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How To

Advice on creating accounts, adding commentaries, acquiring, compressing and uploading media

Add a Critical Commentary

The requirement for media to be accompanied by a critical commentary is what makes Critical Commons unique. Commentaries may be added to any piece of media by any registered user at any time, but we especially recommend including a commentary as part of the upload process, so that your media will be immediately published and publicly available.

It is up to each individual user to determine what sort of commentary is most valuable but, generally speaking, the more thoughtful and substantive the commentary, the better. This both strengthens the fair use claim for the uploaded media and transforms the original work by adding real value to it. For further advice on critical transformation, we highly recommend consulting the series of Best Practices in Fair Use guidelines published by the Center for Media and Social Impact at American University:

Create an Advanced User Account

Advanced User accounts are for people who need to be able to upload and download media or create Lecture pages.

1. To register an Advanced User account, go to:

2. Complete *all* fields and be sure to select "Advanced User."
• If you are not "institutionally affiliated," don't worry -- you can still apply for Advanced User status. Just enter your regular e-mail address in the form and describe what you do that requires Advanced status in the "Biography" field.

3. Read the Terms of Service and check the box accepting them.
• When all fields are complete, click "Register." You will receive a welcome message and an invitation to login.

• Requests for Advanced status are considered manually by the site administrator, so you will not be able to upload media until you have been approved. If you leave any fields blank, you will be asked to fill them in before your request may be processed. Advanced User requests are usually considered very quickly (often within 10 minutes of when it is received; it rarely takes longer than 24 hours).

• If you already have a Basic User account and want to be promoted to Advanced, you can request this manually by using the contact form (please note that it does not work to simply change your status on the account page!). In the message body, please include your username and an explanation of why you would like to be promoted to Advanced status:

Upload a clip

When you upload a clip, it does not become public until it has a commentary attached to it. Linking a text commentary to a clip as a condition of visibility is central to the fair use-friendly context created by Critical Commons.

Uploading a clip and adding a commentary is a two-step process. Begin by logging in to your Advanced User account and select "Upload."

• Select a file by clicking in the upload bar and browsing for videos on your computer or simply drag and drop a file onto the upload bar. Critical Commons will accept most common media formats, but we especially like MP4s that are encoded as H264. There is a 500MB limit for each file upload. Please don't use the "Trim-to-Edit" feature in Quicktime Pro to select your clip - this will create synch problems. For recommendations, please see "Media Acquisition" below.

• Give your clip a title, something like: "Rhythmic editing in His Girl Friday"

• Enter a brief (e.g., one sentence) description of your clip that describes why you are sharing it: "Hawks establishes a specific pacing in this scene with rhythmic and accelerated editing techniques"

• We highly recommend selecting an evocative thumbnail image to represent the clip - if you do not select a thumbnail, the system will pick one for you.

• Next, add as much metadata about the clip as you can. Required fields include "Creator" (usually the director of the original work), "Year Produced" and "Name of Original Media." Please also add a few keyword tags, separated by commas, to help you and others find your media.

• "Media Distributor," helps people know where they can purchase or rent the complete, original work - this is considered a "best practice" when exercising fair use.

• Finally, click "Save changes" to make the commentary box appear. In order to make your clip visible, it is necessary to add a text commentary. This commentary may be anything you want it to be - the goal is to add value to the original work, often by recontextualizing it or transforming its meaning by adding a commentary.

• After you save your commentary, you may watch your clip by clicking the "Play" button. You should check to make sure no synch problems have appeared during the transcode. If you see a problem, feel free to get in touch with the site administrator via the Contact form.

• You can now embed your clip on another web page or on social media by using the "Share" button and copy-pasting the code it generates.

• You can always go back later and edit the description or other metadata for your clips (thumbnail images, additional tags, etc.) by selecting "Edit" in the green control bar for each clip.

Media Acquisition

Here is a link to a how-to guide for ripping DVDs (Note that this is explicitly legal for media educators in the U.S. as per DMCA exemptions approved by the Library of Congress):

We recommend using MPEG Streamclip for creating the final export of a clip that was ripped using Handbrake as described in this article - it gives great flexibility over compression, format, etc and is free for both Mac and PC:

The preferred format for uploading clips to Critical Commons is MP4 created with H264 compression set to around 70-80% quality (roughly a 1500 Kbps data rate). There is a cap of 500MB per clip uploaded to Critical Commons, but most clips don't come near this limit. A 2-3 minute clip should not need to be bigger than around 50MB.

Media Compression

For a very useful overview of compression strategies, please consult this guide written by Critical Commons Project Manager Anna Helme and published by our friends at EngageMedia:

Create a Basic User Account

Basic User accounts allow you to add commentaries to existing media. It does not allow upload and download privileges. This is the account tier that we recommend for students. Basic user accounts are processed instantly.

1. To register a Basic User account, go to:

2. Complete all fields and select "Basic User."

3. Click "Register." Done!