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obsessive24 in vidding

vidding to drum machine tracks

Currently I'm trying to storyboard a vid using a trip-hop song, and I'm finding the beats hard. Drum machine tracks are usually quite distinctive and interesting within, say, a 4-beat structure, but the downside seems to be that structure would often stay the same through the song, making the overall effect monotonous. I am aware of the pitfalls of doing the same pattern of cutting all through a vid, which can get very boring very quickly, but I don't know how I can avoid it precisely because the beats are so distinctive and it's likely to look odd if you only adhere to the rhythm pattern half the time. Does anyone else have this problem with drum machine tracks, and how would you go about varying it up? Recs to vids that do this well would be much appreciated also.

The song I have in mind right now is Portishead's Mysterons, but I think this question applies to most songs using a drum machine.

ETA: A YSI download of the song if you're interested in checking it out. Only 64kbps, but that means a faster download.


I haven't used this kind of music before, but I will say that varying your cutting pattern will be *much* appreciated by many viewers. There's still plenty you can do to stay on the beat just by varying clip length: a clip can be two beats, four beats, six beats, eight beats, or sixteen beats long, for example, and you're still cutting on the beat each time, but the variation keeps it from being monotonous.

You can also time internal (someone tilts his head) or external (the camera pans left) movement to the beats to break things up even more.

I for one really value long clips, particularly to break up the monotony in songs with a very driving rhythm.
Thank you very much! I've been thinking generally about some of the things you mentioned, but not necessarily in those particular terms, so your advice really crystallised some concepts for me. I also haven't really considered the possibility of long clips riding over beats, because I'm one of those obsessive-compulsive types who can't bear not cutting on pretty much every beat, but now I'm intrigued by the idea and will definitely fiddle around with that.
I think you might find that, as long as the movement in the clip falls on the beats, a long clip is not necessarily a bad thing.

Glad this was helpful!
Does that mean a long clip can really only be used if there's enough internal movement to still catch the beat somehow? When I was reading your comment, I had actually understood it to mean that sometimes you should just intentionally let the beat go altogether. Which may or may not work depending on context, I guess...
3 + 3 + 2 sounds like a wonderful idea. I can't wait to try that out on another vid, although I don't think it'll really apply for this particular drum pattern, because there are a lot of bass and snare 'accents' within the 4-beat structure. I can't really describe it, so I've uploaded the song if you're interested in checking it out. (Although of course I wouldn't presume to take up more of your time! :D ) http://s24.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=0VG3KU4M753VI0NHSZ4TKTXGMG. I sampled it at 64kbps so it should be a fast download.
I for one really value long clips, particularly to break up the monotony in songs with a very driving rhythm.

AMEN, Amen. I find the trend toward faster/jump cutting less and less enjoyable to watch. At first it was something interesting and different, and then it became commonplace, and now the vids/styles are starting to blend together for me for some vidders. But I digress from the original topic. I vote that you cut with the rhythm that you find in the music, whatever feels natural to flow with the song, whether it's a clearly defined spike on the audio track or not.
I find the trend toward faster/jump cutting less and less enjoyable to watch.

I was thinking about this, because I'm falling more and more in love with fast-cuts, but I've lost *no* love for slower vids.

I think other aspects, beyond song choice, play into whether a vidder cuts fast or short. Faster cuts, to me, are more visually interesting, but longer cuts tend to tell the full story more solidly, so I think long-cutting is geared more toward narratives, best toward *linear* narratives, while short-cutting is geared more toward *inducing emotion*, and causing a reaction. I won't say that these two types of vidding don't coincide and overlap and bed each other daily, because they do.

I can only go by my own experiences, so I'll use my vids 'Newport's Son' and 'Thief' as examples of both of these things. I won't assume anyone's seen them or anything, but they're the tools I have at my disposal, and I don't think anyone needs to have seen them for me to explain my choices in them. Er, hopefully.

