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26 October 2008 @ 08:22 am
Vidding chat: Lyrics and literalism  
Hi guys. Vidding chats are back (although I'm running a little late with this one, hope you don't mind)!

This week I've chosen lyrics and our relationship to them as vidders as the topic, partly because it's come up several times in the comments of previous posts, and partly because it's a topic I'm personally very interested in.

For many of us, lyrics can be one of the strongest reasons for choosing to vid a particular track. As viewers, lyrics help us navigate through vids, as we absorb the images that the vidder has chosen to pair them with. In comments about planning vids, many people mentioned lyrics as determining the structure of a vid. They're certainly very hard to ignore! But it also seems like there are degrees to which different vidders, or different vids, rely on lyrics. Do some vidders ignore them completely? (I'm cheating, because I know of some instances where the answer is yes.) If so, feel free to leap in and talk about that--or talk about what it's like to work with a track without lyrics.

Lyrics can be our friends and our foes. We've probably all seen vids where the juxtaposition of a particular lyric with a particular image makes our jaw drop or gives us shivers. Pull it off and the use of lyrics can be incredibly powerful. What are your favourite lyric + image combinations, either in your own vids or others'?

The flipside of the power of lyrics is that I'm pretty sure most vidders will also be familiar with the phenomenon of being stuck with a bitch of a lyric within an otherwise perfect track. A lyric that doesn't aid, or perhaps even actively works against, the rest of the vid. How do we deal with this? What 'difficult' lyrics have you had to work with/around? How did you handle them?

Interpetation
The interpretation of lyrics can be very complex. With the purely aural version of a track, the listener is free to make all sorts of associations of their own. However, once we marry lyrics with visuals, we direct the viewer's focus for interpretation in a certain direction. I think good vidders still allow space for audience interpretation--they suggest rather than tell. And when a vid really 'sings', for me personally, the combination of lyrics and images sparks associations that I might otherwise not have formed on my own. That's magic!

This brings us to: literalism. Much discussed, much abhorred literalism. In heaps of vid meta, especially advice to newbies, you will read 'avoid literalism!' But what does this mean?

Let's take U2's overblown lyrics as an example:
'I have climbed the highest mountain' (Vidder vids protagonist climbing a mountain to this line)
'I have run through the fields' (Vidder vids same character running through fields)
'Only to be with you' (Character canons into the arms of lover)

The vidder is interpreting the lyrics literally (and we can imagine that the vid will become more and more absurd as they vid the lyrics 'I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls' in the same way). The poor old protagonist (who may well have done all those things, though not necessarily 'only to be with' the person the vidder is shipping them with) becomes more and more absurd and comical in the eyes of a viewer. Awww.

Why doesn't it work? Partly simply because it seems 'obvious'. Partly because the lyrics themselves were intended as metaphor. The message is that the lover has struggled and overcome obstacles--those could be internal, emotional obstacles. Or they could be external ones. But the 'mountains' are a metaphor. This is GOOD news for the vidder. It frees them up to use them creatively. Instead of having to find a shot of a character climbing a mountain, they can think about what the greatest achievements of their character have been, what the biggest obstacles are that they have overcome, and then how those could be represented visually. They are then expressing the intention and message of the lyrics truthfully.

As a beginner vidder I struggle(d) with literalism, and I believe many newbie vidders do. Although the example above may seem clear, and although we may have ourselves seen vids where the literal interpretation of lyrics felt 'clunky' to us as viewers, it's not as easy as all that once we start making our own vids, for a number of reasons. It's amazing how easy it is to start justifying literalism, thinking things like 'but this line is UNCANNILY perfect for my ship/character/subject' or 'but they actually do CLIMB A MOUNTAIN'. Since lyrics are often the reason we've chosen a song in the first place, it can feel like a betrayal to ignore the most obvious associations with the source.

On the other side of the equation, we may also find that what we think of as very obvious doesn't come across to our viewer at all. The association we made/saw between a lyric and an image hasn't translated the same way for our audience. Often literalism can feel like a bit of a security blanket in comparison.

One of my most memorable beta moments was when I asked my friend supacat if a draft of 'Middleman' was 'too literal'. She laughed and said 'no, not even slightly', and then explained that what *I* thought of as literal was actually not obvious at all. It's true. So in fear was I of the 'no literalism' rule, that I think for a while I interpreted it as going further than pure literalism and meaning also 'no obviousness'. (Yes, feel free to laugh at me!) So, for instance, in Middleman I vidded Lee in Black Market to 'the grey areas are mine'. I worried terribly that this was too obvious a choice. And hey, maybe it was. Maybe I could have chosen some other, less obvious, example of Lee making morally grey choices. But the reason I chose it (and ended up sticking with it) is because it is the clearest instance of him doing so. Because this point was important for the argument of my vid it stayed. Was it literal? Well it was in the sense that the lyrics described someone in 'grey' areas and I showed someone making 'grey' choices: but thankfully I didn't turn the footage grey. :p

- How do you feel about literalism? Do you struggle with it?
- Do you even, sometimes, like it (I do!)?
- Do you feel your vids are too obvious or too obscure?
- Do you feel the vids you watch are too obvious or too obscure?

Advice for the literalism-challenged
Do you have advice for those of us challenged by literalism? How do you use lyrics in a sophisticated way? What tricks have you learnt or seen for using lyrics effectively?

