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17 June 2009 @ 08:18 am
Making DLZ  
The tl;dr description.

DLZ is my first 'big' vid in ages. I got the idea maybe six months or so ago, mid-season-two, but I didn't have the opportunity to work on it in a committed fashion until counteragent won my 'Black Saturday' vid auction. In a strange way, I feel that it is fitting that a vid made to help the survivors of fires described as 'apocalyptic' is about an apocalypse.

TV on the Radio's track is very dense, both musically and lyrically. It's got a claustrophobic relentlessness that really spoke of an endless struggle to me: perfect for capturing the emotion of being inside the resistance.

What I really wanted to make was an ensemble vid about what it meant to be the Resistance. What it meant to live with that burden of knowledge and responsibility, day in day out, and what fears it bred. I always knew Sarah would be central, and for some time I toyed with it being more Sarah-focussed, but I ultimately decided that it would make a better and more interesting vid to look at the themes/fears common to each of the key Resistance characters, rather than just one of them. counteragent validated that decision.

I wanted to make a vid that would stand up to repeat viewings, that viewers willing to spend a little extra time would find rewarding. And I believe I've achieved that, even if it probably does mean that I've lost the 'once only' viewers. I don't mean to be snobby about it, and I really hope it doesn't come across that way, but for this vid, I was vidding mainly for people who were deeply engaged with the source material already and who get a kick out of Terminator's complex moral and philosophical problems, as well as its intense imagery.

I'm grateful to see that some people that don't even know the show are enjoying it on some level: grateful but surprised. It's always fascinating to see how different audiences respond, and even though I wasn't vidding consciously for them, it's cool that people are enjoying it on different levels.

Cameron is central to the vid's narrative, as she is to the show. However, it was very important for me that this not be a 'Cameron' vid. She is, in this vid, seen through the eyes of the human characters. She is the Other and she represents for them 'metal', the machines, all that they are fighting. What does it mean that she is 'one of them', their 'compromise'? She evokes deep primitive fears in them--sometimes unspoken, but always driving them. Sarah, Derek and Jesse each position themselves differently, but all of them make conscious choices about what Cameron 'means', while simultaneously unconsciously being driven by their fears.

It was surprisingly hard to consistently show Cameron as 'machine' or 'Terminator' and not engage with the ways in which she demonstrates 'humanity'. I think there's a natural fascination in the audience with her more 'human' aspects and I couldn't allow that to become too prominent or viewers would start going 'into' Cameron. I do touch on Cameron's origins, partly because the lyric begged for it, partly because I thought it was interesting to explore that she had a physical origin as a human, and that human--Allison--is in a strange way still 'present' in the Resistance, but unwillingly.

At a deeper level, Cameron symbolises what the Resistance feel they must become: killing machines. This is particularly challenging for Sarah who tries to steer a moral course through the present. Future-fighters Derek and Jesse have it 'easier' in the sense that they 'know' who their enemy is. And yet they end up pointing guns at their friends and at each other--is it really so easy?

The lines therefore get blurred between machine and human, not just within Cameron (though she's the perfect symbol of that), but also within the humans. If they can kill, machine-like, on command, what does it mean about their humanity? Who really is the 'death professor' here? The programmed machine, or the human that trains themselves, deliberately, to kill? John and Derek are both shown reacting impassively to deaths, conditioned not to react or to barely react, conditioned to view death as normal.

John is and isn't part of this vid. Like Cameron he has a symbolic function for the other characters. There is no escaping that he is the future leader. But John is 'allowed' (both by me and the other characters) more humanity than Cameron--he is also a character in his own right, and his own experiences in the Resistance are touched on. But I haven't centralised his own internal experience because I feel that it's so huge. It is different to be the person that everyone is fighting for. It is touched on in my vid, but not dealt with in any depth, and I hope that's ok.