Newport's Son is a very slow cut vid, and not just because the song is so very, very slow. I could have cut a lot more on the piano work, but I chose not to. I'd taken my clip selection from a few, choice episodes, and I wanted to do a straight narrative, without any doubt about the message, or the content. And while the decision wasn't a conscious one, as it would be for me now, it was a decision that cutting slower would improve the narrative, that slower cuts would give the audience the time to process in the way that commas do in writing.

With "Thief", I cut fast. Very fast, at times. And while it has situational narration, it's a video 'about' something, about being at war with yourself, instead of having a straight narrative that can be cleanly picked out. I think fast cuts work best for that kind of vid---I won't say 'argument vid' here, even though I think 'Thief' is that, because I feel argument vids work well with any kind of cutting---vids that are almost cause/effect oriented.

But I don't want to be the only vidder throwing vids out there, so what type of cutting do you find yourself drawn toward in your own vids? Is there a pattern, beyond song choice, to your cutting decisions?
I'm going to refer to a few of my vids below as well, not assuming that anyone's seen them or is going to bother to see them for the sake of this discussion, but I'm sure we can all appreciate the lure of talking about your own vids. :D They can all be found on this page if anyone's interested.

I find that song choice dictates my cutting a lot of the time - I tend to sway between two types of music mostly: those with a very strong, defined beat, or those with hardly any percussion and defined only through guitar strums and the like.

With the former I find that I have a tendency to cut on the snare beat (usually the "3" on 4/4) rather than the bass beat, because a lot of the time the snare, with its distinctive crack, seems to just demand a cut. Occasionally I would also cut again on bass to vary it up a little. I think my vid Mad About You is a good example of that. I have noticed, however, that it can get very distracting, so I'm trying to move away from that at the moment. Most vids I do with this kind of structure are fairly actiony and/or shippy, and less with the coherent narrative, which works well as I agree with wistful_fever that longer, uncut shots are generally better for narrative.

The latter type of music I mentioned is harder to pin down. I would still cut to the beat - as mentioned below I'm shite at cutting to lyric - but there's definitely a sense of being able to take your time and skip beats if you want to, and I do some internal motion on the beats to vary it up a bit. Rival would be a recent example. There aren't distinctive drumbeats coming in all the time and "demanding" that you cut on it, which is rather freeing in terms of narrative.

Lately I've been experimenting with fast intercutting between two shots, and I find that it gives a sense of ongoing narrative while still allowing you to cut frequently, because you keep going back to the same scenes even if you cut away from them all the time also. And - Kiss Me was my major experiment in that area and I think it turned out reasonably well.

Whoa. Big wanky talk. Fabella, I blame you. :P
I agree with most of what laurashapiro had to say, although, more and more, I'm a fan of short cuts---as long as the music calls for it.

I think the key is to go by beat, but also go by feel. Lengthen the clips where it feels like that's allowed (a particularly important lyric, or you've reached a point in your vid where you need to get a message across) by goiong twice as long, or following 'half-beats' (I'm horrible with terminology, as you can tell) There was an essay I read a while back concerning vidding *off* the beat, *between* the beat, which was really helpful, and it helps give the illusion that your clips are shorter/longer, even if their still concise. I'll see if I can dig that up --- if not, I'm pretty sure it's somewhere in permetaform's big list of meta.

I used a lot of the off-beat, and internal beat with 'Thief' --- I bring that up, because it's a lot of really fast clips, in general, with only a few longer ones. Then again, I balanced that by having some *really* fast clips. If the song calls for it, I say go there.

Oh, and I haven't listened to the song, but I'm familiar with the other stuff: if there are other instruments involved, if they have a particularly strong moment, vid to them. I do this sometimes with voice tone, as well. Yeah, I'm all over the place. ;)

Just some suggestions. Feel free to ignore because as far as cutting concerns, YMMV... widely. Everyone likes it differently.

That was definitely helpful. I'm going to go back to the song and see if I can pick up on something other than the principal beat. Voice tone would be especially interesting, thanks for the tip. There are bits where I'm going to edit to the keyboard rather than the drums, so that was a first step, I think, although I still need to create more variation in other places.

