Along with memes and animated GIFs, the video supercut constitutes one of the three most fundamental formats of Internet cultural reference. But with a bit of dedication and imagination, you could create the next Christopher Walken Dancing.
Pick A Theme, Any Theme
Stringing together clips for comedic effect has been going for years, but the practice may have had its first breakout hit with CSI Miami – Endless Caruso One Liners, seven minutes of rapid-fire David Caruso repartee that was uploaded in 2006. Since then, the genre has exploded in popularity, and now covers any of countless themes from Russian dashcam mayhem to imploding buildings to obscure movie references to screaming goats.
This is because a supercut really only consists of two elements: the theme and the clips themselves. The theme you choose depends entirely on your initial inspiration and imagination, though the availability of clips that conform to the theme will be a limiting factor. That is, finding content for a supercut of Paula Deen saying “butter” is going to be a lot easier than one about Cheshire Cat references in 1970s Saturday morning cartoon programming.
You should also strive to cover a unique theme or motif in your supercut. Take epic fail supercuts; they’re are amusing and all but there are literally millions of them on YouTube. Why spend the time making one more which will be immediately lost in the static? Come up with something original instead — it just might become a viral hit. If you are in need of a muse, take a look around the Slackstory and Screen Junkies YouTube channels, or Supercut.org. TV Tropes also has an exhaustive list of popular television motifs that may strike your fancy.
Amass A Hoard Of Clips
Once you’ve decided on your subject, you’re done with the easy part. Now comes the hardest — but most vital — part: trawling the internet in search of clips. How many you collect — and consequently how many options you will have when you start editing — depends entirely on how much time and effort you are willing to spend looking for them. Finding relevant clips can be as easy as a simple Google search or traipse through a few YouTube recommendations, or require weeks of digging through message board archives. It’s up to you, but understand that even a modest supercut is going to take a week’s worth of work to research properly.
There are a number of video resources online that may make your search easier. If you’re looking for, say, every time John Wayne said “prairie dog” in his career, Subzin offers a free database of film and television quotes which will at least point you towards the right films if not the also the correct scene. IMDb is another solid resource for finding specific quotes, as can be the show’s Wiki entry and the Internet Movie Script Database. The Internet Archive is a good source for old stock and public domain footage as well.
Once you do find a suitable clip, grab it using any one of the numerous YouTube slurping programs and services available online. Clip Converter, for example, is a popular and free web-based service that will record, convert and download nearly any audio or video URL to your computer. iShowU, on the other hand, may cost $US20 or more, but it not only downloads clips for you, it pulls them into an integrated online editor as well. ClipGrab, meanwhile is a desktop alternative to Clip Converter.
Editing For Length And Content
After spending so much time searching for these clips, you should have a general idea of which ones you want to include and a rough estimate of how long the final cut could be. You may want to trim some of the extraneous clips — those with substandard video quality, wonky audio — and try to make sure the clips you do end up using are all reasonably short. Otherwise, the entire supercut may be at risk of getting yanked from YouTube via DMCA takedown request.
What you use to compile your supercut is entirely up to you. Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, iMovie, and really any video editor capable of stitching multiple clips together can be utilized in making a supercut. Fortunately, the minimal amount of editing required — really just stacking clips — means that you should be fine with a number of free online video editors available including YouTube Editor, Video Toolbox, and We Video.
The biggest editing challenge is really just what goes where; as a general rule of thumb you’ll want to include segments of various paces so that your audience doesn’t get bored.
Unless your supercut is dependent on the existing audio like Every Arnold Scream From Every Arnold Movie, don’t hesitate to overlay a soundtrack to help coalesce the action. But like the video clips, make sure the audio is of sufficient quality, doesn’t violate copyright, and is relevant to the overall theme. You should also choose music with dynamic range. Nothing sucks the life out of an otherwise quality supercut than a terrible soundtrack. We use the Free Music Archive for most of our videos here, and it’s a great place to start.
Once you’ve put the finishing touches on your supercut, the final step is to upload it to a public forum like YouTube, Vimeo, or your Facebook wall. Then, just sit back and wait for your masterpiece to go viral. Easy, right? [Fast Co – Mashable – Slate – h/t Michael Hession]