Let’s go make a crappy video!


The 10 crucial ingredients to a useless video.

Remember those days when uploading a video to the internet was something novel?  A short clip you had recorded on your gadget was suddenly playing smoothly (or not so smoothly) on the Web and it was reason to call your mother, quit everything you were doing on that day and go out and order a Long-Island Ice Tea.  Remember that?

That was most likely the year 2005. The NHL season had been cancelled that year, Playstation had just released Guitar Hero, Destiny’s child had just announced they were going to break-up and yes, Youtube had just launched it’s video sharing website.

Yes, people were uploading videos before that, in various ways, but it was Youtube that really catapulted the trend.

I remember those days. Any video would do.  There was no concern for visual excellence or structured story telling.  As long as it played.  As long as it was up there. High Fives!

Since then, a staggering number of videos have been uploaded.  Today, 300 hours of video are uploaded to youtube every minute.  Can you fathom that?

10 years later, with all these videos uploaded, you would think the average quality would creep up eventually. We certainly have seen better, more entertaining videos come around in recent years but there is still a river of mediocre content uploaded every day.

So in an effort to contribute to our collective understanding of the critical distinctions between good and bad when it comes to effective videos, I thought I would list some of the crucial steps one should take in order to produce a genuinely crappy video.

The ingredients are simple but the various principles need to be respected and should be applied as a whole for maximum effect.

If you want to make a video that really sucks; that makes your own mother yawn and your dog whimper with anxiety, you have to pay close attention to the following steps.  Don’t worry I will try make it as simple as possible.

The tips I will list here in no particular order will give you the crucial knowledge that you need to make a genuinely horrible video, whether you are planning to produce it yourself or hire your cousin to help you.

Some of the tips may be more relevant to a do-it-yourself project but they are nonetheless important to mention in order to get a full understanding of what goes into a top-notch crappy video.

Here we go:

1- Lighting:
Make sure you choose locations with little or no light.  A dimly lit boardroom? Perfect!  Hotel conference halls and domestic kitchens, even better.  Avoid using professional lights, that will only make it look better.

2- Stabilization:
DO NOT use a tripod.  It is too likely to stabilize your shot, making your content more enjoyable.  Big no!

3- Story:
Make an effort to avoid telling any kind of story.  This is a common element in good videos that can turn out to be way too compelling for viewers.  They may become interested in how things are going to turn out and start paying attention.  Stay away from this.

4- Message:
Make sure you throw a lot of information in there. Make it confusing.  Stay away from the one simple message concept as your viewers may become informed and even inspired.  No good.

5- Audio:
Don’t use microphones except the one that comes installed on your camera.  Good audio in general is way too likely to enhance the viewing experience by pulling people into the story with engaging music or professionally built soundscapes so avoid this at all cost.    Planning on capturing the sound of dialogue mixed with ambient sounds in a crowded reverberating room? Perfect!

6- Preparation:
Make sure you don’t prepare a script or outline.  These annoying documents tend to make your video and the production process for that matter too organized, which will often result in a better video. Big no no…

7- Budget:
Stay away from making a budget.  This will infect the process with a sense of organization, which could lead to more structure, which could eventually lead to a comprehensible video.  Again, no good.

8- Professional approach:
Try to stay away from hiring anyone who makes videos professionally.  They will only attempt to help you produce a compelling and engaging video that will reach your targeted audience and this will put you way off track.  Hire your brother in-law who just bought a camera.  It’ll be a great learning experience…

9- Editing:
Editing normally takes hours and days. Who wants that? Try throwing your piece together in 30 minutes, OK, 45.  Also, When shooting, make sure you keep the camera rolling most of the time in case something important happens that you don’t want to miss.  This will result in hours of footage, which will take you or the editor an eternity to log and edit, effectively reducing the chances of you having the time to assemble an interesting and or cohesive video.

10- Enhancements:
Lastly, when and if you are finally done with the editing, make sure you avoid correcting the colour balance, enhancing the audio mix and of course don’t add any well designed graphics.  All that stuff just helps to package the content into a coherent video that will leave a lasting impression on its viewers. No, no and NO!

There you have it. Make sure you read the list a few times.  The devil is in the details. There are some subtle aspects that if mastered will get you a first-class unwatchable video.

Don’t be shy to add tips in the comments if you think I’ve missed some important points.


About Sebastian Howard

Sebastian Howard has been crafting videos and documentary films for over ten years while partnering with various agencies as a producer/director for Batchfilms. He lives in Montreal (sometimes Toronto) and spends most of his off time trying to convince his 10 year old daughter that he's cool, he's in, he's down with it - to no avail.

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