tried to eat the safe banana (thefourthvine) wrote,
tried to eat the safe banana

180: Sweet Charity: How Long It Is

Not last time but the time before (although I am still totally on my deadline, so there), I signed up for Sweet Charity. The person who won me was gnomad. Probably everyone who sells herself for charity has a moment of terror when she gets the request, but gnomad's was actually pretty cool. Basically, she wanted me to rec some vids that might show her why vidding is cool, since she doesn't watch vids much.

I thought, I can so totally do that. Then, of course, I got eaten by the Meta Lizards. They come for you in the dead of night and make your posts three hundred pages long.

But! I persevered. I wrote the whole post, hacked pages and pages of meta back out of it (in addition to Meta Lizards, I am apparently tragically afflicted by a writing disorder that prevents me from ever shutting up), and I think - I hope - I now have something kind of close to what she wanted.

In any case, I'm going for it. gnomad, thank you for buying me, for being such an awesome winner, and for having such an interesting request. Most of all, thank you for donating to charity. <3!

Why vids? Well. I have a lot of answers for that. Vids are gorgeous. Vids are fun. Vids are part of the fannish conversation, and sometimes they say things that can't be said any other way. In the end, I think you kind of have to have your own reason to want to learn vids, at least if you're trying to learn to watch vids despite a total lack of innate vid-watching ability. (Hi! That would be me, especially me c. 2005, although the great part about doing something you're terrible at is that the learning opportunities just never stop.)

For me, it was mostly just the obvious fact that vidders were saying something, and I couldn't understand them. It made me twitchy. They were fans! I was a fan! Why couldn't we communicate? And yet we really couldn't. (Um. Really, really couldn't, not at the beginning. Sometimes the only thing I gathered from vids in those days was that there was music, and also some random things happening on the screen. But my struggles with vid comprehension aren't going to happen to most people; I'm kind of the bottom one-hundredth of one percent in this.)

If you're wondering what a vid can do for you that fan fiction can't - well. Let's start with some obvious examples.

A Vid Can Make You See Something You Never Wanted To

Women's Work, by sisabet and sockkpuppett. Supernatural.

This is not your grandmother's vid, here, and it's not easy to watch. (In other words, WARNINGS. I am giving you warnings.) I saw it for the first time at VVC, on the big screen, and the impression it made on me was, shall we say, phenomenal. Because I don't know Supernatural canon at all - or, okay, I know it even less than I know most other canons - to me, it was almost a meta vid. Sure, it used Supernatural footage. (Could you make this vid in another fandom? I have no idea. Canon: I don't watch it.) But it made a point that - well. I remember, right after I came home from VVC, I re-read Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. And there's a scene in there where Bryson and his hiking partner are talking to another guy about a really irritating girl they met, and they have this exchange (paraphrased, I'm not finding the book right this minute):

Hiking partner: Now I will kill her.
Other guy: Well, I don't imagine you'll have any trouble finding people to hold her down for you.

And I cringed away from the book. Even though they were obviously kidding, even though the woman in question was definitely annoying and that's all they meant, even though people say that stuff all the time and it's really no big deal, because this vid had temporarily - I don't know. Made me see what we live around? Made me see all the things I don't usually see, because you just can't and still live your life, not if you're female. For me, that's the women's work of the title, and for me, that's what the one line "You should learn how to say no" is about - it's like the vidders reached through the screen, grabbed me, and said "Look around you, damn it. Pay attention. Stop lying there and taking it."

I've read a lot of essays that tried to achieve that same feat. I've read books that did. I've never seen anything accomplish it as well as this vid, which says: look at the sources we love. Look at what they do to us. Look at how hard we work to ignore that. And, just maybe, stop ignoring it for a moment.

So for me, this is one of the big arguments for watching vids: they say things that can't easily be said another way.

A Vid Can Make You See Something You Desperately Want To

Pon de Replay, by astolat. Entourage.

Here's the thing: I watched this vid for the first time without really knowing who these people were. They were - you know. A guy. And this other guy. But by the end, I so completely believed that these two guys were a) in love b) fucking and c) so totally married that I didn't even notice that there's a video manipulation in here. I just thought, hey, that must be canon. For whatever this canon is.

It isn't canon. And I have actually seen some of this canon now - I know, I can hardly believe it myself, but it's exceedingly watchable even for me - and I know now. They aren't actually fucking in the canon. But they are indeed in love, and they are way married, and - okay. This is just the kind of canon that sends you on a late night trawl through recs sites,, and, in the hideous fullness of time,, desperately seeking fan fiction that will show you the love. Because you know it's there! You just want to see it.

And in this vid, you can. It captures Eric (blond guy) and Vince (curly guy), shows exactly why I came away from half a dozen episodes saying, "Oh my god so doing it." And it highlights just the slash moments. And then it...makes an extra one.

If you've ever wondered why your pairing couldn't just make out on the screen: they can. When one of us is directing. And that happens in vids.

A Vid Can Be the Ultimate Just the Good Parts Edition

Rodeohead, by absolutedestiny. Firefly.

