Structuring Your Vid: Knowing Your Audience

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Title: Structuring Your Vid: Knowing Your Audience
Creator: Sandy Herrold
Date(s): November 1995
Fandom: vidding
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In November 1995, Sandy Herrold posted an essay, Structuring Your Vid: Knowing Your Audience, about how vidder's structure their vids to the Virgule-L mailing list.

The essay touches briefly on the audience's reliance on canonical knowledge of the show and whether you are making a recruiter vid, con vid or a living room vid. Although the essay was written during the VCR era, many of the same principles still hold sway in today's vidding. The essay is reposted here with permission.

"Most vids can't be all things to all people. The very best can, maybe... but with most vids you have to choose. You have to decide, fairly early on in the production: who is my audience?

Some vids are 'promoter vids.' They can be easily enjoyed by people who aren't even familiar with the show, and in fact, often make people want to try the show. (Since Zep fandom is so small, Megan Kent worked very hard to make her first Zep songvid a promoter vid, for example). The context of a shot is almost immaterial, since a large part of your audience won't know where the clips came from anyway. The only think I try not to do is use a clip where the context is 180 degrees away from my use of the clip. Say, they're fighting, and one of them smiles--in the show, it is a vicious smile, because you can hear what he's saying. In a short clip, it can look like a very sweet smile, especially if they are standing right next to each other... Even if the clip works for the newbies, you've thrown established fans of the show a curve that they might not forgive.

Another catagory with huge overlap with promoter vids are 'con vids'. These are vids with clear, obvious lyrics and clips that can be understood on the first viewing with people chatting in the row right behind you.

Cons vids can be contrasted with Living room vids: the ones that can require close attention, take multiple views to 'get' all the different things the vidder was trying to say, that take really thinking about the context of each shot to realize why they used each one. The trick for the vidmaker is to give them enough on the first viewing so that they'll be willing to watch it enough times to figure it out.

Obviously the perfect video would be great on first viewing, and yet would say even more on repeated viewings, would be affecting even to someone who'd never seen the show, and even more affecting to someone who knew the context of each clip...Too Long a Soldier is the best example I can think of for this: I saw it before I'd seen that many Pros episodes, and loved it, and yet it still holds up now that I've seen every ep.

But as I said, usually you have to make choices: you have a great line of the song, and two bad clip possibilities for it. Do you take the clip that makes sense in context, but is very obscure: even dedicated fans of the series might not remember the dialogue at that point, and therefore understand why you used it, or do you take a piece that illustrated it visually, but actually is nearly opposite in context--you have to make these sorts of decisions all the time in a vid... and in the same vid, I may go back and forth, depending on just how well known the context of the 'good-vis' clip is (i.e., would an average fan of the show know that the context of the clip was wrong?).

Many vidders are much more strict on context than I am: Tashery, Gayle and Jill all are much more rigorous than I am, and there are probably others on this list as well... I'm not saying that my choices are the correct ones: just trying to illustrate what is on my mind when I make the choices I do."

Many of the same themes in Sandy's 1995 essay can be found echoed over 14 years later at the 2009 Vividcon panel: Understanding The Audience: "As more and more venues open up for vidders to reach viewers, the question of who's watching a given vid has grown beyond the notion of con vid and living room vid to layers of different audiences. This panel will examine two vids to demonstrate two different ways of conceptualizing audience. One is the intended audience, a group defined by demographics, knowledge of the show, and existing interpretations of the source. The other is the invoked audience, the set of roles the vid calls on its audience to play, from identification with/attitude toward a character or characters to critical examination of the source or even of their own relationship to the source."