I don’t know how YouTube got the idea to recommend it to me, but I was recently introduced to a video genre that I never knew existed: realtime sinking ship videos. Specifically, there are videos of the sinking of the Titanic in which one minute equals one minute. You see a steady annotated video of the events from iceberg strike to final plunge. Here’s one example.
I am reminded once again that everything about the Titanic conspires for storytelling perfection. The unsinkable ship! The plutocratic passenger list! The calm, cloudless night illuminated by desperate flares, and of course the band playing until the Atlantic lapped at their cellos. And incredibly, the whole thing took place in one cinematic sitting, something less than three hours. Usually movie drama is compressed, turning the accomplishment of many years into an hourglass, as Shakespeare observes. But in this case it’s already there, pre-packaged in the hourglass.
What the realtime video does is strip away all the fictitious drama. What you’re left with is an inconveniently long and slow-moving story, something that couldn’t have existed before YouTube. All the drama is provided by the actual events at the rate they transpired. No editing out the slow bits. It would be boring if it wasn’t so spellbinding. Details are layered on top of the video. You hear the actual Morse code communications at the moment when they occurred. You hear the music that would have been heard. It must have been hard for the players to make Alexander’s Ragtime Band appropriately jaunty.
This video trend will continue, I’m sure. There are already realtime videos about the sinking of the Britannic and the Lusitania (which went down in a mere 18 minutes). It’s interesting to think about how modern media gives us new ways of thinking about time. There was a Twitter account, for example, that did realtime accounts of World War I one hundred years after the fact. What’s next? A three day video of Realtime Gettysburg? Or the final few decades of the Fall of Rome?
My question for you is this: Is the modern attention span growing or shrinking? Narrowing or broadening? In this era we have hyperfast editing that will give you ADHD whiplash. But now we also have slow-moving, focused video like the RMS Titanic Realtime Sinking (and the Apollo Saturn V Launch Camera E-8). I think it’s a welcome trend.