Sabotage has never looked so good.
Mario Klingemann, an artist-in-residence at Google Arts, has created an AI that analyzes music videos and film trailers, and creates new doppelgänger cuts with publicly available footage. His database is built from 429 clips, and over 20 million topically annotated movie frames of every filmic trope you could imagine–from newspaper headlines, to planes flying by, to massive typography, to close-ups of blond bombshells. And his AI model is able to view a video, analyze it, and match it to often uncannily similar shots from his database. In fact, it replicates an entire video shot for shot with its own footage–no human editing required.
And watching his remakes is just pure fun.
Sabotage is perhaps the most effective visual match. The Beastie Boys’s run-and-gun, 1970s cop caper makes for a natural fit with the otherwise anachronistic archival footage. As boxy cars drive by, and vaudeville-era performers get into corny fights, it all still looks right even if the shots are technically sourced several decades apart. Elvis Presley (or an impersonator?) even makes an appearance in the recut, and I cannot imagine anything more perfectly, retro-ly random for the tongue-in-cheek Beastie Boys video.
A-Ha’s Take On Me pushes the AI a bit past its limits. As you may remember (don’t make me feel too old), the video is built upon the high-concept premise, of a sketched world and human world coming together as one. This leads to moments where sketched arms might be reaching through a page, and other odd things we’d never really seen before the video existed or seen since. As such, this sketch-meets-real-life aesthetic is a tough match for stock footage, Klingemann admits. But Total Eclipse of the Heart, the always karaoke-able mega anthem by Bonnie Tyler, is at moments, miraculously, even more epic at the hands of AI. The aurora borealis, a space shuttle launch, and even Jesus himself all show up in the same climactic verse (watch around two minutes in). I mean, if that’s not the highest form of visual poetry, I don’t know what is.