Tag Archives: video

a video i love and why: what we learned from responses.

About a week and a half ago, I posted a blog challenge called A Video I Love and Why — choosing the Vancouver 2010 With Glowing Hearts video — and asked others to also post web video they enjoyed and why they did. The results were awesome — and, I think, showed some trends on what we like in video on the web.

  • Andrew Careaga stepped up almost immediately with Battle of the Album Covers. It’s a very creative, if a tad gory, animated story of various classic album covers creating mayhem — and a treat for music lovers.
  • Georgy Cohen suggested The Fully Sick Rapper, part of Christiaan Van Vuuren’s series on his months in tuberculosis quarantine. To try to maintain his sanity, he created videos of himself rapping — and improved his editing skills in the process.
  • Denise Graveline offered a classic Will It Blend? entry from Blendtec’s series of putting various objects through its blender. I found the joyfully cheesy video sufficiently interesting to use it in my media copywriting class.
  • The inimitable Todd Sanders served up Bill Genereux’s YouTube in Classrooms, a plea for educators to use YouTube in their lessons instead of banning access and creativity.
  • Michael Klein volunteered this TEDx video by Derek Sivers using the classic Guy Starts Dance Party YouTube video to make a point about leadership and movements.
  • Lori Packer shared the Red River College’s The Holiday Card, a mix of The Office type satire and screwball comedy, featuring an endearingly self-effacing performance by its president, Jeff Zabudsky.
  • JD Ross checked in with The Machine Is Us/ing Us, a powerful look at how Web 2.0 is not a concept or technology, but the sum total of ourselves.
  • Joe Bonner supplied A Life on Facebook, a current sensation imagining how our lives unfold publicly that is also a classic boy-meets-girl tale.

A wide variety of videos emerged, but some commonalities prevailed.

Substance over style. Most videos people chose were made on fairly low or no budgets. They tended to be simple stories where the appeal was the storyline itself, not anything glitzy or glossy. The same theme came up over and over in responses that you don’t need a lot of money to make a great video. But one thing you do need is …

Talk about the passion. Passion emerged as a common driving factor. Zabudsky is passionate enough about his college leadership, he’s willing to look a bit silly to promote it. Van Vuuren developed a new passion in quarantine and decided to share it. I’m sure the guys at Blendtec want these videos to sell blenders (and they have), but I love their infectious glee over seeing what kinds of crazy things their blender can pulverize. If you do a video — or anything — with passion, it is going to shine through.

Web video is an art form unto itself. If you see a traditional promotional video on YouTube, doesn’t it look out of place? Web video demands good pacing and evocative storytelling. For the highly overrated That’s Why I Chose Yale video, what didn’t work for me (and many others) was that the setup was a couple minutes long, which is longer than most web videos, period. YouTube in Classrooms may be run 10 minutes, but it hooked me right away, and its pacing and content kept me riveted. And Sivers’ TEDx talk is a YouTube video within a video, showing the form itself as something to study.

If you still want to post a response, you’re welcome to do so. Many thanks to those who responded to build this meme. It was fun, sure, but I think we also gained more insight into what goes into great video!



Filed under Web

the virality myth: why ‘going viral’ isn’t a strategy.

If you work in the communication field, someone may have approached you with a line resembling: Let’s make a video that goes viral! A nice thought, but making a video for the sole purpose of it going viral is as flawed a strategy as buying lottery tickets as a retirement plan.

Any video you make should serve a purpose first and foremost: To showcase a strength, entice prospective customers (or students), raise awareness on an issue, etc. To deploy a more simple breakdown I learned in a public speaking class, presentations (and I’d include video) should try to do one or more of the following: 1) inform, 2) persuade or 3) entertain. That’s where you start.

Making a video for the sole purpose of hoping it will go viral is mere folly. Viral videos are quite often accidental hits, double rainbows or kids after dentists or a dying professor’s extra-resonant lecture. Sure, the Old Spice campaign went viral, but that’s because it represented a breakthrough in terms of superior creativity, near-real-time interaction and remarkable talent on both sides of the camera.

I’ve heard the let’s make something viral pitch a couple times, and my first question is why they think the concept would go viral. One more flash mob or lipdub is just following the herd, and if you can’t provide an amazing new wrinkle, will you stand out from the pack? A clever idea is nice, but thousands of clever videos hit the ether every day. Remember that the latest YouTube statistic is that 24 hours of video are uploaded every minute! Have you truly made something that can cut through that clutter?

It’s totally cool to make and use videos in your communication efforts, but to borrow my favorite maxim from #stamats09: Think goals first, then tools. Does the video serve a purpose to some key audience (in highered: prospective students, current students, faculty/staff, alumni)? Does it inform? Could it persuade? Will it entertain? These are all good reasons to make a video, or a series of videos. When I work with my student videographers, these are our general parameters. It helps that they are members of the target audience and know what others their age may find interesting.

