What I Learned: Watching Videos

After watching several hundred art how-to videos on You Tube, I realize that not everyone is a videographer. We learn by doing. Fine. But if you want to keep your audience, you need to concentrate on what your audience wants to see, learn, or do.

An old movie camera.

An old movie camera.

We are a culture of story tellers. We love telling them, and most people love listening to them. How-to videos are not, however, a good medium for story telling.  You don’t have to be a professional to do a good video. Here are a few steps to make your video successful:

Two basic questions to ask before starting your video

1. “Who is my audience?” Experienced? Beginners? Age? (Related to both vocabulary and software explanation choices). Geographic region? (We still call the same item by different names). If your answer is “my video is for everybody, everywhere” stop and re-think your range. No video can work for everybody everywhere because people have different expectations, experience, patience, words, and backgrounds. You’ll lose too much of the “everyone” audience.

director_chair2. “What is my objective?” Showing a skill? Doing a how-to? Explaining? Selling your classes? Getting someone to agree with you? Each one of those is different outcome and needs a different kind of video. If you don’t know exactly what your objective is, ask yourself, “What is the one thing I want people to do immediately after they watch my video?” Everything in the video should support that one thing. Again, too many objectives will confuse your audience.

Once you are clear on who you are talking to and what you want them to learn, do, agree with or buy, some other tips to make the video work:

1. Show the finished project right at the beginning. Your audience wants to know what the finished project is and will look like. Tell them and show them. Too many people want to start with a background story of how they go to this point. Right then, your audience wants to know what the outcome looks like.

2. Show the supplies needed to create the successful project. Be specific. If you use a brand name (and that brand only) name it and say why. “Because I like it” is not a well-explained, specific reason. “This pen writes on acrylic paint smoothly and without skipping,” is a specific example.

3. Do not give your background, how you came across this idea, or the fun

lol cat is not interested.

lol cat is not interested.

alternatives till the end. Unlike a story, a video starts with the most important point for your audience first. Your background will be more interesting when the audience sees what you can do. . .for them.

4. Your favorite music may not be your audience’s favorite music. Any music that you purchased on a CD or MP3 was written by someone else and your using it violates their copyright. I’m sorry about this, but YouTube takes down violators randomly and without warning. There is a lot of music that is not under copyright, use it. Make sure it suits the video, though. And if it is a loop of music, limit the loop to three times before you move on. If you are narrating the video, don’t use music when you are talking.

5. Watch the music volume. Particularly if you are narrating. A big jump in sound level from explanation to music is jarring.

6. Edit your video. It’s no different than a how-to article. Your first take will be too long. Edit for your reader, so they can do the step and then move on. Most videos I see could be cut in half the length and still be effective.

-Quinn McDonald watches videos. Sometimes she smiles, and sometimes she rolls her eyes.



9 thoughts on “What I Learned: Watching Videos

  1. OMG you’ve watched several hundred how-to videos?!? My face would have melted. I despise videos; I find the waste and inefficiency offensive.

    • Well, I didn’t watch them all at once. Since I teach, I often snag video clips and have to find what I need. And then I did the DVDs and needed to know what others did. But in every other way I agree with you. No vlog for me. Ever.

  2. I have watched some really poorly done videos lately. Some I even had to pay for. One of the videos had the artist all hunched down looking into a camera that was mounted on her desk. She rarely showed any views from above of what exactly she was doing. It was horrible. So I would add this:

    Make sure you have enough shots from above so we can see what you are doing as well as frontal shots of you speaking. There should be a good mix. One video I watched only showed the artists hands and we never once saw who was teaching us! I still have no idea what the teacher looks like.

    • You and I must have seen the same video. I’m fine with shy teachers who don’t want to be on camera. But I want to see the art, the technique, and examples. Right up front.

  3. Oh, how I agree about volume levels. I use hearing aids which makes me very sensitive to sudden volume changes. I am forever adjusting the volume on some videos. I would prefer no music at all.

    And I would add:
    1. plan what you are going to say in advance – not word for word, but enough to stop yourself rambling
    2. if you are showing a repetitive process, fast forward or jump through it, don’t expect your audience to watch 10 minutes of you filling a page with painted circles (to take a real example).

    • Both of those are good suggestions. I watched a video yesterday, in which the narrator explained how she got her inspiration while the camera showed a blank board. Every now and then her hand would be on screen, waving or gesturing. Three minutes of that. If you don’t want to be onscreen, show the product. And I would love no music on how-to videos.

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