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Deciphering the Bullet Curtain

What the comments across videos are actually saying

11·04·2015

The erection of the Great Firewall of China means that those living in the Middle Kingdom have no access to online videos from Youtube, Daily Motion, or Twitter. Instead, they have to make do domestic brands for their streaming needs.

And similar to players in the phone or automobile industry, many Chinese video sites borrow concepts from abroad.

bullet-1

What do you get when you cross a Bentley with a Rolls Royce? [@EthanYun7]

In this case, bullet curtains 弹幕 (dàn/tán mù).

bullet-2

How narcissistic is it to point at the comment complimenting your looks?

Originally implemented by Japanese video sites such as Niconico, bullet curtains are essentially a viewer’s comments that have been attached to a specific time in the video. When others watch the same clip, the comment will then scroll across the screen at the specified time.

When many comments have been posted around the same time in the video, the results can become terrifying.

bullet-3

Only a few seconds into the video

While the overwhelming volume of text can be intimidating to first time viewers, the option to switch off this function can be used. However, just like when you follow live events on Twitter, reading the comments can be equally entertaining. Here are a few of the common phrases that you see on your screen but may not understand.

 

233333 – laugh out loud

This originated from Chinese forums and BBS. The number “233” was the code for the “laughing” emoticon and subsequently became one of the go-to forms of online joy expression.

 

MM – pretty girl (美眉)

See a hot girl? Then quickly tag her with these two letters to let everyone know that you think “she cute”.

 

748 – go die (去死吧)

The numbers are phonetically similar to the phrase “去死吧”, thus offering a much shorter and more convenient way to express your displeasure that the protagonist getting with that whore from accounting.

 

flag – plant flag

The concept of flags can be traced back to its video game roots (source unavailable), where they were important items that players gathered around. For bullet curtains, the premise remains the same.

Planting flags mean that the viewer is marking an event that he or she feels may be a turning point or catalyst in the plot. Simply put, if you see “立flag”, get ready for something to happen.

 

prprprpr – licking sound

Beware when seeing these two letters appearing frequently, something perverse is afoot. From the Japanese “pero pero”, it is the sound of licking. And it is almost always used in relation to sexuality.

 

不跳 – no skip

Often when watching a TV show, you’re only in it for a particular actor or actress. And when that person does not appear frequently enough, it can simulate a downer and cause immediate termination.

However, if the celebrities pull on your sensibilities are enough to keep you glued to the screen then it is because of that individual that you “不跳”.

 

编剧别吃盒饭/编剧加块红烧肉 – writer stop eating box meals/have another chunk of red braised pork

Depending on your opinion on the writer’s eating habits, you either approve or disapprove of the product you are watching—you can decide which is which.

 

羞耻play – shame play

Used when a character has done something shameful and embarrassing, either through stupidity or coercion.

 

贡献弹幕 – contribute to the bullet curtain

This one is for those of you with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

When there hasn’t been a comment for a certain amount of time, these four words will pop up simply because some believe that there should be a continuous stream of characters on the screen at all times.

 

Now that you have an understanding of the basics, try implementing jokes, banter, and ridicule

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