I definitely noticed a lot of internal beat with Thief, but I'll have to rewatch it to catch the off-beat editing. Cheers. :)
Voice tone would be especially interesting, thanks for the tip

You mentioned below that you're obsessive about beat. Lyrics have their own sort of beat, in a way: syllables, sudden rises, pitch, etc -- but beyond that, these lyric beats often fall on or near enough to the hardest beat that cutting to them is an easier transition for a hard-and-fast beat editor to make.

I'm going in just the opposite direction right now, so it's weird. I used to be very lyrically driven, now it's all about the instrument beat for me. One day I'd like to do a vid that follows the lyric-beat alone, without any interference from other types, just as an experiment.

Oh! Also, I'm dedicating a night to other people's vids. Vids not my own. *relief* Expect some kind of feedback soon. :)
I definitely agree that lyrics/voice have their own beat, although in the past when I have taken note of them I usually do it with internal movement rather than cutting to the next shot, which I pretty much reserve for beats. Though of course you're right about them coinciding most of the time anyway.

I noticed that about your vids, actually. The first vid of yours I saw was My Happy Ending, and now that I've started watching your more recent vids it did strike me that you're cutting more regularly on the beat now. It's quite fascinating watching the progression.

Ack. *hides face in shame* It's so awkward when you know vidders much better than you are watching your vids. Just... don't expect too much from them.
although in the past when I have taken note of them I usually do it with internal movement rather than cutting to the next shot

Which is a lovely way of layering a vid, I think. But you can also---not that I have a whole lot of experience with this---probably cut the clip on that beat, that rise in pitch, whatever, and cut away from the clip immediately as that rise ends. It'd be something to try, anyway. :)

I noticed that about your vids, actually. The first vid of yours I saw was My Happy Ending, and now that I've started watching your more recent vids it did strike me that you're cutting more regularly on the beat now. It's quite fascinating watching the progression.

Hee. I learn as I go. The weird thing is, as much of a beat whore as I'm becoming, "My Happy Ending" is probably one of my favorite vids of my own---despite Avril being the music of choice. Which just goes to show that an audience appreciates different types of cutting, because I can watch vids that are cut in the way My Happy Ending was, and still enjoy them as much as a more beat-cut vid, as long as it's done well.

Ack. *hides face in shame* It's so awkward when you know vidders much better than you are watching your vids. Just... don't expect too much from them.

Oh, shush. I downloaded a couple last night before bed. I haven't watched them yet, but I'm definitely going to today, and I'm sure they're lovely. From your comments, and your interest in vidding, alone, I can tell that you don't just throw vids out there. You *vid*. :D
Yep, that's pretty much it. :) The lyric beats are less consistent of course, so maybe they couldn't be called 'beats' exactly, but they do have an effect on the audience, and if they're as strong or stronger than the music, they're viddable---imho.
Lyrics have their own sort of beat, in a way

I think the word you're looking for there might be cadence :)
I hit "post" before I finished my thought:

The pattern of stressed & unstressed syllables at the word, line, sentence, and paragraph level. You might think of it as sort of the drum beat of words. That's how cadence is defined in various poetry circles. Since songs are sort of poetry set to music, I think it qualifies.
Deftones are masters at syncopated beats. I loved how you played around with it in Lucky You, and it definitely supported the unsettled feeling in the vid. The dancing analogy is extremely apt, and the "imaginary beat" makes a lot of sense. I think I actually did quite a bit of that in my latest vid without knowing the theory behind it, which is neat.
I can't seem to cut to lyric at all - I just end up paying inordinate attention to rhythm and beat myself up mentally for skipping it. It's a bad mindset to be in and one where you can easily become entrenched in your ways, so I'm going to have to make an effort to break out of that sooner or later.

