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Internet Killed the Video Star: Redefining Music Videos in the Digital Age

MTV stopped playing music videos over a decade ago, leaving a huge void that has since been filled by the Internet. Nine out of the top 10 most viewed clips on YouTube are music videos. Meanwhile, a new wave of online channels, such as Vevo and ZUUS, has also opened up for such content. Artists have completely embraced this switch from TVs to the Internet by increasingly introducing fully interactive content involving Choose Your Own Adventures, multiple camera angles and backdrops, MS Paint, and even Google Map hacks.


In 2007, Vincent Morisset created what many consider to be the first-ever interactive music video for Arcade Fire’s “Neon Bible.” As lead singer Win Butler performs the song, viewers can animate various parts of his body with the cursor of their mouse.

“I thought it could be interesting to implement a computer-specific layer to it since all the kids would watch it anyways online,” said Morisett in a video by The Creators Project.

Nearly four years and countless projects later, Morisset has debuted another dynamic visual experience for the band’s newest single, “Reflektor.”

“I’ve been really interested in going beyond traditional control like the mouse and the keyboard and just explore other interactions that feel more visceral and direct,” he explained.



Just A Reflektor” is an interactive film where viewers can cast visual projections via their mouse, smartphone, or tablet. Through WebGL -- a technology that enables hardware-accelerated graphics in a web browser -- data from a smartphone or tablet’s location is used to change the video’s look and feel in real time.

“By connecting the device like our mobile in our hand to the computer screen, we create the illusion that we’re projecting images from our hand to the screen,” said Morisset. “I try to make the technology disappear so that it feels like something a bit surreal or magical.”

Arcade Fire isn’t the only band experimenting with interactive film. Rapper and Internet artist Yung Jake pushes boundaries in his HTML5 multi-browser-window experience for “” The interactive rap video hijacks the viewer’s computer screen through a series of choreographed pop up windows.

Last month, Queens of the Stone Age unveiled their HTML5 interactive film for “The Vampyre of Time and Memory,” directed by Kii Arens and Jason Trucco, designed by Darknet, and produced by The Creators Project. The viewer can choose where they want to go in the alternative reality by navigating with their mouse or keyboard, essentially directing their own experience.

In the same vein, Chairlift’s video for “Met Before” also allows viewers to control their journey. Viewers can determine the outcome of the video by clicking on arrows to choose which path they want the main character to take.

Over the next few weeks we’ll explore the manifestation of this interactive music video trend, from an interview with the CEO of music video network ZUUS, to a behind-the-scenes look at how the band Big Data transforms viewers’ Facebook timelines into a music video. Stay tuned.

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