Interview with an anonymous vidder
November 18, 2008
The anonymous subject of this interview has been vidding since 2000. In that time, she has made approximately 30 vids. She has also mentored young vidders, provided “beta” (critique) for dozens of other vidders seeking help with their vids in progress, led panels on vidding at conventions, and curated vid shows.
Could you briefly describe what sets the vidding community apart from other clip-based video creators? Do vidders see themselves as different from many more recent creator communities who have been getting attention on sites like YouTube?
Vidders definitely see themselves as different from other creator communities. The differences are in part historical—we’ve been doing this since the 1970s—but primarily artistic and aesthetic. Vidding aims to create new messages from the juxtaposition of video clips and music. These meanings may include parody, criticism, the creation of entirely new stories, meta-discussion, and beyond. Many vidders see themselves as visual storytellers.
Are most vidders amateurs in video editing? Are their activities generally noncommercial?
Very few vidders have any training in film arts or video editing, although a handful have studied them in college.
The vidding community, like the larger media fandom community, has long-held standards against any vidder making a profit from her work. The primary means of distribution is on the Internet, for free. Secondarily, vidders show their vids at conventions, where they are not paid for their submissions. A small number of vidders release collections of their work, often for free, sometimes for the cost of materials and postage. No one makes money from this hobby; in fact, we tend to spend a good deal of money on it, from souped up computers and external hard drives to high-end professional editing and post-production software to the show DVDs and music we buy.
Do vidders frequently rip commercially-released DVDs in order to extract clips? Is DVD ripping viewed as superior to other available alternatives?
Most vidders I know rip source from commercially-released DVDs. Some also download footage, but not all sources are available for download. Some vidders still use video capture, but the community at large is very concerned with the quality of the footage, and video capture results in noticeable quality loss. Increasingly, Windows-based vidders rip DVDs and work directly with the VOB files in AVISynth in order to avoid any quality loss at all.
Could you make a rough order of magnitude estimate of the number of vids that have been created by self-identified vidders?
I have thousands of vids in my personal collection alone. My guess is that there are tens of thousands of vids in the world at the moment, and that number is increasing all the time.
Is the quality of the video source important to members of the vidding community?
Source quality is very important. It always has been, even when vidders were using videotaped source—dedicated vidders would buy high-end “pro-sumer” machines that could record S-VHS (Super-VHS) for the best possible quality in that medium. You worked from first-generation tapes as much as possible.
Vidders want to create immersive experiences, and they are highly invested in visual communication and aesthetics. Poor-quality source interferes with all of these, hence the community’s determination to use the best-quality source footage available.
Do you think the vidding community has a clear understanding of what the DMCA prohibits, particularly the legal difference between digitally “ripping” a DVD and using the “analog hole” to capture from a DVD? How likely is it that vidders will have access to the legal expertise to address these subtle issues?
Some vidders are fairly savvy on copyright issues in general, but as most of us are not lawyers, it doesn’t make sense to us to differentiate ripping from video capturing. And increasingly, vidding is being practiced by large numbers of young people who may have no roots in the traditional vidding community, who came of age with the Internet, and who have no sense of the legal restrictions that may affect their hobby. These are the people the rest of us tend to worry most about, in terms of potential legal liability.