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kirk, Spock, KS

The Test by heresluck, commentary by killabeez

Superbe commentaire sur le clip vidéo "The Test", à voir  absolument ;)

Postée à l'origine par killabeez sur The Test by heresluck, commentary by killabeez
Title: The Test
Vidder: heresluck
Fandom: Star Trek: Reboot/TOS
Link to vid: here
Commentary by: killabeez

I played around with doing a voiceover commentary (slightly less wordy than this one), but honestly I was too embarrassed by the sound of my own voice. Those things are challenging!

When Two Fandoms Collide

The reboot has become a staple of entertainment, and when new creators reinvent a fannish source (Battlestar Galactica, Smallville, Starsky & Hutch, etc.), fans of the original may or may not find that the new source lights the same spark, while fans of the new version may have no interest in the old one. In the case of J.J. Abrams's Star Trek, many fans have successfully blended the two sources into a whole, perhaps greater than the sum of its parts. Fanfic authors in particular have found they can weave the two canons together, sometimes seemingly without effort.

But when it comes to vids, it becomes more difficult. Visually, the 60s TV show shares very little with its 2009 counterpart. Lighting, pacing, motion, framing, color, even aspect ratio are all different — not to mention that many of the actors don't look much alike. On a less obvious level, the original characters are different from their 2009 counterparts in motivation, physical mannerism, personal history, and relationships with one another. Since focusing on an emotional reading of character motivations and relationships is often a big part of fannish vidding, this becomes a significant hurdle in combining the sources — particularly for someone like me, who was a fan of the original source for more than twenty years, and who "knows" the original characters like they were family.

That being the case, I've approached vids that combine the two sources with caution. I trusted heresluck's composition and editing skills to get me over the visual hurdles, but I still wasn't sure, watching "The Test" for the first time, whether I'd be able to follow the vidder's attempt to recontextualize scenes of the original Kirk and Spock in the visual and emotional language of the new Kirk and Spock. They are very different characters, in my eyes, so I wasn't sure I would be able to follow the connections that I suspected she'd be making.

As it turns out, the skill of the vidder made it work beautifully — and here's how.

Song Choice

As with most vids, the song choice is the foundation upon which this vidder has built a complex visual, conceptual, and emotional story, and she's chosen a song that provides exactly the right kind of strong, sweeping energy that she needs to tell it. This is a story about a friendship that transcends the very fabric of time and space — a friendship so powerful that the very outcome of their galactic future rests upon it. The long, sweeping notes, intense energy, and the electronic sound work to support that kind of story.

There's also a sub-line in the music that sounds like Uilleann pipes — sometimes even like underwater Uillean pipes. It's suggestive of whalesong, which calls to mind the original Star Trek movies. It helps strengthen the connections in a subtle, almost subliminal way. Then there's the rushing sound that she uses for the Enterprise plummeting through space, and also for Kirk physically plummeting through space and mentally through time. The drumbeats make your heart accelerate, and make you feel like you're flying, both physically and emotionally. Musically, this song says Star Trek — but more importantly, it makes you feel the excitement of star travel and of the headlong rush into falling in love.

She's also chosen a song whose lyrics contain words that help the viewer parse the story and follow its chronological and emotional twists and turns. Particularly at the beginning of the vid, where it's most important to win the viewer's trust and lay out the framework for the story, she's got some lyrics that help her do that. The word "now" is repeated four times, which is a great cue to the viewer that placing this story in time is important. Then the phrase "Am I coming through?" which suggests all kinds of familiar images germane to Star Trek. Communication through space is always a narrative issue in Star Trek — and between Kirk and Spock in particular, the phrase has tremendous resonance. The idea of Kirk reaching out to Spock, who is emotionally closed off, and hoping desperately that Spock will reach back, is intrinsic to Kirk/Spock, despite the differences between the characters in the two timelines.

