Video Sharing Surprise
The explosion of video sharing on the Internet has taken everyone by surprise. In comScore’s May 2007 Video Metrix report, the research company revealed that nearly 75 percent of U.S. Internet users watched an average of 158 minutes of online video per user during the month. Those are mind-boggling statistics. This also has the TV industry scrambling. Why do so many people watch so much Internet video? Do they prefer sub-30-minute video clips? Do they like having millions of clips to choose from?
What puzzles me is the tolerance of Internet video viewers for low production quality. All videos, even the most primitive, have many components, but three are of particular importance: Shots, Composition and Story.
The shot is the building block of any video. Made up of 30 frames per second, the shot is the smallest practical unit of measure of a video. A series of shots makes a scene, but some Internet videos are so basic they have just one scene or shot. In a vlog, the shot is a person talking. In other videos, the shot features a cast of performers. However, even short documentaries tend to have shots of things other than people, like landscapes.
The shot is determined by aiming the camcorder in a particular direction; however, the composition of a shot is more precise than that. For a vlog, is it an ultra-closeup, like the opening shot of lips speaking the word Rosebud in Citizen Kane? Or is it a head-and-shoulders shot, like a newscaster? Or just a little wider, like seeing Jake Coco’s knee in the shot? Creative types will argue for hours over minute differences in zooms that show a few more millimeters of the subject. The level of shot composition precision has a drastic, perhaps subconscious effect upon the audience.
Most of the shared videos on the Internet violate some basic rule of composition, yet millions of people are watching them. How much more effective would they be if the shots were better composed?
Finally, all videos tell a story. Many videos online include edits that help tell a story, hopefully with the intent to make a point. There are entire books about storytelling with video, yet it seems storytelling skill on the Internet has lots of room for improvement.
In 1964, artist Andy Warhol produced the 8-hour film Empire, which has just one shot of the Empire State Building, framing the 40th floor and the top of the antenna. Many have claimed that Empiredoes not tell a story, but certainly an artist as accomplished as Andy Warhol wouldn’t have tried to make a point with his art. Many believe he wanted the audience to discover the story themselves.
“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”
– Andy Warhol, 1968.
Matthew York is Videomaker’s Publisher/Editor.