Vid Commentary: November Rain

Commentary on “November Rain

Well, I did one commentary, and enjoyed it so much (ego-masturbation really puts a smile on your face) that I thought I’d try to explain November Rain. Also, given that the vid is nearly a year old, I’m also probably going to say what I should have done to make it more successful. This is because at some point, I will probably remaster the vid in higher quality clips, and tweak a few things that bothered me.

November Rain is probably an idea that backfired on me. Axl Rose decides to turn Del James’ short story Without You into a music video and spends the next ten years explaining himself. Sarah, thestalkycop, decides to do exactly the same and wonders why she has to explain herself. What’s the definition of insanity, again? Something about endlessly repeating the same task, but hoping for different results?

Well, first we need backstory, which has slowly been lost as I’ve uploaded these vids to various sites, changed the sites, changed the host, etc. You can read Without You by Del James online.

Guns N’ Roses
Guns N’ Roses released three videos, Don’t Cry, November Rain and Estranged, which were meant to be The Without You Trilogy, based on the short story, Without You by Del James. Don’t Cry opened the story, November Rain continued it, and Estranged was meant to answer any lingering questions. The did not pan out due to a separation between Axl and his then-girlfriend, Stephanie Seymour. Estranged instead became “Part IV of the Trilogy!”, and no longer answered any questions. Thankfully, there are copies of the story online, which you can read, if you want.

Or you can take my word for it that the story is about a man who appears to have everything but never quite gets love right, and it’s because of this that he self-destructs. My vid and Del James’ work have that in common, the rest is different.

I decided that Gordon was quite self-destructive (drink-driving [D1], going against what he knows is best to satisfy others [D2]), and I wanted to vid an AU where Gordon was married to Casey and Charlie was their son, based on Without You by Del James, and using footage from the Ducks movies and from the Without You trilogy by GN’R.

I trimmed the song heavily, since it’s almost nine minutes long (8:57 to be exact), and made it into two parts. This was clearly a mistake, my download counter tells me, as only half the people who downloaded part one bothered with the second part. I don’t get it.

The first half dealt with Gordon’s self-destructive behaviour, the second showed his death and the fall-out that was caused to his son, Charlie.

(Technical aside: My drive died, taking with it all of my files, with few back-ups recent enough to contain my working files, so my technical information is guesswork mixed in with things I distinctly remember doing while making this vid).

Part 1
I love the Ice Festival, it’s such a pretty backdrop.

I love the moments of non-connection they have there, they’re both really into each other in the movie, but they’re both really awkward, and the look Casey gives him before walking away really does seem to fit the line:

when I look into your eyes
I can see a love restrained

Technical Tweaking: Gordon looking over to Casey is in real-time, but there’s a point where I razored the clip, I believe that it’s at the point where Casey looks down, unable to meet his eyes, and slowed it down, though by how much, I really do not know.

This is the first time I use the fade-to-black trick, which I learnt at the vidding community at LJ. aj2k at LJ made an awesome vid to The Crow (to “Why?” by Stabbing Westward) and I asked her how she managed to get the fade to black. While we were using different programmes (I’m on Adobe, she’s on Ulead), I managed to get the gist of it.

What I do is set the clip on the timeline on Video Track 1 and cut the single frame that I want to pause on. I drag it out to the desired length, and right click on it. I click on “Frame Hold” and chose to hold it on the “In Point”. Above the frozen frame, on Video Track 2, I lay down a black image (a .bmp works perfectly) of exactly the same length, and use the rubber-band to sort out the transparency (invisible at the start of the frozen clip, 100% visible at the end of it). And that’s it, a simple freeze-frame, fade to black. Later on, I use the same trick for fade-to-white, this time with a white .bmp.

I seriously recommend downloading aj2k’s vid, because it really does show that slow songs do not have to be dragged down by slow clips. Had I not seen that vid, then November Rain would have been a very boring vid to watch.

On the beat, I cut to Gordon at work, looking thoroughly depressed. The brilliant thing about November Rain (the song) is that it’s such a layered song, which means that there’s plenty of beats to hit, and if you’re a bit crap, like me, then there’s plenty of chances to accidentally redeem yourself.