Riley, Charlie and Andy
I very much wanted to include these three as they are all, in different ways, members of the Resistance. However they are secondary characters and I could not allow them much screentime in the vid or their stories would take over. Crafting tight little arcs/meta reflection for each of them was really important.
- Riley is a Resistance fighter against her will, a pawn on the chessboard, so I barely show her face. Not because I didn't appreciate her as a character but because her personal experience is so unimportant to the Resistance as a whole (personified by Jesse in this case). It is only John who mourns her.
- Charlie becomes a Resistance fighter through intimacy with and love for Sarah and John. He is the 'normal' guy who is freaked out by Terminators, loses much personally and ends up sacrificing his life to the cause out of love. He doesn't experience the full range of what it means to be a fighter on an ongoing basis but people like him are also part of the Resistance spectrum.
- Andy is a fascinating figure--at once friend and enemy. He's so 'innocent' in the present, but he creates the future he will end up fighting. He is the moral problem the Resistance face day-in, day-out, and he stands for one of many as well. He is the (human) ground that the humans and machines fight over.

Problems, structure and narrative
I've not made many ensemble vids before and never one so thematically complex. The themes create the narrative structure here, not the characters or the chronology. I begin with the deepest fears of the principle fighter: Sarah. Those fears are then unpacked through the vid: why does she feel this way? Why is this her waking nightmare? I then widen the focus to show that some of these fears and experiences are common to other Resistance fighters. Cameron creates the common thread here--so we see the ways Derek and Jesse react to Cameron once we've already seen what she symbolises for Sarah. We come to see that death is central to their stories as well: they must face being both death-bringers and death-fodder. And above all they must keep fighting in the face of the nihilism that this inevitably breeds.

For me, this vid has a very strong structure. I got crit on that in the anon meme and I worked really hard on the narrative here, but one important aspect is that there is 'no escape' in this vid. The characters don't 'get out' at the end, they just become 'more' of what they already are. In that sense I didn't want there to be catharsis at the end, but it was amazingly hard to fight the impulse to create some for the audience--especially in that slow musical refrain at the end.

It took more hours than I can count to come up with my structure. It took a lot of trial and error, and hours spent walking in the park with my headphones on and just thinking. I've listened to this track more than any other track I've vidded, and that's saying something! I let it speak to me on an instinctive level, as I always do, but I also did a lot of heavy intense thinking about the show, and I sometimes got sidetracked and had to get back on course.

The first draft of this vid was a tangled mess. But I was terribly fond of it. It had a lot more 'meta' moments and a lot less continuity. It had some imagery that I thought was terribly clever but which was impossible to grasp at the speed the vid goes. It's bloody fast! But I kind of like that because it gives this overwhelming feeling that there's no time to react before the next thing comes--which is how the characters must feel. I knew the draft had problems but I didn't know how many until my beta, supacat watched it and totally failed to 'get' it. Many hours of conversation later, I knew what I needed to do to fix it. And she was right on the money, but I had to let go some of my 'pet' moments and I procrastinated about that.

Once I had a second vid draft together, it suddenly 'clicked' for supacat and my purpose became clear to her; she was then able to help me hone it. I was still very amused that it was complete opaque in my first draft, but I got excited again about the possibility of it all coming together.

Source discoveries
Can I say what an AMAZING show SCC is?! In the months of sourcing for this vid, I discovered so many more layers in the material, especially in its control of its visual narrative. These are some of them:
- Driving: There was a whole early draft of this vid using the metaphor of driving. It's used on the show in fascinating ways. Who drives whom, who is at the 'wheel' in different scenes, speaks volumes if you care to deconstruct it. Shot choices related to cars (wheel-level shots, versus wide panning landscapes) are intelligent and effective, not just pretty.
- Animal imagery: I milked this quite heavily in the intro of the vid. I find the animal imagery (the pigeon, the turtle, the lion, the caged tiger) some of the most powerful on the show. And of course animals also allow us to reflect on evolution and the relationship between humans and machine: are the machines the predatory animals? or are humans the raw, uncontrolled animal-like predators and machines the cool calculated 'human' figures?
- Sidenote: I hadn't twigged until sourcing for this vid that the recurring polaroid of Sarah has the same kind of dog in it (Alsatian) as we see Allison beside in the future in the final ep. Creeeeeeeepy!
- Loyalty to its origins: I found SO MANY visual call-outs to the T1 and T2 in the show. I can't begin to list them; I guess I was always aware of them in a rough sense but I definitely enjoyed them a lot more 'in close up' as I was sourcing. I think this gives a coherence and consistency to T:TSCC's action sequences and also adds to its cinematic quality.
- Guns: who points them where and when? Who is mistaken for who on the end of a gun? There's a lot of confusion on the show, guns lowered, guns raised, and this continually begs the question 'who is the enemy?' Love it!
- Eyes, hands, feet: My biggest tip to a viewer of my vid is look for these three. I don't know if ANYone will instinctively do so themselves, but trust me there is lots of meta to unpack there if you want it. I ended up using all three as common threads for my own purposes. Running is probably the most obvious metaphor that viewers will pick up on--that ended up being far more effective a central image than driving, far more immediate and physical. There's also a lot going on with hands and eyes, if you care for it: both reflect on humanity or the lack of it, and that came organically from the source. The show textualises eyes as 'the window to the soul'. In a vid with such fluid point of view, eyes became very important--sometimes whose eyes we are seeing through, other times what people's eyes are reflecting or 'saying'. Hands are perhaps less obvious, but Cameron's loss of motor control in crushing the pigeon brings them to the forefront. Hands also teach, touch, reach out to others... all very human things... but they also allow us to hold to a gun and kill.