The lyrics also change tense between present and past. That's pretty helpful if you're telling a story that moves back and forth through time, and between memory and reality! Likewise the phrases "I am dreaming," "images are fading away," and "I can't explain where I've been." It's as though the song was written to describe a story about multiple realities shared through a mind meld, and a past that is almost-but-not-quite-remembered. That's the difference between a perfectly good song choice, and a perfect song choice. When your audience feels that the songwriter must have been describing exactly this story, then the vid transcends the juxtaposition of pictures and music and becomes a powerful narrative all on its own.


(For the purposes of the commentary, I'll refer to Shatner and Nimoy's characters as Kirk Prime and Spock Prime.)

00:00 - 00:22
Oh, can you hear me now?
Can you hear me now?
Can you hear me now?
Can you hear me now?

As the vid starts, we see Jim Kirk's escape pod plummeting toward the ice planet where he is about to meet Spock Prime. The story's structure is going to revolve around the life-changing moment when Spock Prime mind-melds with Kirk and reveals to him their shared past, and she gives us a moment, as the song slowly builds, to anticipate that moment.

Then the lyrics come in, and she lays the foundation for the emotional story. The repeated lyrics "Can you hear me now?" tell us that this is a story about two people trying to connect — one of them desperately trying to do so, and hoping the other person is listening. She overlays the first moment of intense disconnect between Kirk and Spock (at the Kobayashi Maru trial) over Kirk's solitary journey across the frozen landscape to find a Spock who can hear him. With one overlaid image, we know what matters. We start to want the same thing Kirk wants — for these two characters to communicate.

Meanwhile, the music is still continuing to build, and its minor key generates expectation, desperation, an imbalance that needs to be corrected.

00:23 - 00:38

The bass line comes in now. Energy ratchets up a notch. The vidder begins to cut faster, alternating between the headlong rush of the camera across the landscape (toward Spock Prime, and the fateful moment we're waiting for), and the frustration both Kirk and Spock feel as they fail to reach understanding. It's absolutely clear what's going on, even if you don't know the story at all. These guys just can't make it work.

At 00:32, she shows us a closeup of Kirk's face as he searches the landscape for an answer to his frustration, with an overlay of Spock on the bridge. What Kirk's looking for is right behind him, and yet far away.

To this image, she adds Spock's cool, dispassionate neck pinch — shutting Kirk down, literally. The facial expressions in the first part of the vid tell us everything we need to know, and the closeups bring it home, so we fully empathize with Kirk. I also want to point out that she also cuts from Spock nerve-pinching Kirk to Kirk lying on the ground. It's a nice moment of visual consistency that helps the two scenes flow together.

00:39 - 00:52
Devil came by this morning,
Said he had
Something to show me
I was looking like I've never seen a face before
Here we go now, let's slide into the open door

She could have just used clips from the mind meld scene here, and it would have worked fine, but she makes some subtle editing choices that strengthen the energy and the viewer's expectation. The image zooms (complete with subtle jump cuts) into Spock's face on "here we go now, let's slide into the open door," making you feel like you're falling into the image and losing control of the fall, which mirrors Kirk's emotional state as he's pulled into the meld.

In yet another perfect intersection of song and fandom (and use of lyrics), the casting of Spock Prime as the Devil reminded me of the scene from "The Apple" (ST:TOS) where Kirk and McCoy tease Spock about looking like Satan. Also, I've said it before, but Spock melding with Kirk without asking his permission is possibly the slashiest moment those two characters have ever had. How much do I love it that she based a whole vid around it?

00:53 - 01:21
Pictures and things that I've done before
Circling around me,
Out here on the floor
I'm dreaming this and I'm dreaming that
Regretting nothing
Think about that

This is where the vid could visually stand or fall, and she uses some cool tricks to help smooth the contrast between the TOS clips and the movie clips. First, I appreciate that the clip of the Enterprise rushing through space is a long one. It gives you a moment to pause and clear your visual palate to get ready for what's coming. The motion through space ends up taking you "backwards" (from right to left) at the end of this long clip, which helps to simulate for the viewer Kirk's mental trip backwards through memory and time.

