Super Volume Supercut

If you’ve arrived here from the Super Volume page thank you for watching, I hope you enjoyed it (otherwise you can watch it here). You’ll find more information about the project in this post. An ongoing (hopefully growing) list of the films and television shows included in the supercut can be found at the bottom of this page.

Super Volume is a randomly generated supercut collecting instances of volume manipulation from film and television. Each time the web page is refreshed (or the Stop/Randomise button is pressed) the existing database of clips is reshuffled and a new version of the supercut is loaded into the video player. There is no rendered or final version of this supercut, rather it is designed to be added to as and when new clips are found and loaded into the database. This version of Super Volume is accompanied by (but not set to) ‘Gut Feeling’ by Devo. A ‘mute’ option is included on the page so that viewers can listen to music of their own choosing (or no music at all) whilst they watch.

Super Volume is the first part of a larger project to explore the specific relationship between the on screen action of volume manipulation, and the reciprocal manipulation which this might precipitate during the post-production sound mixing process, namely the turning up (or turning down) of volume. Functionally then, this supercut is as much about providing me (as a researcher) with easy access to the material I am working with, as it is about creating a new videographic work. But Super Volume is also an exploration of the process of creating a videographic work, of defining and designing an appropriate presentational mode, where publishing on Vimeo (where my previous videographic works all reside) might prove to be a limiting factor.

“Whether one thinks about the supercut as a database or a collection of images and sounds, it implies a process of aggregating and sorting that has no beginning and no end and that could continue indefinitely as long as there were new additional sources.”

Allison De Fren, 2020

There is no theoretical limit to the number of clips which can be added to the Super Volume database, but the intent here is not to be exhaustive, rather to be incremental. This particular mode of presentation means that the supercut is a perpetual ‘work in progress’, with no effective beginning or end, and no set length. My goal is that the project will grow through future collaboration as I develop other strands of research alongside it. The generative nature of this presentation mode also serves to curtail my creative impact on the final video. The process of careful editing and synchronisation which is often so intrinsic to the videographic form, and the supercut in particular, is stripped away here. The task of editing is reduced to ‘topping and tailing’ clips and nothing more (and as you will see, for the most part these clips have been quite tightly edited to the action). Whilst this does nothing to show off my editing skills it does make it considerably easier for me to watch (and re-watch) the piece. I have very little creative stake in how the work comes together, so I am inured against the agonising process of second guessing my editing decisions as I watch it back. Rather, I can adopt something of a duel position as both a cinephiliac, indulging my fetishisistic impulse to collect these clips, and as a dispassionate viewer, able to “maintain an objective distance” (De Fren, 2020) from this particular object of study, precisely because I have no control over the form it will take each time I hit play. Of course the lack of any agency on my part in the editing of the piece does increase the potential for it to seem ‘cold’ (Bordwell in Kiss, 2013). What labour might have gone into the sourcing of the clips, and the coding of the video player is not replicated in the careful editing, sorting, and syncing of the final videographic work. It remains to be seen whether other viewers take anything away from the viewing experience, or feel the need/desire to explore the potentially endless random variations available to them.

I have already watched Super Volume a lot, at first to refine the code for the video player (more on the technical aspects of this below), and then to explore just what the random nature of the supercut might reveal to me. I intend to write more on this in the future, but initially I find it interesting to note how differently each hand approaches this seemingly simple task, disconnected as they are here from any narrative context (and body) which might clue us into their motivations. Some are hesitant, questioning, whilst others are definite, casual, happy even? Most are white and male, which I could suggest is indicative of the nature of the films and television shows where I have harvested these clips from. But implicit in that suggestion is my own potential bias, directing me to specific sources in search of these clips. Either way I am in need of a much broader sample of clips before I can make any meaningful analysis, and I am hopeful that the open and ongoing curation of the project will help with this.

The Super Volume player is based on this code by Ben Moren. Ben was kind enough to help me out with a few tweaks to the code despite it being quite a few years since he wrote it. Getting a video to play back in a modern web browser is a reasonably straightforward process, but finessing the functionality for Super Volume took quite a while (largely because I am not a coder). The Super Volume player is actually 2 video players stacked on top of each other (thus it takes a little longer to load than a normal web page). The transition between videos clips is the 2 players swapping places, one moving to the ‘front’ (in Z space) whilst the other loads the next video. The supercut will always start with the same 2 video clips so to avoid obvious repetition, I have added two short, blank videos as clips 1 and 2. Ben’s original player code already handled the random shuffling of the clips into an array for playback, but it needed a small tweak to stop it playing the clips more than once in what was essentially an endless loop. Now the video player will stop after the final clip in the database is played (though the music will continue). The Stop/Randomise button re-loads the webpage, running the code again resulting in a newly shuffled array of video clips, and a new version of the supercut.

