The Mechanical Filmmaker: Remixing broadcast news to create new narratives

Abstract *

The Mechanical Filmmaker is a curatorial platform that will allow the public to create their own film pieces by remixing broadcast news. It will operate a library of individual one-word video clips, which people could mix and match together to create new narratives. This video library will be based on the collection of the BBC broadcasts and will contain approx. 1000 one-word video clips (each less than a second long), identified by subtitles and timecode.

This video library would be curated thematically and linked to the upcoming exhibitions. That means that the words would be taken from a particular passage of a particular text and the audience would be able to re-perform this text using the video clips. For example, the video library could be based on a passage from Thomas More “Utopia”(and be linked to the upcoming exhibition “Utopian Moments”) or it could be based upon the opening of “Wide Sargasso Sea”by Jean Rhys (and be linked to the “Bronte/Rhys”exhibition).

As a future development it is possible toextend the platform by including into the Mechanical Filmmaker different libraries (linked to different texts), other broadcasters and other types of media (such as audio recordings).

The project is designed to showcase the News and Moving Image collections in a unique way, allowing the general public to use the broadcast collection creatively. It will educate the audience about upcoming events, it will promote the collection and create an interest towards other digital content of the British library, and last but not least —be fun.

The Mechanical Filmmaker will be deployed on sites of the British Library. The project will involve a development of the interface that will allow users to engage with the video library through the terminals installed in the Newsroom reading room and it the exhibition halls. Also, taking into the consideration recent exceptions to copyright (published in 2014), it might be possible to publish the Mechanical Filmmaker online. If the permission would be granted, publishing the platform externally it would bring additional benefits to the digital collections of the British Library. Besides reaching the wider audience, this will allow participants to publish films created with the Mechanical Filmmaker on social media, which in turn will raise awareness both of the product and the collection.

Mechanical Filmmaker pic.png

Optional website detailing more information about the entry, for example, if you want to illustrate it with diagrams or pictures for example.

Assessment Criteria

The research question you are trying to answer *
Please focus on the clarity and quality of the research question posed.

The project is positioned in the field of “relational art”— art taking “as its theoretical horizon the realm of human interactions and its social context, rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space”(Bourriaud,1998). The project investigates how an artwork can be used as a relational device provoking discourses and creating encounters that will lead to the collective exploration of the subject matter.

The Mechanical Filmmaker explores different ways of constructing a narrative. By re-appropriating the footage from the broadcast collection, The Mechanical Filmmaker constructs a linkage between form, signs and images.

Please explain the extent and way your idea will showcase British Library digital content*
Please ensure you include details of British Library digital collections you are showcasing (you may use several collections if you wish), a sample can be found at:

The project will be designed to showcase the content of The British Library Broadcast news collection, focusing primarily on the news footage from the BBC. As a future development of the project it is possible toextend the application by including the footage from other providers and other types recordings (such as audio recordings). If my proposal would be successful, I would suggest that this project would be developed in collaboration with the BBC.

Please detail the approach(es) / method(s) you are going to use to implement your idea, detailing clearly the research methods *
Indicate and describe any research methodologies and approaches you are going to use, e.g. text mining, visualisations, statistical analysis etc

The project development will involve four stages.

During the first stage I will create a library of 1000 video clips based on a selected text. The clips will be identified using time-code and subtitle search. To ensure the possibility of constructing different narratives there should be up to 4 video clips per word.

For identifying and cutting the clips I will use a combination of manual and computational methods. The first stage of project will include research of the possible ways of automating the manual process of extracting clips (xml mining, voice recognition).

To test the method I will create a film using the video-words from the library. The film would be linked thematically to one of the upcoming exhibitions.

The next stage will involve the development of the user interface. It will be based on HTML 5 and Java Script and could possibly adapt some of the code from the already existing libraries.

As a final step I will run a series of workshops and user testing with volunteers and small groups of public.

Please provide evidence how you / your team have the skills, knowledge and expertise to successfully carry out the project by working with the British Library* *
E.g. work you may have done, publications, a list with dates and links (if you have them)

I am MPhil/PhD candidate in the Visual Communication, Royal College of Art. In my artistic practice I worked with a number of media including photography, sound and video. A list of my recent exhibitions and public talks include “Interaction with the Real”. Practice Based PhD Annual Conference (organised in 2015 by Royal Holloway University), National Centre for Contemporary Art (Russia, artist in residence, 2015) “Why Would I Lie”research biennial, (RCA, 2015) , The State Museum of Urban Sculpture (St. Petersburg , 2015, collective exhibition). In 2015, I helped to organise and curate the Research biennial in the Royal College of Art. The biennial was aimed at exploring ethics and aesthetics in contemporary research practices and comprised exhibited works, discursive presentations, a film programme, publication, and a major conference.

