By Virginia Heffernan
Like the best and most enchanting apps, Vjay, a new app for iPhone that lets you make mashups and music videos, answers an emotional need I didn’t know I had. I’ve had it three days. It’s turned me into a video-making fool.
I don’t know what I used to do with my time, but today all I want to do is set moving images to music, and then mash the images up with other images, and then—what the hay, apparently I got nothing but time—mash the music up with other music. And then, like Paula Deen before she lightened up her cooking, I like to lard in some random audio and frost that with some other video and finally create a pixilated dump cake that...that... I don’t know… that looks cool? That makes me feel like Michel Gondry or Spike Jonze or some other bigshot music-video producer?
Or maybe the experience is just *so deeply satisfying* that I don’t care if anyone but me ever watches my masterpiece?!
Yeah, that’s it.
Vjay lets me grab trippy film of outer space and smear over it a semi-sheer iPhone movie my 7-year-old son made of our family having lunch. His documentary narration blends, in my artful short film, with Thea Gilmore’s version of “Crazy Love.” You’ll laugh; you’ll cry. It’s better than “National Anthem.”In case you yourself never, ever think about music videos anymore—didn’t even notice, for example, that MTV stopped showing them because they’re now worthless as intellectual property — you should know that they are no longer considered a commercial form. And once you can’t make money from something, it’s time to enshrine it as art. That’s what happened with plays, most movies, journalism, etc.
And naturally, just as music videos began to be considered an artform, and not just soul-corrupting eye candy, everyone got really good video cameras along with their phones, and started to fancy themselves video editors. I know I did.
Enter Vjay. It costs $2.99 in the App Store—while supplies last, we’re told—and you really do get to indulge some auteur fantasies. You can use Vjay’s library of videos (parkour, eye-popping stardust, etc) and your own, or buy videos to mash. Same with music. Then you get a bunch of effects, and you just start julienning and jamming. It’s huge fun.
Now remember, this is all on an iPhone. You’re not Martin Scorsese in one of those giant editing suites. Your canvas is 2.91 inches by 1.94 inches. Cut that screen in half—so you can work on two audio and video tracks at once—and you may find yourself thinking in millimeters. You also have to allot about an hour to learn the iconography, which is dense. The navigation is almost entirely in icons, and for me most of learning that was trial and error.
Learning a new iPhone app interface is like being an overnight guest somewhere new but not entirely alien. You adapt to whether they have hand towels or not, but you can assume they have a dining table and a sofa. The basics are familiar, and the rest you just have to feel around to master. The goal is to keep your patience in that first hour. (I fell short of that goal, and felt like giving up; the promise of making my Thea Gilmore vid kept me in the game.)
In the end, Vjay—by the chic company Algorridim, which wowed Apple with its Djay music-mixing app in 2011—is just pure pleasure. For me, mixing digital media, with apps that make it simple, has become like knitting or crossword puzzles. It’s what I do for mental pleasure, to afford my brain small satisfactions, like lining up a beat with an image. Vjay hits this spot exactly, and I expect it to be in heavy rotation over the holidays.