Saturday, January 20, 2007

A year (more or less) of YouTube

It’s been about a year since the “YouTube” web site began to catch on with the web surfing public. And it’s been quite a trip, with many people blogging by video rather than by text. I’m not on Youtube yet, but being a video collector, I can see its appeal.

Most Youtube videos are required to be ten minutes long or less. While that’s not enough time for a “real” movie, that’s more than enough time for a casual web surfer to enjoy a short clip. And there’s a lot of programming that lends itself to short clips - commercials, Sesame Street, cartoons . . . Wait, did someone say “Sesame Street?” Yes, folks, some kind Sesame collectors have put up some great clips from their collections on Youtube, and it’s been fun to watch them again. One gentleman has been posting a few Sesame clips that were originally from my collection, and I’m glad to have had a (very) small part in sharing them with others (He does all the hard work, I just gave him the clips).

The files download to your computer rather easily as long as you have three main things: The “flash” program installed (you can download it for free), a reasonably fast processor (my five-year-old computer had some issues with Youtube) and a super-fast Internet connection. YouTube on dial-up still works, but as you can imagine, it is very slow. I wouldn’t want to wait around to download a ten-minute Youtube video with dial-up unless I had an afternoon to spare, which most of us usually don’t.

Unfortunately, the system can be (and is being) abused. There’s a lot of crap on Youtube that young people (or any people, for that matter) probably shouldn’t see. They make an effort to keep things relatively clean, but as it is written, “seek and ye shall find.” Youtube is a site that most careful parents would probably want to block from their kids. That’s a shame, because a system like this has the potential to bring a lot of kid-friendly material as well.

Here’s a list of just some of what I’ve seen posted in the past year:

The long-lost Sesame Street “trash in the park” music short (a favorite)
Green Grover & monsters play “first & last” (Circa 1969)
Ernie writes a story (the clip from “Forest Gump”)
Michael Crawford’s farewell at his last “Phantom of the Opera” performance
Clips from “Return of the Ewok”
Bob, Gordon, David & Luis sing “Gimmie Five!”
Partridge Family Rice Krispies ad
The “Friends” underwear promos
Cookie Monster PSA from late 1970s
Jack-in-the-Box clown blows up (from early 1980s)
John Denver raisin bran commercial
Sylvania TV ad with Will Lee (Mr. Hooper)
Carpenters - “Thank you for the music”
Arcadia - “Goodbye is Forever”
Star Wars drunk driving PSA
Some idiots dressed as Pac-Man characters running through a library

Note that some of these clips are no longer available. There’s another fault of Youtube. If someone takes it down, it’s gone. You have to download the clips to your computer, and while there apparently is a way to do it, Youtube is not publicizing it, and it may not be worth it for the casual web surfer.

So why not just trade ALL video over the web now? Well, if you compare the video quality of your average YouTube video to the DVDs and tapes in your home video collection, I think you’ll find that the DVDs and tapes come out on top. Even the very clear Youtube clips wouldn’t look so great if you blew them up big enough to show on your wide screen TV at home.

The method I use to save the videos I like is definitely not perfect, but it “works for me,” as they say. I set up a video camera in front of the computer screen and turn up the volume on the speakers. Primitive, huh? (It reminds me of the days when I would put my tape recorder next to the speaker on my beautiful blue monophonic Lionel record player.) But if you want to watch a Youtube clip on your regular TV, I think for right now, this is one of the easiest ways to do it. I end up with a “video-friendly” copy rather than a computer file.

So YouTube is a lot of fun, and a step forward in video sharing. Still, I’m hoping for a day in the future when good quality video will be able to be downloaded from the web without much hassle. We’re already practically there when it comes to music, so can good video sharing be that far away?


Just a slight update for die-hard Carpenters fans - that gathering in Downey has been rescheduled for 2008. That gives you another year to save up for the $100-plus ticket. :) Also, some museums have scheduled that “Jim Henson” exhibit for 2008. If they move the Princess Diana celebration to 2008, I may have to delete that January 1 post.

Check out the “Classic Sesame Street” section at the Muppet Central forum (in the links section) for an ongoing list of Sesame St. clips on Youtube.