Friday, November 21, 2008

Battle of the Album Covers

If you want high quality:

Director: Ugly Pictures (Rohitash Rao)
Running Time: 2:34
Source: YouTube & ManvsMagnet

Battle of the Album Covers wasn't intended to be an online success. It was a commissioned piece of work for the annual charity event in New York City called "Battle of the Ad Bands." Ugly Pictures co-founder Rohitash Rao had created a two and a half minute film the year before, where it featured people fighting in an alleyway with different instruments. For the 2006 show, Rohitash Rao wanted to go a different route. He worked with designer/artist ManvsMagnet (Matt Smithson) to create a film not with figurines, but with the album covers themselves.

The two minute film has a simple plot: the album covers fight against each other, and there's multiple fights to boot. Dead Kennedy's logo versus Van Halen's logo. AC/DC's cannon shooting down Def Leppard's building. Rick James shooting down Billy Joel. Ozzy Osbourne's Bark at the Moon biting the heads off of people. It's hilarious and wacky, styled in the way of Monty Python's images ala Holy Grail fame... meeting Celebrity Deathmatch.

“The reaction was so amazing — nobody could hear the sound because people were cheering so loud,” says Ugly Pictures’s co-founder Rohitash Rao in a interview with Boston newspaper The Phoenix. “Minutes after the screening was over, people demanded a copy. The next day, we tried to put it on YouTube and somebody had already put it on there.”

Ugly Pictures, ManvsMagnet and Rohitash Rao had no issues with their film being shown online before they did. Because of this, in 2006, the video became an online hit. Thousands of plays occurred and it was a top watched video on YouTube and the internet. It's still a viral favorite with many people, particularly in the teen and college age groups.

It's not very surprising that the video was already online before the creators themselves put it up. In this day and age, when a film is shown to the public and a high interest grows because of it, the video will be online within a couple of hours. But in the case of "Battle of the Album Covers," this happened before the creator's consent. It happened without the creators knowing this was already up.

In the film industry right now, there is a hot debate still brewing about the issue of copyright laws and the internet. People torrent films in the theaters right now, in order to avoid spending money. Industry folk blame illegal downloading to the lack of ticket sales and revenue occurring in the business right now. It's understandable how that applies to features, as millions of dollars are spent on some high-production quality movies. But does that philosophy apply to shorts?

Filmmakers have the right to put them on YouTube themselves. YouTube even has their own Screening Room for those who wish to watch high quality films made by reputable directors. But are filmmakers losing money because of online marketing? They are getting their name out, yes, as well as their film, but they are not receiving any kind of pension in return for their hardwork. Online fame leads to exposure, but no instant gratitude in cold hard cash.

So are these short film makers gaining any money to begin with? Does the nature of the short film industry bank on artistic license more than money making? Do the issues of copyright law and control apply to the short film industry? Is it because the shorts are so small in time, there is no need to be riled up about the lack of consent of showing a short?

As a filmmaker, I feel like those who make shorts should not only receive recognition for their hard work, but some sort of compensation in return for the hard work they do. In regards to "Battle of the Album Covers," I can see why Ugly Pictures had no issues with this short -- they were commissioned from the start to make this. I wonder what other directors would say about this issue, and if artistic consent does apply to shorts as it does to features.

Also, if you are wondering what the running order of album covers were in this short, here's the list.


Anonymous said...

Helloo Trinnyyy!
Well,, first off I have to say yay for the video. It had some of my favourite albums in there AND ended on Master of Puppets!!

I agree with you on a number of points, hon. I think that movie big wigs have looked down on the internet at a viable medium for too long. Going to the cinema to watch any movie costs about £7 just for the ticket and then a further £5 for any sort of decent sized refreshment, so I understand the appeal of sitting at home on their laptop and watching a film. I myself watch American tv shows such as True Blood over the internet simply as they don't get shown on English tv. With regard to film shorts, I'm in favour of everyone involved in getting credit for their work. The "Battle of the Album Covers" short is fun and accessible, but also very intelligent. This must have taken a lot of time to produce, and who in all honesty wouldn't want their hard work to be recognised?

huggles from Poppy xoxo

Anonymous said...

Hey honey!

I'm really bad at reviewing, so what I write is gonna have to do..

"Thousands of plays occurred and it was a top watched video on YouTube and the internet. It's still a viral favorite with many people, particularly in the teen and college age groups."
Agreed, this type of films appeal mainly to the young generation, probably due to their irony and cynism. It somehow reminded me of the Family Guy animated TV-series.