I then cut to him sleeping on Hans/Jan’s couch, hoping to imply that he and Casey were having problems, and in the previous scene she had asked him to move out. (Just like the movies, while Hans is not in the second movie, Jan is very interchangeable with Hans. In the vid I use the mentality that they both live there at this point, not that it’s clear, but not that it matters).

but darling when I hold you,

Fade to white, followed by a colour-washed and blurry scene of them kissing. I wanted to pause the kiss before it really got going, because this vid is about a the failings of the relationship, so each kiss they share throughout this vid is paused as their lips meet.

I added a Gaussian Blur set to 1.5 and the colour wash is done one of two ways, and since I’ve lost everything I had on my drive I cannot confirm, so I’ll give you both ways that I work with colour washing:
1) Adding a “Tint” filter (in the “Image Control” folder), to about 50%, leaving some colour, but washing it out a little; or
2) duplicating the clip, and setting it on Video Track 2, setting it to black and white (again, in “Image Control”) and using the rubber band to make it about 50% transparent.
I get the feeling it was the first one, because for that vid, I remember only having one track for most of the time.

don’t you know I feel the same

Lyrically, it doesn’t make sense to cut to Charlie, but I do it anyway. Axl is a genius, but even his vids aren’t lyrically driven, they’re emotionally driven, and if that’s good enough for Axl Rose, it’s good enough for me. This clip, in my eyes, represents Gordon telling Charlie that he and Casey are getting a divorce, as this conversation happens, they’re both thinking of happier times (flashback to a kiss, and I wish I’d colourwashed and blurred it for context, I don’t know why I didn’t).

Charlie goes running out. Gordon moving in time to the beat was a happy accident, which I like.

nothing lasts forever
The first sign of Gordon falling apart, drink driving, literally.

and we both know hearts can change
Casey walking away, paused and faded to black. I like the look on her face, she doesn’t want to walk away, but it’s the best thing she can do.

Then we have a cut to Gordon at Hans’ place, where I’m trying to imply that he went for counsel, and a couch to sleep on, it was a nice clip to use, nobody is talking and Gordon looks wrecked (in the movie, he’s just finished talking about his dad).

Next up is the scene in which Gordon is shouting at Charlie for not cheating (in the movie). Some of these clips I’ve used for location as well as content (like the one above), but this one was purely to show a failed connection between Gordon and his son, which shows clearly on their faces as Charlie storms out. Also, I liked Gordon looking down in the previous clip, cutting to Charlie looking up, however, a stray frame ruins the image, something I didn’t notice when I exported it, and now it’s too late to sort it out.

I did try and get Charlie throwing his stick and his pads down to hit both beats, but after hours of fiddling around, I gave up and let just one hit the beat and the other very nearly hit the beat.

and it’s hard to hold a candle
in the cold November rain

I got to use my favourite cross-fade, Gordon looking depressed, fading into him walking alone in the snow. I always do a cross-fade there. It always shocks the hell out of me when I watch the movie, to see it as a clean cut because I’ve faded it so often.

Another cross-fade to Gordon lying on the snow, overlayed with his memories (I hope that’s clear) of good times with Charlie.

Overlaying is very simple, you put your main clip on Video Track 1, your second clip on Video Track 2, and use the rubber band to change the opacity. That’s the fiddly bit, getting the right opacity so that both clips are clear, and given the colouring and lighting of each clip, the right about changes every single time.

we’ve been through this such a long long time
I used a fade-to-white (this time the white image would be on Video Track 3), without a freeze-frame, and cut to Gordon knocking on Casey’s door, and Casey’s reaction to who’s behind it.

just trying to kill the pain
A shot of Hans showing Gordon a picture he has and I really cheated on this one. I took a screen cap of Gordon holding the picture, and inserted a black and white screen cap of him hugging Charlie into the frame, instead of the picture of Gordon and his Dad. Since it was a still frame and this vid is quite motion-driven, I zoomed in on the picture. Gordon walks away looking hurt.

