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Disambiguation: This article is about the fan activity. For the 2008 short documentary series, see Vidding (2008).

Synonyms: fanvid or vid, songvid, songtape
See also: contapes, tape collection, vidshows, vid awards, vid contests, AMV, machinima, fan films
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Vidding is the act or process of creating a fan-oriented video or "fanvid" using live-action TV or movie footage set to music (or other audio). The people who make these vids are called vidders.

Vids often tell some sort of story, and often highlight one reading, sometimes subversive, of the canon.

Fan-video makers in anime fandoms create anime music videos, and are known as AMV editors.

The Slideshow Era

The first fanvids were made in 1975 by Kandy Fong using a slide projector and a cassette tape player. These were played at cons and were very popular.[1] One of them, Both Sides Now (~1980), was videotaped for Gene Roddenberry, so it is easily watched today.[2]

In recent years, digital slideshows have made a comeback as fans new to video editing try their hands using screencaps or in case of comic vids panel scans instead of moving footage.

The VCR Era

Main article: VCR Vidding

With the exception of Star Trek, where Gene Roddenberry's Lincoln Enterprises actually sold film clips, slides and other materials, very few fans had access to these. Vidding didn't really open up until the invention and commercial availability of the VCR[3], which gave fans a way to copy their source material from television, and a way for them to linearly edit their source to create music videos. That said, the technology was expensive, and as a result it became common for groups of fans to share technology and access to source materials (in particular, hard-to-find TV shows). Vidding was occasionally done at conventions as fun group behavior, as a way to teach new vidders, and probably a bit as a way to show off.

In spite of the huge number of fanzines being published at that time, Vidders had a difficult time communicating with each other. In the early 1990s, Tashery Shannon started a letterzine for vidders named Rainbow Noise, but the difficulty of explaining in text issues that were happening on video may have doomed it. Even after web pages and email made stories easier to pass back and forth, vids were still very rare on the web. Digital recording made the creation and sharing of these loving amateur productions much easier, and they are common today.

Early Songvids

Beauty and the Beast fanvids on videocassette, originally sold to raise funds for a charity

While vidding started in Star Trek fandom, some fans believe that the first non-slideshow vids were produced in Starsky & Hutch fandom.[4] These first songvids were very simple. There is an early Starsky & Hutch vid by Kendra Hunter and Diana Barbour that is nothing more than a still frame of Hutch's face behind an entire song. Many others were only two or three clips set to music. See Starsky & Hutch Vidding Booklets by Flamingo for more information.

This isn't to say they were necessarily easy to make. Fans learned a great deal about film editing in creating these videos. You had to find a clip that was emotionally correct for the point you were trying to make, but that also had movements and actions on all of the important beats of a minute-long piece of music. Then you had to insert the clip at exactly the place in that music to make those actions and beats line up. [5] One example of such a vid is Barbour and Hunter's vid The Rose, which sets an entire scene from Starsky & Hutch to the song of the same name. Despite the limited technology of the time, the scene matches each line of the lyrics to an eerie degree, and the vid still works well today.

As the quality of commercial VCRs improved, so did the complexity of fan vids. By the end of the VCR era, most of the vidding vocabulary we use today had already been explored. Vidders such as Tashery Shannon (known for her use of unconventional music and command of the color palette), Deejay (known for her cutting precision, and willingness to step outside the clips available in a show to make a point), and many others were turning out amazingly tight and complex vids back in the early '90s.

Songtape flyer from the mid-1990s

Vids were watched either at convention vidshows or bought/traded on tape collections (which were often contapes, collections of vids shown at a specific convention). In the VCR era, clips were dubbed down sometimes four or five times from the original videotaped episode until the time it was copied to a contape master, and then to each person's individual purchased copy. Even with the best original-quality source, songtapes from this era were always a little fuzzy.

Digital Vidding

Main article: Digital Vidding

The first digital or computer video in media fandom was a Star Trek/Blake's 7 vid set to In the Air Tonight by T'Rhys and shown at Virgule convention (2?) in 1994?. Considering the technical limitations, it was amazingly ambitious, including matte work that made it look like the Enterprise crew could see the Liberator (the space ship in Blake's 7) on their view screen. The following year T'Rhys submitted a Jurassic Park/Blake's 7 constructed reality vid which morphed the face of the villain Servalan into a velocoraptor. However the next digital vid did not appear until Escapade 1998 with Cultural Revolution's Sleep To Dream, a La Femme Nikita vid.

