Some of the best Web videos share information, instruction, and new perspectives with viewers. Commentary, news, and how-to video are drawing a lot of interest from viewers while commercial news operations such as CNN are launching programs that feature Web-only content online.
Rather than attempt to compete head-to-head with commercial news operations (that can defray costs by utilizing footage not used on TV), captivate your viewers by entertaining them while you inform. Include images to support your storytelling to keep viewers on board. If you’re going to sit in front of a camera, make sure you look good, you know what you’re talking about, and you don’t appear to be lecturing your viewers—no matter how interesting your subject is—chances are you’ll lose them as fast as they can click away to a show that adds personality to the mix.
Find ways to get your audience thinking about the information you want to share. Provocative presentations work on the Web where viewers tire quickly of the ordinary and favor the outrageous. Few people are good enough orators to hold an audience for more than a few minutes on the Web. Graphics and visuals help to tell a story but try to use them in new ways. Giving a PowerPoint lecture on camera or sticking a news-style graphic box over your shoulder as you lecture your audience will get old quick.
Moving pictures tell your story and help viewers draw their own conclusions about what you’re saying. “Show, don’t tell” is one of the key strategies journalists use to dispatch the news. Al Gore used this technique effectively in his acclaimed documentary An Inconvenient Truth. All those photos of melting glaciers made pretty convincing evidence for his predictions about global warming.
One of the best ways to understand how to share information visually and to bring personality, humor, and entertainment to your work is to study Web video producers who do just that. In this chapter, you’ll hear from producers who create all kinds of information video for the Web, from a plea to become a more conscious consumer to a unique perspective on the war in Iraq. You’ll also learn how to use continuity to craft effective how-to sequences and get tips about how to develop an online image for your personality-driven Web show.
Bringing Point of View to Your Web Video
Some of the most successful Web video producers build shows around uniquely personal worldviews. They’re not afraid to let their personalities show and make an art of expressing their opinions. Even news video on the Web often includes a not-so-subtle point of view. Although traditional journalism relies on the legitimacy of the publication to alert readers to what’s true, Web video producers take a different approach.
Viewers rely on the variety of information sources to sort out what’s real, not on an individual source. They’ve become their own gatekeepers and have developed a sophisticated appreciation for producers who tell the truth as they see it.
I like to think of Ze Frank (www.zefrank.com) as the Rocky Marciano of video blogging. Producer Josea Jan Frank, better known as Ze Frank (FIGURE 4.1), started his popular video blog in 2006 and then quit one year later at the top of his game.
Figure 4.1 Ze Frank won a Vloggy award for his popular video blog.
Frank’s rapid-fire philosophical commentary and wide-eyed, straight-to-the-camera presentation are the stuff of Web video legend. He also made sure there were enough visuals of stuff other than him talking to keep the audience interested.
Roxanne Darling, host of the popular Web program Beach Walks with Rox, says she created her show to give viewers an island of peace during their hectic days. Each show shares Darling’s unique perspective on relationships. Winner of three Vloggies (video blog awards), Darling seems to deliver the kind of positive message her viewers are looking for consistently. You can read more about her experience in the interview in this chapter.
Use Visuals to Share Your Point of View
If all your viewers have to look at is you, they’ll get bored very quickly—even if you’re really good looking. So if you’re going to get in front of a camera, look your best and give your audience something to see.
Give viewers evidence to substantiate what you’re saying. Some things are hard to show, such as apathy and greed. But things that happen as a result of them may make for compelling video. Create visual metaphors to help viewers understand your ideas. Sometimes the juxtaposition of an image and an idea will be surprising or funny. That helps keep audiences awake. Plan to include a few images to support what you’re saying in each production.
The Story of Stuff (www.storyofstuff.com), produced by the Tides Foundation, uses simple animation to illustrate Annie Leonard’s treatise on consumer economics. Leonard (FIGURE 4.3), who appears on camera to narrate the video, is reduced to a small figure at the bottom of the screen.
Figure 4.3 Annie Leonard.
While she talks, we focus on the animation. Because the script is clever and the animation is quirky enough to hold our attention, the message comes through painlessly while we’re being entertained (FIGURE 4.4).
Figure 4.4 Annie Leonard, who wrote the script and appears in The Story of Stuff, keeps viewers’ interest.