but lovers always come and lovers always go
A shot of Casey walking in and looking pleased to see him and Charlie, followed by a shot of Casey hauling Gordon around by his lapels.

and no ones really sure who’s letting go today
Smiles between the family, again, not lyrically driven.

walking away
Casey walking away in disgust, followed by Charlie looking hurt.

if we could take the time to lay it on the line
A quick shot, which I’m never sure makes sense to anyone but me and Carla, of Gordon in court. I tried to imply divorce here, but I really don’t know if it worked, since I’ve had very little feedback on this vid, and what I have had is from people who’ve been involved in me vidding, and giving me clip suggestions… so, let me know.

I could rest my head
just knowing that you were mine
A flashback of Casey looking down as Gordon and Charlie muck about in the snow (that sounds pervy, doesn’t it?).

all mine
Followed by a scene of her nervously looking down from the same window as Gordon approaches. Or at least, that’s what I tried to imply, by colour-washing and blurring the previous shots to imply flashback. Now I’m reviewing, I think flipping the order of the shots might make it clearer, Gordon approaching, then present-day Casey looking nervous.

so if you want to love me
then darling don’t refrain

Casey hesitant at opening the door, and Gordon on the other side. I wish I had slowed down the image of Gordon, because I think it is too quick to really appreciate.

A shot of Gordon at Jan/Hans’ place, looking at picture, and Jan catching him. It wasn’t a clip I planned on using, but I found it while searching for something else, and it worked for me. This is followed by two shots of Gordon alone. I have to admit, these are mostly fillers, and I apologise for that.

or I’ll just end up walking
in the cold November rain

I promised myself I would not go literal on the “November Rain” lyric, but I found myself doing it anyway. My reason was actually more than “Argh! No clips!”, I have to say. I liked the pan down of the bus sign, which reminded me of the Estranged video by Guns N’ Roses (which panned down the sign for The Rainbow).

We have another shot of Gordon at Hans’ place, and a flashback (colourwashed and blurred) of their wedding, which is a piece of footage from the GN’R vid.

do you need some time [beat]
on your own
In the GN’R vid, a flashbulb goes off in time to the beat, and I thought it was so damned nifty I’d use it myself.

do you need some time [beat]
all alone
Shots of Gordon trying to connect with Charlie, as well as Casey trying to slam the door in Gordon’s face. The door hitting the beat, because, damnit, I like hitting beats. It makes me feel like a real vidder.

everybody needs some time [beat]
on their own
Being rejected by Casey, after an attempt to reconcile drives Gordon to drink driving (or at least, that was my intention), and attracting the attention of the cops, with their lights hitting full beam on the beat.

don’t you know you need some time
all alone

Gordon’s arrest, and there we pause Part 1. When I remaster this vid, I’m either going to mix the vids together to make one large vid, or I’m going to find a better place to pause the vid, because Gordon looks really silly in the freeze-frame there.

Part 2
We open in the same place as Part 1, at the Ice Festival, and this part of the vid tries to address what went wrong, and the ultimate destruction that the break-up caused Gordon.

and when your fears subside
and shadows still remain

We have Gordon leaning in for a kiss with Casey, cutting to a kiss for Michele, and back to Casey, who walks away.

Then I intercut Casey walking away and turning back to Gordon, with when Gordon bumps into María, the motion worked nicely.

I know that you can love me
A shot of Gordon and Casey happy together with a freeze-frame fade-to-white. Something I’ve not mentioned is the different colours in the fades. Fade-to-white is for happy shots, and fade-to-black is for the sad shots. It’s really that simple.

when there’s no one left to blame
Once more, Gordon and María sharing a moment, then cutting to Charlie, who is older now, knows the truth, and is not happy with his father’s actions, he walks away leaving Gordon at the lake. (This time, the location was important, though I think only Carla picked up on that).
Another quick shot of Charlie looking disappointed in Gordon. It was a temporary spacer, but I liked the way Charlie glanced down in time to the music, so it stayed.

so never mind the darkness
we still can find a way

A series of flashbacks to happier times, Gordon approaching Casey at the Ice Festival, kissing her before he got on the bus, kissing at the festival… As I mentioned before, I stopped all the kisses before they could really start, because this is a vid of non-connection between two people (three if you count Charlie).