The ability to do non-linear editing and the end of dubbing quality loss were powerful incentives to go digital. With the bundling of basic video editing software such as Microsoft Windows Movie Maker and iMovie on new computers, the trickle of Digital Vidding became a torrent. In 2002, a computer vidder submitting to Escapade or Vividcon would have copied her vid from digital to a VHS or Beta tape to submit it to the convention. Then the convention transferred the tape back to the convention master DVD to show at the vid show. Then they would have made VHS copies of the show to sell to the congoers. Only in 2003 did broadband become common enough for vidders to start to upload digital copies of their vids directly to conventions.

Digital Vid Aesthetics: Feral Vidders, Vividcon and AMV

With vidding software easily available and source video now coming out in droves on near-flawless commercial DVDs, vidding changed again. Since a fan no longer needed to be taught how to vid by other fans, new vidders (sometimes called feral vidders with more or less affection by some vidders who came through the old network described in Rachael Sabotini's The Genealogy of Vidding) were as likely to be influenced by movie trailers, MTV, or indie films as they were by previous songvids. As web hosting space became cheap enough to make it possible to post vids to the web, media vidders and AMV vidders (who use the term editor to refer to themselves) have had a chance to see and be influenced by each others' work. Vidding was growing exponentially, while editing cohesion and stylistic norms seemed to be disappearing, although there were attempts to collectively improve basic and advanced vidding skills, for example the vidding bootcamp at We Band of Buggered. Into this potential chaos came Vividcon (VVC), a convention just for vidders and fans of vids, held in Chicago each year.

Modern Vidding Genres

Vids may be described as belonging to the fannish genres gen, het or slash; however, beyond shipper vids, there are many subgenres specific to vidding.

Visibility Beyond Fandom

Traditionally, because of fears of copyright infringement for both our music and video, most vidders have preferred to stay out of the press or Hollywood eye, but this has begun to shift with the recognition that the sheer numbers of fanvids and the cultural shift to remixing or re-appropriating and transforming popular culture has made vidding more visible and more socially acceptable. Recently, Luminosity's vids were showcased in New York Magazine[6], and Reason Magazine published an article on vidding as well[7].

In early November 2008, the OTW released[8] Vidding (2008), a series of short documentaries on vidding for MIT's New Media Literacy project[9]. Made by Francesca Coppa and Laura Shapiro, the videos feature interviews with many prominent vidders on subjects ranging from their personal motivation to vid, to the hardware and software they use, to the vidding communities they belong to. Excerpts from several well-known vids are also included.

In February, 2009, National Public Radio's Neda Ulabi did a segment on vidding for All Things Considered called Vidders Talk Back To Their Pop-Culture Muses. Vidders Rachael Sabotini and Lim were interviewed, as were OTW board members Francesca Coppa and Rebecca Tushnet.

Song Re-use

Song re-use has been an extremely contentious discussion during the VCR vidding era, as common wisdom was that the first vid a viewer sees for a particular song is often the one that sticks in their mind, no matter how powerful a second vid to that song is. A corollary to this was that to remake a song--to produce a new vid using the same song as someone else--was to imply that there was something wrong with the original vid, and it had to be remade 'right'. For these and other reasons, songs were jealously guarded, and it was considered 'bad form' to remake a song that someone had already done.

