The Secret Lives of Supercutters

Why do people spend so many hours stitching footage together for a supercut? Slate’s Seth Stevenson went down the rabbit hole to find out what the allure is.

Time whizzed by as I pieced the whole thing together. When I mentioned this to Chris, he told me he sometimes stays up all night working on an edit. “It’s just the right balance of puzzle-solving, technical detail, and creative choices to keep your brain endlessly engaged,” he explained.

I began to understand why all these folks are scrambling to teach themselves how to use editing software. Unexpectedly, I also got a taste of the supercutting urge. I think I now see what drives people to cut even in the absence of monetary reward: In the midst of scanning through all those New Girl scenes, plucking out bits and repurposing them, I noticed a new and unfamiliar little jolt of power was coursing through me. I had asserted my dominance over this slickly produced piece of media. The show was subject to my whims—defenseless against my editorial scissors. I could have done anything to it. Talked over it. Played farting sound effects. Slapped a photo of my face in the middle of the screen.

This sense of autonomy is something that would have been extremely difficult to achieve until the relatively recent past. Before digital formats and easy computer editing programs, an amateur like me would have had little hope of reshaping an entire TV series to fit his own vision. Now anybody with an idea and a laptop can play visual media god. “I sometimes feel like a magician,” Chris told me when I confessed that my editing experiment was swelling my ego. “Editing is a powerful way to interact with the modern world.”

Part of me wishes this was a deeper profile on some of the genre’s most famous practitioners.

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