Before Vine came along, the YouTube channel Five Second Films was churning out at least one film daily since 2009. With the motto, “Wasting your time, but not very much,” they adhere to the rules of a 2 second beginning title, a 5 second film, and a 1 second end title. It’s surprising how much storytelling can occur in that short time frame: there is (usually) a premise, a motivating agent, a conflict, and some sort of resolution or punch line. Post-production adds music, special effects, or other elements that inform the viewer and round out the daily visual offerings. Do these videos have to contain tidy resolutions to be considered stories? If you think so, then you might say these are well-crafted five-second jokes instead. Regardless of technical classification, however, the fact remains that a satisfying story with memorable characters can be told in a very short amount of time.
By these standards, Vine’s 6-seconds is practically a luxury. Users have moved beyond simple everyday life documentation to fairly sophisticated set ups. Some record songs or patterns so that they loop perfectly and infinitely. Some use other media (films, TV shows, etc.) in combination with props or additionally recorded video to create jokes or capture satirical commentary on modern life. In May, Ryan Gosling refused to eat his cereal.
Despite nearly every person in the Western world possessing a camera phone for the better part of a decade, why have we just now become obsessed with making little films? It seems we almost needed to be given permission. But didn't YouTube do that? It has been urging us to "Broadcast ourselves" since its inception in 2005. In a way, yes. But the anonymity of YouTube (i.e. that your video got so easily lost among a sea of professional YouTubers, educational videos, news clips, etc.) meant there was little chance of it being seen. Besides, YouTube has moved steadily in the corporate direction (hello, ads) as well as being tied to the larger Google name for years now. For Millennials who have flocked (ehem) to Twitter in recent years, breaking barriers between your favorite celebrity and your BFF, it's a no-brainer that Vine would become the platform of choice. Little commitment, instant results, high reward.
Welcome to the new age of micro-filmmaking.