From the angle the camera is being held all I can see is sunlight pouring in through the leaves and branches of trees; there’s music blaring and a few seconds later I realize the person holding the camera is riding a bike. Their face fills the screen as they awkwardly try to position the camera on what I’m guessing is their bike’s basket. Once satisfied with the camera’s position, there’s a few seconds of them smiling, riding through the sunny, tree lined path before the video cuts and the next one loads. In all, it was maybe 40 seconds long.
The video, titled MOV 7768, is one of the many possibilities that could pop up when viewing the project “default filename tv,” a YouTube aggregator from artist Everest Pipkin. The aggregator compiles and shows videos which never had their filenames edited out of the camera. Each video therefore is a kind of uncut vignette of often mundane, sometimes wonderfully intimate moments.
“This project's second purpose is to absolutely wreck youtube's impression of your viewing habits, go wild and be free,” Pipkin wrote in a tweet on Wednesday describing the aggregator.
holy fuck this is amazing and surreal. A glimpse into the countless unseen videos that reside under what most people would consider Youtube's normal content.— bag mannfred (@bag_mannfred) March 27, 2019
I remember the week that google video started hosting videos. The first thing I remember seeing was called "flat dof" (a typo of "floating dog") and it showed a helicopter pilot doing a zero g dive and this dog floating up and knocking his headset off— BedWords (@snacklesbian) March 27, 2019
Viewers note the project transports them back to the early days of YouTube before all of the affiliate codes, glossy influencer culture, and the looming threat of misinformation. One Twitter user described the project as being Youtube circa 2006 “except much more international,” which was the experience I had;many of the videos featured languages I couldn’t recognize.
The videos are often of kids playing or people at functions or recitals. One showed a man singing karaoke rather passionately and another, titled IMG2850, was simply of a tanning bed’s lights shifting from one color to another.
There are other YouTube aggregators similar to this one, each with its own vibe and parameters. Youhole.tv, for instance, features videos below a certain view count and includes NSFW content, unlike default filename tv, which has a strict safe search filter enabled allowing viewers to sit back and allow each new video to come and go without any fear. Pipkin’s project allows us to get back to the fun, odd, and serendipitous spirit of YouTube’s past, a reminder that the platform wasn’t always such a contentious place.