My technical skills include knowledge of video and audio editing software (such as Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Audition). I have a good understanding of web design processes and have experience in developing web sites (see for example my designs for or I would like to use the opportunity to work with the British Library Labs to develop my technical skills further.

In order to develop UI for the Mechanical Filmmaker I will need a help and support from Technical Team of the British Library Labs, but I can also bring collaborators and volunteers from outside BL if needed.

Please provide evidence of how you think your idea is achievable on a technical, curatorial and legal basis*
Indicate the technical, curatorial and legal aspects of the idea (you may want to check with Labs team before submitting your idea first)


All the main stages of the process are technically feasible and achievable in the given timescale.

The UI could be developed as a web interface using HTML5 and JavaScript. It is possible it to adapt some of the code from the already existing libraries, such as popcorn.js ( and jplayer (, in order to make the process of building interface faster.


The work will be created on site and in close collaboration with News and Moving Image curatorial Team and the BL l Labs. The Mechanical Filmmaker could be linked thematically to the upcoming exhibitions such as for example “The Utopian Moments”or “ Bronte/Rhys”. This will allow public to be engaged not only with the News and Moving Image collection, but also will create awareness and interest around public events of the BL


The majority of the footage from the BBC collection is under copyright and in order to work with this collection I may need to submit the request for accessing and reusing the files. It is possible to deploy the Mechanical Filmmaker on the sites of the British Library in London and Yorkshire without infringing the copyright law (section 75 of the 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents).

Also, taking into consideration recent exceptions to copyright (published in 2014) and the fact that the clips in the video library would be less that one sec length, there might be a possibility of publishing the Mechanical Filmmaker online. I will need an advice of the legal team of the BL if that kind of permission could be granted.

Please provide a brief plan of how you will implement your idea by working with the Labs team *

You will be given the opportunity to work on your winning idea between May 26th - November 4th 2016


a) Planning the project with the BL Labs team and the curators of the News and Moving Image Collection and discussing possible technical challenges and processes.
b) Submitting the request for accessing and reusing the TV recording collection (specifically the broadcasts from the BBC)
c) The BL Labs Team to consult with the BBC about possible collaboration
d) Discussions with the curatorial team of the BL about the upcoming exhibitions (“Utopian moments”, Bronte/Rhys) to determine interest and ways of collaboration and getting their advice on a selection of a particular passage on a particular passage from a text on which the video library would be based. For example, the video library could be based on a passage from Thomas More “Utopia”or on the opening of “Wide Sargasso Sea”by Jean Rhys as this will allow public to be engaged not only with the News and Moving Image collection, but also to be engaged with the public events of the BL


a) Mapping the database. Using the front-end of the video viewer, I will first choose the footage, then search for the keywords, recording time-codes and descriptions of the clips. This will help me to cut the footage into the one-word clips, but also can be used later for the development of the mapping database
b) Research of the possible ways of automating the manual process (xml mining, voice recognition)
c) Using these time codes, I will create a library of one-word video clips, with approx. 1000 clips in the library. A combination of manual and computational methods would be used.
d) Creation of the first video movie based on the clips from the database (independent work on-site).
d) Getting feedback from the curatorial team.


e) Together with the BL Labs team work on the database creation and UI development.The database will need to store information about keywords and file description.

User Interface development. Main UI functions: word search, choosing one of the clips from the library, playing the original clip, combining clips in one sequence, replaying the sequence. No video editing functions are required. UI can be developed using HTML5 and javascript and it is possible to adapt some of the code from the already existing libraries, such as popcorn.js ( and jplayer (

I will need a help and support from Technical Team of the British Library Labs, however if any difficulties occur I can bring my own collaborators and volunteers.

Testing the interface with the group of volunteers.

Analysing test results and implementing necessary improvements to the interface. Launch of a tool. Planning the future development of the product (new functions, additional funding etc).

Presenting the tool at the Labs Symposium on 7th of November.