The note on setting a cutting pattern at the start is interesting, because one of my friends tends to do that a lot. But I am also a bit wary of that because there's often a sense of oddness and unease when you first deviate from that established pattern, as though the vidder had made a boo-boo. But again, I'm not sure how much of that is attributable to my own obsessive attention to beats.
Oh god, now I feel so extremely guilty because I've been seeing your vids around and I really, really want to watch them and send feedback because I love your commentaries and insights and I'm 100% sure you're a fantastic vidder, but all your vids I've seen posted are MP4s and I can't play those. Are there any that aren't? Do you have a list somewhere? I would so love to watch some of them.

Playing MP4 format & playback issues

The VLC player will play MP4 format vids with absolutely no problem. It's also the very best player that I've found to handle a wide range of vid formats. It's a small download. It's free, no spyware or malware, is updated regularly, and plays nearly every vid format except Real Media. I use it as my default vid player.

I highly recommend the VLC player for anyone who watches vids, particularly because it doesn't require extra codec installations which frequently frighten folks off from updating other players. The VLC player is very user friendly!

The VLC player can be found here:

Here's a list of features and supported formats.

If you want to update whatever player you currently use with the MP4 codec, check here.

Broadly speaking, the best source of info I've ever found on dealing with vid playback issues is the Guide that Ian Roberts (AbsoluteDestiny on LJ) and Trythil have developed. It covers Windows, Mac, and GNU/Linux systems.

How to Play Those Damn Videos!
You're listening to the song? Fantastic! Now I think you can understand more clearly where I'm having the conundrum. I too think that drum roll thing on beat 4 is incredibly important, but notice how often it occurs - almost at the end of each and every section (bar?). if you do some kind of focus-y thing each time it occurs, I have a feeling the vid will become very boring very quickly. I was thinking of some rapid intercutting, and perhaps also zooms. Light/colour and recurring motifs would be also really interesting, I'll have to play around with that to see how I can make it dramatic enough to match the sound. A potential problem might arise from the fact that the vid I'm making here is an anime one, so there's a lot less nuance to play with from a visual angle.

It's clear though, whatever I choose to do, I'll have to mix it up instead of having the same thing each time. That goes back to the original idea of drum machines being extremely interesting within a section of beats, but after that it just repeats itself ad infinitum and that's pretty much a vidder's worst nightmare! :D

I'm not a fan of repeated clips generally, but I guess if they are used in very different ways at the start and end of a vid to drive home a point, (or to reacquaint the viewer with the clip, as you suggested,) then it may be very interesting.

Thank you for the link to your vids! I've nearly finished downloading one of them, and have all my fingers and toes crossed that it'll work on my piece-of-crap computer. :D
Now that I've downloaded A Day in the Life, I see what you mean. That ending is awesome and very reminiscent of old-school flicks with the psychological twist in the end - the one that immediately sprang to my mind was Tarkovsky's Solaris, though of course there are too many to name. Now I'm so moved to try it out in this vid, though I'm not sure if it'll work. Definitely something to play around with, and it gave me a more defined idea for the ending. As for the bit you mentioned in Welcome Home, I loved how it was timed but I felt the two were quite different in nature, perhaps due to the fact that the motion/projected emotional reaction in the bit in Welcome Home was trained on the beat (the moment when it broke the water as key), whereas the ending in A Day in the Life seemed to focus more on the building of horror/suspense over a longer period of time.

Such fantastic insights into rap! I'd been toying with the idea lately and your comments just completely opened my eyes to what could be done. I loved watching the structure in Without Me - the way it danced between cutting on the beat and cutting to the lyrics.

Once I started this vid, I did find that the "purring" (nice!) posed less of a problem than I'd originally thought. Sometimes I ended up emphasising it with effects, sometimes with internal motion, and sometimes just riding over it. I think I was paying too much attention to it before, instead of being able to listen to it as a part of the larger whole. Incidentally, thank you very much for pointing me towards Holy Egoism of Genius, because it also had that type of drum pattern (albeit less frequently) and it was very educational-slash-entertaining to see how you dealt with it. As far as I could tell, you also used a mixture of effects/internal motion/conscious ignoring. In any case, I don't think things would have made as much sense without all your fabulous recs, so I thank you profusely for that and your extremely insightful comments.
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March 2019



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