Viewfinder: The Seven Keys to Success in Video

With the advent of the World Wide Web and do-it-yourself production facilities, there has been a revolution in text and media communication. More people than ever before can publish their own books at Kinkos or create Web sites for their work to be accessed by the entire Internet community. We can make an interesting observation about this new production/distribution phenomenon: Millions of people have suddenly become writers but almost no one reads their work!

Lets define my phrase "almost no one." Im not sure if the book which preceded the movie Jaws still holds the record for the best selling novel of all time, but it can still teach us something. Billions of people read the story of a shark, written by Peter Benchly. No doubt his writing skills were first class, but more importantly the marketing and advertising budget for this book was the greatest in history at that time.

Can the writer of a short story on his or her own Web site be compared to Peter Benchly, the author of Jaws? I dont think so. No matter what skills individual writers have, they most likely wont have access to a promotional budget like that.

But more importantly, does it matter? Is the worth of our work, be it a book or a video, really dependent upon the number of people that witness the stories we tell? All you have to do is look at MTV to see absolute garbage that millions of people see. Audience size does not make a bad video good.

As creators of media, we must judge our work upon the effect it has on our target audience. If your target audience is the friends and family of a newlywed couple, you must judge that work based upon your goal to "move the hearts" of that small audience.

If your goal is to prevent mortal injury to operators of a saw mill, then you judge the success of your training video by the lack of serious injury at the mill.

If the goal of a video made by a father is to communicate to his daughter that he loves her and is sorry about divorcing her mother, then we judge the success of that video upon the daughters ability to forgive her father. Even if she is the only one who ever sees that video. We cannot confuse audience size with success.

We must, however, further define the elements of a successful video production. Usually, the production values are high. However, some rare 8mm film footage of a young girl with her mother can be powerful, despite the poorest production values in the world. If the footage was out of focus, if the camera work was shaky and even if the composition of the shot was horrendous, but it showed a smile on a little girls face while her mother was holding her, it could be a priceless shot. One that could affect the audience like no other.

Most of the time, good production values make for a more effective and successful video. The craft that goes into lighting, composing shots and the precise timing of hundreds of edit decisions is essential for high production values.

The worlds finest camcorder and most expensive editing system cannot give anyone something called talent. One can only obtain talent from God. All the raw talent in the universe cannot make one a master at his or her craft. Experience doesnt come on a floppy disk, a CD-ROM or even a high capacity DVD. You cant get it from a book, a Web site, a magazine or by attending a seminar. These things can give you knowledge, but not experience. To gain experience, youve got to do something again and again. Talent is a beginning. But, it must be combined with knowledge and experience to reach its full potential. With experience, knowledge becomes wisdom and the talented become masters of their crafts.

So what exactly are the seven keys to success in video? Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice and practice. The aspect of talent that we have the most control over is experience.

Thats why you read this magazine. Not just to learn about the newest gear, because you know, whatever you buy, will be obsolete next year. You read this magazine, along with many other things, in an effort to seek knowledge so you know how to practice, in an effort to perfect your ability to move an audience.

So we applaud you in your quest to seek knowledge and gain experience, and remind you to always make sure to judge your success by your videos effectiveness, not the size of its audience.

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