I t would take 72 hours to watch all the videos uploaded to YouTube every minute by would-be commentators, comedians, cosmetologists and various other content creators all hoping for a breakout hit. And, let's be honest, most of it is cringe-worthy.
While the vagaries of taste and timing determine which videos go viral and which YouTube channels develop large and loyal followings, it's easier to tell which videos will make viewers feel as if they can't click away fast enough.
It boils down to narcissism. If you're an aspiring video blogger, remember, it's not about you, it's about who is watching you. Be conscious and considerate of your audience and its needs, rather than getting mired in your own egotism or insecurity. (It's good advice for life but essential to making quality video.)
Of course you want to have a decent camera. "If you have an iPhone or Android phone, you pretty much do," said Eddie Codel, a video consultant in San Francisco, who produces content mostly for corporate clients. A hand-held video camera is nice and offers more features and flexibility, but your smartphone is fine.
The only additional equipment you might consider is a separate lavaliere or lapel microphone ($100-$200) for clearer audio. And if there isn't enough ambient light to illuminate your face, spring for a clamp lamp ($10-$20) that you can find at most hardware stores. No one wants to watch you talking in the dark like someone in a witness protection program. For a flattering glow, Codel suggested putting wax paper in front of the lamp to diffuse the light. OK, so now you're ready to perform — and you are always performing when the camera is rolling.
"If you can't communicate in an interesting, entertaining, energetic way — I don't care how much education you have, how brilliant you are, how many degrees you have — it's going to be painful to watch you," said Karen Melamed, a television producer and online video consultant in Los Angeles. "Dr Phil is not on TV because he's the best therapist in the world, and Paula Deen is not the best chef in the world. They are good performers."
That's not to say you have to have an outsize personality or acting experience. But you do need to be comfortable in front of the camera, which is no easy feat. "There's something sort of horrifying and anxiety-producing about shooting when you are alone," said Ze Frank, who has more than 126,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel and whose quirky videos can attract as many as 20 million views.
The camera lens is a dark, bottomless void that doesn't provide the feedback you get in normal face-to-face conversation, like a nod, a raised eyebrow and utterances like "hmmm" and "aah."
Lacking that, people tend to focus more on themselves and, in their self-consciousness, become either bland and monotone (as interesting as a lecture on the Hawley-Smoot Tariff) or hyper-excited and agitated (as annoying as a used-car commercial).
Frank, who lives in Los Angeles, said he tended to "over-gesticulate and mug too aggressively to the camera" when he first started posting Web videos in 2006. Now he has another person in the room operating the camera. "It's wonderful to have someone else there to tell you if you are falling a little flat or that look was so cheesy it's just ridiculous," Frank said. Buzzfeed bought his channel last year, and he is now the company's executive vice president for video, while continuing to create his own content.
If you don't have the money to hire a camera operator or a willing friend to watch you record, just imagine you are talking to your typical viewer. "Your only concern should be how it's going to benefit who is watching," said Eileen Winnick, a media consultant and former actress whose past clients include celebrity chefs Ina Garten and Bobby Flay. "When you do that, you take the focus off yourself and put it into what you want to get across, which chang