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September 12, 2016

Watch what happens when the Music on these Two Viral Journalism Videos is Switched?

journalism editing heart mind emotion rational

What happens when the Music on two Viral Journalism videos from last week is switched? Sad becomes romantic, adventurous becomes sad:

“A user suggested re-editing the Freight Train Hopping and Airline Parking Lot videos from two days ago to see if swapping the music would change the tone. I spent a day doing that.” (youtube.com)

Fizzy_T said that you could switch the music in the airline video with the train hopping video and they would feel completely different.”

Incredible. Shows the effect of editorial bias–or, you know, story-telling. Check this out. Two popular journalism videos from last week…with the music switched. Suddenly, the sad lonely video is kinda romantic and the adventure video is sad:


This video is a re-edit of two popular videos. The tone is swapped through the use of music, color correction, and editing. From the editor:

/u/Fizzy_T replied to my comment on Friday about how pessimistic the New York Times video documenting the living situation of airline workers felt in tone. It felt less like an objective depiction and more like the producers intended for it to be depressing. It was an Op-Doc, so it didn’t claim to be objective, though it didn’t feel honest.

All the shots were long and silent with melancholy scenes of inanimate objects. There was no music. Only a lone piano tone that began towards the end, along with a chant one of the featured workers sang by herself.

The people living in the airline parking lot were employees and only live there on the days they aren’t flying around the world. They all own trailers for a place to rest when at the airport, since buying a home with so little time spent there would be a waste.

The video framed it as if they were depressed, but my thought was that it was the editing that made it feel that way.

There’s no denying the video was sad, but were the people sad? Or did the author want us to feel sad?

Fizzy_T said that you could switch the music in the airline video with the train hopping video and they would feel completely different. Both are great films, good editing, entertaining subjects. They feel totally different, in a way best explained through watching them.

At their core, both videos are just about people. One is workers on their off-days, one is a guy hopping trains.


Train on my Parade

I swapped the sad melody from the airline video into the Gothamist video, severely dropped the saturation in every shot, and edited out all of the scenes Jeff put blaring high energy music over. The original was fast cuts with a voiceover reminiscent of Chance from Homeward Bound.

To change that I had to slow scenes, cut scenes, silence scenes.

It’s short because there were barely any shots where music wasn’t blaring, but it boils down to a man who rides around in coal piles on freight trains and keeps getting caught by the police. The tone feels darker, like this is what his life is. It paints the subject as pathetic, jumping on trains for what?

Maybe just to get places, maybe because it’s the only thing he can do for fun.

I think the effect would have worked better if it were longer. But my focus was the airline one mainly.


Plane Ol’ Fun

The airline video was the one I had more fun with. Going from dark to light is easier I think.

Changing the lingering shots of the emotionless faces of the employees to quicker cuts of the airline affects the whole pacing.

In the original you have three employees talking about their lives, and how it feels to be alone in the parking lot when the other employees are away on flights.

My point with this video was to show that editing sets the tone.

The people aren’t necessarily as depressed as the NYT piece depicts them to be. The one “A.I.D.” guy in the beginning did turn to cry at one point, but we don’t know what the question was that provoked it.

All the questions were edited out, leaving a sort of vacancy. It emphasized the loneliness.

The shots were edited to be less saturated. It wasn’t obvious to me on the first watch, but when tweaking the color correction on each clip, I noticed how terribly dull they looked without. I’m convinced the team tried to make the scenes feel colder to match their narrative.

Scenes were cold and dull, not what you would capture from a camera untouched. That’s why the thumbnail is the flamingo. Go watch the original and look at how terribly non-pink it looks. By restoring the saturation it brought a lot of life back.

Go watch the original after you watch the re-edit, the lack of color is far more obvious.

I even left in the first line about divorce, because even though it is sad on its own, with the right editing it can seem like he is happy about it. It shifts the focus from loneliness to freedom. Not being tied to another person, now you travel the world untethered.

For the songs, I couldn’t Shazam which songs were in the train video, and Jeff only cited the bands, (super frustrating) so I found two songs from two of the bands and fit those over it. They weren’t as upbeat as I was thinking, but did shift the tone to a more comforting folksy feeling. I think in trying to shift the tone to energetic I stumbled upon comforting instead.


Of course, they’re both very short. It’s bits and pieces from the original films. Being a derivative work it has to be shorter.

Some of the tone was set in how the scenes were filmed. That, I can’t change.

Anyway, I like editing. I would have narrated it like a NerdWriter or KaptainKristian video, but I don’t have a good mic and I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.

I cited all the songs in the video, the backing track was an instrumental remake of a Mac Miller song, Rain. The tones I overlaid in Train on my Parade were the same from the Long Term Parking, since NYT didn’t even cite an artist at all.


Hope this is enjoyable, and that it provides a good example of how editing can shape a narrative regardless of the reality. Always be skeptical.

“Love with your heart; use your head for everything else.”

– Captain Disillusion

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