It’s about to get a whole lot easier and legal to share clips and scenes from films, at least those from the Universal catalog, once their deal with AnyClip goes through…

The exchange of common cultural imagery has long since become a staple of online communication, and we’re well accustomed to our ability to hyperlink, insert, and embed references to cultural shorthand in blog posts, on Facebook walls, and wherever else. Typically YouTube and its easily liked/shared/embedded player is the engine that powers these interactions when they include video, but unfortunately the legality of any particular upload is often questionable. Even more frustrating is that despite the fact that YouTube’s repository of video content has long since crossed over being “mighty” to “incomprehensible” and is quickly approach “your one true God” size, it can still be a hit-or-miss affair trying to find that one thing that happens with the guy in the place in that one movie. You know, the thing.

AnyClip is a service that tries to remedy that problem by breaking down films into scenic chunks that can be easily shared via social media and embeds. If you want to make a “nice marmot” reference, the idea is that you can dump the appropriate Big Lebowski clip right along with it. While the idea is brilliant and pretty much a guaranteed success, it’s not particularly remarkable when stacked up against YouTube except for one thing… the lovely, wonderful world of meta-data. AnyClip specializes in tagging its uploads with a dense array of meta-data that makes dialogue, characters, actors, places, objects, and situations all search-able.

The service has been around a while, but its catalog and sharing function too limited to make too much of a splash. A new deal with Universal though, as reported by THR, will unlock the vast majority of the studio’s library to the service, which means that soon classics like Back to the Future, Jaws, E.T., Psycho, Spartacus, The Birds, and hundreds of other will be cut up, indexed, and made available for sharing. A revenue share deal will see the two companies make money from advertising, and their deals with iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix, since the players themselves cross-reference links to purchase, stream, and rent the films from which the clips are pulled. This deal, or perhaps just restructuring over the last year, has changed the site from an IMBD competing film index into something more focus and devoted to the clip sharing idea, as you can’t seem to find index pages for films that don’t have clips on the site.*

Frankly, this is a brilliant deal and you can be sure that you’ll see more and more studios signing up. The film moguls are catching on to the fact (finally) that you can’t stop the tide of online media consumption, and the best way to profit is to put it out there yourself in a manner you control, brand, cross-promote, and advertise around.

As for the consumer? Well shit, we apparently love supercuts and meme-collections from films, as evidenced by every other article from film blogs and news sites that cover the latest montage of this or that cliched line. Enabling that kind sharing in a potentially profitable way is a shrewd move for sure.

It’s not surprising Universal is the first to make this major move, as they already have an online infrastructure set-up for licensing movie clips that makes this a natural step. It may still take a little while for all of these films to become available though, as the AnyClip process can apparently take a while. Each film is indexed “during the course of up to 20 hours, tagged with 5,000 unique elements like character, setting, dialogue, behavior and the sorts of objects in the various scenes. The company uses its proprietary technology as well as human movie-watchers to figure it all out.”

This is a subtle but clear sign of the times… our visual cultural is becoming more fluid everyday, and the smallest minutia or throw away moment can become something larger when it can turn into a decontextualized commodity independent of its source. Films, TV, music, and pop culture is a part of our shared language, and in some cases replaces it- this only helps that along in the online arena.

I’m simultaneously excited and frightened, but what are your thoughts? Do you see this kind of thing integrating itself into our online lives? Let us know in the comments below or-

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*Example of the good and the bad:

A search for “live my life a quarter mile at a time” brings up a perfectly cut 30 second clip from The Fast and The Furious, but brings up no mention of the “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard” scene from Torque. Then searching for Torque specifically brings back no relevant results. I suppose this could just mean Torque just isn’t something AnyClip wants any part of, the fools.