Dude uploads video to YouTube, rips it, uploads again a thousand times

Above: what happens when you upload a video to YouTube, then rip it from YouTube, and repeat that process again, a thousand times. The final digitally-distilled product bears little resemblance to the original, and becomes something of its own. YouTube user "canzona," whose personal website is here, explains:

I started this project exactly 1 year ago, almost to the hour. The final version is a lot different than I thought it would be, I was expecting a lot more digital video noise, and a lot less digital audio noise. Let this be a lesson, though, always be careful how you convert your digital media!

An homage to the great Alvin Lucier, this piece explores the 'photocopy effect', where upon repeated copies the object begin to accumulate the idiosyncrasies of the medium doing the copying. Full words: I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice as well as the image of myself, and I am going to upload it to YouTube, rip it from YouTube, and upload it again and again, until the original characteristics of both my voice and my image are destroyed. What you will see and hear, then, are the artifacts inherent in the video codec of both YouTube and the mp4 format I convert it to on my computer. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a digital fact, but more as a way to eliminate all human qualities my speech and image might have.

The title of this YouTube experiment and its structure are a sort of playful riff on Lucier's most famous work, "I am Sitting in a Room." I believe this site offers a downloadable recording of Lucier's original performance of that work.

I Am Sitting In A Video Room 1000 (thanks, Mia Quagliarello!)




  1. I’m impressed that it really did take a thousand iterations to become completely unintelligible. I would have expected a hundred iterations to do it in.

    Also, it looks and sounds just like I would expect it to, given the video and audio degradation I’m familiar with from watching YouTube and listening to low-bit-rate MP3 speech.

  2. now that it is “done”, I would like to see a version where it starts out at original quality and then deteriorates over the entire 38 seconds of the video. It is only 1140 frames of video.

    1. If you click through to the youtube page, you’ll see that he left a lot of the intermediate videos up, so you can at least compare and see how they degrade over the course of the 1000 iterations. But I totally agree that an edited version that transitions from the first to the last iteration would be the most interesting thing to watch.

    2. Hey this is canzona, actually I tried that and it doesn’t work that well, for complicated reasons (the sync issues become a lot more serious when you’re dealing with single frames from 1000 separate videos). Instead I am making a version that highlights a few along the way. It is still very effective! It’ll be up soon…

      1. fantastic! I did read that you had to deal with some sync issues along the way so I understand that it may be difficult to incorporate all the changes frame by frame.
        Even showing the changes in 10 steps or so would be very interesting to watch.
        I did watch several of the other archived versions, at 500, 250, 100, 50, 25 and 10 already.

  3. +1000 internets.

    Alvin Lucier FTW.

    Hands up if you’ve recorded your own version of “I am sitting in a room.”

    *raises hand and looks around sheepishly*

    1. i did it live with some students – about 12 iterations. at the end, one of them said ‘what effects were you using?’

      my fault, i spose.

      ‘I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a digital fact, but more as a way to eliminate all human qualities my speech and image might have.’

      …but there isn’t the stutter to eradicate. that’s what made lucier’s piece poignant.

      1. acutally, you’re the first person I’ve mentioned this to, but I *do* stutter in there, I screw up the word “characteristics”. I thought about redoing the speech but instead left it in as a part of the hommage.

    1. Boy oh boy do I agree. I came to the comments page to say exactly that: this voice gives me the god damned willies something bad.

  4. Cool.
    I wonder how many more cycles he would need to… cycle through, before he really was able to remove any semblence of humanity from the video.

    1. Yeah I was wondering that too, I had hoped that 1000 would have been enough! But I’m not doing any more to find out! If someone wants to take over and keep going, be my guest…

  5. Some college or NPR radio station played the entirety of I Am Sitting in a Room one morning, beginning just before my clock radio alarm went off. I’d never heard of it before. Moving from sleep to a drifty half-waking state with that cavernous, resonant, slowly distorting voice filling my bedroom for fifteen minutes — which felt like hours — was one of the trippiest experiences of my life.

