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Lyndsay Brown

Stories as Pieces and Fragments as Wholes: The Influence of Final Cut Pro and Nonlinear Digital Editing on Fan Videos

Lyndsay Brown
University of Florida English Department

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     Last modified: January 1, 2007

In 1975, a fan who goes by the name of Kandy Fong made what would later be known as the first vid: at a Star Trek convention, she displayed stills of the television show on a slide projector and accompanied them with music on a cassette player. The possibilities of what would later become a vibrant art form only emerged when technology caught up with fan aspirations in the 1980s and 1990s, with the advent of the VCR, and later exploded when professional digital nolinear editing programs (NLEs) became available and affordable for consumers. The effects of this technology on art production can be seen with an examination of the interface of one particular NLE, Final Cut Pro, and the relation between the program, the user, here the fan music video maker or 'vidder,' and a particular art form, the vid. Vidding can be understood -as- editing, in both practice and concept: extraneous details, 'bad' frames or scenes, and any source material that does not fit with the evolving narrative can be removed, leaving behind a pieced-together and distilled whole. In essence, vidding functions to select and recombine the most significant images of a larger story, transforming a coherent chronological narrative into new chunks of data whose meanings and referents depend as much on placement and new connections as on original context. Nonlinear editing allows for more and more complex approaches to selecting, altering, and finally restructuring source objects, as each scene or fragment suddenly becomes its own thing, separate from the original text. As just one example, Final Cut Pro's Timeline, which emphasizes simultaneous horizontal and vertical scaling, multiple synchronous tracks, and the ability to edit music and video as though they were equivalent processes, encourages a more spatial and interdependent kind of editing. Further, as vidding images relies on discontinuity at the chronological, serial, and medial levels, the pop song accompanying those images not only orders but becomes the narrative, the thtematic linking no longer visible in a collection of clips. The relationship to what the user can and does create is radically altered by vidding with an NLE, and the possibilities Final Cut Pro offers - as well as its constraints - can be directly traced onto programmatic, visual, and narrative shifts in the art form. Such shifts can be extended outward to consider what happens to the artist and her medial object when its integrity is no longer certain, its author no longer singular, and its origin no longer definitive.

Multiple Paper Presentation:
Other papers in this presentation:
Associations Through (Re)Mediation: The “Cut and Paste” Aesthetic and Transparency
The Slavering Fangs of a Lurking [ ]: Interactive Fiction, Ekphrasis and the Painterly Text