Blip Festival: Reformat The Planet

How many of you have heard of chiptune or 8 bit music? Raise your hands. For those of you who didn’t raise your hands, you probably won’t care too much about this documentary unless you’re feeling especially adventurous or interested discovering new music. Blip Festival: Reformat The Planet is a film that explores the origins and future of 8 bit music via the 2006 Blip Festival (a music fest in NY comprised entirely of 8 bit musicians from around the world). For those curious as to what type of music this is, I shall quote the chiptune Wikipedia article: it’s “music written in sound formats where all the sounds are synthesized in realtime by a computer or video game console sound chip.” In simpler terms, it’s using an NES or GameBoy or similar video game system as an musical instrument. The result is music that sounds like it could be from an old video game but is usually more engaging and dance oriented. (Check out the 8 Bit Peoples website for lots of free 8 bit music.)

For those who are already fans of 8 bit music, Reformat The Planet will probably be a very exciting documentary, if only for the extensive footage from the 2006 Blip Festival held in New York. There are plenty of live performances ranging from chiptune veterans like Nullsleep and Bit Shifter plus newcomers like The Depreciation Guild and Anamanaguchi. Portions of the movie feature almost entire songs from these artists, merging documentary with music video. And the interviews with the musicians are fascinating, allowing us to discover how these people approach making chiptunes and where they think the future of the scene is headed.

Reformat The Planet does an excellent job of filming a 4 day music festival and using the footage to create an interesting and informative documentary about a mostly underground music scene. Instead of making a documentary about a specific festival or a new music genre, director Paul Owens does both and with great success. I can only assume Blip Festival: Reformat The Planet won’t resonate with the majority of people due to it being so niche, but those initially interested in the idea of making music with video game consoles will most likely be very pleased with the results.

Right now, Reformat The Planet is neither in theaters nor on DVD. It is currently streaming on Pitchfork.TV until the 21st, so check it out there if you’re interested. Otherwise, you’ll probably have to wait for a DVD release.

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