'World's First Instagram Film Experience' Used to Promote Toronto Silent Film Festival

Has Instagram become the new mutoscope? Well -- not completely, but the folks at the Toronto Silent Film Festival have come up with an inventive way to replicate this visual illusion in order to draw attention to their upcoming event. By uploading stills from famous silent films on Instagram, users can quickly scroll down the images and watch a scene play out -- kind of like a mutoscope or flip book, only digital. Despite a few technical kinks, these stroboscopic "trailers" are bringing silent films to life to a brand new generation of moviegoers.

Three films were chosen to be used in the trailers: Murnau's Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), Tumbleweeds (1925), and Del Lord's car comedy Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies (1925). Three separate Instagram accounts were set up in order to view each one:

In order to view the trailers, simply download Instagram on your phone, if you haven't yet, go to each Instagram account (@tsff_1, 2, and 3), set the view to slideshow, and scroll quickly through the images (Not too fast! You don't want a blurry mess.) Still not sure how it works? Check out the promotion video!

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVytk4p4If8

Of course, there's an inherent problem with getting people not accustomed to silent films to watch silent films. I know that my generation is not a huge fan, and I definitely didn't appreciate them until several professors shoved them down my throat like green eggs and ham ("You'll like it if you try it!"). However we are fans of technology, especially apps that are easily accessible on our phones. Not only that, but communicating with our friends, colleagues, and peers almost always involves the, "Hey, have you seen blah blah blah on YouTube/4chan/Reddit?" Sharing something new with each other is important in our culture, and perhaps that will help.

The Canadian advertising agency Cosette came up with the idea to use Instagram to promote the film festival. Matt Litzinger, Cosette's co-chief creative officer, talked about it in a recent interview:

It feels appropriate to be using a technology like Instagram to promote the silent film technique, which in its day was every bit as ground-breaking and innovative as digital platforms are today -- Everyone knows that showing clips of a film can drum up interest. We wanted to create a sort of 'trailer' of our own, and thought this new and unique use of Instagram could bring the films to life and draw attention to the festival.

These trailers are getting a decent amount of buzz, each one being followed by a few hundred users and amassing a bunch of likes. Some users are exclaiming things like "WOW!" and "EPIC!!!," as well as others commenting on how clever the idea is. Unfortunately, this campaign is not without its flaws. Firstly, this isn't the first time a platform like this has been used to promote films. Fox recently used the video sharing app Vine, "the Instagram of video," to promote its new Wolverine movie. Some users have complained that their phones scroll too quickly through the images, causing them to be unable to capture the illusion. Also, there is the problem of comments and likes showing up in between images, which disrupts the illusion when scrolling. It's a catch-22: Make promo trailers so popular that its fanfare renders it unwatchable, or make promo trailers watchable, but never know how popular they are.

Well, maybe if users were as silent as the films then the trailers could be enjoyed fully. However, I tried all three trailers, and although the viewing was a little bit disjointed in some parts, I still enjoyed the novelty --  I'm going to go watch Metropolis now. All this talk about silent films has got me all nostalgic.

What do you think about the Toronto Silent Film Festival's "trailers?" Are they a good marketing tool? Are they gimmicky?


[via The Verge]

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Your Comment


"I definitely didn’t appreciate them"????
How could somebody not like silent films??? First time I hear that.
I'm 30, I watch silent films since I'm a kid, it has never been a problem. Especially Chaplin!

March 28, 2013 at 3:17AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I know, Vincent. It seems ridiculous to me now!

March 28, 2013 at 11:30AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

V Renée
Content Manager at Coverfly

I love the silent films...sound ruined movies! Ha ha.

Seriously, thou...back in film school (we had to shoot our first semester in b/w non-sync sound...with Bell & Howell wind up cameras)...& it was the best ever to force you to work and think visually.

Keaton, Chaplin & Lloyd are gods.

April 2, 2013 at 5:00PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Daniel Mimura

"Some users are exclaiming things like “WOW!” and “EPIC!!!,”" .....lol....after reading this, I immediately scrolled up to see who wrote it and it was a female name....soft heart-ted writing! emotive! lol!

Dope technology, I really was "WOW''-ed out, couldn't have imagined how one came up with such a brilliant idea...

March 28, 2013 at 8:37AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

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December 4, 2017 at 4:44AM