When it comes to video, the old show-business expression “Always leave them wanting more” applies. Anything worth saying in video is worth saying shorter. TV commercials tell a complete story, entertain us, and sell us—all in 30 seconds. Benjamin Button lives his entire life on screen, backward, in two hours and 46 minutes (not a long time for an entire life, but still some might suggest it could have been done in 2:20).

The record of your mother’s second birthday party probably exists as either a grainy two-minute silent home movie or six photographs stuck in an album. Yet if you look at those photos now, you get a real feeling for the time and place. The home movie is short because 8mm film came in two-minute rolls back in those days, but just because you can shoot for an hour and half on your video camera doesn’t mean you should. You don’t need 10 minutes to show us a birthday party. A sales video longer than three minutes? Unless it’s for Victoria’s Secret and directed by Martin Scorsese, don’t even think about it. And even then, it had better be good.

The best way to keep your video short is to aim for short when you start. The second best way is to internalize another old show-biz adage: When in doubt, cut it out.


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