Nights in White Satin

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Vid
Title: Nights in White Satin
Creator: Lynn C. and Tashery Shannon
Date: 1993
Format: VCR
Length: 4:35m
Music: "Nights in White Satin" by the Moody Blues
Genre:
Fandom: Wiseguy
Footage:
URL: Streaming version at AO3

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Nights in White Satin is a Wiseguy Sonny/Vinnie slash fanvid edited by Lynn C. and Tashery Shannon. The vid is remarkable on two fronts: first, it uses, with powerful effect, the same song that appeared in the episode "No One Gets Out of Here Alive", during the climactic confrontation scene between Vinnie Terranova and Sonny Steelgrave. Second, it blends both dialog and music, something that was difficult to do during the analog/VCR editing period.

Song's Context

By using the same song that aired on TV, the vid builds on the audience's emotional connection with the scene and taps directly into the feelings of love, hurt and betrayal expressed between the characters in the episode. Most music in TV shows is intended to work in the background or is, at best, an after-thought. Here, the 1967 song "Nights in White Satin" is integral to Sonny's lines: "Remember the 60s Vinnie? How you gonna remember this? How you gonna remember me, Vinnie?" after realizing that Vinnie had been lying to him all along and was working undercover for the US government. The music swells and the camera zooms in on each man, cutting back and forth, closer and closer, until Vinnie is forced to look away in shame. The song blares: "Oh how I love you" at one point, cementing the slashy undertones. It is a very poignant moment between two men who share a friendship but have pursued two very different paths in life and who realize that the friendship is over. Shortly after that, Sonny commits suicide. It's a haunting use of a love song. At the time the episode aired, many fans commented on the "fanvid" like feel of the episode's weaving of music and dialog and context together, something rare in television at the time. This is not surprising considering that the episode plays the song over 90 seconds with no dialog, nothing but back and forth clips of Sonny and Vinnie staring at each other with pain and love and intense emotion. It may have been one of the longest scenes of two on-screen heterosexual men gazing into each others eyes since Stephen Boyd stared into Charlton Heston's eyes during the filming of Ben Hur.[1]

"I don't think that there has ever been as slashy a moment on TV as "Nights in White Satin" in "No One Gets Out..." When I first heard about this scene, I thought for sure it was just another case of fen overblowing an innocuous scene and reading much more into it than I would have thought possible . Okay, so maybe the Moody Blues song does play during the scene, but it's probably real soft in the background while the characters ignore it, talking about something else. Boy, was I ever surprised; pleasantly so!...Still, [the slash is] definitely subtext since nothing is actually said like, "How could you fuck me then fuck me over?" but since the song that's playing at full volume while these two people are staring at each other is blaring "And I love you"--and this is not a song about 'brotherly' love, I think it comes pretty gosh darn close to text at that point. .....One of the few times I actually, honestly believe that the producers of any show *had* to know what they were doing." [2]

When the Wiseguy producers lost the rights to use the song during reruns in the 1990s, and the show came out on DVD without the music, many fans felt the episode was forever ruined.

The Blending of Music and Dialog In the Analog Era

In the 1990s, most data was transferred via floppy disks. Data CDs and DVDs were on the horizon and computer video and audio editing were still years away. If one wanted to edit audio, you did it at the analog level - with music being run through a mixing board and then recorded onto either audio or video tape.

VCR vids were made by erasing the first audio layer on the stereo video tape (the audio from the movie or TV show) and replacing the erased channel with music. It was almost impossible to separate out video dialog from background music and there was no way to blend two audio tracks together well without a mixer. And the price of audio mixers were beyond the reach of most fans.

