Bre Pettis’ “History Hacker”

I mentioned back on September 5th that my friend, Bre Pettis was going to have the premiere of the pilot television series episode he did, called “History Hacker” on The History Channel.

Photo by Francisco Daum
Bill Cammack, Charles Hope, Grace Piper @ Bre Pettis
Videoblogger meetup, Art Bar, May 2007

Rudy Jahchan, Bill Cammack & Bre Pettis,
starring in “Epic Pose-Coordination FAIL!”

The premiere was on the 26th, and Bre had a “viewing party” in Brooklyn.
(Check out Bre’s posts about the show & party on

Bre Pettis: History Hacker Premiere Viewing Party

I can’t think of a better way to kick off my new Television category than with a friend’s show! 😀

Basically, Bre likes to hack things. This means he takes things apart, sees how they work and makes OTHER things out of them or makes them have different functions than they originally had. Think of the television show MacGyver, except with time, resources, research and no villains chasing you while you’re trying to create stuff.

He’s been doing podcasts (shows on the internet) on this topic for a long time. They’re normally short, because people that watch video on the net have a short attention span. This means he’s had to condense the loooooong amount of time it takes him to do what he does into a few minutes. This kind of show translates well into a 30-minute or hour-long program (actually 44 minutes plus commercials), because there’s so much that ends up on the cutting-room floor that you actually COULD make long programs from what Bre does.

I know this because I’ve spent an hour MYSELF, just trying to get my lines down for a 7-minute video collaboration. :/

The Lab – Episode 06: “Hostin’ Ain’t Easy!”

Now, the thing about internet video shows is you have NO BUDGET. This means you have to get your point across with the least amount of production, because you can’t afford to hire people that will make your show look right. Well, in this case, they pulled out ALL the stops. “History Hacker” is really VISUALLY entertaining. They used either a greenscreen or more likely a white cyc to create Bre’s virtual environment:

The Shirtless Apprentice #21: Cyclorama 101

I was honestly SURPRISED at what I was watching, hahaha. I really wasn’t prepared for the polish that they put on Bre’s pilot. The show is easily watchable by people that aren’t even INTERESTED in what Bre’s talking about or doing. At the same time that it’s about hacking things, it’s a history lesson, there are animations, there’s compositing, great writing, multiple locations in multiple cities… I CERTAINLY wasn’t ready to see MIT’s “Infinite Corridor”, which I had to pass through a zillion times, going to class. I had assumed it was shot in Brooklyn, in one location, in the same style that Bre’s web shows are normally done. I was amazed and entertained.

‘Matter of fact, Bre’s show reminded me of a show I used to edit for AETN / History Channel called “Guts & Bolts”. It had the same mix of talking about mechanical technology and simultaneously giving history lessons. You don’t think about how IMPERATIVE it is for aircraft carrier catapults to work nearly 100% of the time until someone explains that if it’s only 99% reliable, one out of every 100 times you launch a multi-million dollar plane, it falls in the water. 😀

Anyway, the show was great! 😀 I have it on DVR and am in the process of watching it again. I actually had to stop watching it, because there are just too many GREAT shots and lines and setups. For me, it’s overload, because I’m used to experiencing my friends’ shows 3 minutes at a time… NOT 44+commercials! 😀

Bre Pettis: History Hacker Premiere Viewing Party

The layperson’s going to enjoy it. The techie’s going to enjoy it. The hacker’s going to enjoy it. Anyone interested in inventions or history’s going to enjoy it. I definitely recommend setting your DVR up to record it (assuming they’re showing reruns) or making time to sit down and check it out! 😀

Bre Pettis - History Hacker

And if you DON’T watch “History Hacker”, this is what happens to you! 😀

Photo by Rob Boudon

Karin: I KNOW you watched “History Hacker”, RIGHT?
Noneck: Yeah, Yeah… I got the torrent. I’ll watch it when I get home!
Bre: hehehe
Bill: Yeah. That’s what I’M talkin’ ’bout! 😀

Bill Cammack | Television

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