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05 September 2010 @ 10:47 pm
Watching vids in a con setting  
To prove that I learnt something at Vividcon, I am finally getting round to posting my notes on watching vids on a large screen with an audience for the first time. While hopefully more widely interesting than my tl;dr social rambles about the con (part 1 and part 2), these notes are still highly subjective. I am sure other people's relationship with vids differs from my own (even surer of this after the con than I was before) and I suspect to those more acclimatised to watching vids in group settings these notes may seem naive and obviously 'newbie'. However, I remember searching for an explanation somewhere of the differences in viewing experience and coming up terribly short. While I found lots of 'oh, it's very different' statements from congoers, there was little in the way of an actual explanation of how for someone a) thinking of attending and b) trying to work out how to make a vid that would work in this context. So hopefully someone out there will find this useful.

If nothing else, you can be amused at my naivety again.

For the most part (say 90 per cent of the time) I watch vids on my laptop, curled up on the sofa, with my headphones on. The viewing feels very intimate. If I download them I take the time to watch them multiple times, and I do that with any vid I'm serious about watching (which is quite a lot of vids). I don't move on to another vid unless I feel I've fully digested that one.

When I'm browsing for new vidders or vids I do use YouTube (or the Ning network to a lesser extent). This wasn't possible on a practical level for me until recently because broadband is so slow here, but I am now able to get decent streaming for the most part. However I'm far more brutal on streaming sites--if a vid doesn't grab me or hold my attention I'll click on pretty damn fast. If there isn't something extra about the vid (interesting subject choice or song, a fandom I like, a vidder I like, a style I'm curious about) I won't put in the extra time. Whereas with the vids I download I tend to give a vid time to grow on me--even if I don't like it straight up I rewatch and see what more I can get out of it.

So I have kind of two extremes--one the uber-attentive, intimate viewing--the other the fast 'entertain me or else' low attention span kind. ;)

Either way, the vids are small in size on my screen. It was only just before Vividcon (and too late for my premiere) that I worked out how to hook them up to my TV so I could see them on a slightly larger screen. That blew me away, so I had a teenie foretaste of what was to come.

The first thing I wrote was focus. The Vividcon audience is extremely attentive and anticipatory. You can feel people expecting the vid to entertain them. They're there because they love vids and are open to them so in that regard it is a very positive audience. This definitely tallied up for me with my own feeling of focus at home, except that it felt very peculiar to have tens of other people craning over my shoulder with me. ;)

Laughter was one of the first big things I noticed--it's a great feeling to share laughter with a crowd, but the laughing itself takes time, so the vid viewing gets a little interrupted. Depending on the pace of the vid this was either no problem at all or a little tricky, especially when parts of the crowd laughed at different times than me. It felt like I was either riding with the crowd and the vid (and getting a huge high off that) or feeling slightly out of snych emotionally. For vids where I didn't quite feel in synch with the crowd, I can't say it made me think less of the vid--it's more that it made me reflect on why the vid wasn't making me laugh at the same times (e.g. missing fandom in-jokes or possibly just having a different sense of humour). It taught me more about myself as a viewer so it wasn't a bad experience--just a different one.

The obvious is more bearable. I wrote this sentence and I hope it doesn't prove offensive to anyone, but I found that really obvious lyric and image combinations 'popped' better at the con than they would have to me at home, in part because the audience was so open and receptive and predisposed to like the vid. Of course these things are subjective--one person's subtle is another person's obvious and vice versa. But in general I think when you're watching a vid only once and are possibly distracted by all the people around you or have slightly obscured vision, the slightly more obvious choices can really work at keeping you following a vid's trajectory.

Related to that point is the fact that you live in the moment as the viewer. Everything is before your eyes so fleetingly that even just seeing a character, fandom, ship or canon moment you like can be a 'high point' of the vid. There were plenty of instances throughout the con where people reacted simply to an image (bradcpu's observation that people seem to laugh if you just show them a shot of Spock being my favourite illustrative example! SO TRUE, omg, what is that about?! I even found myself doing it by the end! But I would never have done this at home.). So again, I found this lead to a more forgiving viewing experience as long as you were showing something popular that lots of people would get a kick out of.

