External Source

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Synonyms: outside source
See also: vidding, vids
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External source is a term used in vidding for footage taken from somewhere other than the fandoms the vid is primarily about to supplement that taken from the primary fandom's (or fandoms') canon. This external source footage falls into one of three categories:

  • Other media footage from TV or movies (sometimes called "entertainment" footage)
  • Documentary footage (this can include anything from a nature documentary to news footage of real world events)
  • Original source footage (often this includes filming a scene that the original show didn't provide or recording footage of the vidder and/or fellow fans.)

Footage can include both film and photos/stills.

Early Examples

DeeJay's "Too Long A Soldier" vid for Bodie in The Professionals was one of the first vids to use external source, taking video from the actor's movie roles and other documentary footage to craft a background of Bodie's mercenary days.[1] Significant discussion occurred over whether or not such external footage "broke the rules of vidding" . (The assumption being that vidding was like Haiku, and that what made a vid great was how it took the limited source footage and crafted a story from it. Using external footage was thus cheating in vid making, making the Haiku have a completely different pattern than it should. Variations on this discussion still occur today, with the focus on vidder-crafted source as a form of cheating the structure.)

Some vids praised and/or critiqued for using external source

  • Icebound Stream by sisabet. A Due South vid that weaves in documentary footage about the Artic and its wildlife (polar bears) into the main character's narrative arc.The footage is also a callback to his life as a Mountie in Canada.


Some uses of external source have been criticized as diminishing the importance of real world events and the real life suffering of people and animals. This most often happens when documentary footage of wars, natural disaster or protest footage is used. Often the criticism centers on whether the vidder adequately warned their audience of violent scenes, but for some viewers the mixing of real life events with "entertainment" footage is offensive simply on its own.[3]

Examples of vids criticized for using real world footage.

This criticism is relatively new in vidding, as it has only been in the past few years that digital vidding technology has made it easier to include documentary source. For example, the criticism of Testify did not take place until nearly 10 years after the vid was made. And at the time Too Long A Soldier was edited, the criticism focused not on the choice of footage (violent scenes of war and protest) but on how the use of non-canonical footage was distracting to the viewer.

The use of non-documentary footage (mixing of entertainment with entertainment footage) is less controversial and more typically criticized for the aesthetic reasons listed above.


  • On External Source by Obsessive24 is a detailed essay on the different uses of external source, with examples and advice on integrating it into a vid. "I don't ever recall an occasion where I knew I could make the vid I wanted using available canon footage, but decided to use external source anyway. For me, it's always been about necessity, where I simply can't say what I need to say in the vid by using canon footage alone."[5]


  1. "Too Long A Soldier" used documentary footage from the Vietnam War and political protests in both England and South Africa from the 1980s.
  2. I think that's where it was from?
  3. "I found the use of real-world news footage, and the pain of people of color.....horribly offensive and trivializing, and thoroughly disengaged from any understanding of the causes and consequences of violence." ~ thuviaptarth's Problematic Vids, dated August 20, 2009; WebCite.
  4. One of the criticisms of this vid is that the vidder did not adequately warn the viewer that Holocaust footage would be used in the vid. The main premise behind the TV show Carnivale is that certain mystical events led to WWII and the Holocaust, so from the vidder's POV, the inclusion of the footage may have seemed a natural extension. However, during the 2007 Bascon vid show, while the organizers did warn the audience that the vid contained "footage of real life violence against real live people", a few in the audience argued that this was not sufficient information to prepare them for the severity of the images. However, not all complaints were directed at the inclusion of the Holocaust footage - rather at the exclusion of footage that they had expected. As one convention attendee explained, when they heard "real life violence against real life people" they were hoping for some BDSM footage to feed their kink. Warnings complains have not been raised by the online viewers of the vid, lending weight to the argument that vids shown live and in person may have a greater impact on an audience.
  5. WenCite for Obsessive24's Meta series: On External Source, dated November 10, 2010.