Video Out: Virtual Video Festivals and Contests

If you’ve been itching to get your video out there and you don’t mind adhering to a contest’s restrictions, then check out the array of video contests online. Whatever your long-term goals for your video production are, you can get some good exposure, meet new friends and have a good time making use of the online video contests and festivals. Who knows, you might even win a prize. So what are you waiting for? Jump right in!

It’s sometimes tough to find a way to get your videos out there so someone other than your close friends and family can see them. Sure, you could post it on your personal Web site, but then how do people find it without a personal invitation? If you are looking for a good way to get exposure for yourself and your project, without a lot of hassle or expense, then online video festivals and contests could be just what you’ve been waiting for.

The Festival Vestibule

Film festivals have always been important first-look distribution points for new films. Some, such as Cannes and Sundance, have become mainstream and commercial while still offering a few select newcomers the opportunity to display their work. Other festivals, although they allow just about anyone to show their work, remain fairly obscure.

In the virtual world, however, obscurity can be overcome by the fact that people do not have to travel several hours by boat or have a valid passport to attend. They just need to fire up their computers and key in the right URL. And while there’s always someone in charge, democracy still runs rampant on the Internet, with true diversity making serious inroads.

Online film and video festivals run the gamut from the general to the specific, from those organized for the love of the art to those designed to make a profit. There are online video festivals dedicated to specific styles or genres and others that accept low-budget productions only. All these festival sites are paid for in a variety of ways. Whether it’s through onsite advertising or by in-kind sponsorship, almost all are free to those who submit their materials.

Technical requirements vary widely. Some sites will allow you to send a videotape (usually VHS), which they will capture, encode and post for you. Others require you to actually post your streaming file to a particular location on their site or on your own Web page.


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Finding Feedback

One of the most common features of online film and video festivals is the sense of community they strive to create. These sites frequently have methods for viewers to provide feedback to producers. That feedback can be extremely valuable to videographers honing their craft. It may take the form of message boards, simple e-mail links or even graffiti walls. Several of these sites take requests for new video, some maintain a top ten list, ranked either by number of viewings (or downloads) or by viewer ratings.

Festival sites are almost always geared more towards the art of making video (or film) than to the business or science thereof. Sure, most festivals talk about the advantage of gaining exposure for your project on their site and many discuss the hows of production, but for the most part, these are secondary and tertiary concerns. Their primary motivation is to provide something that touches, communicates or thrills.

Play by the Rules

Contest implies competition and the most common feature of a video contest is that there is a prize to win. A judge or a panel of judges may select the winner by a vote or pick the winner by lottery. The criteria for winning might be production quality, humor or originality.

Contest rules may require all entries to be submitted on tape, via the Web or both. There may be length, format or language requirements. The only thing consistent about the array of video contest sites is that you might win something.

There are basically two different types of online contests: promotional contests and general contests. The promotional contests are designed to generate interest in a product or service. All other video contests fall into the general category.

Product Promotional Contests

Most contests on the Web are designed to promote a particular product or service. These product-promotional video contests frequently have bigger prizes since they’re fueled by marketing strategies. In our survey of online video contests, we found five basic types including: product-placement video contests, product-use video contests, mock-commercial contests, themed video contests and the popular category special-interest videos. Product-placement video contests require all entries to make use of a particular product that the organizers want to promote. Generally, the sponsors grant creative freedom to the producer of the video but there are some sponsored contests that want to see their product in a positive light.

Product-use video contests require that your video show how to use or why to use their product. These type of video contests are more rare than product-placement contests and tend to be promoting complicated or difficult-to-use products. Undoubtedly, they use the video entries as feedback on just how difficult their product is to use.

One of the more popular types of product-promotional video contests is the “make-your-own-commercial” video contest. While you could make a commercial for either the product placement or product-use contests, these contests are distinct in that you must make a commercial, and frequently you must make a commercial that fits into a well-known theme or uses familiar characters. Sometimes, the winning video may be used as the basis of a future commercial for the product and the winner may even get to watch as they make the commercial.

One of the more imaginative types of product-promotional contests is the themed contest. These contests seek video entries that comply with a particular theme they’ve chosen. Often, the manufacturer chooses a theme that has an indirect connection to its product, such as summer for a soda, or mountains for an airline.

Finally, there are manufacturers who try to combine promoting their product along with a social message, in special-interest video contests. You might find a camera manufacturer with a strong commitment to wildlife preservation sponsoring a contest with the theme such as, “The Seas are Life”.

Obviously, there are product-promotional contests that do not fit neatly into one of our categories, but they are quite rare. More often, you will find contests which are combinations of two or more of the categories we described here.

Other Contests

While manufacturers or retailers sponsor the bulk of online video contests to generate sales, there are other types of contests, as well. These non-commercial contests generally have smaller prizes, and some may require an entry fee. The assortment of non-commercial contests includes contests held by individuals, by community organizations and by non-profit corporations.

These non-commercial contests tend to be more about creative expression or communicating a theme. They tend to attract people of a more creative bent, since they frequently have only token prizes. Some of these contests can be excellent ways of getting exposure, although they are not generally as visible as the commercial contests are.

So what are you waiting for? If you make video, there’s an online contest out there for you. You’ll get access to a worldwide audience, get feedback on your work, make a friend or two and who knows, maybe you’ll even win a prize!

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.