Okay. I am quite sure that this vid is different for Firefly fans. Or for people who have seen a Firefly episode. Or people who can consistently tell all the characters in Firefly apart without footnotes (or, ideally, a little pop-up box on the screen with the characters' name - why is this not an option alongside subtitles?). I am sure there is depth! Meaning! Loads of good stuff! For those people who we might describe as "persons with a passing acquaintance with popular culture."

For me, though, this vid leaves me simultaneously awed - it looks like the vidding equivalent of juggling 18 random objects with your nose - and wholly satisfied. It's like the canon concentrated, distilled, and then made really super extra shiny, for your added viewing pleasure. I finish watching this vid and feel like I don't need to see Firefly anymore. And, anyway, after this, it could only be a letdown.

And that's kind of the thing. A vid can work with (Rodeohead) or against (Women's Work) the canon. It can work with (Pon de Replay) or against (Women's Work) the audience, too. The more I watch vids, the more sure I am that vidders can do anything. And that I am lucky to be along for the ride.

That, to me, is the ultimate why for watching vids: it's cool, it's impressive, it's fun, and so what if it doesn't work every time? I delete five vids for every one I keep. I move maybe one vid out of the twenty I keep to my "to rec" folder. But the same is true of fan fiction. Fanworks, just in general, don't have to work for you every time. It's more that they have to work for you sometimes. Occasionally. They have to give you enough of a hit that you keep looking for more.

But that doesn't mean it's easy to get from here to there, if here is a place where you don't understand vids at all. And that's the other side of this - how do you get there? I have some very, very, very long meta pieces written about how I got from a place of total non-comprehension to - well, appreciation. Let's leave it at that. Unbelievably, this is not that meta piece. Instead, this is kind of a guided tour, because that's what gnomad wanted.

The best vids aren't always the best vids for beginners. (And sometimes they are the best vids for beginners, but - not always, is what I'm saying.) Like, I started watching vids via single-note humor vids. The first vid I ever watched and actually understood was not, you know, one of the great classics of vidding; it was a vid set to I'm Too Sexy. (I am not saying I'm Too Sexy always leads to bad vids. It doesn't. But it does reliably lead to vids built around the concept that a certain person is just way hot. This is not a difficult idea to grasp.) I believe, although I can no longer be sure, that the underlying theme was that Snape was too sexy for his wand. And, see, I didn't know anything about vids: about the music, about the lyrics, about editing. But I could still get that vid.

I think this is why people sometimes get frustrated and think, "Obviously, vids are not for me." They see a vid recommended in multiple places, one that people are all asquee about, and they try it and bounce off it and despair. But that's not actually a reason to despair. It's just - okay. There's a difference between Ulysses and Harry Potter (yes, I know that there are several differences, actually - like, I really don't think Leopold Bloom casts expelliarmus even once), and it's that one of those books requires a lot more experience reading. You can just pick up Harry Potter. But if you're twelve and you just pick up Ulysses, trust me when I tell you that you will put it down again in some confusion very soon thereafter.

And vids kind of work the same way - there are some that are rich and deep and multi-layered and intense. They stand up to multiple re-watchings. They reward thoughtful analysis. There are vids you could write a thesis on.

But that's not necessarily where you want to start with vids if the medium doesn't come naturally to you. (If they do come naturally to you, congratulations! You're past this point and can safely move on.) You want to start with something you can get, something at your current vid reading level. Because I think she won't mind if I do this, I'm going to use two examples by laurashapiro here.

The first one is Wouldn't It Be Nice. (Bottom of the page. No password required!) I saw this vid when I was quite new to vid-watching, and could confidently expect to understand only 3 - 4% of what I saw. (At that, I was doing rather well; the first few months of vid-watching, my percentage of understanding approached zero.) Watching this vid now, there are a number of criticisms I could make. But watching it then, it was just a vid I totally understood. It was slash! But in pictures instead of words! I found this amazing, and also totally within my reach even though I recognized maybe four of the scenes in the vid. (Oh, god, I remember watching this with Best Beloved and her saying, "That's Spock! That's...I actually have no idea who that is, or that, but those people must be Jim and Blair!" I had never seen Methos, never seen Duncan, never seen Picard or Bodie or Doyle or Napoleon or...oh my god, I was so new.) There was kissing! It was sweet! I could cope! I could rejoice, even, because it was so much fun!

Contrast this with The Lonely People. (Under Doctor Who, which in fact it is. Still no password required!) This is, in pretty much all ways, a much better vid. It shows mastery of the technology, of the medium, of the music. It's multi-layered, deep, meaningful, rewards multiple watchings. And, for me, it is a purely intellectual vid, in the same way that Wouldn't It Be Nice was a purely emotional vid. I'm working hard when I watch this vid, and I can tell - my brain is on, my feelings are off. And I can also tell that I'm not getting everything that is on the screen, not even close. My response is not unbridled squee, the way it was to Wouldn't It Be Nice. It's more, "Wow, I'd better watch that a whole bunch more times." I still don't get every frame. (A better vid-watcher, for the record, totally would. I'm not good at this, remember?)

