At the risk of stirring up a hornet’s nest, I’d like to advance the theory that not all web video need be extravagantly produced, meticulously edited and mini-Hollywood productions. Raw video, with the right content in the correct context, can be every bit as compelling.
Last week, for instance, a colleague used a Flip to take raw video of a new experimental wind turbine’s mounting on the roof of SUNY Oswego’s Lee Hall. In the abstract, 47 seconds of video, occasionally shaky, showing a couple of people affixing a turbine and starting its first revolutions doesn’t seem the most marketable footage. But when reviewing it, I saw a neat little narrative (content) on the ever-hot topic of alternative energy (context) and (not having to edit) quickly posted it to our YouTube account, then linked it from a homepage story which I fed through Twitter and Facebook.
And a funny thing happened: People started watching, retweeting, liking and commenting. Then our regional paper, The Syracuse Post-Standard, decided to add the raw video to its event coverage (several P-Sers follow us on Twitter) and the number of plays continued to climb. (Which also caused more hits on our related college videos.) All for a 47-second video that, to the Spielberg wannabes in the world, would appear unremarkable.
But this isn’t our first success with raw video. This spring when our men’s hockey team beat our fierce rivals Plattsburgh to win our first conference tournament in many years, and clinch an NCAA bid, among the celebration, I saw something cool. The team took the trophy around the ice in front of the student section and the remaining fans cheered loudly, pounded the glass and shared the joy. I caught some quick raw video, posted it on our Facebook page, and it quickly scored hundreds of hits and a couple dozen Likes. It’s shaky and hardly slick. But it had content (deliriously happy fans) plus context (a long-awaited conference tourney championship) and thus proved compelling.
Longform video is a tough match for the web and busy people. Some highered folks fell all over themselves praising the 16+ minute Yale admissions video, but I was beyond bored within 30 seconds and shut it off. Yet I repeatedly watched UQAM’s one-take lipdub video — which scored 10 times the YouTube hits of the Ivy League piece and, unlike the Yale yawner, the lipdub generated actual student buzz. Sure, it involved a lot of planning, but the UQAM students knew the right pace, made it fun and were more concerned with content than something slick. (Or consider the authentic awesomeness of the Guy Starts Dance Party raw video that preceded the flash mob craze.)
So don’t underestimate the power of raw video, and the opportunities available if you carry a camera or smartphone with at least some video capability (or ask students to do the same). The ability to capture short compelling raw video that needs no edits and almost instantly disseminating it via the many possible web/social media channels can offer nearly limitless potential.