I don't often offer advice in these posts, but I'm going to do so here because this is stuff I've wanted to articulate for some time. It's based on my own learning experiences and those of other beginner vidders. Feel free to disagree or add to these point, but this is what I've learnt so far:
- We can be blind to the literalism in our own vids. If in doubt, ask a beta! And believe them if they say that the shot of your character getting 'knocked down', when clipped exactly to the lyric 'knocked down' is too literal.
- Make the association between lyric and image around the lyric, not 'on' it. This is best demonstrated with an example. Lithiumdoll's Big City Life contains the line 'all lined in a row' which is connected with the idea of the clones in Dark Angel. Jut before the lyric, they are shown in rows in a classroom, on the lyric 'lined' the vid hones in on an individual clone, and on the lyric 'row' it shows a barcode on the neck. That's much more sophisticated than just showing the image of them in rows in the classroom exactly on the lyric. It means by the time the lyric comes, the viewer is able to *instantly* make the connection with what they've just seen and then rapidly move past/through that concept back to the idea of identity and what it means to be one of many.
- If you are struggling with how to interpret a lyric non-literally, ask yourself: what is the emotional content of the lyric? what is it 'saying'? where is that emotional point made in the source (if vidding in canon)?
- Choose tone over lyric. There are lots of 'tricks' for difficult lyrics, but I've not found anything that can 'fix' the tone of a song (or line) if it doesn't work for your message. I personally find the tone of the music very important to me--if it doesn't resonate with my subject matter, I find the vid will only be partially successful no matter what I do. And I've found that if you vid to the tone of a track, viewers will often 'go with you' even if meaning is not immediately obvious. Whereas, one misplaced bit of literalism can throw them out.
- If a lyric is really 'bad' and doesn't work for you at all, see if you can cut it out of the audio track entirely. If you can't do that then try clipping something with a strong visual message of its own to the lyric (distract!). Chances are people will glide on by. Or just forcefully use it to progress your story regardless. If the lyric before it and the lyric after it require a 'middle' transition to link them--then feel confident to put it there. Again, if the surrounding material is strong and the narrative feels continuous, people won't care too much that the lyric doesn't ping perfectly with the subject matter of the clips.
- Alternatively, BE PATIENT. At the start of vidding projects I often find there are one or two lyrics that I really can't 'place', can't find clips for. But they usually come good eventually and since I vid organically, I'm a big believer in letting them come in their own time.
- In some circumstances, you can choose irony. :) Someone mentioned in comments a song that mentioned eating burgers that they wanted to vid to BSG (a show in which everyone seems to eat either algae or noodles!). If it fits the overall vid to make that ironical point (that food treats are rare or non-existent, life hard, pleasure fleeting), then clipping a shot of them eating for that lyric could work well.
- Related to that point: literalism works well for humour. See for instance deirdre_c's 'Things that make you go hmm'. The vidder twists the meaning of some lyrics deliberately (Sam is the 'girlfriend'), but grounds the vid by using literalism (a doorbell being pressed on 'the doorbell rang', etc).
- There are other instances in which a little bit of literalism can 'anchor' a vid, or help keep the sense of connection between lyric and image, especially when the vidder is doing something tricksy with them. The best recent example I can think of is in bradcpu's 'Tear You Apart'. The vid involves a 'reveal' in terms of point-of-view, and its visual associations are complex and disturbing. Within this context a couple of pieces of literalism ('her hand brushed up against his', 'they took a step back') really worked for the vid--they draw us back into the 'ship' plot after a moment of confronting violence, and they add to the uneasy tone because we are wondering where it's all leading--the link between lyric and image is tonally appropriate.
- Match metaphor with metaphor. This may not always be possible, but I was able to do it at least once, I think effectively (though it could be argued that it is still 'too literal'). In 'Paranoid Android' the lyric 'rain down' is repeated several times. Within Smallville, the show I was vidding, the blood rain is used as a metaphor for Lex's future. I matched the metaphor in the lyrics with the metaphor in the show, and added in some other forms of 'raining down'--the meteors falling on Smallville, and other events that Lex views as 'happening' to him ('raining down' on him) which lead him to the future, where he 'rains down' on others in the form of nuclear weapons. Yup, I milked that lyric's metaphor for all it was worth. Perhaps if I'd only done one thing to that lyric it would have got boring fast, but thankfully Smallville is rich in visual metaphor. :) Yes, the 'rain' was literal--but since it's a metaphor on the show, it works. I hope. ;)

/opinionated Bop.

I've littered questions for discussion throughout this post but basically this is an open invitation to discuss the use of lyrics in vids in any way you wish. Tell us what you like, what you hate, what frustrates you--either as a vidder or as a viewer.

ETA: This post got long. Feel free to just chat without reading all of it! *headdesk*
 
 
 
Call Me OneTrack: helo and starbuckcallmeonetrack on October 26th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)
Heh, I was the "eating a burger" commenter. (It was a lyric about a "burrito and a Barq's" to split hairs.) I did end up using a literal clip of a scene where several characters are throwing protein bars onto a table.

I'm very literal in my vids (2 thus far) and I dig it. That kind of works for me. Especially in the second (burrito) one, I Feel Lucky, which has a tone (set to jangly country music!) and lyrics that mostly don't match up at all to the BSG universe (but a few random words that were spot on--"rack" and "Hot Dog"). There it became a sort of game/challenge for me to find ways to synch them up.

I've got another idea for a vid that I really would like to do and this one is coming around in a different way for me. I know the scenes I want to use (to highlight a specific relationship) and the tone I want the vid/song to have, but I haven't found the right song yet. I'm hoping this will actually lead to me being less literal, because I'd like to try being more metaphorical and more visually connective from one scene to the next. Maybe I'll even string the clips I want together first and then add the music and tinker with it to make it work. Could be a hot mess to do it without a beat, but could be an interesting experiment.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Buffy Willow friends hugbop_radar on October 26th, 2008 12:35 am (UTC)
Heeey!! Your vid is perfect for this discussion (just watched it).

has a tone (set to jangly country music!) and lyrics that mostly don't match up at all to the BSG universe
Maybe... I guess I find country works quite well for BSG because of the space-cowboy, last-frontier associations. But in this case the tonal integrity is with Starbuck's awesomeness. It's a really good example of literalism being used for comic effect--'Hot Dog' made me lol, for instance. I love crackvids too and I think literalism plays a big part in them.

