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Summary:

The Arcade Fire’s new album release has been accompanied by relatively new uses of web video; today, thanks to some help from Google’s Chrome, the band’s track We Used to Wait gets an all-HTML5 “musical experience made specifically for the browser.”

arcade fire wilderness

The Arcade Fire’s new album release has been accompanied by relatively new uses of web video; earlier this month, a live-streamed YouTube concert directed by Terry Gilliam was watched, according to Mashable, by 3.7 million viewers. And today, thanks to some help from Google Chrome, the new track We Used to Wait gets an all-HTML5 “musical experience made specifically for the browser.”

Open up http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/ in Chrome, input your childhood address and get whisked away into a musical montage set on the streets that you grew up on, accompanied by multiple windows of running figures and flying birds.

It is, on the surface, very very cool. However — and maybe it makes me a bad Internet person for saying this — but I was left unimpressed at the end. For one thing, there was bugginess on my system, despite using the biggest monitor I had available. And yes, I did use Google Chrome, but that didn’t stop a bunch of the video windows from piling up, unviewable, at the bottom left-hand side of my screen. Thus, I only got a few glimpses of the multiple windows in full action.

Also, it probably helps to have grown up in a more distinctive neighborhood than mine, which, as seen through Google Street View, was just generic suburbia.

I don’t deny that this is a cool experiment, but its limitations make it just that — a cool experiment, good for building buzz and showing off some of HTML5’s neatest tricks. Will it create new HTML5 fans? Probably. Will it create new Arcade Fire fans? Probably not.

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  1. I had no problem with window placement on a 15″ Macbook Pro, a 14″ Windows XP laptop, a 20″ screen on a Win7 box and a 19″ screen on a WinXP box. They all acted the same with some scrunching on the smaller screens but nothing that took away from the video.
    Definitely need decent cpu to run it though… and good Google Map data.
    I thought it was definitely a cool and unique experiment considering the interaction and overlays (the shadow of someone running down my street matching placement of opening streetview windows was pretty slick). It’s a much better presentation of what HTML5 can do than just the HTML5 YouTube player.

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  2. You are doing it wrong. The video is supposed to overlap windows and the ones that are minimized in the bottom corner will expand and minimize automatically when they are supposed to… unless you start messing with them. If you manually try to size, manipulate or move any of the windows, you will screw up the playback and the video wont work. Try the video again and this time just don’t f**king touch anything.

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    1. I wish that those instructions had been a part of the opening screen, Brad. I’ll give it another try.

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  3. This is an interesting experiment of html5 with “a custom interactive music video”. It’s made using HTML5 instead of Flash. According the text, “[HTML5] is in its infancy right now”, and multimedia creator ifunia list a data that “Only 10% of Web video encoded in H.264 or HTML 5, not Flash.” supporting this opinion. So this is just an interesting experiment, if you got some Flash .flv video and want to watch them, maybe you need 3-rd party video converter software to help you.

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  4. [...] Arcade Fire’s Wilderness Downtown A Slightly Buggy Treat for HTML5 Fans (newteevee.com) [...]

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  5. Cool concept. Poor execution. Popup windows? Really? Is this 1999? They could’ve used divs within one window and saved my computer from slowing to a crawl. And for the love of anything don’t try to touch any of the windows, because that will screw everything up. Whoever designed this video is clearly not an internet user.

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  6. This is why we can’t have nice things. Can’t you just take it for what it is? I thought it was beautiful as a creative work and thoroughly enjoyed it. It worked fine for me on both 15″ and 17″ MBPs running the latest development build of Chrome.

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  7. Would love a follow up from the author – Did you try it again without fiddling with the windows??

    I had no problem at all in following instructions: enter your address, close out some extra tabs, hit play and enjoy. Mayhaps I was not tempted to fiddle with the windows because everything about the site screams This Is Something New.

    As far as the use of pop ups instead of divs, I chalk that up to the new scream as well. As HTML5 is refined I’m sure neater displays will come along.

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  8. [...] really showing what can be done on the web. HTML5 is a great step in the right direction — Arcade Fire’s The Wilderness Downtown was a terrific example of how we can begin taking storytelling on the web to the next level and [...]

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  9. [...] one of the other great music videos of the year was a demonstration of what’s possible with HTML5 video. The Wilderness Downtown, a collaboration between Google, filmmaker Chris Milk and the Canadian [...]

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