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Listening to Vine

by Ethan Tussey

by Jennifer Proctor for IN MEDIA RES

Vine, the mobile app for creating 6-second looping videos, prioritizes the visual. By default, when viewing a Vine on the web, the audio is muted, and on mobile devices, the user must actively turn on the volume. Yet the sound is one of my favorite aspects of the Vine experience, especially in those instances when the audio is incidental and accidental.

Sound animates Vines in a variety of ways. In “home movie” Vines, the sound often possesses an ethereal quality, capturing trafficwind blowing through leaves, or oblivious conversations of passers-by. Volume can shift erratically as the user repositions their mobile device throughout the recording process. When looped, this soundscape naturally becomes rhythmic and percussive, taking on the affective quality of sound poetry or musique concrète.

In animation, the incidental background sounds can denote authenticity -- that the animation was, indeed, created within the app and not with another piece of software and then illicitly uploaded to Vine. Here, the sound underscores the artistry and craft of the animator as a Vine artist, as with 4 Colors' series (left video).

In other cases, the near-perfect looping of the sound reduces the harshness of the visual cut as the Vine loop restarts, feeding into the continuity of the viewing experience and diminishing the "seam." In “music video” Vines such as those by Nicholas Megalis, this unifying effect invites longer and repeated viewing (and earworms).

On the other hand, the abrupt transitions in sound that accompany jump cuts or radical visual shifts can punctuate humor, as with the absurd comedy of Will Sasso’s lemon-expunging series. Here, the grotesque and intimate quality of the sound is perhaps more powerful than the gross-out effect of the imagery; listening to the series without visuals might be the more interesting experience. Similarly, in this Vine, an explosive crunch clinches the hilariously unfortunate conclusion.

Clever attention to creating sound bridges across Vine “shots,” which are captured by (often awkwardly) pressing the device’s screen and then releasing, transports Vines into the realm of cinematic sound design and streamlines visual continuity. In actor Adam Goldberg’s experimental Vine shorts, the use of easily matched guitar pedal effects creates the illusion of continuous music (or abstract soundscapes) across cuts. Goldberg's use of sound is Vine at its most cinematic.







Vine and Sound

A vine video

from SOLO 6 SEGUNDOS #5 (2013)
Creator: 4 Colors
Distributor: Vimeo
Posted by Ethan Tussey