Could be a hot mess to do it without a beat, but could be an interesting experiment.
Ohhh, that sounds interesting! A really different way to come at a vid.
(no subject) - callmeonetrack on October 26th, 2008 04:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on October 26th, 2008 06:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
kiki_miserychickiki_miserychic on October 26th, 2008 12:32 am (UTC)
When there's no lyrics or very general lyrics I try to create my own line. Instead of using the lyrics as a framework, I make a cohesive theme or thought to follow. It could be something as simple as showing the progression of something. I'm thinking of an example from a vid haven't released yet. There was an instrumental section in one of my vids that I used to show how the four Cylon were activated, then Anders went out in a viper, came face to face with a Cylon raider that recognized him, and ran back to the base star. All the raiders refused to fight the fleet, so their free will was taken away by half of the Cylon. Then the other half argued for them to be returned to their previous state, which caused a bigger split within the Cylon until they separated and attacked each other. The sixes, eights, and Leobens went to the fleet to form an alliance that would not have been possible without the four Cylon having been activated.

I lean towards the witty lyric interpretations. I'm also partial to the ones that bring in enlightening highlights to the vid. I like the juxaposition of lyrics and images that contridict each other. The largest examples of these come from all the Handlebars vids.

Literalism can become extremely boring if not handled well. I'd usually suggest using literalism sparingly. My main issue with extreme literalism is that there's nothing new there. Sometimes it just looks stupid instead of funny. I've used literalism in my own vidding, but I try to keep it to a minimum so it doesn't get annoying. I do feel my vids are too obscure a lot of the time. It isn't always lyrically alone. I make my lyric interpretations either to vague or too obvious.

A few of my favorite uses of lyrics come from giandujakiss's Hell of a Place, cherryice's Mayday!, bop_radar's Paranoid Andriod, some_stars's La Resistance, and astartexx's Jesus Christ.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Blair yelloqbop_radar on October 26th, 2008 01:33 am (UTC)
I make a cohesive theme or thought to follow. It could be something as simple as showing the progression of something
That's good advice.

I lean towards the witty lyric interpretations.
Wit is good!

I'm also partial to the ones that bring in enlightening highlights to the vid. I like the juxaposition of lyrics and images that contridict each other.
Same! When that's pulled off it's very clever.

Literalism can become extremely boring if not handled well.
Yes, I think that's the main problem with it. Plus it can result in a vid being disjointed: one literal line + image combo, then another one, which doesn't necessarily have any natural progression from the one before. (Which links back to your advice to show progression.)

I'm flattered to be listed--wow! I will have to check out the vids I haven't seen from that list.
patron saint of neglected female characters: fantastic!rose_griffes on October 26th, 2008 12:34 am (UTC)
This is really interesting to me as a non-vidder. I had no idea until just recently that being 'too literal' was one of those vidding faux pas. That being said, I think that how a line is 'interpreted' by a vidder's choice of clips is a HUGE piece of what makes a vid work for me. (And way more don't work for me than do, so...)

I'm curious--part of the difficulty lies in choosing a song that not only has reasonably appropriate lyrics but also comprehensible lyrics. Does the vidder (who knows all the lyrics to the song, presumably) sometimes takes it for granted that the audience understands what's being said in a very literal sense--does the singer articulate the words enough for the connection to be made from lyrics to visuals? Have you ever dealt with this issue? (I'm not usually motivated to go read song lyrics unless I really love the vid.)

I think my favorite lyric to visual in a fanvid is probably beccatoria's There's a war going on for your mind, Laura. I know I'm missing certain levels of what the vidder intended, but it's still fascinating to see how she fit clips from BSG to a rap that's distinct in sound and lyrics. I don't even like rap music but I liked this so much that I went and downloaded a few songs by the Flobots after watching the vid. Well, this vid and flummery vid about Doctor Who (Tenth doctor) done to another song by the Flobots.

Heh. If the vidbunny that attacked me a while ago doesn't let go, now I'll know not to stress too much over the "perfect" lyric to visual match. (I don't want to have to learn all the technology involved, so I'm guessing my stubbornness will outlast the vidbunny.)
canadiangirl_86 on October 26th, 2008 12:41 am (UTC)
Does the vidder (who knows all the lyrics to the song, presumably) sometimes takes it for granted that the audience understands what's being said in a very literal sense--does the singer articulate the words enough for the connection to be made from lyrics to visuals?

I think this is a very common challenge for vidders, as song choice is often very personal and everyone has such a unique take on what a lyric means. But I find that writing out a brief summary/explanation of what your aim was goes a long way in communicating the overall theme of the video and sending the viewer in a particular direction before they press the play button.

I wonder, though, does that detract from the impact of it when it needs to be spelled out to some extent?
(no subject) - rose_griffes on October 26th, 2008 01:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on October 26th, 2008 01:39 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on October 26th, 2008 01:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kiki_miserychic on October 26th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC) (Expand)
canadiangirl_86 on October 26th, 2008 12:37 am (UTC)
Ahhh, very interesting, as always!

I'm going to keep my response to this post short for now, but as I've mentioned before, lyrics are THE most important factor when selecting a song for a vid. Usually, if there is more than one line of the lyric which I haven't been able to fit into the world I am vidding, I scrap the idea altogether.

But sometimes, I pleasantly surprise myself by finding a way to make the lyric fit. It may not always be as obvious as I would like it to be to the viewer, but if I'm at peace with it in my own mind I generally tend to go with it. Working through these types of challenges takes the most time and involves trial and error, but I find it's one of the more rewarding aspects of vidding.

I do very much prefer the metaphorical interpretation rather than the literal one, as you discussed. If I begin watching a video that takes the lyrics as literally as your example, I pretty much press the "back" button immediately. I love watching videos that challenge my perception of what the lyrics imply and confront me with an interpretation I hadn't really considered before.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: The Fallbop_radar on October 26th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)
It may not always be as obvious as I would like it to be to the viewer, but if I'm at peace with it in my own mind I generally tend to go with it. Working through these types of challenges takes the most time and involves trial and error, but I find it's one of the more rewarding aspects of vidding.
Yeah, I'd agree with that. Trial and error is a great way to learn what does and doesn't work with lyrics. It can be frustrating when you just want a vid finished already, but it does help you grow as a vidder to try different things and think about why they work or don't work.

