Constructed Reality

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Related tropes/genrescrossover, fic trailer, story vid
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Constructed reality vids are a long-lived, popular subgenre of vidding, similar to the alternate universe genre in fanfiction.

A constructed reality vid recontextualizes footage from the source (and sometimes footage from outside sources) in order to tell a story that did not happen in canon.[1]

The most well-known constructed reality vid is probably Closer by TJonesy and Killa. It is an AU of the Star Trek: TOS episode Amok Time. In canon, the crew manages to get Spock to Vulcan before his pon farr takes control; however, Closer shows what might have happened if they had not. Although first shown in 2004, it went viral after being posted on YouTube in 2006.[2]

Outside fannish vidding circles, the 2009 narrative video Buffy vs. Edward: Twilight Remixed—in which Buffy the Vampire Slayer tells off Twilight's Edward Cullen for his stalkerish behavior and deals with it—gained enormous notice.[3]


Digital video editing programs have introduced several new techniques for creating constructed reality vids; however, this genre started long before computer vidding. Some early constructed reality vids included Score, which showed Starsky & Hutch competing against Bodie and Doyle at bowling. Another early vid was made with clips from many different shows that all had episodes set at the same fancy Los Angeles hotel (the Bonaventura), pulling them together into a heist and chase vid. There was also a vid to Centerfield by California Crew, which showed a baseball game with characters from Remington Steele and other fandoms playing against each other.[4]

Slashers made constructed reality vids, too. In the Sentinel vid Same Thing In Reverse by the Media Cannibals, we see Jim and Blair work their way from internalized homophobia all the way to coming out publicly as gay.

But computer vidding, of course, opened up whole new possibilities. The first computer vid, In the Air Tonight by T'Rhys, showed characters and ships from Blake's 7 and Star Trek interacting. In the vid, Avon shoots and kills Spock; Kirk, driven mad by loss and pain, initiates the self-destruct sequence on the Enterprise and kills them all.

It could be argued that Brokeback Mountain parody trailers are an example of the constructed reality genre, one that went viral sometime after the release of Brokeback Mountain in 2005.

Extended definition

Slash vids or non-canon het ship vids are generally not considered constructed reality vids, as long as the footage is not taken so far out of context that it constructs an entirely new story.

That's All: merging clips of Kowalski and Vecchio
That's All: a kissing scene that never happened

For example, Satellite and That's All are both due South slash vids by SDWolfpup, but only one is a constructed reality vid.

In Satellite, SDWolfpup tells the story of Ray Vecchio's unrequited romantic feelings for Fraser. In order to tell this story, she presents a particular reading of certain glances and gestures, and emphasizes her interpretation by ordering and matching the clips to particular lyrics. But she has not altered the source footage, or interpolated footage from other sources, to show characters doing things that they actually didn't do. The vid presents a particular interpretation of events that actually happened in canon, but it does not depict events that didn't actually happen. Therefore, most viewers would not consider Satellite to be a constructed reality vid.

In contrast, in SDWolfpup's Ray/Ray vid That's All, she uses many techniques in order to create interactions and events that did not actually happen in canon. First, she takes footage of RayV and RayK from scenes that the characters were not actually in together—from different episodes and even different seasons—and juxtaposes individual shots in order to create brand new Ray/Ray scenes. Second, the vid includes several clips that SDWolfpup actually created; by digitally merging two separate clips, she can create clips where the two Rays physically interact and even kiss. Third, a shot of two characters' hands was taken from the show Dante's Cove, and within the context of That's All, it becomes RayK and RayV clasping hands. All these techniques are used to create interactions and events in the vid that did not actually happen in canon. In her vid post, SDWolfpup says:

The only clips that are meant to be taken contextually are those from "Call of the Wild." Everything else has been taken out of context, and what I hope I was able to do was take the emotion of the story of Ray/Ray and vid the fanon as I see it.[5]

In other words, the vid tells a story that goes beyond, or is completely separate from, what actually happened in canon. This is what defines a constructed reality vid.

