The History and Art of the Video Power Hour

Let’s start where any good history begins — in the pre-historic.

Before around 10,000 BCE — animals would find and eat fermented fruits, thereby becoming mildly intoxicated. It is believed that early man observed this animal behavior, leading to the discovery of fermentation.

After 10,000 BCE, until around 100 BC — Early man (in civilization sprung up from Egypt to China, to Pre-Columbian America) — Began brewing beer and fermenting wine. In many cases these concoctions were based in their religions, though they were also crude medicines and drank for varying purposes. After around 100 BC, at least in the Arabian Peninsular area, scientists had discovered distillation — leading to new ways to get crunk.

1336-1364 AD — Giovanni De Dondi constructs the first astronomical clocks documented to have measured time in units as small as minutes, creating the first reliable means for partitioning an hour into sub-units.

1963 — Phillips introduces the compact audio cassette, allowing widespread and simple “dubbing” and mixing of audio for consumer purposes.

Ok, so I’ve skipped a few other milestones — but the point is, the power hour cannot be any older than around 700 years — though it is much more likely a phenomenon of the last century [facts courtesy of Wikipedia].

Let’s digress here with some etiquette: Encouraging people to drink large quantities never ends well. Neither does drinking large numbers of shots (of liquor) in short quantities of time. In my mind, the purpose of the power hour rests in communal enjoyment of good or interesting music, and “pre-gaming” for the ensuing evening in the process. Here’s a way to keep it fun — don’t use shot glasses. Sippy-sip from a can or bottle, and it’s no longer any sort of competition. You drink what you want, and if you can’t take it any longer, just enjoy the scenery! C'mon people, safety first! Oh, and NEVER use liquor — even mixed drinks are almost always stronger than a comparable volume of beer, so anything besides beer could get you into real trouble. Besides, the segmentation of the small volumes of carbonated beverage actually has a throttling ability for the novice power-hourer.

Tip: Focus on burping throughout the hour — singing along is always fun, but you gotta get the CO2 out!

Okay, so I’ve been complimented a number of times on my video power hour mix — let me give you the low-down on the schools of thought, and how their combination can create a memorable experience.

The W. Silver school of video power hour wisdom — Mr. Silver was a regional pioneer of video power hour majesty. He began with a 1980s-themed hour, then 90s, then a mix. Unfortunately, rampant theft and wear-and-tear has lost these non-DVD gems to history.

Silver’s principles:

  1. Everyone watching should be familiar with at least 60% of the videos
  2. Transitions, transitions, transitions!

Transitions cannot be overstated: If you have the ability to do outlandish transitions, by all means… The cheesier the better. Star wipe? Better use two!

My earliest attempts used many of Mr. Silver’s videos, and focused almost entirely on his techniques. Despite the primitive nature, I still produced enjoyable hours.

The A.J.I. school: After viewing one of my early attempts, AJI was quite smitten with the concept, and began immediate work crafting his own personal style. His influence led to a renaissance of crafting artful means outside of the video itself and the snappy transitions. He added a textual counter (up and down), as well as humorous text interspersed throughout the film. His videos reached 80% recognizable by even the most inept audience.

By mixing the videos I had collected from both auteurs, and finding my own, I was ready to create the infamous Fall 2005 hour. Since then, I created a limited-release “Heure de Puissance,” that was created in one day, premiered the same night, and was never seen again. That was a learning experience.

So, here’s what you need to know:

  1. There is nothing wrong with making a video power hour using top-40 hits and “classics”
  2. Skimming the internet for lists of best or worst for music videos will often lead to some fun discoveries
  3. Cheesy transitions can quickly turn a ho-hum power hour into fun for all. However, the true art comes from sparingly using transitions with meaning (ie. a heart wipe between two loves songs)
  4. WHICH BRINGS US TO THE BRAD SCHOOL — along with snappy transitions, the music should do some of the changing for you

For instance — from the B-52’s Love Shack “Sign says stay away fools”, cut it off at Sign, and begin the Ace of Base video. People will not catch this unless you point it out, but if they know these cues are hidden from the get-go, they will look for them. Match beats if you can, switch between the obvious and subtle. Fill in the blanks with prolonged transitions.