Also, "Do the issues of copyright law and control apply to the short film industry? Is it because the shorts are so small in time, there is no need to be riled up about the lack of consent of showing a short?" In my opinion, yes. Copyright laws apply to any type of industries, from music to filmmaking, to books and so on. Except that in some cases, the filmmaker (or musician, author) doesn't seem to have anything against sharing it with the world, and, to tell the truth, it feels kind of pathetic when large companies and brands suspend videos from YouTube because they felt their "property was disrespected".

Well-written article!

Anonymous said...

I agree with many of your points about the internet and short film makers. There is no way around it with the internet now - things are going to be "leaked" and viewed or heard earlier than the creator's intent, but this does not make the circumstances acceptable. This raises all sorts of issues of intellectual property and the digital age, etc.

Well written article, too. The writer does a good job of covering the bases and explaining the arguments on this issue, as well as presenting a personal viewpoint.

Middento said...

It's worth pointing out here that this very blog dealt with this issue obliquely. Check out Jeremy's posting on the short film God. The original posting contained a YouTube version of the short, but writer-director John August posted a comment asking us to remove it (which we did). As such, Trinnyallica's post serves as a nice rebuttal -- perhaps to ALL the postings that we've published here without thinking.

Unknown said...

I will definately be looking this up. The subject is dear to my heart (rock music) and the message behind how it was released is well-founded.

She Who Shall Not Be Named said...

hahah totally true. on internet... how i love you.

Anonymous said...

One issue that is raised, is the apparent desire to destroy something for the sake of destruction. Why is it that humans create art, only to take such fascinating pleasure in its collapse.
Is it jealousy, of the art or the person, or mere reflection on the ultimate fatality of life?

Anonymous said...

Tricialee, you only like this video because Metalica wins... am I right?

I enjoyed this film a lot. I had to show it to my friend immediately after and I caught even more things that flew by too quickly the first time.

Nighthawk Moonshadow said...

AHAHAA I could so tell at the end why this was a pick YOU made. This little short was pretty damn funny; very graphic but that itself made it funnier. The best part was probably Ozzy going nuts on all the other covers.

Anonymous said...

I think that people who watch Torrents of videos - or at least me, haha - wouldn't go to the movies to begin with, so the movies not actually losing money.

I don't see how short films could make money... I mean, people don't pay to see them, and it seems like the only way short films would make money is for people to pay producers to make them. And in that case it doesn't matter if it gets leaked or not because the producers are making money either way.

But I know nothing about this, I could be totally wrong.

Trinnyallica said...

Am I really that shallow? Can people perceive me that much?!

According to Middento, when I saw him in his office hours... apparently, I am.

But come on, you can't tell me you didn't see that coming a mile away. What other album cover is big and well known and as graves in it? Granted, it wasn't obvious for ME, miss metallica woman, so at the end I was DYING so bad, I had to make this my post.

But again, there was a reason WHY I had to bring it up. The whole issue of short films being distributed online before the actual creator can put it up. I mean, it's a double edged sword -- good for the viral success, bad because, well, the director was not in control of how his short was shown!

It's just kind of my shallow reason that Metallica won in the end. :P IS THAT A CRIME?? (Maybe.)

Anonymous said...

First of all, this is one of my all-time favorite shorts. Saw this a few years ago on "Collegehumor," and it doesn't take a music buff to laugh like an idiot at the sheer insanity of it all. "WHATCHOO GOT AGAINST SHAUN CASSIDY?!"

I don't, however, believe that filmmakers are losing enough money to raise concern. In fact, YouTube's Partnership program allows filmmakers to get paid for their original material via ads playing under or next to the video. And any publicity is good publicity, regardless of payment. The digital shorts of "Saturday Night Live" go viral about every other week (Andy Samberg's latest, "J*zz in my Pants," has over 4 million hits). That means people will check out the comedian's website, previous skits, etc.

The important thing is that viewers are aware of who made the short they're watching. Some people rip a popular video, wipe out the credits, and (poorly) edit in their own (happened to me a few times actually!). But that's the risk online filmmakers take when releasing their movies to cyberspace.

the vacant mind. said...

I love this film, for obvious reasons. It's a really clever idea. I think what stands out most for me are the sound effects; they're used quite effectively.