Some vids straddle the line. The Professionals vids Heartbreaker, by Deejay, and Alone, by Mary Van Deusen, both show a poor pitiful Bodie brutalized by his cruel womanizing partner Doyle; Heartbreaker plays it for laughs, Alone tells the same story straight. They include no digital tricks (they're both VCR vids)-- and the story they tell is not that different from other slash vids—but the way the story is told, and the relationship that is drawn, is just over the top enough that they're usually considered constructed reality as well.

A thin line separates constructed reality vids and fic trailers.

Some fans consider constructed reality vids to be difficult to create. A fan in 1994 wrote:

'Constructed reality' isn't widely used in vids because it's very Very VERY hard to maintain over the length of the average song (about 4 minutes) because most of our 'original footage' was shot with an entirely different emphasis in mind. That means you're stuck using bits and pieces (sometimes very small bits, on the order of a couple of frames) from many different episodes rather than long sequences from one or two masters, like the pro editors do. Rather than constructed reality, most vidders just try to find scenes that fit the lyrics (or most of the lyrics) of their song, montage style.[6]


Constructed reality vids can be created in many different ways, generally by using one or more of the following techniques.

Taking Clips out of Context

Most simply, by taking clips out of context and presenting them in a different context, as in the Highlander vid Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money) by Killa and Carol S.. Opportunities is an AU vid showing Duncan, Methos and Amanda as a team of cat burglars.

Title Cards

Vidders can also cue the audience with a title card that describes or hints at the premise of the constructed reality vid. For instance, Closer begins with a title card that reads "What if they hadn't made it to Vulcan in time?" Similarly, there is an intro at the beginning of Opportunities which states:

MEANWHILE... In an Alternate Universe...
...not so different from our own...
Our Heroes turn to a life of crime...

The SGA/Doctor Who crossover vid The Lost Button by Chayiana goes one step further and uses title cards throughout the vid to let the viewer know what happens or what the characters are saying to each other.

Song Choice

One good way to present a different context is to use a song with a strong narrative, clear lyrics and/or well-defined characters. Any song with an obvious story diverging from the source text's story can be used, but country songs lend themselves especially well to this technique. Some examples include "Fancy," a Lord King Bad Vid by Barkley that casts Daniel Jackson as the eponymous Fancy; the Dixie Chicks' "Goodbye Earl" (used in "Country Cavalcade" by Sisabet and Dawn); and The White Stripes's Jolene, used in Zoe Rayne's SGA vid of the same name. Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach", used in Eunice and Greensilver's Torchwood/Doctor Who vid where Jack Harkness gets knocked up by The Master, is a non-country example.

Reaction Shots from Different Scenes

By combining separate clips (either audio or video) from the same source to make it look or sound as if two characters are interacting, or reacting to certain events, when in canon they were not. For instance, Talitha78's Smallville vid Faster Kill Pussycat includes many sexy, lingering shots of Lana, which in canon were usually followed by lustful reaction shots from Clark; however, Talitha78 removes Clark and inserts lustful reaction shots from Chloe instead, creating an extremely effective femslash vid.[7]

Clips from Different Fannish Sources

By combining clips from different sources in order to create a constructed reality crossover vid. One popular type of crossover vid is pairing up characters from different sources, like for example Dean/Chloe (Supernatural/Smallville).[8] Crossovers can also be complex story vids like for example Stargate: Camelot where SG-1 travels back in time to find Merlin's secret weapon.

Clips of the Same Actor from Different Sources

By inserting clips of an actor from a different show/movie, in order to show the character doing something that they never actually did in canon. (For instance, a Smallville vid could show Lex in drag, by inserting clips from one of the films where Michael Rosenbaum wears women's clothing.)[citation needed]

Clips from Non-fandom Sources

By using clips from outside source. For instance, many constructed reality vids will pull a from a completely different source text, in order to make it appear that two characters are having sex. Outside source footage is used in this manner in Climbing Up The Walls by obsessive24.

