Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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Pirates are now using YouTube’s panoramic videos to hide whole movies

Pirates are now using YouTube’s panoramic videos to hide whole movies

There are many ways to experience the gist of the 1995 cult-ish film Clueless. Some of these include: reading Jane Austen’s Emma (1815), collect all manner of memes, and if you absolutely must, watch Clueless, I guess. To that list we can now add… as an Easter egg in a panoramic video?

The video’s been taken down, but for a brief, glorious moment, Clueless existed within one of YouTube’s new-ish 360-degree videos. This, one supposes, is convenient insofar as it makes it easier to turn away at the film’s many awkward moments. Formalism to the rescue! But, in more practical terms, the purpose of embedding the film inside a panoramic video was to bypass YouTube’s automated Content ID systems, which automatically track for pirated material such as this as it’s uploaded.


While this seems to be the first case of YouTube’s 360-degree videos being used in this way, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The first, inexorable rule of the internet is that, if you can think of it, someone has turned it into pornography. (Don’t let the term “rule 34” fool you.) Coming a close second, however, must be the principle that any new piece of technology will quickly be used for piracy. In purely technical terms, that’s what embedding a major (?) motion picture in a panorama is: an attempt to get around Google’s Content ID. Add it to the list of awkward strategies to subvert detection that previously included altering the pitch of audio tracks (which this Clueless video also employed) and insetting videos within annoying backgrounds. None of these strategies have proven to be hugely effective, but they now constitute a series of visual tics for the YouTube era.

Computers understand panoramic videos differently than humans. They don’t actually spin around. Nothing is really hidden. A panoramic video is simply a spherical projection. That people think they can hide things in these videos once the novelty wears off speaks to the difference between the technological realities and subjective experiences of the medium. Peripheral elements feel hidden in panoramic or VR videos, even when that isn’t strictly true.

Clueless hidden inside a YouTube 360-degree video, via The Verge

The idea of hiding Clueless in a panoramic video is therefore more compelling than tweaking pitch or speed. It is indicative of the potential for Easter eggs in VR, of hidden delights and rumors that can spread organically and be chased down. Film studios probably don’t like this iteration of that future, but in the long run, the idea of hiding a film in a spherical projection is an interesting idea for everyone to explore.

May the future also include the closet from Clueless. It’s dope.


Header image via VentureBeat

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