We’re all familiar with the recent explosion of the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) as a pop culture mainstay thanks, in part, to platforms like Tumblr and websites like BuzzFeed. In some ways, the GIF is the literal definition of a moving picture. But, what about a series of GIFs placed one after the other? A GIFvie? A GIFilm (the G and I are silent, of course, in this last one)? Actually, you’d call it a Zeega, and it just might be the next form of interactive media.
If you thought Vine and Instagram Video, clocking in at six and 15 seconds, respectively, were the shortest lengths in which one could tell a story, then you’ve never seen a Zeega. Co-founded by Jesse Shapins, Kara Oehler, and James Burns, Zeega is a brand new startup that aims to reshape the way we think of interactive media. And, in this writer’s opinion, they’re off to a great start.
Mashing up files from SoundCloud, Tumblr, Giphy, and Flickr, as well as original content upload by users, Zeega allows content creators to easily combine sounds and images to create an unique multimedia experience controlled by the viewer.
When I first encountered the platform, I wasn’t exactly sure how to interact with it. Was it a video? Was it a slideshow? Was it a game? Within minutes, I was flipping through uploaded Zeegas and shortly thereafter creating my own via their simple interface.
A filmmaker at heart, I immediately wondered how to export the finished product to YouTube as a video file. But, as I slowly came to realize that wasn’t possible, I began to more fully understand the point. These aren’t meant to be videos. They’re meant to be Zeegas.
My first effort was a short homage to filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock:
Embolden, I then wanted to do a mashup of people dancing in Quentin Tarantino films:
Lastly, for this piece, I decided to do a tribute to Ray Harryhausen, the master of stop-motion animation (the original GIFs?). I’d ask that you don’t advance beyond the first GIF of Harryhausen building one of his creature until the music kicks in…then it’s off to the races:
With Zeega, the work of John Cage immediately comes to mind, specifically the way in which his musical scores dictated materials, notes, and performance settings, but left many of the creative decisions (such as when and how to play the notes) up to the musician(s) and, in some cases, the audience. As a theoretical framework his work is fascinating but is also, more often than not, difficult to listen to.
In much the same way, Zeega provides content creators some basic building blocks (GIFs, JPEGs, and MP3s), but places the viewer in a similar position as one of Cage’s musicians: interpreter/translator of the work. In a sense, your Zeega is unfinished until it finds a viewer willing to interact with it. As a viewer you are empowered to linger on one hypnotic GIF as it repeats over and over (with or without music) or, you can turn the music off and experience the Zeega in silence. The beauty of Zeega is that the choices amount to a collaboration between the maker and the audience and, to cage a phrase from a classic of the silver screen, I think it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.