In 1996, while discussing the topic of unauthorized sequels to fan stories on Virgule-L, Sandy Herrold related the following history of fannish attitudes towards:
"Many years back in the age of songvids (after Kendra invented them, but before most fans had good equipment), a friend made a Pros vid. Another, better known vidder saw it, liked virtually all of it but thought the original vidder had "done some things wrong". So she made her own version of it. She used better equipment, but with the exception of 5-6 clips, made the *same* version. Consensus was just beginning to develop about such things as re-using other vidders songs (even in different fandoms), and there was certainly no 'rule' about such remaking. But in the uproar after that, most people decided that if you were going to reuse someone's song in the same fandom, you should put your own spin on it (use a different character's POV, something...), rather than just remake someone's work *while changing it to make it closer to your liking.*" (quoted with permission)
In 1993, vidder Gayle F approached a vidder who had used a song twice in different fandoms to ask permission to use the vid. Ironically, the vdder's husband also had just completed his own vid using the son to a third fandom, Gayle opted not to use the vid for a fourth time:
"In the continuing saga revolving about the question of whether fen should use songs previously used by other fen, I opted for the permission theory and asked Mary Van Duesen if she would mind if Tashery and I used The Arbiter, which she had previous used interestingly for both Blake's 7 & Sherlock Holmes. She said it was fine, that she enjoyed seeing different versions of the same song. We wanted to use the song for The Sandbaggers, as we were having difficulty finding any song we thought would work for that show. Mary mentioned that her husband, Paul, had just done a version for The Prisoner, and that she would include with some other tapes she was sending me. Well, after seeing Paul's flashy new Arbiter, we both lost interest in using the song for The Sandbaggers, which is visually a fairly dull show, although a rich one emotionally..."[10]

Not all VCR era vidders objected per se to song re-use. In 1995, vidders on the Virgule-L mailing list were debating song re-use when Sandy Herrold offered the following.

"And it reminds me. I would never say "you *must* use the 'standard' or 'hit' version of a song for a song vid," but I think vidders should realize that a lot of people resist remakes of fav songs, especially the first time they hear them. So, if the version you want to use has some real advantage (sung by a man instead of a woman; slower or faster, and you really wanted the speed change; much more comprehensible lyrics, etc), go ahead and use it, but realize that some % of your audience will be so distracted by the new version that they aren't paying as much attention to the vid, at least the first viewing.

[snip excerpts where vidders wonder why you would make another version of a vid of a song that's already been done, even if it's in a different fandom?]

Um...I know that DJ and some other vidders very strongly agree...on this one. I go back and forth. Yes, the impact of the song is lessened, because the viewer's brain is distracted comparing one version to the other when it should just be watching. But, some vidders use songs for incomprehensible fandoms, and you no sooner see a vid than you think, 'why did they use this wonderful dark song for Trek,' say, 'when it should have been for some depressing dark show....' and you want to use it for something more appropriate.

And, there have been some great vids made from the same song. I love the MVD version of 'Hotel California' for B7, and I love JChung version of the same song for The Prisoner, for example.[11]

I will happily admit that some songs have been done to death, like Holding out for a Hero, (but I was completely amused to see a new version of that a couple of months ago to "A Funny thing happened on the way to the Forum" where the 'hero' of the title is the character _Hero_ in the movie, and a bigger bumbler you'll never meet...). And I will agree that a song probably shouldn't be done more than once per TV show. (Though even then, it is painful to see a terrible job of a great song--I would probably never do it, but I have wanted to redo some vids so badly: great song, perfect fandom, terribly thought out, or terribly put together...)

And, it is sometimes fascinating to see the same song done from two radically different perspectives. In fact, I know a pros vid that the vidder intentionally did twice, once from Bodie's pov, once from Doyle's pov, and both of them are hilarious (This Boy--The Beatles).

But I just sigh in a vid showing when the opening notes of the song start, and I think, 'same old, same old...'. [12]

However with popular songs, that sort of guarding behavior wasn't really possible. These frequently top 40 type songs played on a lot of different radio stations, and received a lot of airplay; many vidders could come in contact with the song independent of the vidding community, and thus not know that other vids had already been made, or simply didn't care. These songs also tended to be fairly generic, and were easily adapted to many fandoms, being 'just perfect' for each fandom they were used in; this led to many variations on a theme, with the same song reused by many different vidders, becoming a vidding trope. As access to vidding equipment became cheaper and more easily accessible, and as the centralized vidding community splintered apart with the sheer volume of new members and new communities being formed--many of them with a monofannish as opposed to a multifannish focus--there was no real way to maintain the old 'one song/one vid' adage.