Special thanks to Alan O’Leary, Ariel Avissar, and Will DiGravio who provided invaluable usability testing and feedback on the first version of this project.

This is the first part of a larger project which I anticipate will run for at least 12 months and more on that will be published through this blog as it comes to fruition. If you have any thoughts, comments, suggestions, or questions about Super Volume please email me at

FilmNumber of Clips
Upstream Color (2013)1
Talk Radio (1988)1
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)2
Back to the Future (1985)4
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)3
Ali G Indahouse (2002)1
Studio 666 (2022)1
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)1
Caddyshack (1980)1
Berberian Sound Studio (2012)8
Airheads (1994)2
Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)1
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)1
Blow Out (1981)1
Deadwax (2018)1
Spiderhead (2022)1
The Gray Man (2022)1
The Last Word (2017)1
Things Behind the Sun (2001)1


de Fren, A., 2020. The Critical Supercut: A Scholarly Approach to a Fannish Practice. The Cine-Files15.

Kiss, M., 2013. Creativity Beyond Originality: György Pálfi’s Final Cut as Narrative Supercut. Senses of Cinema, (67).

Other reading/watching

Meneghelli, D., 2017. Just Another Kiss: Narrative and Database in Fan Vidding 2.0. Global Media Journal: Australian Edition, 11(1), pp.1-14.

Tohline, M., 2021. A Supercut of Supercuts: Aesthetics, Histories, Databases. Open Screens, 4(1), p.8. DOI:

Looking for Alternatives

No video this week, but rather some brief thoughts on my current investigations into alternative video platforms for publishing videographic work.

This is a snippet of script from a new idea I’m working on. A few posts back I mentioned the presentation of the deformative work, and I’ve continued thinking on that. In this particular instance, I’m looking at how I can create a bespoke video presentation format which is also an integral aspect of the work. It means creating a custom video player hosted on my own website (and learning some of the coding that goes with that), but the upside is a highly customisable solution which lends itself quite readily to the presentation of audio visual experimentation. I’m not intending to abandon Vimeo just yet, if offers a lot of advantages for publishing video essays, but I’m curious to see what other experimental outputs might be inspired by the flexibility that comes with not publishing on Vimeo.

Internal Logic

This experiment uses Python code adapted from a number of sources (see below) to create a film ‘trailer’ based on the sound energy present in the films soundtrack.

In her chapter on ‘Digital Humanities‘ in The Craft of Criticism (Kackman & Kearney, 2018), Miriam Posner discusses the layers of a digital humanities project; source, processing, & presentation. With this experiment/video I’m stuck on the last one. I get the sense that there is a way to present this work that might expose the “possibilities of meaning” (Samuels & McGann, 1999) in a way which is more sympathetic to the internal logic of the deformance itself. A presentation mode (videographic or other?) which is self-contained, rather than relying on any accompanying explanation. So, more to be done with this one. Very much a WIP.

A brief note on the process

The code for this experiment is adapted from a number of Python scripts which were written to automatically create highlight reels from sports broadcasts (the first one I found used a cricket match as an example). Links to the various sources I’ve used are below.

Become a video analysis expert using python

Video and Audio Highlight Extraction Using Python

Creating Video Clips in Python

The idea is that the highlights in any sporting event will be accompanied by a rise in the ‘energy’ in the soundtrack (read as volume here for simplicity) as the crowd and commentator get louder. The Python script analyses the soundtrack in small chunks, calculating the short term energy for each. The result is a plot like this, which shows a calculation of the sound energy present in the center channel of Dune’s sound mix.

I’m not entirely clear what scale the X axis is using here for the energy (none of the blogs get into any sort of detail on this) but as the numbers increase, so does the sound energy. The Y axis is the number of sound chunks in the films sountrack with that energy (in this case I set the size of the chunks to 2 seconds). To create the ‘trailer’ I picked a threshold number based on the plot (the red circle) and the code extracted any chunks from the film that had a sound energy above this figure. Choosing the threshold is not an exact science so I tried to pick a figure which gave me a manageable amount of video to work with. A higher threshold would mean less content, a lower threshold would result in more. Note – The video above features the films full soundtrack, but the clip selections were made on energy calculations from the center channel alone.

I am not a coder!

I’m not going to share the code here. It took an age to get working (largely as a result of my coding ignorance) and I can’t guarantee that it will work for anyone else the way I’ve cobbled it together. If anyone is interested in trying it out though, please get in touch, I’m more than happy to run through it on a Zoom or something.

Kackman, M. and Kearney, M.C. eds., 2018. The craft of criticism: Critical media studies in practice. Routledge.
Kackman, Mary Celeste Kearney

Samuels, L. and McGann, J., 1999. Deformance and interpretation. New Literary History, 30(1), pp.25-56.