I love The Lonely People. But if you have a hard time with vids, you'd probably be much better off with Wouldn't It Be Nice.

So. Once you're, you know, watching vids, what do you watch for? There's actually a lot of things - no, really, I have meta even longer than this about that, but I'm sparing you. Because I'm a nice person! ("Long-winded, but nice." This is what I'm hoping goes on my gravestone.) Instead, here's a short course: four things that are worth considering about any vid you watch.

If vids don't come naturally to you, you need to start at the very beginning. (It's a very good place to start, after all.) This is why starting with one-note humor vids worked well for me; I had the whole vid to digest the concept. (Snape is teh hawtt, for example.) And for me, the very beginning of vid comprehension was lyrics, music, beat, and shiny. I actually broke it down that way at the beginning, because I just couldn't focus on everything at once.

Lyrics. I think these are sometimes the easiest for word-driven people to key into. Check out this vid: Papa, Don't Preach, by fan_eunice and trelkez. Torchwood, but I...cannot imagine that it matters if you know the fandom, for this vid. It's more important that you know fandom. Also that you have a screw loose in your head, but I think that goes without saying in these parts. Watch it a couple of times. See how the lyrics totally change the meaning of the footage? Suddenly we have MPreg! Where - okay, I think technically MPreg is canon in this fandom, but I am fairly sure the Master (blond guy) never actually knocked Jack (pregnant guy, and how much do I love fandom that it made me type that phrase?) up. This is a fairly extreme example, but this is one of the things that lyrics can do: create an alternate reality. A vidder who is really using her lyrics can do awesome, amazing things with them. And also make you laugh your ass off, in this particular case.

Music. For music, I'm suggesting you watch Circles (under The West Wing). We're back to laurashapiro, here, but she has vidded the unviddable fandom, and it's a perfect example of how you use music. See, I know nothing about The West Wing (except that it involves politics), but I can watch this vid perfectly and utterly entranced, because - okay. Watch how the music works, here, or how Laura works the music. Watch it once for the way the camera moves. Watch it another time for how characters are matched to - to sounds? To instruments? I don't even know, because my musical knowledge consists entirely of "notes + [magic of some kind] = yay!" But this is an unusually good vid to watch as an example of a vidder's music comprehension, and it gives examples of the major things to watch for in other vids. (If you're lost when you're looking at an instrumental vid, try breaking apart the music. What matches to what?)

Beats. Often, hitting the beat is like the punctuation of vids - it's only really noticeable when it's screwed up. And, like punctuation, there are several ways to do it right, to make it work. (Oh, do not even argue with me. English does not have comma usage rules, it has comma usage guidelines.) Three ways that I see a lot: cutting on the beat so that the edit happens when you expect it, hitting the beat with internal movement so that your inner beat monster is satisfied and your attention is focused, and hitting the beat with effects so that your inner beat monster can basically roll around and wave its paws about with glee. Freestyler (under Smallville, because it is!), by obsessive24 uses all those means, and let's just say it is really easy to see the way great vidders use beat in this vid. The actual vid is about Green Arrow, although not exactly Green Arrow as I know him from DCU-land. There are arrows. It is shiny. That's...pretty much all I know. But the beat is entrancing, even so.

Shiny. Perhaps the ultimate examples of shiny are to be found in anime vidding, but it can totally be the kind of shiny that removes your head. So let's focus on a slightly more subtle shiny. Or perhaps I should first define what I mean by shiny. Shiny is using the full suite of vidding tools, in my mind, or rather, using the right tools for the job. Some people make gorgeous vids that are entirely edits, and that's awesome; some people make gorgeous vids that use a lot of the mystical secrets that lurk deep in software that, oh my god, you would not believe what it costs. lim is a good example of the latter kind of vidder; she uses frames like canvas, and the result is - well. As one example, the result can be In Exchange for Your Tomorrows. Now. I have seen some discussion of this, and my interpretation of it does not match other people's. (Basically, I see this as a dark take on Hogwarts itself: how it draws in and destroys the lives of certain people - Snape, Voldemort, Harry. For me, it's a vid about what people have given up and lost for magic. I cannot help but notice that other people see something totally else, but that's the miracle of vidding!) But I will tell you this: this is a damn shiny vid. It's not, you know, all color filters and brightness - quite the opposite - but the artistry is undeniable, and the intensity of what Lim's done with the canon footage is unmistakable. Especially if you know the movies at all - well. This is not your standard children's movie footage, is what I'm saying.

So. That's my, um, somewhat long-winded (But, hey you should see the part I cut! Seriously, there's a whole other post in there, and it has several baby posts hanging off it, too.) approach to gnomad's request. Which was, after all, to point out some cool things that people are doing with vids, things that might be interesting to a non-vid-watcher.

Here they are: cool things. Hope you liked it, gnomad. Happy Sweet Charity!
Tags: doctor who, entourage, firefly, harry potter, smallville, supernatural, the west wing, torchwood, vids
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