Merging Clips with Computer Animation Techniques

merging clips to create a kissing scene in a Merlin vid, To kill the King by Nuarity
animated GIF from a Merlin vid, Bad Romance by Nuarity

By actually using computer animation techniques to merge two clips, so that different characters appear to be in a scene together when they weren't. (Several clips in That's All use this technique, and it is nearly the entire basis for Too Good to Be True by SGA vidder blithesea.) In recent years, many vidders have used digital video editing to construct kissing scenes between characters who never actually kissed in canon, especially in Supernatural and Merlin fandom.[9] One of the first vids to be shown at a convention using this technique was a 2007 Entourage vid, Pon de Replay by astolat. This is particularly common in Animash, which uses animated films, usually featuring animals, as its source material. This technique is used in the genre for the purpose of creating crossovers.

Notable Vids

VCR Vidding Era

Early Computer Vidding

From VCR to Computer Vidding

Modern Computer Vidding


In the book Textual Poachers by Henry Jenkins, Jenkins defined constructed reality vids and cited Hungarian Rhapsody as an example:

"Fans call these works "constructed reality videos"; their creators build original narratives, often involving multiple media universes, through their recontextualization of borrowed images. The California Crew's "Hungarian Rhapsody" suggests the potential complexity of the "constructed reality" video. The group displayed their knowledge of Los Angeles geography as well as their combined familarity with a large number of different fan universes in a six minute video that combines footage from Remington Steele, Magnum PI., Riptide, Moonlighting, Hunter, Simon and Simon, and other popular series. The series protagonists assemble at the Universal Sheriton Hotel, a location where each of the series had filmed, to attend a detectives convention. Just as Steele is preparing to address the group, Tom Magnum answers the phone and learns of the murder of producer Stephen J. Cannell (footage drawn from his cameo on a Magnum PI. episode). What follows is a remarkable montage sequence-some 189 shots long-as the various characters try to solve the crime and chase the suspect through the hotel. California Crew intertwines multiple lines of narrative development: Magnum tries to leap between two buildings, only to end the video trussed in a hospital bed; Rick Simon tackles the suspect, yet Steele takes the credit; Laura Holt watches a television news report of the incident. Working entirely from "found footage," woven together from several different series, California Crew constructs a compelling and coherent crossover."

Jenkins goes on to explain that one of the reasons California Crew has been able to make such complex constructed reality vids is that they are able to pool not only vdiding source (each vidder taped their favorite TV shows and not all TV shows overlapped) as well as knowledge of that vidding source (they could call on each other to help find specific clips). It is an impressive example of vidding collaboration.

Additional Reading


  1. ^ Discussion begun by mmapmaker, Constructed Reality Vids Posted June 18, 2006. Accessed November 24, 2008.
  2. ^ As of April 2011, the YouTube version of Closer had been viewed more than 1.5 million times.
  3. ^ a b Buffy vs. Edward: Twilight Remixed overview post (Accessed 7 April 2011) Widely covered by mainstream media, and as of April 2011, the primary YouTube version had been viewed around 2.5 million times, in addition to views on and via downloads.
  4. ^ In 2001 Sandy Herrold listed some of the VCR constructed reality fanvids on the Vidder mailing list. Her comments are reposted here with permission: "Hmm, I'm trying to think of good mm constructed reality (CR) vids.... Score, which shows Bodie and Doyle competing at bowling with Starsky and Hutch... Two of my fav CRs are by MVD: an old one to Gus (from Cats) for Doyle, where he's looking back on his time on the stage, and a much newer Pros to Alone, where Bodie's trying to get up the nerve to tell Doyle his feelings, and when he does, Doyle punches him and leaves him (sob!). Oh yeah, and DeeJay's one where an older wiser Bodie is narrating."
  5. ^ SDWolfpup, New DS video: "That's All" (Vecchio/Kowalski) Posted July 25, 2007. Accessed November 23, 2008
  6. ^ comment on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously, September 25, 1994
  7. ^ Talitha78, New Smallville Vid: Faster Kill Pussycat (Chloe/Lana) Accessed 11 November 08.
  8. ^ Many, many different Youtube videos can be found on a search for Dean/Chloe. See Vids labeled Dean/Chloe on Youtube. Accessed 11 November 08.
  9. ^ Astolat, Appreciation. 4 March 2007. (Accessed 19 December 2010). Livejournal post discussing Sam/Dean kiss in Crash by michaela]. Note: The vid under discussion has since been taken down by its creator.
  10. ^ Wayback Machine link.