This also meant that the one-concept vid is more enjoyable. By a one-concept vid I mean a vid with one very clear point that is made over and over. For instance, it could be a comedy vid, such as one based on the idea 'Ten makes a lot of stupid facial expressions' (fictional example) that then proceeds to show this to an amusing track. Or it could be a serious meta vid that says 'this ship is really fucked up' and proceeds to prove its point. At home, I've got to say that unless I find the thing being said to be fresh and new or something I'm personally very attached to and want said by the universe, I have limited interest in such vids. The main reason being that once I've seen them once I feel like they don't hold up to multiple viewings. I keep digging around for more and finding that no, no, they just keep on saying that one thing. They may of course say it very well, so this is my own little prejudice here as a home viewer. At the con? These go down REALLY WELL--to me too it turns out!--I think because the audience really has a chance to 'get' the vid, even when played consecutively amid tens of other vids. It's gratifying to the viewer, especially at the end of a long day of trying to parse a multiplicity of complex and diverse vids quickly.

This leads well to the next point, which is that watching so many vids consecutively--having to change pace, emotion, fandom, viewpoint, mood and level of intellectual engagement every three to four minutes--leads to vid fatigue. Everyone talked about this at the con and a lot of people were pacing themselves with vid shows to avoid it. There is a certain point where if you fully enter into every vid and really connect with it as much as possible you get overloaded. One of the unexpected benefits for me of experiencing this is that it broke down some of my own prejudices as a viewer, and it lead to me slipping into different ways of watching a vid. For instance, I found that at some (very fatigue-driven times) I was watching a vid mainly at an aesthetic level--for pure beauty, for motion, or for colour. My conscious mind kind of tuned out at these times but I still greatly enjoyed the vids and for the most part still felt an emotional power drawing me through. That's a really different experience for me because I over-intellectualise everything, and even my way of being squeeful about something usually involves thinking about it obsessively, writing arguments in my head, and so on. So I found this breakthrough to be really powerful and I think really healthy. It made me appreciate other people's vids on a new level, understand a little about how other people view vids and also be a less critical viewer.

Another thing which happened was that watching vids back to back allowed for greater capacity to see parallels between them or to draw links across and between vids. This could itself enhance the viewing experience. A great example was how one person in vid review commented that watching heresluck's ensemble Friday Night Lights vid prepared them well (as a non-FNL viewer) for w_a_prince's Becoming Brothers, which focuses more tightly on two characters of the cast. At first, it felt really weird to me to be relating vids to one another, because the connections were so arbitrary and I would never have made them at home, where I really consciously separate each vid out in my mind. However, themed vid shows by their nature invite reflection on the similarities and differences between vids, so this process was both legitimate and rewarding--especially in conversation post-show. It also built, for me at least, a greater sense of community: as if by talking about how vids related to one another we were building a web of connectedness between each other. Given that a lot of vidders at the con are inspired by other vidders at the con, this is probably not surprising--but it was something which until I experienced it in person I wouldn't have been drawn to do at home.

On a physical level viewing a vid on a bigger screen for the most part meant I could take more in visually in a shorter amount of time. However this decreased rapidly as soon as my vision was impaired at all, which it naturally was in some sessions. At home I'd be a control freak about this, not wanting any vid to be biased by me being distracted. Being at the con helped me loosen up about that. But when I could see properly, motion took on a whole other level of importance. First, I noticed I had a greater tolerance for amount of internal motion in a shot, but conversely (and I've know idea why this is so) also greater tolerance for long slow shots that allowed some resting time. Second, I noticed interrupted or jerky motion far more (perhaps because we're used to seeing polished editing on bigger screens? I don't know), and that helped me understand why some vidders put so much importance on this, especially in a context which doesn't allow as great a capacity for private intellectual engagement. For while I could take in more visually I found it harder to focus my mind, especially as vid fatigue kicked in.

Still, some of the most exciting vids at the con for me were that ones that I can't wait to watch again and again at home. I can't honestly say I grasped them in their entirety at the con. As I suspected, I'm not able to read that deeply on as many levels as I would like in one viewing. But having that first intriguing viewing 'live', being left thinking 'what the hell was that?' or 'was that vid really saying ...?' or getting heaps of sparky intra-fandom meta thoughts from a vid that I desperately want to explore further on re-viewing was very exciting. And it was kind of a great game to see how much you could get out of each vid on one view. Even if it was a pretty tiring game by the end. :p

I had worried that watching at a con would mean a less emotional experience for me. That proved both true and untrue. There was a degree to which it was hard work shifting emotion with each vid. Whereas at home I'd find it a failure of the vid to make me sad (if that was its intent and it didn't), at the con I was sometimes aware that this was less to do with the vid and more to do with me still being peppy from the previous one. However, that said, truly powerful vids that had great personal resonance for me blasted through that completely and felt all the most exciting for that reason. I was very impressed with the VJing overall--great thought was put into controlling the emotional trajectory of shows, and I really appreciated that as a viewer. Naturally there were some spots where for personal reasons I either found it hard to move on emotionally from a vid or hard to enter a vid emotionally. But luckily since most vids are available online I can always give them a second chance, and I look forward to building a new relationship with them at home now as well.

