Better online video for news: Short movies = long pictures

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 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 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.

& by striatic

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.

Re: Ella /: John Cleese on Seesmic Tuesday 7th at NOON Pacific Time
Re: Ella /: John Cleese on Seesmic Tuesday 7th at NOON Pacific TimeThanks John!

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.

CNN’s new embedded videos (Plus: Why headline widgets suck it)

ReadWriteWeb sez:

Starting today, CNN will allow all users to embed videos from CNN on their blogs or social network profiles. With this, CNN is following a growing trend among news organizations like MSNBC, FoxNews, and CBS. … CNN is clearly hoping to see some of its clips go viral, and with the political season in the U.S. heating up in the run-up to the November election, they might just have chosen the right time to enable this feature.

It doesn’t work perfectly yet: I couldn’t get the embed button to work properly in my browser (Firefox on Ubuntu Linux, it works on my Windows virtual machine), and for some reason the embed button is disabled on the front page item on the video site (maybe a conscious choice, but if you’re clever enough to find the video at the bottom of the page and click it, the button comes to life.). UPDATE: the button doesn’t work until you click play. Doh.

Why I hate widgets

Embedded video players look a little like their evil twin, headline widgets, which (sorry, 10K) always always always suck.

Widgets are arrogant. They give me the privilege to advertise for you.

An embed lets me add value to your content.

It gives me power to create something new.


Fair use: best practices for online video

John McCain greenscreen

The Center for Social Media at American University has published a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video:

This is a guide to current acceptable practices, drawing on the actual activities of creators, as discussed among other places in the study Recut, Reframe, Recycle: Quoting Copyrighted Material in User-Generated Video and backed by the judgment of a national panel of experts. It also draws, by way of analogy, upon the professional judgment and experience of documentary filmmakers, whose own code of best practices has been recognized throughout the film and television businesses.

JD Lasica’s sez:

I wish we had a roadmap like this when we launched, the first video hosting site, back in March 2005…. All video producers and content creators should absorb this common-sense set of principles.


YouTube gets citizen journalism, will they give it back?

Woot! YouTube’s got a new channel for citizen journalism.

From ReadWriteWeb:

This channel will highlight the best of the citizen journalism that’s taking place on YouTube, but its ultimate goal is to become a go-to news destination on the web.

Though as Dan Gillmor points out YouTube isn’t giving much back to the community:

I hope they’re going to find a way to reward the people who are doing the work. As I’ve said again and again, I’m not a fan of business models that say “You do all the work and we’ll take all the money, thank you very much.”

I also hope YouTube will give people a way to post using Creative Commons licenses, which are all about sharing information, as opposed to the currently restrictive terms of service. This is the main reason I don’t automatically recommend the service — though I do believe it offers great value in a general sense– and why I do recommend Blip.TV, which makes Creative Commons one of the defaults.

PBS gives away raw video footage for anyone to remix

You can download the raw footage for NOVA’s new documentary, released under a Creative Commons license that allows anyone to share or remix the footage, as long as it’s attributed and not for commercial purposes.

This experiment marks the first time we have ever made raw video available to the public, and we’re eager to see what you make from it. It’s because of viewers like you, as the saying goes, that we’re able to produce NOVA.
NOVA Tesla Roadster video screenshot

What if all public broadcasting material was released this way? Think of the great stuff people could create with Charlie Rose or Tavis Smiley footage, or the rest of the NOVA catalog. Or all those great NPR interviews?

It would cost money to maintain an archive, but not too much since online storage is getting very cheap, very quickly. This is doable, even on PBS’s budget.

If you’re not familiar with Creative Commons or question why you’d want to share your work, check out this fun primer featuring the White Stripes.