When MTV’s award show kicked off 24 years ago, the network was ushering in a new era where the video was king: a branding tool and an art form rolled into one. Today, the channel broadcasts mostly reality shows while YouTube, iTunes, MTV.com and various other online destinations have become the dominant viewing platform for videos. Directors gradually are adapting to the smaller-sized medium. Chris Applebaum’s video for Rihanna’s “Umbrella” is nominated for five VMAs, including video of the year and best director. It’s a sleek, beautiful creation, and Applebaum was conscious of where it would be most watched. “I had a lunch with Rihanna and Jay (label head Jay-Z) and we talked about the fact that most people are going to watch things on their laptop,” Applebaum says. “It’s important to be bold and simple and to find the elegance in simplicity.” Bayer’s video for Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around ? Comes Around” is nominated for numerous VMAs, including best video and best director. Starring Timberlake and Scarlett Johansson, the video has a distinctively cinematic feel, complete with a car chase and end credits. In this way, “What Goes Around” feels old-school – like a rebellion against the new aesthetic. Instead, Bayer aimed for an experience more like Michael Jackson’s landmark 1983 “Thriller” video, directed by John Landis. “I said, `We gotta go big,”‘ says Bayer. “`If I’m going up against an OK Go video with four guys on a treadmill that plays millions of times on YouTube, how can I do something that is the opposite of that?”‘ In the late ’80s and through the ’90s, budgets and ambition ran high. Mark Romanek’s 1995 video for Michael and Janet Jackson’s “Scream” is considered the most expensive ever, at an estimated $7 million. There have been many videos in the $2 million range. “What Goes Around” cost about $1 million, but Bayer thinks it could be one of the last big-budget videos. “A comet hit the Earth and the dinosaurs are dying,” Bayer said. “There’s a new age coming. I think those days are over with.” Stavros Merjos, founder of HSI Productions and a longtime producer of videos for acts ranging from Britney Spears to Will Smith, doesn’t expect to ever see another $2 million video: “The record industry as a whole has shrunk. There’s not as much money to throw around.” Merjos sees the effect particularly in hip-hop, where sales declines have been the steepest and extravagant videos used to be commonplace. Many artists and directors are creating videos knowing they’ll have to compete for eyeballs on YouTube. OK Go’s famous treadmill-choreographed video for “Here It Goes Again” was perfectly suited for viral distribution, but the power pop band is far from alone in its methods. “The new aesthetic is that it’s very low-budget, lo-fi, very do-it-yourself, not at all dedicated to the old style of music video which was always bigger and louder and more explosions and more money,” said Saul Austerlitz, author of Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video from the Beatles to the White Stripes. “This is more a punk-rock aesthetic,” he adds. “It’s very exciting.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The result has been a major shift in the art form, as artists increasingly embrace the YouTube aesthetic with cheap, stripped-down, low-production videos. The shrinkage of the video will be obvious Sunday at the MTV Video Music Awards, where grandiose, ambitious videos will seem like an exotic species facing extinction. “The business is changing radically. It does feel smaller, cheaper,” says veteran music video director Samuel Bayer, whose many clips include Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Blind Melon’s “No Rain” and Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” which won six awards at the 2005 VMAs. Even Kanye West – one of the most video-conscious artists in music – experimented with a small, quirky clip for his new hit “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.” Instead of the flamboyant rapper, the video stars the bearded, disheveled, unmistakably white comedian Zach Galifianakis. Pimping an orange tractor on a country farm, he lip-syncs: “Homey, this is my day.” By Jake Coyle THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NEW YORK – The music video is shrinking. With the music industry in crisis from falling sales and file sharing, labels have less cash to subsidize elaborate videos that mostly will be seen in miniature on computers.