The Return to Longform Video – or quality vs everything else
I am growing increasingly happier as a digital videographer. The reason for is that slowly but surely the “golden” rule concerning the optimal length an online video is being abandoned. Or is changing, at least.
In the past few years the prime consideration for videos, was that they had to be between the 1 and 3 minutes in length in order to be “successful”. In 2018 we can see a trend towards the quality of video’s and how compelling the storytelling is as the prime consideration.
Obviously, it is all about capturing and holding the attention of the audience. Whereas the 1 to a maximum 3-minute school of thought accepts the supposition that digital natives, millenials and certainly generation Z have a short attention span, the emerging “philosophy” of long-form video challenges videographers to make such great content that viewers will stick to what you are trying to share with them.
...are the people whose attention you cannot hold your audience and potential customers anyway?
Reach vs impact
The question publishers of digital video content need to ask themselves is: “Do I want to make fleeting, superficial 1-minute edits that are easy to watch and even easier to forget, or do I want to make a lasting impact?” Do you want to join the unending mixed tape of video noise on timelines, or do you want to stand out and make something special? Longform will perhaps not rack up the viewership/reach numbers that short-form videos hit, but if you are measuring success only with those numbers, you are leaving a thing called “impact” out of the equation. Because are the people whose attention you cannot hold your audience or potential customers anyway?
I’ve always struggled to keep my videos short. This probably has to do with my own shortcomings as an editor, and the fact that killing your darlings (those beautiful shots or inspiring quotes you want só to include) is really difficult. A short video is just that much more difficult to make really well. But there’s more to it than something just being difficult.
...now we find ourselves (binge) watching episodes of an hour or more and loving it.
A story or an impression of one?
I have always wanted to communicate a story instead of just an impression of one. Too often you see edits that are just a compilation of shots, oftentimes beautiful in themselves, sometimes a bit artsy/fartsy and pretentious, and quite often repetitions of the same variation, i.e. boring. Impressing somebody is not the same as connecting with that person.
Telling a story takes time, developing a character takes time, a narrative arc needs space to develop, a story needs to breathe. Our brains are hard-wired for storytelling, that’s not just my opinion but neurology speaking. And so we can feed those minds we are trying to touch with the stories we would like to share. We are ready for -and open to it. For characters that carry a narrative, people with whom we as people can connect. So taking your time to do just that will pay off.
Netflix and HBO, Youtube
I credit the popularity of new streaming services such as Netflix and HBO and their own long-form content for this change. Where for years TV shows couldn’t last longer than 30 minutes, this mold was broken, and now we find ourselves (binge) watching episodes of an hour or more and loving it. As long as the content is good enough, you’re gold.
How about the younger audience, isn’t there attention span criminally short? Well, the Youtube’s vlogs my daughter (11 years) watches, often too much in my opinion as a dad, are between 10 and 15 minutes and manage to captivate and hold the attention of my daughter to no end. She see’s a quality in them I don’t though ;-).
So there is a psychology in viewers that allow for longer form, and it all has to do with content, the character and quality of it, and how it matches the interest of audience it is made for.
Use every part of them, not only their skills, but their story, their dreams, their personality.
The end of endless action edits
So what does that mean for outdoors and action sports? My timeline is filled with the most incredibly high-paced action-packed edits with people shredding the most incredible lines, 1440 quad corks, no hander supermans, super slo-mo bar drags through loamy dirt: it’s all incredibly impressive, the videography is exceptional, and the action as well. But it’s all more of the same. I love mountain biking, I adore snowboarding, but I skip so much of the action-packed edits that brands make with their ambassadors because it is just another guy (sometimes girl) in a helmet and a bike I can’t afford, sending in ways I will never be able to, and landing tricks I cannot even begin to aspire to.
It has become completely unrelatable and in the end, too boring to watch. The edits by Candide Thovex are a clear example that creativity is needed to keep freeskiing content fresh and compelling: though these edits still, do lack any story and are meant to impress more than anything.
What does that mean for brands’ outdoor & action video?
As a brand, you will not stand out with just action-packed edits. Your brand athletes/ambassadors are more than a bag of tricks. That is not what makes them unique. Use every part of them, not only their skills but their story, their dreams, their personality. Frame those skills in that context, build a story with them, with what they love and aspire to, what inspires them. That is what will inspire us as lovers of outdoor and actions sports.
Interested in knowing how? Contact us!