Understanding vidding


My double conference weekend had ups & downs. The Futures of Entertainment 2 conference was great, leading to an excellent connection with Jesse Alexander and the oddity of Tim Kring commenting on my blog! FoE2 gave me hope for future intersections with media creators that could be mutually rewarding, not just me leeching info for my own research. But alas Unboxing TV was not to be. After spending much of Saturday connecting with old & new friends among my television studies colleagues, I received word from my wife early Sunday morning that the stomach flu that had earlier struck our two youngest kids had hit her overnight. Parental duties trumped conferencing, so I drove back to Vermont and missed the event – I’ll have to catch up via bloggers’ recaps, such as Louisa’s, Derek’s, and hopefully more to follow.

But one moment in FoE2 has created a bit of a ripple effect that I wanted to explore (at length) here. Henry Jenkins, in his opening comments with Joshua Green, ran through a litany of examples of participatory media, but gave the most airtime to screen a fan video called “Vogue (Bite Me, Frank Miller)” by a vidder known as Luminosity. On the one hand, it was a typical remix video by combining footage from 300 with Madonna’s “Vogue,” playing up the images of masculinity in mocking homoerotic tones. While the content didn’t particularly resonate with me, as I haven’t seen the film & it’s not my favorite Madonna song, the formal sophistication and technique of the vid was impressive, showing tremendous creativity within the formal parameters of the remix.

I’ve generally had a hard time fully understanding the vidding subculture, which I’d like to do more as I teach fan creativity across my courses – the male-dominated remix parody videos that proliferate on YouTube make sense, as the humor is typically obvious and seeks to impress people broadly. But vidding, a female-dominated mode of fan creativity that dates back decades to conventions & VHS dubbing, is much more insular in its appeals and address. Most vids I’ve watched leave me unmoved, as I find that even if I know the source program (like Battlestar vids), the actual vids don’t add much to my appreciation of the show or the creative exploration of the music video form. Kristina offered a list of recommended vids to explore, but aside from the meta-fandom vid “Us,” which I really enjoy, most of these links left me underwhelmed.

Both Henry and Kristina Busse recently highlighted Luminosity on their blogs, as the artist got a nice write-up in New York Magazine as part of their feature on online video. So inspired by the “Vogue” screening, the New York article, and fanvid week at In Media Res, I figured I’d explore Luminosity’s work a bit. And I finally found the vid that communicated the genre’s emotional sense: Scooby Road, Luminosity’s 2005 concept album remixing Abbey Road with the full series run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Much of why this vid works so well for me, besides it just being a spectacularly impressive work of editing, is that I come to it with strong emotional connections to both works – I’ve been a lifelong Beatles fan, and Buffy stands as one of the great works of television art. Vidding demands context, both within the community of fans who consume it, and to communicate outside that fandom to draw links between the songs, the shows, and the viewer’s experiences.

Luminosity writes the following about the epic Side 2 portion of Scooby Road:

This is the music of much of my life. I have personal connections to all of it, and I’ve been moved by it since I was a kid. I know this album better than any other, and the challenge was to convey the depth of my feelings about the music through the video. And, considering that BTVS and the Jossverse are my best beloveds, it was a challenge to use the music to show how I felt about the show. And if I was really lucky, they’d combine into something entirely new. I knew that if I played my cards right, I could tell a relentless emotional narrative using Side Two– which is my way of saying that I’ll never hear Abbey Road again without thinking of Buffy, and most of all, I wanted *that* to happen to the viewers of Scooby Road.

She certainly accomplished these goals – the entire vid offers emotional resonances both within moment-to-moment stories she spins, and more so in connection to what a viewer brings to Scooby Road via their own media experiences and memories. I haven’t watched Buffy in years, so much of my experience was embracing the flood of memories that the album offered. And I know Abbey Road so well, that the comfort of recontextualizing the music with another beloved text led to personal resonances and moments of anticipation.

I also found that the concept album format particularly powerful in conveying the
aesthetics of vidding. When I watch a single song vid, I often feel that it works to just recapture favorite moments for a show rather than communicate something new or distinctive. But the multiple songs and final medley of Scooby Road highlights how each song offers a narrow slice of the show’s scope, focusing on single episodes, characters, relationships, or themes. Rather than just a celebration of the show (although it is that), each song offers a particular interpretation and perspective on Buffy. When assembled into the album, the contrasts and juxtapositions make the creativity involved in vidding more explicit and engaging for this newcomer.

My personal favorite tracks: “Something,” which makes me appreciate Druscilla more than I ever have; “Oh Darlin’,” the perfect take on Spike/Buffy with an impeccable conclusion; “I Want You,” which explores the sexualized violent connection between vampire and slayer. And then all of Side 2, which is just spectacular.