If I begin watching a video that takes the lyrics as literally as your example, I pretty much press the "back" button immediately.
Same, and I deliberately made the example extreme. ;) But there are a lot of vids on YouTube like that!

I love watching videos that challenge my perception of what the lyrics imply and confront me with an interpretation I hadn't really considered before.
Absolutely--vids that showcase the fact that the vidder has thought deeply about the lyrics, their meaning and their relationship to the source. It's fabulous when a lyric highlights something new in a way that is more articulate than a paragraph of meta.
(Deleted comment)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lee smilebop_radar on October 26th, 2008 01:47 am (UTC)
Yay! I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about what literalism is. I think it's important to distinguish 'literal' from 'obvious'. Both may be things you wish to avoid, but sometimes it's important to be obvious if you want to make a particular point.

, for the lyric "the structure fell about our feet," well I didn't use an actual house falling, but they're basically standing in the ruins of their dreams. So I guess that's metaphorical, but it feels pretty literal to me!
I know exactly what you mean--that feeling is what I struggled with in my own vidding too, and I only really found my way through it by trial and error, betaing and other feedback. It's really the place where you have to test your audience reaction.

I didn't feel like I was interpreting lyrics so much as just finding the clips that obviously had to go there, which anyone would have put there.
That's how I felt with 'Middleman' and yet everyone saw different things in it and people kept saying how layered it was. Well, yeah, I tried really hard with that vid to juggle some complex ideas, but it still felt very obvious to me--the only way of making it. I think though that what it feels like to the vidder (at least when the vidder is me!) is not a reliable test of whether it's obvious or not.

I just went with clips that fit with the overall tone on the problematic part, and it ended up being fine. Moral of story: perhaps lyrics are not always as important as I tend to make them?
You sound like me! (Again!)
(no subject) - beccatoria on October 27th, 2008 12:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - beccatoria on October 28th, 2008 03:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - bop_radar on October 28th, 2008 04:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - bop_radar on October 29th, 2008 01:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
Ambassador Dummy Dummy Dumb Dumscrickets on October 26th, 2008 02:32 am (UTC)
oh, fun topic!
This is such an interesting meta and very good points all around. I agree with all of your wonderful advice and am having trouble coming up with something to say that hasn't already been discussed.

Personally, I've never had too much issue with literalism.

For me, it's about striking a balance. Because hey, sometimes it works, like you said in comedy vids. And sometimes "obviousness" is necessary and even helpful and makes total sense.

I have noticed that some vidders are much more literal than others. And part of me wants to say that it's just differences in how we think. You can't teach a person to find a deeper connection to something other than a very basic surface-level interpretation. Climbing a mountain, being a great example that you used, that I'll reiterate here.

I think the point is to try and not make these connections, whether literal, obvious, or downright obscure, completely arbitrary to the vid as a whole.

I'm not sure why finding a balance was never too much of an issue with me. I can think of one vid that was a real dud because of the literalism problem, and I think that's because I rushed through it and didn't put a lot of thought into it. It wasn't when I was a "newb" or anything, which makes it especially embarrassing. I won't mention what it was, haha.

One video that I got a lot of scrutiny over was using the song The Freshmen by the Verve Pipe for a Jack and Sawyer dual character study (for the show Lost.) But I think I found a non-literal connection between the characters and the song which carried throughout the vid and made it work as a whole. (Not saying it's perfect throughout.) I got some random comments complaining about the song. But I got a lot more comments from people telling me how shocked they were that this song worked for the subject matter.

So, I think it's definitely true that with some exceptions, you can make nearly anything "fit". I think you just have to get creative and really dig deep. And like you said, not every moment of your vid has to mesh with your lyrics, even in a far-reaching not-literal, not-obvious way.

One very difficult lyric I recall having issues with was in my Meant Well: The Occupation video. There's a part where she says "trains and sewing machines." And she says it twice! I eventually ended up assigning "trains" to the actual physical warfare (taking prisoners to their execution and the cylon executioners) and assigning "sewing machines" to psychological warfare, the personal relationships between Gaius and Caprica, and the twisted emotional connection between Kara, (sick) Kacey, and Leoben. That's certainly not literal, though I'm not sure how "obvious" it is. But I think it really connects with the lyrics non-the-less. That was one instance in which I was deeply afraid that people wouldn't "get it," but ultimately, I think they did. Yay for thinky thoughts!

Edited at 2008-10-26 02:34 am (UTC)
daybreak777: gaeta don't be bluedaybreak777 on October 26th, 2008 03:11 am (UTC)
Re: oh, fun topic!
and assigning "sewing machines" to psychological warfare, the personal relationships between Gaius and Caprica, and the twisted emotional connection between Kara, (sick) Kacey, and Leoben.
I am so glad that you said this. I, as you know love this vid, yet I always wondered what the 'sewing machines' meant. Not knowing didn't take anything from the vid for me. But it is good to know. That whole song was tricky and you were brave to put it all together.

One day you'll have to do a vid commentary on it!

Edited at 2008-10-26 03:11 am (UTC)
Re: oh, fun topic! - crickets on October 26th, 2008 03:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: oh, fun topic! - daybreak777 on October 26th, 2008 03:32 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: oh, fun topic! - crickets on October 26th, 2008 02:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: oh, fun topic! - bop_radar on October 26th, 2008 03:26 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: oh, fun topic! - crickets on October 26th, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: oh, fun topic! - bop_radar on October 27th, 2008 01:02 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: oh, fun topic! - crickets on October 27th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: oh, fun topic! - bop_radar on October 27th, 2008 10:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: oh, fun topic! - beccatoria on October 27th, 2008 12:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: oh, fun topic! - crickets on October 27th, 2008 01:19 pm (UTC) (Expand)
daybreak777: lee blue eyesdaybreak777 on October 26th, 2008 05:46 am (UTC)
Yay, vidding chat is back! So this week is about lyrics. Hmmm, most have said what I would about the difference between being literal and being obvious. As I read comments, I realize that sometimes I miss things that vidders think are huge. As a viewer, I need obvious sometimes. I don't know when very, very obvious gets to be too much. It can and has for me, but not often in vids I watch.