Summary: I didn't feel like viewing at the con invalidated the choices I make at home as a viewer; I feel it expanded my possibilities and freed me up in a positive way, as well as teaching me more about myself and others as viewers.
Current Location: sofa of comfiness
Current Mood: mellowmellow
laurashapiro on September 5th, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
I very much enjoyed reading this. (:
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Buffy Willow friends hugbop_radar on September 5th, 2010 11:43 pm (UTC)
So glad! :)
Charmax: Vidicon Viddingcharmax on September 5th, 2010 03:39 pm (UTC)
Very enlightening post. Great read!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on September 5th, 2010 11:44 pm (UTC)
Oh good! I'm so glad it was interesting.
jarrow: _viddingjarrow on September 5th, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love this so much! I will try to come back and leave thinky thoughts after work!

(Okay, back, heh.)

Regarding the fact that a lot of more straight-forward vids or comedy vids play better in a group setting, I do think so much of that is the enjoyment we get as people by seeing others enjoying something. One of my favorite Premieres experiences this year was when "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" showed, simply by how much the audience got into it and loved it. Does that same experience translate when watching it alone at home? Almost never. There is certainly such a thing as a "con vid" that just plays better in that setting. (Oh man, jescaflowne's Another Sunday absolutely KILLED a few years back. That was the most fun we've had in Premieres since I started going.) At the same time, if it were all lighthearted things like that, we'd long for substance. I do really love the balance that comes with cons and how that helps keep it fresh, even when vid fatigue sets in.

Okay, that was just a ramble. In short: I love this post. (And you!)

Edited at 2010-09-05 06:43 pm (UTC)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: DW Madame Pompadourbop_radar on September 5th, 2010 11:57 pm (UTC)
so much of that is the enjoyment we get as people by seeing others enjoying something
Oh yes! I was completely amazed at how swept up in that I got. I had always imagined myself sitting in a Vividcon audience feeling completely out of synch with people around me and all headtilty and confused about it (because that had been my exerience at home), but in person I really got swept up in the moment. There was just so much joy, vicarious and otherwise. I think I loved seeing other people excited about vids in person more than I loved being excited about them myself!

Does that same experience translate when watching it alone at home? Almost never.
Right! I feel relieved about this because it no longer means I'm a failed viewer (how I used to feel in LJ-centric vidding fandom after every VVC when I failed to adore the most recced vids of the con).

The balance is totally important too. I agree. My next post is going to be about specific vids that I got way more out of in a con setting than I would have at home (I believe). And it's a mix of upbeat joy and serious critique.

I think the other thing I took away from the con was how skilled it is to be able to pitch successfully to the Vividcon audience. Like publishing, it's not a science and there's always going to be factors outside your control that will determine how the vid is received, but it was also quite clear that some vidders (yourself included) do it more skillfully than others. That was cool to see!

On the other hand I really deeply appreciated wistful_fever's comment that the con audience could also be viewed as an opportunity to make people watch something they might not otherwise watch and challenge them a bit. While a vid that pushes those viewer boundaries may not always be a smash-hit, I suspect they linger in the collective memory and do the community good overall--I've also seen such vids gather great word-of-mouth online.

I just got so much out of the con I'm going to be babbling for months.
jarrow: _viddingjarrow on September 6th, 2010 01:25 am (UTC)
I just got so much out of the con I'm going to be babbling for months.

There is no bad there :-D

I think the other thing I took away from the con was how skilled it is to be able to pitch successfully to the Vividcon audience.

Right - some people do put a lot of thought into what they submit to a particular vidshow and why and what the blurb is and what to put in the vid because of all that. Sometimes you want something really accessible (like my premiere this year), sometimes you want something they might not've seen otherwise, sometimes it's what you want to see on the big screen for the sake of, or sometimes it's just whatever you've finished around deadline time that seems as good a choice to submit as any. And every year there are surprise hits and ones that we are surprised to hear weren't hits. You just never know. It's not a science, you're right, but there are certainly enough patterns in it that we can talk about it like this. Yay for that!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lee concentratingbop_radar on September 6th, 2010 02:21 am (UTC)
Yay indeed! \o/ I like patterns, they help me work stuff out. :) I'm very interested in understanding audiences because I find knowing what audience I'm vidding for helps a lot in managing anxiety about feedback and posting. Often my intended audiences are very small--as long as I know (and remember!) that, it's not upsetting to not get a lot of fb. Conversely, if I'm deliberately, consciously making something more widely accessible, I do expect more views.