This is my most effects-heavy vid. I don't think it looks it, and I'm pleased with that. The most obvious effect that people will see is the flickering static image. I've used it as 'punctuation' in the vid. It introduces and marks out different 'phrases', but like punctuation in a sentence, people don't need to be conscious of its purpose, they'll just feel it. It comes from the show itself (important to me), from the chip footage Derek watches of his friends being massacred. It frames the whole vid in 'Terminator vision' which I think is interesting. We begin the vid through the eyes of the hunter, and we end it with the vision going 'black' as the hunter 'dies'. In between there is static, and if I'm wanking my own vid, I'd say the static stands for the space between active life and death--that's the place the Resistance inhabit. I admit that point of view is very fluid in this vid and that may be hard to follow in places, but I'm also hoping it sparks reflection on the part of the viewers.

I have tweaked footage HEAPS in this vid. I've used key frames for the first time. The colour correction is deliberately minimal but every shot was adjusted subtly in some way to make it fit the whole. I wanted the vid to have a rough-edged feel, because the Resistance is not polished.

This is the most 'sensitive' vid I have ever made. Very slight adjustments--one frame, 5% speed adjustment, slight re-centring or zooming--made the most AMAZING amount of difference to the overall success of the vid. As did black space. I used it more in this vid than any vid I can think of and it totally makes things 'pop' a lot more. The early drafts were so damn flat. I've never felt so impelled to find effects to overcome something like that before! It was exciting.

I am personally excited that I pulled off the effects I did and I hope they don't clunk for anyone.

To con or not to con
counteragent very generously said I could submit this vid to Vividcon if I wanted. I opted not to. I learnt a lot last year about what is and isn't a 'con vid' (after being told in not quite so many words that I couldn't possibly understand because I'd never been to one). I feel strongly that this is not a con vid, and I'm fine with that. I don't think one viewing, in a large audience, would really give people the intimate connection that this vid kind of needs. A lounge-room audience is more desireable to me. I'd rather have three people watch it multiple times than 50 watch it once. I think those three people will get a shitload more out of it collectively than the 50 would.

I also think there's nothing wrong with making a vid that requires multiple viewings, damn it! :p

This is not true of all my vids, but it is true of this one, and I'm just glad I understand that so I don't get disappointed by the lack of 'success'.

Ultimately this vid is my love letter to the show, and it wouldn't be true to what I love in that show if it didn't contain complexity, pose questions and offer no simple solutions or neat stories. I hope my vid is shocking rather than sensationalist. I hope one or two viewers connect with in the place where intellect and emotion collide.

(Ha! Mood icon of appropriateness!)
Tags: ,
Current Location: sofa of comfiness
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
(Deleted comment)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Buffy Willow friends hugbop_radar on June 17th, 2009 03:00 am (UTC)
The vids that seem to come from cons labeled "meta-y" often seem to work on an instinctual level or something
Yeah, that's an interesting observation. Maybe they are like this because they need people to grasp their argument very quickly on an instinctive level (on first viewing). And perhaps that's why sometimes I find it really weird that people think they're so deep because I watch them once or twice at home and think 'yeah, ok, I get the (one) point: you don't have to batter me with it, and can you make another one now?!' I sometimes get confused by them (yup, with you on 'White America'), I sometimes just find them limited. I often don't think they're as complex in terms of argument as people imply (they may be complex in other ways--visually, for instance). And of course 'statement vids' like White America play better to a con audience than vids that require intimate knowledge of one specific show, because you can't rely on the whole con audience to know that show--unless it were a convention specific to that show, I guess.

