Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Plaintive Plea From the Peanut Gallery

I read, watch, listen to, and otherwise digest a lot of media content, particularly survival, preparedness, and related content. I appreciate those who've learned a thing or two sharing it, usually gratis, with the rest of us. And the last thing I ever want to do is complain about free ice cream, but...

I know, let's just consider this my free advice about your free advice.

1) EDIT is your friend.
I don't care whether it's a dissertation, a blog post, or a YouTube spot. You aren't showing your street cred when you leave in all the ummms, burps, hiccups, and perambulations across the pages of the English language with nary a visit to Dictionary Drive.
Instead, you're showing your @$$.
Computers have spell-check. Learn to use it. I confess to fingers which don't obey my personal rather anally-inclined spelling and punctuation, but that has more to do with the limitations of a laptop or smartphone keyboard than to poor grades in English or latent (or not-so-latent) retardation. I read over what I type, even in answer to someone else's blog, and catch as many mistakes as I can. I run these posts through spell-check when it's available as an option, multiple times. When there aren't any tell-tale yellow screw-ups highlighted, I shed a little tear of joy. There may be a few variances from the Oxford English Dictionary, but they're purposeful, or non-standard words, for the most part. When I find mistakes from posts I imported from earlier iterations and never spell-checked, I fix them, and they still piss me off. More so because I know there's always another one out there. So if whatever you're posting is worth your time, or mine, show a little consideration for your craft, if not your mother tongue, and don't sound like a refugee from the 4th grade.

If you did a video, get ANY non-linear editing program out there, and learn how to compose a better video. Cut out the oopsies, the hemming and hawing and umming, and all the other stuff that has nothing whatsoever to do with your topic. They practically give away video editor programs with any laptop or PC, so use one, any one at all, and cut out the crap. Give me back the two minutes of my life when you had the camera pointed at the sun, your dog, or shoved in your armpit.

2) COMPOSITION is key.
Somewhere back in the mystic chords of memory, at least one of your English teachers probably made some vain attempt to convey to you that sentences and paragraphs have structure, and that when they follow this structure, you can communicate an entire paper, blog post, or video coherently to other people who speak the same language.

The same is true for pictorial efforts as well: Don't stare at the camera and talk us to death; in a video, point the camera AT what you want to convey, even a crayon drawing by your five year-old son, while you talk over what you're showing. Don't tell me, e.g., how to bait a hook, SHOW IT while you tell it, and you double the chances of getting the point you intended across.

A perspicacious person might note that having this stuff WRITTEN DOWN beforehand, in a logical order, would be a great help in this respect. Industry professionals refer to this modern marvel as a SCRIPT.

Compose one for the talking part, and a SHOT LIST for the camera work, and you'll be already almost as bright as some big-time Hollywood directors. Give it a shot before you make your next YouTube masterpiece.

3) Silent film died in the 1920s.
And if you can't grasp this, you should have done so too.
You can shoot video that's absolute @$$, with a crappy handycam, pointed out your back end. But if the audio is flawless, people will watch it until the end most times. On the other hand, you could rent a Panavision or RED digital camera that resolves freckles at 50 yards, in crystal focus, with Oscar-worthy cinematography, but if the audio sounds like you tied the microphone to your spastic chihuahua on crack, and had him wander into a rotating room fan in between helicopter flyovers, most people will click "Screw That" in about 1.5 seconds. Think about how long you'll tolerate a crappy connection on a cell phone call, and realize this is how everyone feels when you screw the audio on your video.

So, for instance, when you're shooting outside, put a windscreen on the microphone.
Put the microphone somewhere close to who or what is making the noise you want to hear.
Turn everything else we don't want to hear off. Your fans, air conditioners, wind chimes on the patio, your toddler, or barking dog. Make them quiet, or make them gone. I'm begging you.

Amazingly, just like your would-be masterpieces, all these and many more tips are available from video and audio professionals, for absolutely no cost whatever, except the investment of time and brain power you could make to learn from them. Dozens of them are right next to your videos on YouTube, for frick's sake! Consult them, learn from them, and live them, and bring us your A game.

The only thing worse than being the only expert to post a video on YouTube on some arcane subject, is that you did so with the sense of a bull in a china shop, crashing around trying to get somewhere, and mainly making would-be fans of your work, like yours truly, instead want to either kill you outright, or perhaps just duct-tape you to a chair, and force you to watch your own videos for a few days until you confess to being the gunman on the grassy knoll.

I really appreciate the time, and in many cases, unique expertise you bring to any given subject. Show a little respect for yourself and your audience, by presenting what you know at least as professionally as how well you know it. You'll sound as smart as you are, and your view counts will climb.

Thank you.

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