I so see how people get addicted to vidding for the Vividcon audience though--that energy is so unique!
(no subject) - amnisias on September 5th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on September 6th, 2010 12:01 am (UTC)
That's interesting to hear! I spoke to several second-year congoers who were very determined to spend more time in panels.

And I think everyone's brains get tired at the con at some point for one reason or another (fatigue, hangover, distraction, anxiety, burnout, whatever).

I think the con viewing experience wasn't better or worse than viewing at home for me (I'm very wed to my little system, LOL!), but it was different--better in some ways (I will never forget the feeling of the crowd) but it had downsides too. This is good for me to remember because in reality I will not always be able to go to cons.

I totally concur with you on the desire for more space for post-viewing discussion. I loved watching vids in room parties for that reason--it facilitated discussion. And I think a smaller con environment would definitely be conducive to that.
kassrachel on September 5th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC)
It's amazing how different an experience it is, isn't it? I'm always struck by how different it feels to be watching a vid in a room full of other vid fans -- that hushed silence before the vid starts, the air of anticipation, the moments of laughter or gasping, the applause afterwards.

And then I bring the discs home and I want to show vids to my friends, and sometimes they're a hit in my living room and other times they aren't as exciting, maybe because the people in my living room don't know the show(s) in question, or because...I don't know why. But this is why people used to talk about a distinction between a "con vid" and a "living room vid" -- the assumption was that a living room vid was one you could get on a VHS tape and could watch repeatedly, so it could be subtler, whereas a con vid was something you would only be able to see once and you'd be watching it in a room full of other excited fans.

I'm not so sure the distinction exactly holds anymore -- now we typically come home from cons with dvds, which changes things -- but it's definitely still true (for me) that vids play differently at a con vs. in my living room. :-)
jarrow: _viddingjarrow on September 5th, 2010 06:46 pm (UTC)
I just saw this after writing a comment above, and I'm learning that what I had always referred to as con vids vs living room vids has different roots than what I thought. (Learning, yay!) I always thought it referred to where they play best; it never occurred to me the terms originated from where you can actually view them. But then, I've only been coming to VVC when dvds were available. Huh!
kassrachel on September 5th, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
On reflection, I think the distinction probably originally had to do with both of these things -- a con vid was one which played best to a large audience, but might also be a vid which was only viewable in that setting, since not everyone made tapes for sale. At least, that's my sense; others may be able to correct me! :-)
the_shoshannathe_shoshanna on September 6th, 2010 01:34 am (UTC)
FWIW, back in the day I only ever heard the terms "con vid" and "living-room vid" used to describe where the vids played best, what sort of audience they were intended for; IME it had nothing to do with how they were actually seen or distributed. (Except of course that a vidder might well choose to distribute a vid in a way that they hoped would help it reach its best audiences.)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on September 6th, 2010 02:05 am (UTC)
Hi hi! *waves* Thanks for popping in and filling in some background! :D Much appreciated!
the_shoshannathe_shoshanna on September 6th, 2010 02:08 am (UTC)
Hee, I was surfing around and I'm glad to help (and of course others may have used the terms in other ways, but that's how I heard them).

Also, this post was really interesting, but I am in that kind of hazy glazed exhausted mental state where all I can say is a sort of wide-eyed "ooooh, cool." So, um, cool post. Thanks for writing this up!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on September 6th, 2010 02:10 am (UTC)
Ohh good to hear you enjoyed it! I always feel really naive commenting on such things. I think I scribbled the first of the notes for this beside you in the History show if I recall correctly. (In between grinning and squeeing of course!)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on September 6th, 2010 12:08 am (UTC)
sometimes they're a hit in my living room and other times they aren't as exciting, maybe because the people in my living room don't know the show(s) in question, or because...I don't know why
I know personally I expect a lot more thought-generation from vids I view at home. I get bored easily by things that are one-note. Generally I have higher tolerance for this if it's upbeat and joyful and I like the song (coz I can dance to it! wheeeee!! *frequently seatdances to vids*) but even so, I tend to demand layers. Thinky layers. Or I want a vid to say something new. And as you mention having the same frames of reference fandom-wise is really really important also. There were vids I was flipping out about at the con that everyone else was 'meh' about purely (I believe) because they did not know the source.