In an email exchange with Luminosity, she expressed joy with my reaction: “I can’t even articulate the thrill I feel when someone tells me that he saw one of my vids, and he got it. I want to be the vidder who reaches past the contextual fan to the outsider.” If you’re a fellow outsider looking to understand the culture of vidding (or just a Buffy or Beatles fan), definitely check out Scooby Road. I’ll be showing a song in class next week (probably “I Want You”), and hopefully some of my students will have similar appreciation for this talented artist.

11 Responses to “Understanding vidding”

  1. Jason, what a great endorsement for vidding and Lum’s work in particularly, though I’m still surprised that nothing else I linked to “did it” for you. I’d really hoped one or the other would have resonated, but then again, that seems to be one of the real hurdles vidding scholarship faces. [The other, I’m guessing here, might be a difference you’re alluding to with the male-dominated remix parodies–I’m now curious how many non-vid fans watched Francesca’s contribution to In Media Res Monday and couldn’t quite get her earnestness because to them it seemed quite humorous…]

    I wonder, however, how much of that is, in the end, a function of context and intertext, of the fannish environment in which many of us watch (i.e., not just seeing the connections to the show itself but also to our particular readings as well as particular skill sets and interpretive mechanisms). Maybe watching all of Scooby Road, the text may have ultimately complex enough to create its own intertexts?

    Or maybe you just had the emotional resonance with both Buffy and the Beatles that were lacking in other vids. Now the question is whether this experience might make it easier for you to appreciate other vids by the same artist/other vids in the same fandom/other vids, period.

  2. Kristina – I wouldn’t say that the list you offered me didn’t ‘work’ to introduce the aesthetics of viddng, as it did chart out a range of practices and point to some truly accomplished work. What those vids didn’t do was emotionally engage me as a fan. Like you write, the context is crucial – both the fannishness I brought to Scooby Road, and the length of the piece generating its own contextual links & resonances. I haven’t had time to explore much more beyond this, but I do think (for me, at least) that my response to vids will need a deep engagement with the source texts to move beyond an academic appreciation, and into a more sincere emotional response. I’ll have to continue my “research”…

  3. I’ll have to continue my “research”… and a true hardship it’ll be 🙂

    I do expect you to maybe gain some increased fluency with the genre that might allow for easier access and enjoyment?

    But I’ve long been interested in the way fans enjoy vids and the way for some it must be intimately linked with their fannish show whereas for others the vids themselves have become the primary text so to speak…

  4. Most fanvids are bullion cubes of emotion: if you’re familiar with the source, the few seconds of each clip stand in for minutes or even hours of thought & feeling. Do you find that the humorous, male-authored vids you’re familiar with have that same quality of concentration? I suspect it’s important that the vid project that speaks to you most is the *least* concentrated one, in that it doesn’t compress everything down to 3 minutes. “Scooby Road” gives you time to settle in, to negotiate how you feel & think about what Lum is showing you.

    I find your resistance to fanvids fascinating, in an anthropological way. I suspect that it’s not just you, that there are lots of gender assumptions operating here. There are quite a few female-authored humor vids, for instance, so it seems as though you’re saying that Fangirlland vidding covers a broader emotional range than Fanboyland vidding, which is concentrated on humor. What, in your opinion, is holding the Fanboys back?

    When you say of “Vogue/300”

    the content didn’t particularly resonate with me, as I haven’t seen the film & it’s not my favorite Madonna song

    — that’s not really a sufficient explanation, as both are true of me, too, and I think the vid *rocks*. It seems to me, though, that that vid’s fandom is *feminism*, not 300: it’s about neither the movie nor the song, but The Gaze and what it means to turn it around.

  5. 5 rbhardy3rd

    Okay, I finally watched “Scooby Road.” I have to say, I didn’t fall in love with it. Perhaps because the show itself used music so effectively (especially the great Michelle Branch music video in season 6) that pairing it with the Beatles didn’t really add anything to it for me. Or maybe I was just irritated because the video froze my computer.

  6. Hello, mr. Mittel. As a vidder, I just wanted to personally thank you for your words on vidding. You caught exactly what makes a video worth watching, and what we try to accomplish day by day, without any other retribution than what we elicite from our watchers’ inner senses.
    My best regards,

  1. 1 Understanding vidding
  2. 2 link roundup « ephemeral traces
  3. 3 Luminosity, Vidding, and Auteurism « interface aesthetics
  4. 4 The Chutry Experiment » It's the End of the Semester as We Know It...
  5. 5 21. tralli « Cinergie. Il Cinema e le altre Arti

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