As a 100% lounge-room viewer myself, I want to make the kind of vids *I* like, though I'm totally capable of banging out something more palatable/accessible to a con audience, like 'I kissed a girl'.

You are my viewer!!! \o/ *parties*
daybreak777: viddingdaybreak777 on June 17th, 2009 05:11 am (UTC)
Also bookmarking. Fic on brain this week. Vids for the weekend.

You are my viewer!!! \o/ *parties*
I am so glad you two meta girls are on the same wavelength. :-) Yay!
Talithatalitha78 on June 17th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed reading about your process--I always love that sort of stuff.

Also--glad to know that you deliberately made the vid somewhat dense and inaccessible to the non-fan. Makes me feel less dumb. :)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Bop_radar TWbop_radar on June 17th, 2009 02:51 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed reading about your process--I always love that sort of stuff.
I love it too! But I'm not very good at being succinct about it...

Yes, no-one should feel dumb! I felt really self-conscious making this vid, because I often feel there's this pressure to make vids accessible to everyone, even non-fans. I think that's great if it's what you set out to do, but it doesn't have to be that way.
serenographyserenography on June 17th, 2009 03:05 am (UTC)
I often feel there's this pressure to make vids accessible to everyone, even non-fans. I think that's great if it's what you set out to do, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Words of a true artist.

*off to watch the vid that I obviously missed the first time around*
darluludarlulu on June 17th, 2009 05:28 am (UTC)
I didn't follow SCC closely or regularly enough to properly appreciate your latest vid (although your dazzling use of visuals and movement did make me swoon), but I just wanted to pop my head in to agree with this sentiment - I also think there's nothing wrong with making a vid that requires multiple viewings, damn it!

Personally, I don't see the point in vidding a vid that *doesn't* necessitate (or at least hold greater meaning on) a second or third viewing. Even when I vid for Club Vivid, I try to explore enough stuff that a few viewings of them wouldn't go amiss. As for what constitutes a 'con vid,' heck if I know! And I've submitted vids regularly to VVC the past five years! ;)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lois red umbrellabop_radar on June 17th, 2009 05:40 am (UTC)
don't see the point in vidding a vid that *doesn't* necessitate (or at least hold greater meaning on) a second or third viewing
Me neither, really! I mean I've definitely been guilty of vidding the shallow and pretty, but I have a strong impulse to add layers to even the simplest vid. I guess it's just a matter of degree.

And yeah... who knows with this so called 'con vid' business. But I've learnt that some vidders have Very Strong Views on such matters, and I've been surprised sometimes by the implication that vidding for a lounge-room audience is somehow less significant or less important. That boggles my mind, since at least 90% of vid viewers today (surely!) watch privately at home. I know that historically vids were more commonly viewed collectively, but my experience as a late 'noughties' vidder is different.
Enderenderwiggin24 on June 17th, 2009 08:20 am (UTC)
I've lost the 'once only' viewers
haha, I have no idea about the source, well not much anyway, and yup, I just saw your vid once, and will probably not watch it again, but I thought, it was cool and flashy and all fast cuts!
it looked like a cool movie trailer!
so nope, you didn't lost me, as the show never had me from the beginning, but I enjoyed it anyway :D
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: TSCC Sarahbop_radar on June 18th, 2009 03:11 am (UTC)
Re: I've lost the 'once only' viewers
Hee, yeah, I often watch vids only once: and that's totally ok! A cool movie trailer, huh? That seems good!
Jayne L.: sccchatserrico on June 18th, 2009 12:32 am (UTC)
Ooo, *meta*. :) Thanks for writing all this out; I love getting a behind-the-scenes view of the vidding process, especially when the vid in question has as much going on as this one.

I also think there's nothing wrong with making a vid that requires multiple viewings, damn it! :p

As of this moment, I've rewatched DLZ...uh, a lot (put it this way: I watched it four times before I left my first comment, and that was *two whole days ago* *g*)...and yes, *yes*, ABSOLUTELY THIS. My favourite vids are the ones that make me *want* to rewatch, the ones that are nifty and interesting the first or second time, but raise goosebumps on the fifth or sixth time through. And this vid is definitely one of those. :)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: To Kill a Mockingbirdbop_radar on June 18th, 2009 03:13 am (UTC)
I really needed to write it out: I went through so much and I really only skimmed the surface of what I learnt here!

