for that matter, to share projects with one another. Be ready to think inside the box first, to learn the box well, and then to step through the door like Major Tom, into a world of new ideas and methods. We should want to keep our sync secrets to ourselves only long enough to make our project, and then put it out there for everyone to see, and to be willing to discuss with others our methods. And if it’s really and truly cool and innovative, then others will probably want to follow the new trend, and perhaps innovate and improve on it as well. With this sort of philosophy, who knows what syncing will look like in the years from now?

MJ: Is there anything about that “road ahead” for the synching community that you foresee?

S: Any artistic movement that stagnates, refuses to grow (either actively or passively), or doesn’t dare to take chances is bound to fail. Syncing is, in my opinion, no longer in the infant years. I believe it’s moving into another stage, and with this new level of maturity, comes a new responsibility. If we’re going to mature with this emerging artform, we’re going to have to stop just trying to get a “quickie”, so to speak. In line with some things I’ve said or hinted at before, if we’re all so busy just posting some new sync which is touted as being (and I say sarcastically), “just as good or better than DSOTR”; if we’re so busy hunting for the same old thing, just another repeated playthrough sync, then we’re not growing with the artform, and we’re going to be like immature little children, who are so busy looking for the puppy, that we didn’t notice it grew up to be a big dog. Some of us are either in the thinking process, or are actually in the motions of taking syncing to the next level.

I say none of the following as a harsh criticism toward you, Mike, nor to denigrate the Sync Ark as a website, because I think you’re a fine webmaster and that the Sync Ark is a fine establishment. With that said, personally, I wish we could nuke the entire database of syncs on the Sync Ark, and start all over again. But this time, we start out being honest and truly assessing what’s actually “allowed” to be on it, and we do it as responsible, serious artists and treasure hunters. It doesn’t mean that all of the previous syncs could not be re-added to the Sync Ark, it just means that they would be added at a much slower pace, obviously — one that allows more people to actually try the sync out — and only if it’s truly been assessed, even graded by peers in the sync community. I don’t think that the discoverer or maker of a sync should have the right to rate his or her own discovery or creation. I mean, anyone can see that almost every entry on the Sync Ark is graded with an “A” or a “B”. How absurd, and impossible is that? Almost any child in a classroom will give himself a high grade, but it takes an unbiased and concerned teacher to give him a real grade. The grade isn’t meant to be nice or mean. It’s meant to convey and to protect truth and reality. And while math must be graded objectively, since 2+2 must always = 4, no matter how one feels about it on any given day, arts and entertainment are not quite as rigid, and can be judged or graded a bit more subjectively. Therefore, I believe that syncs should be graded by no less than three people (again not counting the submitter), and certainly more “judges” would be encouraged. I believe there should be a criteria for grading a sync should be drawn up, based on it’s general feel or mood, attention keeping ability, obviousness, number of word to action syncs, etc. And with the three (or more) scores combined, an average grade could be drawn up and assigned to each submission. Of course I can hear wails of “syncnazi” going on in the background already, but I think this is just being realistic and honest, and that it provides a protection for the artform, while preserving and setting a standard for its integrity. The bottom line is this: If you have to strain your brain to figure out why it’s supposedly syncing; if you have to force yourself to think figuratively in order to “see” the syncs; if you have to be told what it is you’re looking for; if you find yourself sitting in your chair, staring at the screen for an inordinate amount of time, waiting and waiting for something, anything to happen, and hoping against hope that it will; and especially if the only person who thinks it’s a sync is the finder/creator, then is it really a valid sync?

With all that said, I don’t run the Synchronicity Arkive and have absolutely no authority over it, so my opinion is merely that. However, I think that something like this is the only way to get anywhere worth going within this community. Otherwise, I believe we’re simply stagnating, and syncing as we know it will eventually slide into oblivion. The only thing that will be left is DSOTR and JABTI/Echoes. And then some other snot-nosed kids will come along and see one of the aforementioned syncs, and do the same, messy thing that we’ve done … or do what we should have done. Or perhaps a new sync community will have to emerge — (either now or then) — one that’s not content in playing with crayons and fingerpaints for the rest of their lives. No one likes to hear a “naysayer”, but sometimes things need to be said. In the words of the Pink Floyd song “Keep Talking”, “it doesn’t have to be this way”. There can be a bright future for syncing.

Now I’ll come down from my pulpit … I told you I could get a little preachy.

MJ: I think you made a lot of valid points there about the community and the Arkive itself. And I guess I take them in the spirit of good criticism, meant to improve the object being criticized, rather than denigrate. I’d guess the folks who would call you syncnazi would perceive the comments as derogatory.

That being said, I’ve wrestled with some of the technical challenges on how to make things like that work. Part of the problem is that identity on the net can end up a very flexible, difficult to verify thing. And how to actually tie in the voting/rating, especially when identity itself is hard to verify… well, it presents a lot of challenges. It is all stuff I’m thinking about though. In one sense, I did kind of already “nuke and recreate” the database, when moving to Drupal for the Arkive, rather than writing code myself… but that makes some of the other things a bit more difficult to accomplish then, as I’m working with stuff that I didn’t write, and don’t always understand completely.

I do treat the “Featured Synchs” area a bit more protectively I guess, and also rely on those that get heavy comments (comparatively) to “separate the wheat from the chaff,” so to speak….

Are you planning any changes or expansion to your own Definitive List site? Obviously, everyone’s big challenge is the time it takes to do that… I know that seems to be, by and large, what holds me back on a lot of those more… grandiose ideas for the Arkive. I guess I’m just wondering, what do you see in store for the Definitive List, as a site and as part of the community?

S: As far as where the Definitive List is going … I suppose I don’t know really what else to do with the Def List. I’m not really into making it more interractive. Afterall, an established, and well guarded list of syncs is simply there to be useable information to whomever has interest. But I have been thinking about showcasing my own sync projects, as well as any “natural” finds of others that I think are fun enough to suggest to site patrons.

MJ: Well, Stego, thanks again for taking the time to do this little interview. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the synching community?

S: I suppose the exciting thing is that we’re all here at the beginning of something that could potentially last a very long time, and could turn into a whole new type of public entertainment. Maybe when we’re all old and grey, our grandchildren will be watching shows on TV that are the direct result of a/v syncing. Maybe they’ll know we had something to do with it. I think that’d be kind of cool. I suppose any sort of pioneer doesn’t really know the impact that his or her actions might have on the future. I hope our actions have a positive one on the future of entertainment and in thinking about art in general, and who knows what other sphere’s this hobby of ours may affect? But if nothing else, we had fun in our little adventures, and met some interesting people on the way.

Thanks again, Archiver, for taking some time with me. Best wishes to you and yours, and of course to Synchronicity Arkive.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s