In 1996, Tashery explained the audio editing she and Lynn did on their vid to the Virgule-L mailing list. It is quoted here with permission:
"In the [Wiseguy] episode, they only use the first half of the song [Nights in White Satin]. Lynn and I wanted all of it, and started out dubbing[3] a soundtrack straight from the cd, but when we dubbed on the first shot from the jukebox scene where Sonny plays the song, it felt much more wrong without the dialogue than song vids usually do, probably because it was the 'right' sound for the shots otherwise.[4] So we took much thought, ate many Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies,[5] and decided to try editing the first half of the song from the show, and the second half from the cd. But the sound quality for the two halves was totally different. The cd sounded good, but in the episode the song sounded tinny, distorted and lacking in bass by comparison. So we ate more Milano cookies, dragged out my trusty old graphic equalizer, hooked it between the sound source and tape deck doing the dubbing, and flattened the high frequencies, deadened the lows, and distorted the high end of the middles. We compared, but the input from the cd still didn't sound awful enough to blend with the episode's (which we were by then calling 'sound by Sonny Steelgrave'). It took half a package of Milanos and an hour or so to crap the sound up just right to make it match.[6]

Then all we had to do was time the switch [from the TV episode audio to the audio from the CD].[7] Actually, I bobbled that one a bit. It's half a beat off. But when you're not working with professional equipment, and even your sense of rhythm can't help in any normal way because you're also dealing with [VCR] rollback lag,[8] sometimes you take the nearest to plausible you can get. I'll bet it's detectable to anyone who has heard the vid more than once. It still makes me wince a bit. But it was a fun vid to do, and my first S/V & 1st WG vid. At that point, Lynn was the one who knew the images. She also brought the Milano cookies, though we did have to make a grocery run for more. Lynn makes a great vidding partner, and this was one of the most fun I've been involved in making. Little did I know it was the first step down the path toward obsession with, of all things, a mafia don. Here's to Sonny and Vinnie.

Please pass the Milanos."

Trivia

In 1995, it was among a selection of Wiseguy fanvids handed by a fan to TV producer Stephen Cannell who was then working on a Wiseguy movie. The fan described Cannell's reaction as being cool with the concept of music videos as long as no money was made. He also thought that fanworks like vids extended the life of the show. Interestingly, even though many of the vid creators were on the same mailing list where the gift was announced, no public discussion took place about the wisdom of sharing fanvids with TPTB. [9]

Screencap Gallery

References

  1. The Love That Dared Not Show Its Face, accessed September 27, 2012.
  2. Michelle Christian's post to the Virgule-L mailing list in 1994, quoted with permission.
  3. Dubbing in this context is the process of copying either video or audio track onto another pre-existing source.
  4. To illustrate the complexity of analog audio editing: The audio/video from the TV episode (which contained both dialog and music) was transfered from an off-the-air recorded VCR tape onto another VCR video tape (as one would normally do when making a VCR fanvid). The music from the Moody Blues CD was copied onto to an audio cassette tape. Audio sources were not combined at this point because in analog editing every transfer results in quality loss. When the time came to combine the two audio sources it had to be done manually by running the audio cassette onto the VCR video.
  5. If memory serves us correctly, they were Double Chocolate Milanos.
  6. To "crap" sound is a phrase used by these vidders to explain the process of downgrading the CD audio source in order to make it match the lesser TV quality source. In a 2012 email Tashery explains: "For "Nights in White Satin," we had to make the cd's good sound match the not-so-good sound of the music from the episode. To "crap it up" was really a painstaking job. Not just of distorting the sound from the album, but of distorting it in a way that matched as exactly as possible the distortion in the episode's version of the music. In the episode, besides the flatter sound of a TV episode copied onto video tape, the song sounds like it's playing on a jukebox and echoing a little in the empty theater lobby where Sonny and Vinnie are sitting. Our equalizer had no echo effect, so we had to imitate that effect as well as we could by ear. This is why it took so many Milano cookies we had to hit the grocery store for more. Crapping up is an art."
  7. In the video currently available online the switch happens approximately around 2:16. The vidders cleverly masked the editing "glitch" by matching it with a clip of a car door opening, tricking the viewer into thinking the audio edit was part of the video's sound effects.
  8. All VCRs had some form of "rollback" when editing video. The videotape would roll back a few frames allowing the new image to be recorded over the old image. A good vidder would eventually be able to count forward the number of frames she needed to advance before adding a new clip in order to compensate. That way when the new image was inserted, it would land in the right place instead of eating into the previous clip and erasing it. If you were unlucky, your VCR had an inconsistent rollback making the editing process (which was a one way street - there was no 'undo' button - a matter of Video Russian Roulette.
  9. Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed October 21, 2104, quoted with permission.