What are your favourite lyric + image combinations, either in your own vids or others'?
I like the lyric, "in the shape of things to come," in the vid, Every You and Every Me. That phrase is so repeated in the BSG verse, that it was like finding gold to hear it in a vid.

I also liked the line, "I can rule a nation with a microphone," in kiki_miserychic's Handlebars. That says so much about Natalie and wow, thinking of the Cylons as a nation and all that implies. Some lyric/clip combinations really send my mind thinking. I love those moments, I really do.

And when a vid really 'sings', for me personally, the combination of lyrics and images sparks associations that I might otherwise not have formed on my own. That's magic!
Oh, Bop, you make it sound so shiny and wonderful. Where? In which vids did you find such magic? I want to see too!

Instead of having to find a shot of a character climbing a mountain, they can think about what the greatest achievements of their character have been, what the biggest obstacles are that they have overcome, and then how those could be represented visually.
The more we discuss vidding, the more it reminds me of writing fic. Fic can be boring too if too obvious and literal. I realize I took to the 'story' part of vidding easier because I do the same thing in writing. It's never as obvious as it seems, at least I work hard for it not to be. And the best part? People find those hidden meanings (well, not always but they want to!), and that's the best reward as vidder or writer, when the person has that 'aha!' that you intended.

This is a wonderful vid that combines literal and non-literal interpretation of lyrics. I find it very quietly haunting and powerful. I don't always know how or why using literal interpretations of lyrics can work and work so well, but I know when it does.

Great topic!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: The Fallbop_radar on October 26th, 2008 07:18 am (UTC)
As a viewer, I need obvious sometimes.
I think we all do at times. With any vid we watch there may be a greater or smaller distance between us and the vid/vidder/concept being expressed. Sometimes we'll 'get' it instantly, other times we need a hand. Because we all bring our own ideas/background to whatever we view. Guiding the viewer is important, I think. Hitting them over the head with a sledgehammer of obviousness is something to be avoided. And finding the balance between those is something we all struggle with.

Oh, Bop, you make it sound so shiny and wonderful. Where? In which vids did you find such magic? I want to see too!
bradcpu manages to do it with nearly ever vid. And in terms of BSG I am most intrigued by chaila's visions lately.

You're right--it IS great when someone 'gets' it. I'll check out the vid you recced.
Laura McEwan: Hutch long looklauramcewan on October 26th, 2008 09:20 am (UTC)
I'm so not awake - am very late to bed yet - but this caught my eye.

What's weird about these chats is that I don't usually THINK about my processes, I just DO them. So I have to concentrate, lol.

I think I start of with the "obvious" literal interpretation, as something to build on. Around some of those more obvious images, I will build metaphors and sometimes the obvious goes away or sometimes it's there as a hand-hold to lead to the metaphor.

My favorite lyric line with its visual that I can think of at the moment is on in enednoviel's vid "Superman", Starsky & Hutch: I'm only a man in silly red sheet: Hutch puts his hand on the back of Starsky's red car, the red car that Hutch has done nothing but make fun of since - forever. Yet, in this moment - if you go with what episode the clip is from (and sometimes knowing this can make meanings so much more literal) - he's searching for Starsky, who's been kidnapped, and he's in Starsky's car doing the searching. He's trying to be the hero, Superman, but he's only a man in this silly red sheet (that he lovingly caresses as he thinks of his best friend.)

I LOVE the metaphor in that vid. My husband even commented on it when he watched.

Superman
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clark sweetbop_radar on October 27th, 2008 01:08 am (UTC)
I don't usually THINK about my processes, I just DO them. So I have to concentrate, lol.
Same. I think that's what led me to start these... because I found that more and more, talking to other vidders informally, I needed to start articulating things that were instinctive. So I figured I needed some formal practice!

He's trying to be the hero, Superman, but he's only a man in this silly red sheet (that he lovingly caresses as he thinks of his best friend.)
Awww! That's a great lyric (that song's brilliant) and it sounds like fantastic use of it.
Sing me a bawdy song, make me merrythe_sun_is_up on October 26th, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC)
Yay for vid chats! :D

Hmm I tend to stick very close to the lyrics of a song, just because to me, when making a vid, to have a clip that has nothing to do with its corresponding lyric feels jarring to me. (Watching vids on the other hand, I tend to care less.) There have been a couple of times I did the opposite and completely ignored the lyrics but that was because a) it was for a purely action vid and b) the lyrics were pretty nonsensical anyway.

As far as literalism, I just skimmed back through my vids, and I actually don't use it nearly as much as I thought. I only get literal when a) I'm vidding a song that tells a specific linear story that I'm mirroring or b) when the lyrics get metaphorical-verging-on-nonsensical and taking it literally makes for really pretty imagery.

Possibly the most fun I had with lyrics was my Avatar vid "The Perfect Crime." The song elusively describes a crime being committed, giving a number of images and vignettes without revealing how they all fit together. For the vid I used an episode where the protagonists bust their friends out of an enemy prison, and manipulated those events to tell the story contained in the lyrics.

The fun came out of the fact that while the song takes place in modern day, Avatar takes place in a vaguely feudal society that incorporates elemental magic. So for instance, "sing muse of the passion of the pistol" was accompanied not by gunfire, but by a character shooting a fire blast at another. Same went for "a shot rings out from somewhere upstairs." "A well-dressed man in the crosshairs" morphed into one of the escapees frozen in an attitude of punching the prison warden. There was indeed a well-dressed man and he was in the "crosshairs" but not the sort you'd expect. Anyway I got a kick out of that.