Then she uses the zig-zag edges, rolling bars, and snow to simulate pictures coming through fuzzily, distorted by space and time. She uses the exploding sun overlay to remind the viewer of the event that changed time (the destruction of Romulus's sun) and to keep the energy of the song going, since the TOS clips lack the lens flares, motion, and brightness of the movie clips.

I thought the TOS clips she chose were interesting. They're the most visually slashy, and she emphasized that by using slow motion and zooming in on the images to highlight the physicality of their contact. They're what I might call the least context-dependent Kirk/Spock clips — which I think shows a sensitivity to the audience. But also, from a story perspective, it makes sense that those moments of physical intimacy would be the ones that would shock Kirk the most.

She also starts out with the chess scene from "Where No Man," which in addition to being long-understood fannish shorthand for the K/S relationship, is also frequently used in vids to signify a flashback (as it's the first Kirk and Spock scene of the series.) It's this kind of continuity with ST:TOS fandom that helps the vid make the emotional connections between the two sets of characters.

Finally, the last few clips fade to black, simulating the way it feels when you're starting to wake up and lose the ability to hold on to a really good dream. This is a vid that uses a lot of visual effects, but they work because the vidder never loses sight of the themes and flow of her narrative. Each is carefully chosen and applied to not only support the story, but to echo the small changes and stress points in the music. They're also applied with restraint, so that they don't clash too much with each other.

01:22 - 01:53
I'm seeing waves breaking form to my horizons
Yeah I'm shining
I'm seeing waves breaking form to my horizons
Lord, I'm shining

Oh, are you hearing me?
Like I'm hearing you?
Oh, are you hearing me?
Like I'm hearing you?

This part of the vid is a case where, I think, the vidder allowed the emotion and lyrics of the song to guide her without too much thought — and I mean that in a good way. Sometimes it's more important to respond to the music and not hold too tightly to your structure, and the choices here feel like they were made at a kind of instinctive and inspired level that responds more to the source and the music than to the vidder's careful planning, if that makes sense. The line "Lord, I am shining," is powerful, and memorable, and the image she pairs it with (Kirk in the command chair) captures the magic of Chris Pine's performance (and Abrams's genius in casting him), and the spirit of the Star Trek movie that made it have its own kind of magic, separate from the original.

On the other hand, she doesn't get carried away. The lyrics are in present tense in this section, so structurally it needs to be about movieverse Kirk and Spock, but she isn't ready to let go of her mind-meld framing yet so she uses the visual device of the blurred edges/halo effect to clue us in that the images of young Kirk are not-quite-real — half memory and half possibility. This is Kirk sharing his own memory of his universe with Spock Prime, which she makes clear with that subtle visual cue. It's a great example of a vidder telling more story than just the images he or she has to work with. The movie said nothing about whether Kirk revealed anything to Spock Prime in the meld, but the vidder suggests the idea that maybe he did.

(Tiny moment of squee: The look of longing on Kirk's face at 01:42 as he looks up at the sky was such a powerful shoutout for me as an old skool fan to both Spock's look of longing at the sky in Star Trek: The Motion Picture as he reaches out to touch Kirk's mind, and also to Kirk's look of longing up at Spock on the ridge at the beginning of Star Trek IV.)

And finally, at the end of this section, she comes back to the scene she used to represent disconnection at the beginning of the vid: the Kobayashi Maru trial. But this time, she finds the few moments in which Spock looks at Kirk with curiosity and possibility in his face, and she slows them down to emphasize them. What a wonderful shorthand way to tell us (and Kirk) that even from the beginning, there was a spark between them, and there's hope.

