Vines are popular, and not just among the hip kids. Ellen Degeneres has a reoccurring segment on her show where she merely shows some Vines to her audience. Many have casually noted that Vines are a new form of film, but I haven’t yet seen a full essay that tackles this new idea. So let’s begin. We need to define what a Vine is before we figure out its form and function. Vines are 6 second looping videos that are easily shareable in social media. Founded in June 2012, it was quickly snapped up by Twitter later in October of that year. Vines are unique from other forms of digital video media in that they endlessly repeat, albeit muted unless the viewer unmutes it. In the app, the user records video only when the screen is being touched, allowing for quick and easy editing anyone can do. Its endless looping mechanic is likely due to the video’s short length. No need to bother moving the mouse and clicking the play button over and over again until you can get the joke, the video can do that for you! Speaking of comedy, that’s the majority of what the most popular vines are, short skits (or accidents) that work perfectly within a six second time frame. The editing mechanic also allows for easy stop motion effects, for the videos that seek to wow the audience. Vines have a six second rule. You can post anything, but you only have 6 seconds. In this we have a limitation. And from this limitation springs innovation.
We can think back to literature for its ancestor: the six word story. “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” is the pioneering example, often attributed to Ernest Hemingway. The format is a niche well traversed in literary circles seeking to hone their craft. I believe we have found its film equivalent here. Comparing each creative format enables us to see how their form shapes their function. How are these short work so impactful within such brevity? Part of it is that they form complete stories through choice imagery. In writing, there is the careful choice of diction to allow for multiple meanings and possible interpretations.
Longed for him. Got him. Shit. —Margaret Atwood
With Vines, at least those trying to tell a concise story, these films must also be selective. There can be no excess.
With this Rule of Six, both forms of expression find their content boiled down to their very essence. This makes each entry so powerful in such a short time. The format forces the hand of the creator to create sparingly, and create beautifully.
Vines are a more refined form of the GIF, and their connections illustrate the new demand for expression media not he internet. GIFs are also taking the quintessence of images for maximum impact. The difference is in terms of consumption. Vines are primarily a form of entertainment. GIFs are used to express emotion. A picture is worth a thousand words, and what better way to express your soul’s inner turmoil than, say, a GIF of Roger and Pongo angrily pouting?
GIFs also have the advantage of taking from popular media franchises, which continues the cycle of fandom consumption. GIFs are also not hindered from the Rule of Six, and hence have a certain flexibility in capturing a moment, whether short or long.
Compressed visuals are a new standard of communication on the internet, as we find both forms of moving images increasingly common. This generation is incredibly visually literate, and can comprehend such forms of complex images. Of course, short videos are also easier to commit to, in that you barely need to commit to them at all. That also helps in an internet flooded with content.
Brevity is the soul of wit and all that, but it also becomes a necessity in a world where time is a scarce commodity. We flit from image to image in a flurry under the grinding gears of capitalism, trying to eek out moments of peace.
Vines offer such illusions.