A viral video that was 47 years in the making

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American falls as seen from Canada in 2013

American side seen from Canada in 2013

When he filmed the scene in the summer of '69, my Dad did not foresee his moment of fame in 2016. But in the last two days, Dad has seen his 47-year-old work appear in the local Buffalo, NY media, on DailyMail.com, and on FOX News*.

In August of 1969, on a family outing to Niagara Falls, Dad filmed a remarkable scene. It was during the time that engineers had "turned off" the American side of the Falls**, diverting most of the water to the Canadian side, while scientists studied the natural wonder for erosion patterns. Did you know that it was possible to turn off the mighty Niagara Falls? Yes, it's been done. And there is renewed interest in the event because Niagara Falls authorities are talking about doing it again.

 
It might be generous to call the video "viral." By most definitions, a video can be called "viral" if it receives a million views in a day, or 3 to 5 million views in a few days. This video (on my personal YouTube channel) has received only about 40,000 views in the past day. Not viral, but let's call it "burgeoning" (thank you Roget's). (UPDATE: one week later, the video now has over 100,000 views!)

Here's the historical timeline of this video:

  • August 1969: Dad films the dewatered Niagara Falls on a common 8mm film camera. I'm in the video at the end -- that's me in the stroller (I was 1-yr old) with my Mom.
  • November 2006: as steward of the family 8mm films, I digitize the film and edit it. I added some explanatory text and a bed of music that I don't have the rights to use (hey, that makes me a citizen of the Internet).
  • April 2011: I upload the video to YouTube. I figured it would be interesting to some, as it captured a rare event. A once-in-a-lifetime event, we might have thought back then. In nearly 5 years, the video accumulates only a few thousand views.
  • January 2016: a perfect storm makes the video super popular. The conditions of this storm: a related modern story renews interest, the video contains relatively rare footage, and (maybe most importantly) the video producer (me) is available and responsive to grant permission to these media outlets.

That last point was probably crucial. In all three cases (Buffalo News, Daily Mail, and FOX News), the stories were produced within hours of the reporters reaching out to me. The stories were happening with or without my video. Like so many events in my life, this was all about being in the right place at the right time.

This blog topic is a departure from my usual discussion of SAS topics, so let's tie it back with a view of some YouTube stats. YouTube provides video analytics to any user with a YouTube channel, but the stats usually lag by several days. It's too soon to see the aggregated view of my stats that include the past two days. But, YouTube does offer a "real time" view of what is happening with your video right now. Here's my snapshot from this morning:
ytstats

If you watch the video in the next few days you'll be subjected to some advertising. That's how YouTube generates revenue from popular content. Thanks to my use of copyrighted music, I don't really have a chance to benefit financially from this sudden burst of activity. But that's okay with me -- I enjoy just watching the phenomenon to see how far it goes.


* FOX News reporters reached out to me yesterday and said the story would air yesterday afternoon. I haven't seen it, but my Dad confirmed they aired the video and gave him the photo credit.


** The idea of "turning off the Falls" sounds crazy to some, but really it's an impressive feat of engineering that was mastered decades ago. People are not generally aware that much of the "Falls" volume is diverted every day right now to provide hydroelectric power to the Northeast. Remember Y2K? When people were worried that the power grid might shut down when the year turned to 2000, one certainty remained: water would continue to flow over the Falls. The Niagara Falls hydro plant played a critical role in disaster preparations for Y2K. Of course, nothing came of it – Y2K was a big disappointment in that respect.

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About Author

Chris Hemedinger

Senior Manager, SAS Online Communities

+Chris Hemedinger is the manager of SAS Online Communities. Since 1993, Chris has worked for SAS as an author, a software developer, an R&D manager and a consultant. Inexplicably, Chris is still coasting on the limited fame he earned as an author of SAS For Dummies.  He also hosts the SAS Tech Talk webcasts each year from SAS Global Forum, connecting viewers with smart people from SAS R&D and the impressive work that they do.

4 Comments

  1. Beverly Brown

    Fascinating! It never occurred to me that you could turn off/re-route the Niagara Falls. Perfect soundtrack choice. Glad you posted this!

    • Chris Hemedinger
      Chris Hemedinger on

      I love how the Buffalo News piece said that Dad filmed while my Mom and I "were at the brink." As if perhaps (in these days before Baby Bjorn) I might have had my little feet dangling in the puddled water, teetering over the gorge below.

  2. Debbie Jackson on

    This was very interesting Chris, and I loved your music choice. Good work on the editing and transfer from 8 mm film. I really glad I ran across this post. Your Dad's work will never die, it will live on in your video . (Y)

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