What do Russian metal heads and French autoharpists have in common? They’ve both covered Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” — a song whose original music video recently surpassed one billion views.
To celebrate that milestone, and the fact that Eilish’s smash hit is one of the most-covered songs the platform has ever seen, YouTube is releasing what the company calls “the world’s first infinite video,” which takes short clips from tens of thousands of “Bad Guy” covers and randomly links them together, creating a new visual every time. Thanks to AI that can recognize song structure, the clips are always strung together to fit the sequence of the sing.
In truth, the “infinite” video isn’t actually infinite. But, according to YouTube, there are 1.46 x 10^100 years of video combinations, so it would be impossible for a person to see the exact same sequence more than once in their lifetime. The video was created with 10.5 million seconds of digital content.
YouTube sees “Infinite Bad Guy” as a growing experiment — so fan-generated videos created after the initial launch will be mixed into the video eventually as well, representatives confirm.
After starting the video, the viewer is automatically placed in an “#Everything” category, but those who want a more active experience can choose to hop around by selecting videos with certain instruments or genres. There are also categories for sign language, dance routines, parodies, and more. Whenever a viewer presses pause, they have the ability to peruse a list of the videos they just saw and be transferred over to creators’ official YouTube channels.
“To create this experience, Google Creative Lab had to perfectly align the audio from thousands of videos with different tempos, instruments, keys, and styles,” YouTube said in a blog post Monday morning. “Conventional algorithms couldn’t do the trick alone, so we turned to machine learning. For videos that deviated from the original track — like acoustic or acapella versions — we built a neural network that could predict matches between covers and the original. With this data, we were able to line up all kinds of different covers and switch seamlessly between them.”
Due to these technical requirements, the experience can’t live online as a traditional YouTube video. Instead, the organizers gave it its own microsite: billie.withyoutube.com.
“As a team that loves working with really cutting-edge technology ideas, being able to apply these ideas at the scale of YouTube, and get to work with such a rich and creative group of content is really unique,” Google Creative Lab Producer Jay Chen said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “This project is a loving monument to YouTube fan culture, in all its diverse and wonderful glory. With billions of combinations, every viewing is unique and we can’t wait for you to play it.”
YouTube Global Head of Artist Relations Vivien Lewit added: “We’ve had the privilege of working with Billie and her team throughout her journey to becoming a global superstar. Today we’re honored to be celebrating “Bad Guy” reaching 1 billion views on YouTube and shining a light on the video creations of her impassioned fans with ‘Infinite Bad Guy’. This one-of-a-kind experience is our way of celebrating Billie and her YouTube community.”