Examples of this type of vidding trope in the '70s-'80s:

In the late '80s -'90s:

Post 2000:

Occasionally, two or more vidders will choose the same song for a premiere vid at the same vid show, which leads to a lot of anxiety on everyone's part. At Escapade in 2001, Lynn C. and Killa both created vids for "In Your Eyes" by Oyster Band, with Lynn choosing Stargate SG-1 Jack/Daniel as her focus, which meant that the stars were literal and the idea of forever was metaphorical in her vid, while Killa chose Highlander's Duncan/Methos, which gave a literal quality to forever and a metaphorical one for stars, though both vids had at their core the same theme. Both vids were made on computers, but as extra bonus tension, Lynn was a longstanding member of the VCR vidding community, and Killa was one of the vidders of the WOAD society, which promoted computer vidding. This perfect storm of culture clash over fandom, lyric interpretation, and vidding community base, led to one of the more contentious vid review panels in Escapade's history. That same year, Killa also reused another song that had appeared in the 1999 Escapade vid show to create her now well-known Dante's Prayer.

At VVC 2008, deejay and Seah & Margie both chose the same song for their premiere vids, Handlebars by Flobots, with deejay using Iron Man footage and Seah & Margie using Doctor Who, but without the technology and culture clash issues, it didn't result in the same sort of controversy as In Your Eyes had.

That said, some songs/artists find themselves being used over and over in a single fandom, resulting in a vidding trope for that fandom, such as the extensive usage of Sarah Mclachlan in Due South.

Representative Vidders

Famous YouTube Vidders

  • SmokeyFizz
  • eliberg33
  • dazzleme7
  • kellygirl2002
  • dusted92
  • ToxicExistance
  • Bombonrosa
  • SweetBrooke23
  • aandrandom
  • bumcrackmosh
  • luckybiatch
  • sanyiaa
  • tifannyd666
  • Liisakee
  • KatrinDepp

Meta about Vidding

(organized chronologically)


  1. During her February 2012 Escapade Oral History Project interview, Kandy Fong explained that she got the idea for the slideshows after watching the Beatles "Strawberry Fields" music video which used jump cuts, static closeups of the Beatles faces and unusual effects to show the musicians clowning around as their music played in the background. Her husband had leftover film footage that had been clipped and left on the editing room floor from Star Trek. Her first few slideshows were done for the entertainment of her local Star Trek fan club, the United Federation of Phoenix and were short humorous pieces: "What Do You Do With A Drunken Vulcan" and "Ensign Fong" (a Mary Sue vid). When Bjo Trimble, a well known fan convention organizer visited Phoenix, Kandy played the slideshow for her and she was invited to bring it to the 1975 Equicon/Filmcon. The room could only fit 35 people, so the convention ran the 7 minute slide show in a loop for the next 8 hours with people standing in line for hours. While at Equicon, Kandy approached Gene Roddenberry (whom she had met before) with the idea of a fan slideshow and he expressed interest, explaining that he'd been trying to persuade Paramount there was still sufficient fannish demand for them to fund a full length Star Trek movie. Roddenberry later gave Kandy written permission to put together the slideshows and also gave her more original slide footage to use when she visited Paramount studios.
  2. Many of Kandy Fong's other slide shows remain boxed up: slides and audio cassette.
  3. The first home VCRs appeared in 1972 and began to gain popularity in 1975. 1976 saw the introduction of the VHS format.
  4. The SHareCon 2010 panel on vidding history advanced this view, for example.
  5. See Fan History Vid Panel 2008, Vividcon, a pdf copy of the panel notes can be found here [1].
  6. New York Magazine
  7. Remixing Television: Francesca Coppa on the vidding underground. Reason Magazine, August/September 2008
  8. Organisation for Transformative Works, November 2008 Newsletter, vol. 21
  9. OTW videos at MIT TechTV
  10. Gayle F's review in Rainbow Noise #2 (1993).
  11. The latter is by Judy Chien.
  12. October 1995 post to [the Virgule-L mailing list, reposted with permission.
  13. Email from Melina to vidder Yahoo!Groups list dated Sep 24, 2003. Accessed November 18, 2008.
  14. vidder email list, somewhere
  15. WebCite for "A very long ramble about a great many things" by thefannishwaldo dated May 22, 2004.
  16. WebCite for "So You Want to Be a Vidder."
  17. WebCite for "the new generation" by jarrow dated February 1, 2007.
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