“Pressure” - a metavid by the California Crew
by Francesca Coppa — Muhlenberg College
January 28, 2008 – 04:01
Vidding is a form of grass-roots filmmaking in which footage, most frequently from television shows or movies, is edited to music. The resulting vids comment on, critique, or otherwise interpret the filmic source. An art form practiced primarily by women, vidding long predates today’s YouTube culture; Kandy Fong made vids with slides in the late 1970s, and until quite recently, vids were made using two VCRs, one for playing footage and one for recording it. This process was quite arduous: the song was timed with a stopwatch (as a VCR’s counter rarely corresponded either to actual time or to any particular position of the footage), clips were selected and measured in advance, and then the clips were played on one VCR and recorded on the other in exact order. Only once all the clips were recorded was the audio track finally laid down, so a vidder who wanted to edit to the beat or have internal motion synchronized with music had to be extremely meticulous: talk about pressure! Because of these difficulties, and because VCRs were expensive, VCR vidders tended to work in collectives, which served as sites of technical and aesthetic mentoring. This 1990 vid by "Sterling Eidolan" and "Odd Woman Out" of the larger "California Crew" humorously documents the particular pressures of making a VCR vid. But "Pressure" not only demonstrates the technical prowess and creativity of this female filmmaking community, it also gives us an affectionate insider look at a whole range of community practices and pleasures. Note how the vidders get gleefully distracted by the show while looking for clips; note their friend happily making her way through a towering pile of fan fiction zines. A vid that comments on itself is known as a metavid, and vidding’s tradition of self-reflexive commentary, as well as its forty-year canon and communal articulation of aesthetics, marks it as an advanced and sophisticated art form.