Critical Commons is a non-profit advocacy coalition that supports the use of media for a variety of scholarly, educational, and creative purposes. It describes itself as “a showcase for innovative forms of electronic scholarship and creative production that are transformative, culturally enriching and both legally and ethically defensible,” and its founders say their showcase explicitly includes transformative works like vids and other forms of fan video. In fact, the site specifically invites the work of remixers of all kinds.
While getting and using an account at Critical Commons is a little more complicated than using YouTube or most other commercial services, the site’s nonprofit status and explicit commitment to fair use may make it an attractive option for some fans. It is also worth noting that in addition to allowing users to stream and embed video, the site also allows users to download videos in their original resolution and quality.
As you’ll see from the instructions below, all uploaded videos must have some commentary attached to them to fulfill the site’s mission of “display[ing] media that is placed in a critical context that transforms and recontextualizes the media, adding value and significance to the original work.” This can be your typical vidders notes section, or it can be something as simple as “This fan video is a transformative work.” (See, for example, lamardeuse’s Sherlock vid, Not Responsible.)
Create an Account for Vidding
- On the Critical Commons homepage, click “register” in the top right of the menu bar. Or, go directly to the registration form. You must first create a Basic User account before you can be upgraded to Advanced User status, at which point you can upload vids.
- “Full Name” is what name will appear on the site profile that viewers will see. This can be your vidding handle. “Username” is for your login purposes. “Institutional Email” can be your regular email address; this will appear visibly on your profile. (Remember, this site is geared toward academics, who often use more identifying information than vidders.)
- Once your account is created, login and click Edit Profile. You need to add further information (upgrading your status) before you can upload vids. All fields are mandatory (except Location) to reach Advanced User status.
- “Title” can be something like “vidder.”
- If you have an “institutional” affiliation, enter it here. If you are an independent creator, fan, non-affiliated scholar, etc. you can indicate this here. Some vidders may want to affiliate themselves with the Organization for Transformative Works.
- If you don’t have a URL where Critical Commons can verify your identity (even a blog or publicly viewable Facebook page will do), CC recommends creating an account at the Archive of Our Own.
- Save your information at the bottom. If you have addressed all fields in your profile, you should now have a link on your profile that says “Apply for Advanced User Status.” When clicked, this generates a message to the site administrator. Advanced user requests are processed manually after verifying your identity. This usually happens very quickly (within 10 minutes of when your request is received). Then, log back in and return to your profile to start uploading vids.
Upload a vid
Every vid you upload must have an attached commentary (either text or audio, even just brief notes are fine). Your vid will not be visible until the commentary is attached. You will upload your vid first, create your commentary, then link them.
- On your profile page, select Upload a Clip. Enter the vid’s title and browse for your file. There is a 300MB limit. (You can upload multiple files, but this should be used if you are attaching the same commentary to all files, which as a vidder, you probably won’t be. Therefore, it is recommended to do one vid at a time.) The upload bar will appear, but you must click “Start File Upload” to initiate uploading. When completed, click “Next” to move to Step 2.
- Enter a summary line for the vid (i.e. a one-line blurb) and rate its quality (probably “high”). If possible, select a thumbnail image to represent the clip; this could be a 100×100 icon used for a LJ/DW post. This image will appear on the embed screen before viewers press play.
- Enter vid info: “Creator” is the vidder, “Distributor” can be left blank, “Name of the Film” is the source footage, and “Year Produced” can be either the date of the source or the date of the vid, as you wish.
- You can add keyword tags (one per line) that help you and others to identify your vid in the database. Tags can be “vid” or “vidding” if you like, or more specific. Click Next to go to Step 3.
- Every vid must have a commentary of some length. To add a new commentary, select “Create a text commentary for this clip” (for instructions on adding an audio commentary see separate section below). This takes you to the “Edit Text Commentary” page.
- “Commentary Title” can be the name of the vid, or something like Vid Notes.
- Enter any tags (this will add to the list from before)
- The “Commentary Summary” line can be left blank, or you can repeat your blurb. This will appear as part of the text you enter later.
- Select your mode of text before entering your commentary.
- Plain Text will have no line breaks or formatting.
- Structured Text can have line breaks but no formatting.
- HTML can have tags for both line breaks and formatting (if you know html code.)
- Do NOT select Microsoft Word.
- You can copy/paste a commentary from a vid release or type your notes. If your commentary is a text file, you can instead upload that.
- Leave the copyright license as “Site Default.”
- Next, to attach the commentary to your vid, click inside the text box under “Clips” at the very bottom of the screen. You can type the name of your vid, but a list of files should appear automatically when you click in the box. The most recently uploaded file should appear at the top of the list. Click its name to select it.
- Save and review your commentary on the next screen. You cannot make changes here. When finished, click your username on the top right of the menu bar to go back to your profile.
View/Edit your Published Vid
- In your profile, the default view is to list “Your Clips,” which is a list of your vid files. You can click on any vid title to go to its viewing page. To edit the vid’s tech details, click “edit” on your profile next to the vid’s name. Note: If any vid is listed as “private” (i.e. not “published”), then it does not have a linked commentary and is therefore not visible to the public. See steps above for linking commentaries to vids.
- To edit a text commentary, first use the drop-down menu to select “Your Commentaries.” This will pull up a list of your commentaries. Click “edit” next to the name to go to the edit screen. After editing, you will be able to see the updated commentary itself. To see it on the vid viewing page, click on the vid name at the bottom under “Related Clips,” or just go back to your profile and click on the vid’s name.
Critical Commons also allows you to add audio commentaries. To do this, you have to record an audio commentary on your computer and upload it as an MP3 file then link it to a clip the same way you link text commentaries. This can also be done via the mobile site using the voice memo feature in most smart phones.
Viewers can then play the clip either with or without the audio commentary. Here is a sample clip that has both audio and text commentaries: Blade Runner 3D photo scene