In late 2010, YouTube made a change to their platform that would introduce a whole new world to the site. It took away the time restriction of 15 minutes per video and raised it to… at the time, few really knew. The announcement of the rise in length was not massively publicised and many casual viewers wouldn’t have noticed a dramatic change in the runtime for videos. Then came a little pop tart cat flying across an 8-bit galaxy with a rainbow trail in tow, and it soon became clear what we were all in for!
Nyan Cat, for those unaware, is a three and a half minute long animation of a strawberry pop tart with the head, legs and tail of a cat. It bobs along to a background of digital stars with a repetitive synth soundtrack and enough meows for a lifetime. It’s a cute video, but I don’t think I’ve ever finished the whole thing for fear of my ears bleeding.
Nyan Cat’s true legacy though, didn’t come until 24 days after it’s upload, when a channel called “TehN1ppe” uploaded essentially the same video but looped for 10 hours! It quickly became an endurance test and viral challenge to view the whole thing, and there was no shortage of people willing to accept. Its popularity (currently sitting at 94 million views) sparked a wave of memes and other simple videos to be stretched to the mammoth runtime. To try and list them all is a fool’s errand, but these joke videos gave rise to something that I think is truly special.
When irony steps aside, sincerity can shine though, and that’s what happened with 10-hour videos. People started to seriously consider, “what would someone want to watch for 10 hours? Clearly there’s an audience!”
One answer to this question is something I like to call, “ambient videos”, ones designed to melt into the background and enhance the mood of a room. You’ve all seen the main example of this at a few of our End of Month drinks, the 10-hour fireplace, which promises a “romantic moment” to the viewer…
Can a moment last 36,086 seconds?
Our intentions are more, HR appropriate, when we use the video. It’s something about those eternal flames crackling away that can actually trick you into feeling warmer, even transport you to some log cabin lost in the middle of Black Hills, South Dakota (or Grampians, Victoria for a more local reference).
In fact, the flames look so real that it once caused an event being held in our penthouse event space, The Lounge, to be raided by a group of firemen suited up to assault hell itself! A concerned citizen in a nearby building had seen the video being projected and mistook it for an actual fire. The fireman couldn’t help but laugh when they saw the two-dimensional threat.
Ambient videos don’t seek your attention like most of the content on YouTube, they’re designed to be forgotten. In that regard, they carry on a tradition that has been alive in music since the turn of the 20th Century. In 1917, French composer, Erik Satie, coined the term “musique d’ameublement” (furniture music) to describe his compositions. He didn’t want you to focus on the music he made, quite the opposite, he wanted it to be so unimportant that it was like furniture in the room. If you listen to his work and those of artists like John Cage or Brian Eno, who progressed this idea to “ambient music”, you can get a sense of what Satie meant.
For those reading this saying, “what the fuck is ambient music?” I would point you to the aforementioned Eno’s, Ambient 1: Music for Airports. It is a truly beautiful album of minimal compositions that I think offer something that most music/entertainment robs you of, the space to think! Listening to Ambient 1, it’s hard not to be meditative and relaxed, the album’s designed to chill people out in a crowded airport so it works extra well on one person at home!
10-hour videos function in the same way. Their simplicity and length means you’re not going to be looking at the screen constantly while they’re on. You’re allowed the mental freedom to dream, work, create, or simply relax. They also remove a layer of distraction, as the screen that is normally used for surfing the web or binging on Netflix docos, is hijacked for a decade of hours. I think there is a comfort in that commitment. Whenever I need to get serious about focusing on a project, one thing I’ll do is put on a 10-hour video, so that I can ease in and get lost to the runtime. I know it’ll be going for as long as I need to finish my work.
Even while writing this article, I’m currently watching a volcano eruption in real time. Getting lost in the sparks whenever I need a second to mentally compose a sentence (That one took a couple seconds). I’ve used this one before and I can’t fully articulate why it speaks so much to me, but there’s something in those dull rumbles and cascading embers that gets my brain working. It may not work the same for you, but with so many options it doesn’t need to. You have the choice of watching Rain or snow fall, cosmic simulations, travel on a country train, watch whales sing or even simple nothingness! The variations are as boundless as the videos themselves.
So next time you have a project that requires extra attention, or just chilling at home reading a book, I implore you to experiment with some 10-hour videos and find one that suits you. If you are open to falling under their spell, I promise they offer a great ROI!