01:54 - 02:23
You know I always lost my mind
I can't explain
Where I've been
You know I almost lost my mind
I couldn't explain
The things I've seen

But now I think I see the light
Now I think I see the light

Lend me your hand
Lend me your hand
Lend me your hand
Lend me your hand
Lend me your hand

The tenses of the lyrics ground us so that we can easily follow. The overlay/split screen of Kirk's shock as he processes Spock Prime's memories of his own emotional extremity is nicely specific.

Kirk's knowing look at 2:09 and his little (smug) nod to Spock at 02:12 are the perfect lead-in to the "omg yay, they're a team! Like they were supposed to be!" satisfaction of the "lend me your hand" section. Each small moment of progression in Kirk's mental and emotional journey is communicated clearly and in a way that feels organic to the characters and the story. And of course, Kirk's smack to Spock's arm on the beat, and the phaser flashes with the drums at 02:23 are just good, responsible vidding. *g*

02:24 - 02:53
I'm seeing waves breaking forms on my horizons
Yeah, I'm shining
I'm seeing waves breaking forms on my horizon, Lord
I'm shining

Oh, Are you hearing me?
Like I'm hearing you?
Are you hearing me?
Like I'm hearing you?

"I'm shining" is the line I will always remember first about this vid, partly because it's lyrically such a pure expression of joy, partly because the song always has this significant pause right after it, and partly because, as I said before, the vidder uses it to illustrate the powerful life-force energy of James Kirk that makes him such a compelling character.

But then, on the last occurrence of the line, she makes it even more memorable — when the literal lens flare (on "shining") and Kirk's blinding smile in the command chair changes to his open-mouthed breathless realization and a sudden overlay of the most intimate expression of Kirk Prime and Spock Prime's love for one another ("This simple feeling") over Kirk finding his place as the captain of the Enterprise. Wow. Talk about a powerful, emotional revelation, in a vid that's full of them — but that moment is one that will never fail to make me catch my breath and grin helplessly.

To make it even better, she draws the moment out by using the "are you hearing me" lines this time to show the more intimate moments of connection between movieverse Kirk and Spock, as they finally start communicating with a vengeance. The locked gazes, the choreographed motion into one another's orbits, Zach Quinto's wonderfully vulnerable expressions as he stops fighting it. Particularly, the clip where the camera shakes at 02:43 — their world is shaken by their connection.

02:54 - 02:59
You know I always lost my mind
But now I'm home, and I'm free

All I could think when I saw the pan into Kirk standing in the doorway on the bridge in his command gold tunic was, way to make the most of a money shot. Now I'm home. Yes! And this is a case where if you're going to do that? You make it even better by not showing your hand. It's the first time in the vid we see him wearing it. This is the kind of vid where I don't mind being cheap and easy for a vidder's skills.

03:00 - 03:56
Did I pass the acid test?
Did I pass the acid test?
Did I pass the acid test?
Did I pass the acid test? (repeat)

So, this is where I note that the original track is 07:46 long, and yay for skillful audio editing. I'm assuming the vidder did it, although there might be a shorter version of the song somewhere? But since it's cut to a perfect length to fit her story, I'm going to guess it was the vidder.

I think by now it's obvious that this vidder has no problem whatsoever orchestrating motion, clip rhythm, color, and composition with ease. This last part of the vid is a joyful, effortless romp of clips (I know, easy for me to say), into which she throws the visual "and isn't this cool!" shared moment with the audience where she overlays Spock Prime's entrance in ST:TMP with Spock stepping onto the bridge in the 2009 movie. Cute. She also uses the whoosh sounds and staticky sounds in the music to great effect.

She keeps it interesting by bringing the story back to Kirk and how far he's come, and this section is just long enough to let the audience go along for the ride and enjoy the rewards of having made this journey with the characters. It's a nice, long, satisfying denouement, without being too long — but the most satisfying moment for me is where she has Spock answer the repeated question "did I pass the acid test?" with a nod and the hint of a smile.

What a beautifully subtle and complex, joyous vid. This is what fandom is all about.