Listening to Vine

Curator's Note

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.








Hi Jennifer, thanks for reminding us about the sonic dimensions of Vine. I often forget about them (or background them) yet think a lot of the meaning and pleasure of this format is tied to its often weird soundscapes. They are often delightful symphonies of clashing sounds in their own right. I am also drawn to this idea of illicit uploading, or using Vine for other purposes. This idea foregrounds that Vine is as much a platform for attention as it is a platform for creativity or aesthetic exploration. Framed in this way, I can't help but think of the business dimensions of Vine (or at the very least thinking about Vine as part of a larger attention economy) and I wonder how committed Twitter is to preserving an aesthetic experience we could identify as "Vine"-y.

That's a really interesting comment, and it's a topic I think about a lot - what defines Vine, and will it last as something uniquely Vine-y? Since Vine recently added simple editing to the app, I'm worried that it will become watered down as it seeks to compete with apps like Instagram video, which saddens me. Part of what I love about Vine is its in-the-moment-ness, which harkens back to the ol' days of shooting one-reel films, where you only have one shot to get what you want, and if you miss it, it's gone. Vine still preserves some of that, but as editing and saveable "sessions" move into place in the app, the spontaneity of recording becomes less primary. Certainly, there's a lot highly produced videos on Vine already, but I've been loving the creative things people have been doing within the limitations of linear recordings - the fewer the limitations, the less interesting Vine might become. But, maybe I'm just yelling "get off my lawn" to non-linear digital inevitability.

I'm really glad this post started off the Vine week because sound has such an interesting place in Vine videos. From informal talks and even my own Vine making, I often forget that the video is also recording sound because of the skill set I have amassed taking photographs. Many of us who participate in these image-based social networks have the knowledge about picture taking yet we seem to transfer those skills when making videos too even though there's all these other elements there too. The thing with sound and Vine is that there's no volume indicator on the UI or anywhere and since it sort of looks like a regular still image UI that you press then that is what you're going to do. EVen the row of options at the bottom make no reference to sound. I wonder if newer versions of Vine will allow a two channel mix. ALthough like you mention, what first got me really excited about Vine was how pared down it was -- how in their desire for a contemporary model of filmmaking, the developers did actually go back to the origins of filmmaking. This is seen through linear in-camera editing, initial cameras could only shoot for 2 minutes a time, etc. Further, like you point out - the sound of Vine videos often takes on a rhythmic quality with the loop that upon repeated listens creates a whole other way of experiencing the Vine. In particular, I have let your vimeo post play on repeat as I read your post and replied. I'm curious as how it changed my own pace of even writing this as I listened to the mechanical rhythm of the video (which sounds like some sort of factory btw). I'm super interested to chat with you more! I also tried to add you to Vine but Jen P came up with too many results and none with your avatar. :)

Thank you for writing this post. Audio is an often neglected part of Vines, precisely because they have audio off by default, that should really be paid more attention to. Without sound, most vines fall short. I'm curious, what do you make of Vines that thrive on audio and where visuals take a back seat? The "I don't do country" Vine comes to mind. ( When I first heard it, I found myself keeping it on a loop and wishing the author did the whole song, as he seems to have a better voice than the original artist.

As obvious as it is, I think it is important to tease out that the default option for phones is for them to be set on vibrate. Therefore that default option changes our way of interacting with our phone, and subsequently the concomitant apps. And since my phone is always set on vibrate, I open up Vine and view my feed on vibrate (silent) and only upon a conscious effort I turn on my ringer. However, when are we looking at our phones? In transit? Around others? With or without headphones? When and where are we making vines? How does that effect our interaction with the app, as creators and also as viewers?

Sound in Vine seems to generate a lot of attention -- either from a users/how to stand point {} or from a scholarly point of view {}. I'm interested in the Foley practices of Vine creators, such as the artist whose video you posted. How do they time the sound effects exactly with the creation of the video? How are they generating those effects? Do Vine creators use the app to create the videos then and then add music, Foley and other sound effects in post for uploading to Youtube? Clearly Vine creators acknowledge the power of sound effects for their creations, as in this video {}. Limitations generate creativity and for that reason I hope that Vine does NOT make it easier to record sound.

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