3. How the Videos are Created

How the videos are created: Software and Image Sources
Vidtionary videos are short, but there tends to be a quite a number of edits which combine different image and sound sources into one video. I like to mix moving video clips, still images, 3D models, illustrations, and vector-graphic clipart. I think seeing the object or action in a variety of different ways helps to understand the meaning of the word. Mixing many types of image in a single video definition means that it is necessary to use a variety of software. The main software I use is Final Cut Studio, which includes a suite of seven different programs. From the Final Cut Studio suite, the three main programs that I regularly use are Final Cut Pro, Motion, and Soundtrack Pro. Final Cut Pro is generally what I use for basic editing of video taken by a video camera. Motion is a great program for bringing in a variety of different media, including video, and then creating a motion graphics presentation. Flashy movie opening sequences or TV commercials might be done in Motion. Soundtrack Pro is a program that lets you easily match audio and video to create a soundtrack. None of the programs in the Final Cut Studio suite are used for editing still images, drawing illustrations, designing clipart, or building 3D models. Thus, various other programs are necessary. For editing photos, I use two programs, Acorn and Pixelmator, which overlap with Adobe Photoshop in their functions, but are much cheaper to buy. For editing vector graphics and clipart, I use two programs, Vectordesigner and Inkscape, which overlap with Adobe Illustrator, but are again cheaper (in fact, Inkscape is free, since it is open-source). For editing and creating 3D models, I use two programs, Cheetah3D and Kinemac. Both programs are substantially cheaper than the well-known Cinema 4D, an industry standard 3D graphics application. I also use the programs Comic Life and ArtText for generating stylized texts in a quick and easy manner. For audio production, along with Soundtrack Pro, I occasionally use Logic Studio, a more advanced audio-editing program. I also use a program called Ghostreader, sometimes recording its computer-voiced reading of words. There are a great number of other software products that I would like to use, but do not necessarily have the funds to purchase. The software is not cheap by any means. Over the years, I have purchased these programs little-by-little, and occasionally buying bundles of different software at bargain rates. The combined value of all this software is as much as $1500. I think the high cost of multimedia production might partly explain why visual literacy programs which focus on producing visuals are difficult to implement in schools. Besides Blender, a 3D modeling program with a steep learning curve, and Gimp, an open-source software comparable to Photoshop, and the aforementioned Inkscape, I cannot think of any open-source or free image editing programs that are widely used. In the years to come, I expect there will be more open-source alternatives.
Besides software, it is also important to consider the sources for images and sounds used in Vidtionary. A large number of video clips come from film I shot myself over the years. Examples of video definitions made with mostly my own footage include ‘seagull’ and ‘waterfall’. In terms of animated or 3D elements, there are a few examples of things I created myself, such as the mountain range in the ‘above’ video, the pomegranate at the beginning of the ‘pomegranate’ video, and the cube in the ‘cube’ video. I have also paid $150 for a one-year membership for Animation Factory (www.animationfactory.com), a stock animation site. As I understand the terms of use, my membership gives me the right to download their clips and use them within Vidtionary videos. Examples of elements from Animation Factory include the walking animated characters in the ‘walk’ video, the animated climbers in the ‘climb’ video, and various animated characters in the ‘ball’ video. I also have a membership with Clipart.com. This membership also costs about $150 per year. This gives me access to a large library of still photos, clipart, and illustrations. Sometimes, my own work is mixed with the work of Animation Factory and Clipart.com elements. An example of this are the ‘museum’ and ‘prison’ videos, where I have created a 3D museum and prison, but then inserted some moving 3D models from Animation Factory into the scene. In terms of sound used in the video definitions, some of the music software I own, including Soundtrack Pro, comes with libraries of sound effects, jingles, and short musical sections. In a somewhat haphazard way, I often mix together and combine a variety of these sounds. The music for ‘waterfall’ is a mixture of various sounds that I combined, whereas the music for the ‘star’ video was taken wholly from a single piece of royalty-free music. In the future, if I ever have the time to learn more about making music, I would love to compose music for the words more carefully, or even collaborate with musicians.