Aaand I'm trying to think of an example of literalism = pretty imagery. Ok, in my Avatar vid "Apologize," I had the lyric "I loved you with a fire red, now it's turning blue." Well the actual meaning of the lyrics is pretty clear, but since this is a show with shiny elemental magic, I decided to take the metaphor literally by using shots of the two featured characters fighting each other, hurling blasts of fire (red) and water (blue) at each other.

Now whether this actually worked is up to the viewer. The literalism could come across as kind of dorky. However I liked it because of the pretty visuals (red/blue yay!) and because the relationship between these two people is not a romance, but instead is about two enemies trying to trust each other, and that trust being broken, ergo more based around combativeness than mushyness.

Argh, long comment is looooooong.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: K Lexbop_radar on October 27th, 2008 01:12 am (UTC)
when making a vid, to have a clip that has nothing to do with its corresponding lyric feels jarring to me. (Watching vids on the other hand, I tend to care less.)
Hee! That's an interesting observation: we care more as vidders than as viewers. It rings true for me too and I guess it could partly explain why things the vidder stresses over, the viewer breezes on by.

when the lyrics get metaphorical-verging-on-nonsensical and taking it literally makes for really pretty imagery.
Hee! That sounds fun. And I like your example. It's one where the literalism is deliberately, consciously used--and that's what I've often questioned when beta-ing: is this literalism purposeful and deliberate? or is it just there because the vidder couldn't think of anything better?

There was indeed a well-dressed man and he was in the "crosshairs" but not the sort you'd expect. Anyway I got a kick out of that
That sounds like the sort of fun lyric-play I get a kick out of too.
here's luck: viddingheresluck on October 26th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
I really like these vidding chats; this is the first one I'm commenting on, but I've read them all with interest!

I think you're right that literalism most often goes wrong when it literalizes a lyric that was metaphorical to begin with. I started vidding in Buffy, a show where a remarkable number of characters end up on fire at some point, and there were a lot of vidders whose approach was clearly "If the song says something about burning desire then BY GOD I'D BETTER SHOW FLAMES." ::facepalm:: Finding a visual metaphor to go with the metaphor in the lyrics can be trickier, but allows for so much more creativity and is so much more interesting! I've always found that particular kind of literalism fairly easy to avoid; like you, I've found that in most cases it's wiser to try to match the tone or emotional content of the lyric rather than to illustrate them literally.

I've struggled more often with deciding when a straightforward lyrics needs to be *turned into* a metaphor by the visual. The example that comes to mind is a vid in which the singer describes herself "driving out of town too drunk to see," and I made the mistake of showing the character actually driving while intoxicated... which didn't fit the bigger picture of what the vid was doing. Someone I trusted sent me feedback saying "wow, that's... weirdly literal," and when I thought about it I saw how right she was, and then I realized there was a MUCH better clip for that line, one that wasn't literally about driving or being drunk but was instead about spiraling out of control; it was a shot that required more context knowledge to understand, but it worked SO much better. So I revised the vid.

Actually, the thing that I struggled with most when I was getting started as a vidder was what to do with the parts of a song that *didn't* have lyrics; if there was a long instrumental intro or bridge section, I got kind of freaked out (and tended to edit it down!) because lyrics were so important to the way I conceptualized a vid that I had trouble knowing what to do if I didn't have that crutch to lean on. Like a lot of newbie vidders, I was choosing vids based ONLY on the lyrics, and wasn't thinking nearly enough about the mood of music and whether the SOUND of the song was appropriate for the character or situation I wanted to vid. As I got better at choosing songs where both the words and the music were appropriate, it got easier to handle instrumental sections -- and in fact in many of my more recent vids I'm more apt to cut out chunks of the lyrics (especially repetitious lyrics) and keep the instrumental parts, because there's so much more flexibility there: I don't have to worry about literalism or lyrical interpretation at all; I can focus on establishing a mood or a theme or a story that builds on or is amplified by what the lyrics are doing.

Back to literalism: I agree that it can be great for humor -- though I think this is exactly why it can be such a problem for me in non-comedic vids, because it results in *unintentional* comedy, and that just throws me completely out of the vid.

At the same time, I agree that careful literalism can "anchor" a vid, as you put it. Especially in a vid that's fast-paced and/or intellectually complex (so that I have to work to keep up with it), occasional brief moments in which the relationship between lyric and visual is completely intuitively clear are really helpful to me as a viewer; they give me a second or two to catch my breath and catch up with the vid.

One of the thing your example of "Paranoid Android" points to is the use of literalism as the foundation for strategic repetition: when vidding a repeated line, start with something literal and then get progressively more metaphorical as the vid goes on. This is a strategy that accomplishes two things at once, because almost any repeated lyric gets boring if it's handled the same way every time -- there needs to be some sort of change on that kind of lyric, and while of course moving from literal to metaphorical visuals isn't the *only* way of handling that, it can be really effective.

And since this comment is getting way too long, I'll stop now.
klia: puffsklia on October 27th, 2008 03:53 am (UTC)
and there were a lot of vidders whose approach was clearly "If the song says something about burning desire then BY GOD I'D BETTER SHOW FLAMES." ::facepalm::

sherrold loves relating that story to other vidders; yes, it was something one particular overly-literal vidder actually did say, like, 8 or 10 years ago, but the vast majority of us vidders who were around at the time found it absurd then and still do. Maybe you got into vidding around the time it sort of went viral, and there was a sudden explosion of newbies making overly-literal vids?
(no subject) - heresluck on October 27th, 2008 04:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on October 27th, 2008 05:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - heresluck on October 27th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - klia on October 27th, 2008 06:26 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - heresluck on October 27th, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - klia on October 27th, 2008 08:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - heresluck on October 28th, 2008 12:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - klia on October 28th, 2008 01:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on October 27th, 2008 05:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - heresluck on October 28th, 2008 12:57 am (UTC) (Expand)
mranderson71: Neo 2 Fistsmranderson71 on October 27th, 2008 12:01 am (UTC)
Lieutenant Literalism reporting for duty, SIR!

