The Truth About Viral Videos: You Can’t Shine Sh*&

LA Times reporters bought 62,000 “views” for this video for about $100.  It’s 1:47 of paint drying.


Two weeks ago, LA City Attorney Carmen Trutanich was caught buying at least 650,000 views on YouTube for his upcoming campaign for District Attorney.  How many views did he actually get for his videos?  Only about 725,000.

The Trutanich Campaign did it, apparently, for bragging rights– “Look!  725,000 people want Carmen to be the DA!”  That this was more views than the presidential videos were getting never occurred to them. Sure, there could be 725,000 people anxiously waiting by their computers in … Read the rest

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Welcome to the Entertainment Industry

Since I started working on the book, I’ve been checking the Youtube top 100 videos list semi-regularly. Turns out that close to 85% of the videos that score big are made by pros. Of the remaining 15%, a few– maybe 5% are jokes– videos that look like porn but aren’t, for example.  Another 5% are at least “semi-pro”—produced by people with some experience. That leaves about 5% for piano playing cats and kids who bite other kids fingers.

Amateurs are being squeezed out of web viewing as the web grows up. Video is big money now. Professional TV and … Read the rest

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20% Of Online Video Viewers Give Up After 10 Seconds

“20% Of Online Video Viewers Give Up After 10 Seconds”

That was the headline on a “chart of the day’ from

While this figure is shocking and undoubtedly true, a look at the “average” video en masse is not particularly useful.  Video quality distribution has to be some sort of bell curve.  The variables are a) Quality of the video and b) how well the video targets a given population.

There are some videos that people tune out of in 3 seconds, at the other end of the bell curve that they don’t tune out of at all.  … Read the rest

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How Viral Videos REALLY Work

From How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck, Page 189:

Viral videos can be total luck or part of an intentional, well orchestrated push.  What you don’t want is to have neither.

One kind of viral video happens when people accidentally stumble on “lightning in a bottle.”  For that, you’ll need the luck to have captured Charlie Bit My Finger–Again! and the luck that others find it as funny as you do.  Like lightning, you can’t make it strike when and where you want it to.

The pros do things differently– they put together a top creative team,

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The Opposite of Viral Video

I wanted some bad video.

Not to watch, at least not all the way through, but to use as an example of how not to do things for my book.  Some inspiration from a video that was truly awful.

Turns out it’s very, very difficult to find bad video on YouTube.  I scrolled through 40 pages of “recitals” and none had less than 1600 view– still way too good for my purposes.  I searched for “dance recital”, then ranked by views.  YouTube cut me off on page 50– 1000 videos down out of 8,560– and the view count was … Read the rest

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What in the Hell is Unity? (p. 114)

From How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck, Page 114:

Aristotle was the first to note that great drama has three unities—of time, of place, or of action. Unity is another way to suggest a pure focus on one thing. A play might take place over one day (unity of time), or in single house (unity of place), or around a single event (unity of action). Unities keep the audience (and the writer/director) clear on what story they’re telling, making those stories more focused and powerful.

You may think we’re getting a little highbrow in our analysis here, … Read the rest

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Set the Shot and Hold It: Beyonce (p. 111)

From How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck, Page 111:

If you watch professionally shot film, you’ll be surprised how often the camera stays still. Practice keeping the camera locked.  That way the action in the frame becomes the most important thing.

A static camera doesn’t mean a boring video.  Most of this recent Beyonce video consists of static camera shots of Beyoncé and two other women dancing. What camera moves there are are infrequent and deliberate– and lead to another static framing.  Most simply keep the women in frame as they dance. Yet the video, like the … Read the rest

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