It’s funny that our video with the fastest rise in immediate hits was anything but non-stop excitement — the footage of a wind-turbine installation mentioned in this post. We saw the video as a sidebar to a story, a visualization of a neat green product. But it had news value and picked up hits, links and retweets from a lot of environmentally minded folks. A recipe for success? Not exactly. But here’s something to remember: There is no absolute recipe to success, any set of ingredients that guarantee anything on the web going viral. Period.

So if you’re heading out the door, camera in hand, to make that viral video, also swing by the convenience store and pick up a lottery ticket. Who knows, maybe your chances of the latter jackpot could be even better?


Filed under Web

content + context = compelling: in defense of raw video.

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.


Filed under Web

links for #hewebvc presentation.

So I’m doing this presentation titled “Students: Your Social Media Secret Weapon” at the HigherEdWeb Regional Conference (#hewebvc, for the hashtag-inclined). And I kinda promised I’d put related links somewhere.

Here they are:

Class of 2014 Lightning Fast Laker Contest

Oswego’s Awesome Hockey Fans

Admitted Student Day Video Essay

Clubs and Organizations Flickr Slideshow

SUNY Oswego Blogs

What 15 Freshmen Taught Me About Social Media

Um, OK. Wasn’t that exciting?

1 Comment

Filed under Web

the joy (?) of using ustream/watershed for live video.

With the increasing popularity of live video streams for colleges, corporations and citizens alike, more and more people will look to offerings like UStream and/or its partner Watershed to share events with the world (wide Web). Since we recently survived our first project using Watershed, I thought I’d share some observations, pros and cons.

The project was our President’s Breakfast, which featured special guest speaker Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus of George Washington University and author of Big Man on Campus. He’s an awesome speaker. But getting from concept to execution wasn’t always awe-inspiring … sometimes more like aww-@#$%-inspiring.

The technology behind the live stream.

The technology behind the live stream.

Setup: If you’re just broadcasting something simple and low-tech from your laptop, UStream is pretty good. When it’s a major production involving a camera, audio and embedding into your own branded page, more difficult. We went with Watershed, UStream’s option if you don’t want ads and prefer to embed in your own site.  I worked with some outstanding video and audio technicians on the front end, involving a lot of trial and error and non-cooperation from Watershed’s interface. We also have a superb Web specialist who designed the page, embedded the code and — when it looked like the laborious code-intensive chat-moderation feature exceeded our personnel available — added a Twitter feed through Tweetizen where people could participate via a #sunyoswego tag.

Support: With UStream/Watershed, this is almost non-existent. The FAQ page, which is almost impossible to find, isn’t terribly helpful. Their live-chat feature relies on volunteers from the community to answer user questions. Judging from the log, these volunteers appear about as often as elves riding unicorns.

Cost: UStream is free, but limited in what it can deliver. If you go with Watershed, you can incur a monthly fee if you plan to use it often, or a pay-as-you-go service ($1 per viewer hour) if you’re still uncertain. You can’t go from monthly to pay-as-you-go without an additional large expense. Since this was a fairly modest experiment, we opened up a pay-as-you-go account.

Execution: Thanks to Herculean efforts by Rick our Web guru, we created a templated oswego.edu page which pulled in the feed and with a window syndicating comments that had a #sunyoswego hashtag. Audience was nice though not overwhelming — 140 views and 76 unique visitors from 20 states — often around 20 to 25 at any given time. But we didn’t do extensive promotion, in part because of uncertainly about how it would work. A lot of hits were driven by posts on Twitter and Facebook just before or during the event. We even had a few hashtag questions, including one I shared during our audience Q-and-A period.

Output: To its credit, Watershed rocks in terms of what it lets you do with recorded content: You can copy and paste an embed code for the recording, download a Flash file or both. The embed is good to put on your own Web site, while Flash file gives portability for YouTube and the like.

Analytics: UStream/Watershed offers pretty decent, albeit flawed, analytics. For instance, all of our hits from Oswego, NY were instead listed as being from Oswego, Kansas. Which is to say, I’m not sure how much I can trust any of its geographic data.

Doing a big production via UStream/Watershed, for the first time at least, can be … well, a big production. We burned a lot of hours and brain cells making it work, which it finally did thanks to expertise, teamwork and people dropping other things to seal the deal. The stream itself went wonderfully, a good frame rate, not too jumpy, consistent, etc. Plus we had great feedback from the audience — including at least one prominent alum asking to get more involved — and ultimately user experience is an important consideration.


Filed under Web