I finally feel like I can adequately contribute to these little discussions now, as this is an area I feel well versed in. I think pretty much all my vids with probably the exception of my Tombstone vid: No Mans Land are intentionally literal. Even then I chose a lot of shots that were as literal as I could possibly make them, given the setting.

As others above have also stated about their own preferences, I also prefer to work within literal confines, as I feel its what I do/know best. And I don't think Im about to change it anytime soon. Given my background history, its what I've always known - which I feel is a factor. Though on many occasions I really enjoy watching vids that focus more on the metaphor, the ones that don't have obvious literal/visual sync. Usually it comes down to the creator though & how well they weave their story.

I also really love literal sync if the shots the person uses also matches the emotional tone of the song. It also comes down to a matter of timing & how the editor finishes a shot. If they dissolve or cut out of it too early or too late, then it loses its impact. Emotional tone is quite important for me in both my vids & others. Especially in instrumental tracks -

Im probably totally wrong by generalizing here, but from my own observations I think females generally can accept metaphor better than males in vidding, because females read between the lines & go looking for that subtext/deeper meaning. Where as the typical male mind might think (using my own as an example), if it isn't on the surface then thats all there is. But maybe thats because the female to male ratio is so heavily in favour of fairer sex. And I know there will be quite a few other males out there that don't fit that agenda - I'd heavily wager Brad is one of them.

To sum up, like any artform its all subjective anyway. Different styles will please different people. I don't think I myself can be accurately pigeonholed into any single area, but I do love me some literalism (especially when its done well).

I would love to discuss this a lot more, but it would be one instance where I'd prefer to use my mouth instead of my fingers to articulate my opinion.
mranderson71: Neo Handsmranderson71 on October 27th, 2008 12:04 am (UTC)
"Especially in instrumental tracks - "

Forgot to finish this sentence.

Especially in instrumental tracks - where you have no lyric crutch to help you tell your story. And in a lot of cases Im just retelling the story of whatever the source is & matching the swells/emotion of the music to whats on screen. Not everyone will feel the same about my choices but thats OK, because its what I wanted to see.
(no subject) - bop_radar on October 27th, 2008 05:47 am (UTC) (Expand)
A Girl Called Shannon: SPN - Goofy Timeszimshan on October 27th, 2008 03:49 am (UTC)
Fabulous discussion! While the golden rule of avoiding literalism always seems simple enough, it really can turn in to all kinds of headaches. It probably is second only to the "continuing the metaphor" headache I seem to always drive myself crazy over.

Specifically, I continually find it hard to skirt around literalism when dealing with a line of lyrics with emotional exposition. As a observer, I have notice it’s very popular for vidders (especially beginners) to want to vid to pop songs that are just full of emotional exposition, and many many times make the mistake of relying straight on the literalism of it. As a viewer, nothing pulls me straight out of the vid faster. It really is a big pet peeve in vids for me.

As a vidder, it’s always one of my main thoughts in looking for potential vid songs, “Is it low on the emo expo factor?” But I can sympathize with the dilemia of dealing with the emo expo problem. For example, my Dean vid, Home, the song was one that was so incredibly married to the concept I wanted to explore that there was simply no replacing it, but I cringed so hard the first time I really sat down with the song to hammer things out and realized the very first two lines opening the song was emo expo [“I’m so sick and tired of all these things that drag me down”] It just killed me. I tried to cut out the first two lines of the song early on, but it just didn’t sound right. So I had no choice but to keep them in. I struggled so much with that stupid first line, trying to think up a better way to open it, other than the obvious. ‘Picking the metaphor’ is one thing when it’s an action, another when it’s an emotional state. And completely ignoring the lyric to focus on the visual, as a start to a vid (and a lyric that did set up the emotion of the rest of the state of the vid) seemed to be a troublesome action. It was just way too “present” to try and cover it up without sticking out like a sore thumb that I covered it up. In the end, I’d like to think the concept outweighed the clunky beginning, but I still to this day am really bugged by the beginning, because it starts out immediately with that emo expo.

Anyway, that's just one example of the potential headaches. But I'd be interested in finding out if anyone might have any helpful ideas on how to deal with these lyrical ‘emo expo’ trouble spots?
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clex here with youbop_radar on October 27th, 2008 05:55 am (UTC)
HEE. 'Emo expo'. I love the term! I will use that. I hadn't thought of it that way, but I know what you mean. It's another case where literalism can become comedic REAL fast.

‘Picking the metaphor’ is one thing when it’s an action, another when it’s an emotional state. And completely ignoring the lyric to focus on the visual, as a start to a vid (and a lyric that did set up the emotion of the rest of the state of the vid) seemed to be a troublesome action. It was just way too “present” to try and cover it up without sticking out like a sore thumb that I covered it up
Yikes, that does seem troublesome... that would do my head in too. I don't know how I'd get around that. I'm trying to think of a parallel in my own vidding to work outhow I've dealt with it... but now I'm wondering if I've ever picked an emo expo song? Perhaps instinctively I've avoided them. I tend to like interesting/difficult lyrics so I probably find them a bit too basic (and I don't usually vid mainstream pop).

I will think more on this. And hopefully someone will come by with some good suggestions!
klia: puffsklia on October 27th, 2008 06:56 am (UTC)
Literalism is just fine with me, provided it serves the narrative or adds to characterizations. I'd say pretty much all of my favorite lyrics-driven vids employ a mix of literal and metaphoric clips to illustrate their stories.

Are there times literal clips are used badly? Absolutely. If I'm watching a vid and enjoying the journey the vidder's leading me on, and suddenly there's a random clip of snow for no apparent reason other than the lyrics say "snow" at that moment? It'll throw me right out of the vid. Sometimes it's just a brief stumble, and I can resume my journey; other times it's just the first of many road boulders, and the vid basically fails for me.