In my experience I still see a very clear difference between vids that are superhits at Vividcon and those that do well with a home viewer audience. Sometimes there are vids that do both, it's true, but I personally have spent five years not really 'getting' the vids that got recced the most after Vividcon. And then unearthing other incredible buried treasures that DID play at the con but which were (to my eyes) far stronger and more layered. It is with great relief that I can now say I was not mad. I just understand both dynamics better now. Neither is a better vid than the other in my mind, and as a vidder it's completely legitimate to aim for one or the other ... or the holy grail of both! ;)
Becka: crossbonesbeccatoria on September 5th, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks this is all very interesting information. I had noticed that a lot of my perception of the VVC aesthetic (which I was not sure was in any way accurate!) was that it preferred the big, shiny-editing but simple-concept ideas. Not to insult the skill needed to make such a vid, but just that vids that depended on deeper, contextual understanding of the source to get the point seemed rarer. It's interesting to hear that you also have that opinion and it certainly makes sense that it would be the case given the wide variety of fans present.

Also having been to one other con where vids were played on a giant screen (just a small fan-gathering in Germany when I was staying there with a friend, but it was good fun nonetheless), it was definitely a very different experience with many people watching rather than one. Actually one of my favourite memories of that weekend was falling asleep an an air mattress to a looped reel of Farscape vids.

Anyway, thanks for your impressions - interesting reading! :)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on September 6th, 2010 12:19 am (UTC)
I didn't feel comfortable with my own observation of Vividcon aesthetics at all until I attended, but they were validated by attending. However what was most fascinating to me was that I liked different vids at the con as well, i.e. I immediately got swept up in the same collective likes and dislikes. I feel really lucky actually because I feel that I now have access to both. I'm well aware that some vids I adored at the con won't translate so well to others who weren't there if I rec them. I'm equally well aware that there are vids that are going to have amazing longevity online that maybe didn't get as much attention at the con.

Not to insult the skill needed to make such a vid, but just that vids that depended on deeper, contextual understanding of the source to get the point seemed rarer.
*nod* I think the community being grown out of Vividcon and a 'vidding' fandom by its multifannish nature means that accessability becomes really important. I notice this especially in contrast to the very strong BSG vidding tradition that both expects and demands its audience to have detailed source knowledge and to bring that to the viewing. I personally love vids that depend on contextual understanding of the source and I will always be a strong advocate for them. There were a lot of vids like that at the con (they just maybe didn't get recced so much post-con) and I think their place in the con was very important. However, I also now have a much better understanding (based on physical memory!) of the importance to the vidding community of vids that bring the community together in mutual enjoyment. I am still trying to find the best way to describe this but I felt like vidders were trying to reach out and talk to each other visually through music, motion, colour, visual ... reaching across fandoms and finding commonalities. It was pretty seductive. ;) (Even if I'll always love and make my fandom-specific vids.)

Your air-mattress story is very cute!
Dualbunny: vids yay!dualbunny on September 5th, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)
Oh, very good thoughts--so glad you wrote this up. :D
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Buffy Willow friends hugbop_radar on September 6th, 2010 12:55 am (UTC)
Yay, dualbunny-approved thoughts! :D
Chaotic Neutral Human Sorcerer (4th Level)myniamh on September 5th, 2010 09:19 pm (UTC)
Very interesting, I like the differences and similarities in peoples vid viewing habits. I love the way watching vids with more than one other person changes how you see them. :)

I tend to download and watch things (bandwidth has just been put up so I'm getting your Green Arrow one right now) on my laptop. If I really like them they'll go on my iPod and get hooked up to the big TV (your GA one is headed there too). I'll watch as I'm cooking, repeating one sometimes to fully pay attention to it.
If there is nothing going on when friends are over, deciding on what movie to put on next I'll put some on to show people.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on September 6th, 2010 12:55 am (UTC)
Great to hear about different viewing habits, yes! I'm often thinking I need to get more into iPod viewing. But then I get lazy. :p It's good to hear about how you've integrated viewing vids into your life.
Chaotic Neutral Human Sorcerer (4th Level)myniamh on September 6th, 2010 09:56 am (UTC)
I used to have an old VCR tape that I'd have in the machine during RAGE and just press 'record' whenever a song came on that I liked. It ended up being a hodge-podge of songs ending and beginning over the top of each other as I'd never rewind it properly. I'd play it whenever I got control of the tv. I still have it somewhere.