Today’s great post from Mindy McAdams reminded me of some thoughts I’ve had recently about online video. News organizations are trying too hard! There’s an easier way to tell video stories on the web.
The web is not TV
Television news has gotten us used to a specific format of video. But a TV piece doesn’t make much sense on the web, especially when you’re accompanying a written story. I don’t need an intro, talking heads, or scrolling text updates online. I’m already reading the story! All I want is the payoff.
Show me the gaffe. The explosion. The kid saying something adorable. I don’t want to see a reporter, or your logo, an ad or anything else. Just the goods. Use video when words fail to capture the moment.
This bit from CNN.com does it right. News videos are usually a separate piece from the written article, this one is the exception to the rule. (Compare to this other piece from CNN.com.) The videos cut to the chase and go straight to her dialogue — they are an interesting accompaniment to the story.
But wouldn’t they be more effective embedded directly into the story, as illustrations? Couldn’t we treat videos like photos in a magazine? Instead of using video as an alternative to reading, use it to punctuate ideas.
Enter the long picture
When Flickr introduced video support earlier this year, their photo-loving users flipped. To calm them down, Flickr suggested that the community thought of them as “long photos.” By limiting the time of a video to 90 seconds, they encouraged brevity and simplicity of production.
Blurry, short, and fan-freakin-tastic
12seconds and Seesmic are already thinking this way, but about conversations. They show us something very important: Video doesn’t need to be perfect to be compelling. Watching John Cleese and a little girl have a conversation is totally great even if the video is brief and grainy.
You don’t need videographers
I’ve found the sweet spot length of a video is under a minute for sure, and I’ve been quite happy with videos eight to twelve seconds in length. With a video that short, folks don’t really care if the camera shakes or if it’s a little fuzzy. And you don’t need to edit it! Just shoot a bit of video, upload and embed.
And the gear couldn’t be simpler. My $300 Panasonic TZ5 digital camera takes great pictures and shoots *HD video*. Plus it’s got image stabilization and a mother of a zoom lens. Or you can keep it super simple and pick up a Flip – they’re cheap and do a great job. (I shot the video embedded above on my TZ5. For more examples, check out my Long pictures set on Flickr.)
This is simple stuff. You don’t need expensive equipment or a video production team. News organizations are already encouraging their reporters to take photos — why not ask them to shoot a bit of video too? It doesn’t need to be perfect to tell a great story on the web.