I have to say, too, that I'm just flabbergasted by the idea that some people believe in a "golden rule of avoiding literalism." I honestly don't understand how anyone can say ALL literal clips are bad and should be avoided at all costs (or, another comment I've seen fairly often: vids with ANY talky-face clips are bad). I actually feel kind of sorry for anyone whose criteria for vids are that rigid, because basically, they're being dismissive of some truly fantastic vids.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: DW Madame Pompadourbop_radar on October 27th, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC)
Yay! I love your comment--I completely agree. But I *have* seen that advice given, and even when perhaps the person doesn't *really* mean that all literalism is bad, I think the degree to which it is touted around as a principle can be dangerous--I certainly absorbed this entrenched fear of being 'literal' (not subtle, too obvious, etc.), without fully understanding what people meant when they said that. No one wants to be the object of ridicule.

I agree about the rigidity of such rules being a (sad) limiting factor. Advice is one thing, but blanket rules are another... also, there are a million other things that can make a vid not work for me. Like a complex extended metaphor that is extremely well vidded technically, visually compelling, but ... just doesn't work for me personally because my meta take is different, i.e. I don't buy the premise behind the vid. Also I think rules limit us because people tend not to get into the subtelties then--like where literalism is an excellent choice, or the nuances of making it work when you want it to.
(no subject) - klia on October 28th, 2008 02:06 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on October 28th, 2008 02:57 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - klia on October 28th, 2008 03:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on October 28th, 2008 04:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - klia on October 28th, 2008 05:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
Becka: crossbonesbeccatoria on October 27th, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC)
Most of the stuff I would want to say about how literalism can be just fine as long as it's not literal for the sake of literal at the (sometimes comedic) expense of the rest of the vid has already been said, and you offer some great advice up there, Bop!

So, instead I'll talk about something that I haven't seen anyone talk about yet. SURREAL LYRICS.

Vidding to really damn weird songs has helped my confidence in terms of lyrical interpretation.

I'm honoured that a few people have mentioned my...most complex lyrical-association-type vid - there's a war going on for your mind, laura (it's a BSG vid).

In said vid, I was dealing with lyrics that were just...crack. And it was quite freeing because usually I couldn't vid them literally so the temptation was removed and I had to think laterally and metaphorically, and then when I could get literal clips the fact that was so unexpected because the lyrics themselves were not meant to be taken literally ended up providing power to the visual rather than comedy or weirdness as often happens.

Perhaps I should illustrate with examples?

So, the line, "infecting victimes with silicon shrapnel," is a reference to the increasing way technology infects our lives, so of course I vidded it very literally showing Gaius injecting Laura with magical silicon cylon baby blood.

"Pacifist guerillas," is another example of a metaphorical lyric where I put Caprica Six and Boomer planning their revolution of Love and No More Killing. They literally are pacifist guerillas.

Ultimately, though, it's worth noting that I think this worked as well as it did because BSG is such a rich source when it comes to politics, free will and technology (the three things the song was about) that I was using the weird lyrics to underscore the wider political context of the literal clips. So when I vidded Roslin and the 'silicon shrapnel' it wasn't just a random literal clip it also brought with it all the intended baggage of "the boundries between us and technology are blurring," that the song intended along with a whole boatload more cus it's BSG. Had I done something that literal with another source that didn't have those technological overtones it might not have worked. Also the song was deliberately juxtaposing bizarre and seemingly contradictory ideas so when I managed to pick an image that literally represented that contradiction that in itself was a source of interpretive interest?

What I'm trying to get at is, sometimes, if the lyrics are deep and expansive, vidding a literal moment onto them can cause us to re-examine the moment in the source now with the added overtones from the lyric? (And I feel like I'm being stupidly obvious now because yes, that's what we always try to do: combine the two to make something deeper, but I hope people understand what I mean?)

Another example of a very literal vid I made was one where - again, the lyrics were very, very strange, all about a weird creature being taken to a Cathedral and paraded around as a "god" by the priests - and from a weird perspective - that of a Cylon Raider, so there I think the literalism helped ground it not only in terms of the visuals, but also helped ground the audio?

Well, anyway, awesome discussion.

I'm a fan of vidding in general but I also rarely watch vids outside my fandoms simply because it frustrates me that while I can appreciate the technical skill I miss so much when I don't know the source, so my picks are necessarily limited here, but I would say that awesome BSG lyric-based vids include:

so say we all I (Handlebars) by kiki_miserychic

Signal to Noise by darlulu

Jolene by nicole_anell - which is amazing in its use of metaphory awesomeness and casting robots-in-general as the-other-woman in a love affair.

And of course many others but those off the top of my head!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Flowersbop_radar on October 28th, 2008 10:45 pm (UTC)
Vidding to really damn weird songs has helped my confidence in terms of lyrical interpretation.
Hee! That's very cool. I can see how it would be so.

when I vidded Roslin and the 'silicon shrapnel' it wasn't just a random literal clip it also brought with it all the intended baggage of "the boundries between us and technology are blurring," that the song intended along with a whole boatload more cus it's BSG
Mmm, good point--where a literal clip is employed it helps if it connects with wider context of song and vid and source. *nods*

sometimes, if the lyrics are deep and expansive, vidding a literal moment onto them can cause us to re-examine the moment in the source now with the added overtones from the lyric?
Great way of putting it! thanks for making a point that I found hard to express myself. I've seen moments like that in so many vids and really value them.
Naomi: Smashed/Wrecked/DT Byfrelling_tralk on October 27th, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC)
Heh I always remember watching a Buffy/Spike video where they were interpreting lyrics as totally literal everytime. I.e "see the thorn twist in my side" was the moment in FFL when Buffy turns and the stake wound makes her wince. Even as someone who hadn't watched many video's at that point it really stood out to me as umm interesting choices *g*
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Faithbop_radar on October 27th, 2008 10:28 pm (UTC)
HEE. Judging by the comments above, poor Spuffy seems to have particularly suffered from literalism.