  6. Wait! I can enhance that!

    He says:

    “We are a remote Federation outpost under attack from unknown sources! Directed energy beams – very powerful! Our shields cannot hold! Enterprise please respond!”

    and then it just cuts off.

  7. I wonder if he was speaking an arbitrary language, if that language could still be recognized by studying the cadence and tonality of the garbled audio.

  8. I don’t find the audio very compelling, but the video is beautiful– like some cubist/fauvist/expressionist painting.

  9. I think he said “Fuel goes in here, then we fly away. Do you have any cat food?”

  10. At what point does the video go from being live action to being animation? Is rotoscoping live video or animation?

  11. i wonder if the reduction to all sound to that of water being swizzled reflects an emergent characteristic of the encoder, that is, it’s a good encoder because it makes things sound somewhat more watery than they used to sound. this would be partly because we ourselves are made of flowing water, so watery artifacts would tend to be less noticeable since our heads are full of them anyway (in the form of flowing blood).

  12. Why use YouTube? Why not just import & export a video a bazillion times? I used to do that just for the heck of it. Similar results depending on what video codecs you are jumping between.

  13. This is a great example of why “99% accurate!” isn’t always enough. If you apply the same test enough times, those errors will accumulate until the errors overwhelm the data: case in point, encoders that capture 99% of the relevant content. At each iteration, something is lost, until eventually the only thing left is an abstraction of the original (hence the abstract painting appearance of the video).

    Hopefully we can use this as an example of why ubiquitous CCTV cameras with face detection software will produce thousands of false alarms. With so many comparisons, the errors will quickly accumulate, drowning out the real detections with a sea of false detections.

  14. i can’t think about “i am sitting in a room” without being reminded of how incredible DJ Food’s ‘raiding the 20th century’ is….

  15. That is completely awesome in every possible way!

    I once did a version of Lucier’s “I am sitting in a room” using the auto-transcribe feature of LiveJournal’s phone-posting service. I kept re-reading the increasingly garbled text over the phone, yielding a completely different kind of distortion.

    Here’s an article in Disquiet about that effort:

  16. Funny, it looks exactly the way I would expect it to look and sound.

    It’s not an accumulation of mistakes. It’s an averaging process. When the video moves, it is averaged recursively in groups. So at teh end it keeps a few of the strong edges and loses all detail.

    It’s art, but it’s predictable. Meh.

    1. This isn’t an example of computers not being able to make perfect copies.

      Open a jpg file. Do something to it, save it again and it will loose quality. Do it again and again and eventually the image will look terrible.

      Email a jpg file to someone without editing it, get them to send it to a million people without editing it they will all be the same.

      Jpg, like mp3 or mp4 is a lossy format. You can’t edit them without losing quality (there are minor exceptions to each, but the theory stands).

  17. Neat. I much prefer the original Lucier piece, however. Mostly, I suspect, do to the fact that it does not sound like a robot vomiting.

  18. Sounds to me like this may sound better played in reverse. Though, I am afraid of what evils that might release upon mankind.

  19. Fantastic work ontologist! That took some dedication to do this 1000 times.

    I think the process would be a little closer to Alvin’s method if you recorded the video with a webcam direct to YouTube, then pointed the webcam at your screen and re-recorded it and uploaded it, then repeated that process. I am betting the video/audio would decay more dramatically in less cycles that way.

    Hmm… I have nothing planned this weekend…

  20. This is not a dream. We are using your brain’s electrical system as a receiver. We are unable to transmit through conscious neural interference. You are receiving this broadcast as a dream. We are transmitting from the year one, nine, nine, nine.

    You are receiving this broadcast in order to alter the events you are seeing. Our technology has not developed a transmitter strong enough to reach your conscious state of awareness, but this is not a dream. You are seeing what is actually occurring for the purpose of causality violation.


  21. hahahaha everyone keeps saying that the watery robot voice is freaking them out, but it’s totally making me laugh.

  22. I’m disappointed with room 1.

    He treats this as if it’s a science experiment, dull and unposed in his bedroom. He lays out the reasons why he’s doing this, and how it’s going to do it.

    Be an artist. Just do, make it beautiful, and let everyone else figure it out.

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