The other option for finding images and sounds to use in Vidtionary video definitions is to explore the world of the public domain and Creative Commons. Works that are public domain are free to be used in any manner by anybody, since they are not owned — in other words, public domain works are not copyrighted at all. As for the Creative Commons, it is a non-profit organization founded in 2001, which has created several types of copyright-licenses. Some of these copyright-licenses allow others to freely use or integrate the works into their own. In many cases, however, the copyright-license requires attribution or requires that the other work is also released under a Share-Alike license (information on the Attribute-Share-Alike license can be found here: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/). On the photo-sharing site Flickr, a great number of photos are available under CC licenses. There is also a site called Stock.xchg that has a huge collection of free stock photos available under varying restrictions. Additionally, Wikimedia Commons is creating an online library of images and sounds, many of which are available under CC licenses. The Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org) is another website that makes available a mixture of public domain and CC-licensed works. The Internet Archive also makes available approximately 2000 public domains films from the Prelinger Archives, “a collection of films relating to U.S. cultural history, the evolution of the American landscape, everyday life and social history” (Prelinger 2009, para 1). An example of a clip which I have found in the Prelinger Archives is the group of mountain climbers seen halfway through the ‘climb’ video. Another example is the scenes I used from a public domain film for the ‘banana’ video.
Creative Commons licenses are a wonderful concept, but they pose some problems for use in Vidtionary. In my hurry to create as many videos as I can as quickly as I can, sifting through the variety of CC-licenses can be time-consuming. It is easier to use images I find at the previously mentioned Animation Factory or Clipart.com, because I do not need give attribution. There may be a number of media elements within one video, and properly attributing each one can take longer than making the video itself. As for the Share-Alike CC-license, I am not necessarily able to follow through and share Vidtionary videos by the same license, depending on what sources the other content in the video has come from. Certainly, the videos that have content from Animation Factory or Clipart.com cannot be shared under a Share-Alike CC-license, because that content is licensed under different terms. Also, the music in the videos that I use might be royalty-free, but this does not mean that I can make it available to anyone else under an Attribution-Share-Alike license. One interesting thing I have learned is that both the audio and the video of the video definition can have different CC-licenses attached to them. I have thought that the wiki could be a good place to write down attributions for the different videos, since I do not want the main page to be cluttered; however, I gather that the attributions for CC-licensed clips should be within the video itself in the end credit. I am also interested in making many of my video clips available for others to use under a CC-license. The Internet Archive does freely host for posterity clips that are made available with Creative Commons licenses.
If there were no such thing as copyright, then it would be truly easy to find image sources for Vidtionary. I could extract clips from DVDs or record clips directly from my television. In fact, there may be a way in which I can do this. In United States copyright law, there is a doctrine called “fair use.” According to the Wikipedia entry, fair use “allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use for scholarship or review” (Fair Use, 2009). In determining whether the use of a copyrighted clip is fair use, four factors are considered: (1.) ‘the purpose and character of the work that is created’, (2.) ‘the nature of the copied work’, (3.) ‘the amount and substantiality of what is used’, and (4.) ‘the effect upon the original work’s value’. There is a great deal of room for legal maneuvering when it comes to the interpretation of fair use law. I wonder if I could sample a scene of Mickey Mouse jumping, and include this in the Vidtionary video for ‘jump’. As for Canada, the concept of fair-use is not part of Canadian law. If Vidtionary is ever formalized as an organization, it would probably be on Canadian soil. Vidtionary’s website, however, is hosted by Dreamhost, a U.S.-based company, while its videos are hosted by Vimeo, also a U.S.-based company. Until I can afford a lawyer, I would not know if Vidtionary is fully or only partly bound by Canadian copyright law. Indeed, the idea that fair use laws could grant me access to a much larger pool of images and video is exciting.