Then I cut to him kissing Michele again, followed by a clip of Casey walking away in disgust, which I had already used in the vid. Previously it was cut slightly different and slowed down, this time it’s at full speed.

Once more, Gordon at the lake. Again, his sighs and gestures hitting bits of music that I hadn’t even intended to.

’cause nothing lasts forever
Gordon alone in his house in LA. Carla, my bestest friend and muse, said to me “I like the way you have that shot of Gordon in LA before cutting to the car scenes from GN’R, which are also in LA.” Carla credits me with too much intelligence, I had forgotten that both were located in LA, I just liked the shot of Gordon alone, and thinking things over.

even cold November rain

Charlie and Gordon have a moment, and in Sarah!world, this moment was when Gordon apologised to Charlie for putting him through the pain of the divorce. Gordon may have made peace with Charlie, but not himself, and this scene is intercut (on the guitar whines) with shots of Gordon drink driving, though this time he’s driving with a purpose.

Getting the impact of the hug to hit the beat was actually harder than I thought it would be. It was hard to judge where the impact actually was in the clip, so I spent hours moving it around one frame to the left, another frame to the left, three to the right, and finally I think Adobe took pity on me, because it finally slotted in.

I know that Gordon is driving a different car to the one in the Don’t Cry clips, but please just go with it, this is a heavily constructed reality, and Disney did not provide much that led towards a man’s suicide!

I’ve intercut with the music, rather than on beats, and it seems to work, though it was hard going, since the Don’t Cry footage was obviously cut to that music, not November Rain, but eventually it all came together.

As the car crashed, I put four very tiny clips of Gordon hugging Casey on the beats, intercut quickly with the crash, then the explosion, which I had to slow down to fit the music.
The music changes now for the grand finale, which is just a brilliant way to end a song. Axl’s an effing genius.

After that it was footage of Hans’ funeral intercut with November Rain footage. Since the colouring was different, I had to wash out the colours, using the Tint method, mentioned above.

The November Rain footage was easy to synch up to the beats, since it was filmed for that very purpose. Magic.

Sometimes I cut on the guitar whines, sometime not, because when they sped up the cuts would have been too quick to really make the point.

I intercut Charlie on the lake talking to Bombay with the funeral scene, which is actually set on the lake too! I’m sure only Carla picked up on that, but yes, the lake scenes have been deliberate. Charlie is not only cut up about his father’s death, but also the fight on the lake.

I had to get Charlie to walk away before the rain, because there’s no rain in Ducks footage.

With the beat before the first “don’t you think that you need somebody”, I had Charlie smash his hockey stick, with Casey’s reaction to his behaviour. From then on we see a lot of Charlie’s bad behaviour mostly hitting beats.

I especially liked going from him pushing Adam, to him pushing… is it Russ…? in the locker room.

Carla suggested the ice-touching as a scene, because I was floundering there, and I have to say, it works well, things are spiralling out of control… oooh, it’s like a visual metaphor, I’m so deep.

don’t you think that you need somebody
Shots of Charlie alienating his friends further, and causing Fulton to walk away (I love that shot, I’m a F/C shipper). I wish I hadn’t used Charlie shouting at Hans, because it’s just talky-face, though I tolerate him shouting at Fulton… this could be my shipper values clouding the issue.

One shot that always bugs me is when Charlie throws his helmet against the penalty box wall. In the timeline, that hit a beat, but on exporting it looks entirely random.

I wish I’d used a cross-fade between the ice-touching and the flowers on the coffin.

Overall though, I’m still pleased with this set of vids, even if Carla and I are the only people who watch and understand them.

Seriously though, if you’ve watched November Rain, then please tell me what you think. I don’t think I’ve had more than one piece of feedback about it, and poor old adamandcharliedude is completely overworked as my only vid-feedbacker.