  1. Take extra time to level the volume. Many a quality hour can be ruined going from too quiet to unbearably loud
  2. Include a counter, so people know where they are. It never hurts to make Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” the 30th song, and displaying “Halfway There!” on the screen. This we can all agree upon
  3. Lighting rounds are permissable. Here’s my general rule-of-thumb. A lighting round should be a minute long, feature four videos, and be preceded by a 10-second reprieve. I positioned it at the 45th minute of the Fall 2005 video, but would be more likely to put it between the 30th and 40th minute in future attempts. We’re all adults, so you can theme your lightning round however you wish (if you get my drift!)

The first attempt at making an hour might be tough, as it isn’t always easy to find a good collection of videos to grab from. However, after that it’s tough to narrow DOWN your selection. I don’t like decade-or-artist focused hours, as a mish-mash gives something for everyone. Don’t mix it up too much, though — it may be tempting to include a bunch of memes and youtube videos (which can be difficult to format for the television sometimes) — but don’t water down the sing-along-ability of the experience. I’d recommend songs like Numa Numa, but videos that are merely “inside jokes” might sink quickly.

Randomness in mixing is a subtle grace. Going from Country to Rap to Ballad is way awesomer than two rap songs in a row. Also, believe it or not, but going from one version of the same song to another really is just kind of annoying. “You can’t pick 60 different songs? I just heard that!” To err on the side of caution — always show the obscure version. Find the original Ozone video instead of showing the numa numa guy. [Hint: The George Michael version of “Faith” is now the obscure version.Thanks a lot Limp Bizkit]

On the other hand, think chemically about it. The start of the hour should rock out pretty hard. The video can’t be boring, and the song should be at least mildly sing-along-able. Videos 2-20 should be the classiest and most well-thought-out. They can also be marginally under 60 seconds. Videos 20-35 should be a little more than a minute to balance it out. This is the “sickness window.” People start feeling pretty good after the halfway point, so going back to exact minutes is no problem. The sing-alongest of the songs should be from 35-60 (duh!).

Make ‘em laugh — crude captions always kill.

Production Values — don’t rush it! Youtube has made it insanely easy to grab videos, but pulling them and reformatting them can leave you with poor quality. Likewise, multiple formats can make editing difficult unless you have a powerful computer with equally powerful software.

Things that work: Nostalgia, sex, cheesiness, surprises, and any combination of these

Map it out — got paper? Write the order, take requests, and take notes while watching videos for good transitory properties.

A note to taking it further — split edits are fine, but purists will avoid them. Sometimes you can find a movie clip that just goes so darn well with a song, but don’t frickin' over-do it!

NEVER, EVER pause between all the videos! Let’s review — pausing between videos = awful. Don’t do it. This is not an arguable point. Use this rule if you’re confused: If you’re making a power hour, you should have between 2-4 reprieves in the rocking — the beginning, end, and possibly the 30-minute mark, and/or possibly before or after a lightning round. Any more than four breaks in the action, and something is wrong.

It is permissable to play the entirety of the 60th song, especially under these two circumstances — a. You display credits over the video, and b. the 60th song is White Snake’s “Here I go Again.”

Most of these are approximations, so do what you think is right. If it doesn’t turn out quite the way you planned, return to these ABSOLUTE LAWS of POWER HOUR MAKING to find where you messed up. If it’s too late to do anything about it (“I only have a 4x burner!”), then heck — it’s all about having fun anyways, and 1/16th the fun is in making the darn thing in the first place!

Hope you found this informative for future attempts. Likewise, please let me know if you have any other golden rules to add to future editions. Always obey copyright laws when creating derivative works — thanks! I will give a runthrough (and maybe an ISO) of the F'05 video in the future, so you can get a better idea of what the heck I’m talkin' bout.