Video conventions are an interesting lot. We find it curious that most of them are quite good and some are actually outstanding. The only problem with most video conventions is that they catch on and get overused to the extent that videographers and viewers become jaded. What was once the rage is no longer acceptable. That’s a shame, really, because in spite of their overuse a lot of video conventions are worth a second look … a third … maybe even a fourth.
An overused video convention might be considered a video cliché. Your dictionary may say a cliché is either an overused expression; something said or seen a lot that has become so common it no longer has relevance. Or it’s a thought (or visual) with a meaning different from reality; like when a person gets sweaty palms, meaning someone is nervous but their palms probably aren’t sweaty at all. So, then, when does a video convention become a video cliché?
Take a wedding video made during the past several years. Have you seen the bride twirling in her regular clothes, then magically transforming into her wedding dress as she continues to twirl? How about black and white segments with only the bouquet in color? There are some transitions that became so identified by their use to the point that videographers could point them out, “Say, that’s a Toaster transition.” Some of those transitions and effects were great. Many became standing faves but their overuse ceased to generate wow after a time.
Jeff Klima, writing for New Media Rockstars, points out seven all-time video cliché conventions and shares samples. His list is called The 7 Most Overused Creator Video Clichés on YouTube and you might be familiar with some of them, if not all. The list is by no means definitive.
In action videos some skateboard, snowboard and motocross moves and associated shots are cliché conventions but that doesn’t keep the extreme sports enthusiasts from enjoying them. In creative video production the use of shallow depth of field shots is sometimes overused. Is this going to become a cliché to the point that creative types avoid using this technique at all because everybody else is?
Let’s go back several years, before the onslaught of widescreen televisions. Remember the cinematic look achieved by placing black bars above and below the standard definition, 4:3 aspect ratio? This gave standard definition footage a widescreen look without actually using 16:9 methods. This quickly became a too common convention.
Using a telephone conversation in a scene, at one time, became so overused that it might be frowned upon in today’s productions. More recently, how about all the cat videos posted on the Internet. Are all cat videos a cliché or just all the feline videos featuring these creatures jumping into the air an overused cliché?
What are some other overused conventions you remember? Any new ones? Do you hate them or avoid using them in your production simply because they show up too often in everybody else’s videos? This brings up the question: Do you avoid using something perceived as a video convention at all costs or use one where it fits?
There are elements of video production that, though consistently used, do not a cliché make. The establishing shot in your production. Overused convention? Probably not. Does shooting a wide shot of the opening scene show a lack of creativity or new cutting-edge (cliché intended) thinking to use as an establishing shot or to set the mood? Some might consider lack of an establishing shot to be the sign of a freshman who has not yet realized its importance.
There’s no doubt, however, that both old video conventions and clichés will thrive and new ones will occur – this effect, that video treatment or a specific application — Star Wars style credits disappearing into an infinity star field — become overused. It is our job as video producers to come up with the next great video convention and guard it from becoming cliché as often as we can. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery (cliché intended) so if your next new move, treatment or unique POV (point of view) becomes overused, it might be because a lot of people like it. Use your creativity now before it winds up becoming a video convention cliché!
Matthew York is Videomaker's Publisher/Editor.