Heeeee. Very amused (and pleased) by your multiple viewings! My beta was patting me on the head when there were very few comments to begin with, saying that people had to watch it a few times first. And er, yes, I see how it's more that sort of vid than the type you reply straightaway to. ;)
Dualbunny: vids yay!dualbunny on June 18th, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)
This is an interesting read. :D I haven't gotten any further than the first ep of season two (though I know the major plot developments), so most of the deep thematic stuff that relies on image recognition sort of goes over my head on watching. But it's so solidly put together and really well edited that it's an enjoyable watch even without the full emotional resonance. The intensity and relentlessness is pretty impossible to miss, regardless of how much show knowledge a watcher comes into it with. :} And thank you muchly for sharing your behind the scenes thoughts!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Batgirlbop_radar on June 18th, 2009 09:58 pm (UTC)
Oh good! I'm so pleased you enjoyed the vid, and it's great to hear it's parse-able without full source knowledge.
Chaotic Neutral Human Sorcerer (4th Level): [terminator] Mother of the yearmyniamh on June 18th, 2009 11:15 pm (UTC)
This really is a fantastic vid. I have a collection of vids on my iPod to watch over again so I understand how necessary that is for some. =)
Thanks for making it an .mp4!

Who drives whom, who is at the 'wheel'
I found that too! Mine is a bit more deliberately random and chaotic but you just cannot miss the importance of who is in the car, who is driving, who isn't there.

The whole 'family' theme of the show (as in most characters are part of a small family set) alongside the reality for them of being an armed force, next to the future resistance fighters saying 'we're all family now' is so interesting. =D
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: TSCC Sarahbop_radar on June 20th, 2009 10:21 am (UTC)
Cool! I'm so glad you like it.

Yeah, I saw you'd made a TSCC-car vid before you left this comment... whee! how awesome! I'm glad someone has made one. Cool song too, btw. I'm also glad I'm not the only one to have geeked out over all that driving imagery!

The relationships between all the characters feel so complex. I love that 'family' isn't just a label slapped on them to tell the audience they're connected: we see and feel the connection on all sorts of levels, and being connected isn't always good.
Chaotic Neutral Human Sorcerer (4th Level)myniamh on June 20th, 2009 12:23 pm (UTC)
After all the car-meta on other shows I'm surprised there isn't more on this in the fandom. Especially as the whole premise is one long car chase from the first film onward. If you think about the idea that terminators are computer driven fleshy bodies and what that means when our little organic brains control cars or other machines, we are all cyborgs.

Family isn't considered a weakness or nostalgic indulgence for them or that they are the only family in existance, they've all got their family members are fighting along side them. That's so different and you caught that really well.

Sometimes I think Guns & Destiny is the next Swords & Sorcery. XD
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: TSCC Cameronbop_radar on July 1st, 2009 07:22 am (UTC)
Sorry for slow reply! Yeah, I love the way the show raises the blurred lines between human and cyborg--the humans are totally tech-dependent too.
Chaotic Neutral Human Sorcerer (4th Level): [terminator] on your feet soldiermyniamh on July 1st, 2009 11:00 am (UTC)
That's ok, just popped back to read again and noticed the recurring polaroid of Sarah has the same kind of dog in it (Alsatian) as we see Allison beside in the future in the final ep.
All the dogs, from Kyle's dream in the first movie onward are Alsatian, I think they'd have a stronger military or police image than some bad-arsed resistance fighter being guarded by a small yappy rat dog. XD
amathela on June 20th, 2009 12:56 am (UTC)
I love reading vid meta and process notes, so thank you for posting this! I absolutely agree about multiple viewings; I tend to watch the vids I love a lot, and the vids that get better each time are definitely my favourites. And I love this vid - particularly the Andy and Charley mini-arcs, but really all of it, from the movement to the imagery to the sustained metaphors. I'll definitely be watching it for some time to come.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: TSCC Cameronbop_radar on June 20th, 2009 03:44 am (UTC)
Oh, I'm glad you enjoyed it so much! Andy and Charlie are both favourite parts of mine too--it was hard confining them to short arcs so I'm glad they were powerful to you.