10 Video Standards of Quality and Intentional Practice

A couple of years ago, a workshop was arranged to address an issue that arose in my absence.  My team was challenged by a manager to create a list of ten standards of quality video. While we corrected the issues, this exercise was an excellent way to solidify my thoughts on what I strive for in my video-making.

Interestingly enough, many others had similar types of standards. I thought I’d share my take on it:

  • Clarity: all aspects; from writing to execution. Clarity means that the video is free from distraction—which may arise from poor writing (confusing, lacking conviction, obscure/esoteric language) to poor execution (distracting audio, anything unusual that takes away the attention from the message). Ironically, poor video quality is the most forgivable violation. People forgive a bad picture, the will not tolerate bad audio, and will lose interest from poor writing. (Amateur vs professional)

  • Visual Design: utilizing composition, camera placement, camera involvement (observer vs addressed), graphic design (color palette, text usage and movement, illustration/photos/animation) is an entire list in and of itself. Visual design doesn’t necessarily need to be pleasing, but it should support the content of the work).

  • Accessible: Aside from clarity, it needs to be accessible to the impaired.

  • Editing: there are two types of edits- invisible and intentional. Most of what we see online is intentional- edits for edits sake. It’s almost like visual poetry, or a slam cut to a loud graphic to keep your attention. However, the more you scream, the less you listen. Invisible edits do not attract attention to itself; it keeps the cognitive load to a minimum where the viewer can passively assimilate the information on its own merit. Invisible edits support the content as it is meant to not detract from it. 
  • Engagement: clarity is the gateway to engaging video. Engagement can be interesting content, interesting delivery, a highly desirable aesthetic, or a personable narrator. Engagements holds a person’s attention.
  • Connection: Relates contextual content to subject knowledge, deepening understanding. Connection invites the viewer to be an active participant in parsing the information, giving clues and fostering engagement. In the narrative world, mysteries are popular because it invites the viewer into solving the puzzle. Featured journalism uses storytelling, informational “tools” to educate the viewer and allow them to find the context of the information and relate it to the issue discussed.
    • Example:
      Malcolm Gladwell

  • Informative: A clear, engaging video can be devoid of any relevant information. A broad example of this is network/cable television… most entertainment. The opposite would be the evening news- dry exposition of information and facts. Documentaries often try to marry the two extremes.

  • Noteworthy: Bringing a noteworthy element separates the content into something memorable and significant. An unusual attempt or delivery not only keeps the video engaging but gives the viewer a touchstone to recall it later. If the video reaches the other standards, it will entirely help shape their thinking. 
  • Challenging:The content should challenge the viewer and invite them to compare different approaches and ideas that contrast their own thinking. However, there is a danger to fall into an opinion camp and skew the information to influence thinking. 
  • Invites Discussion:This one is a cheat- if all the other standards are met, the viewer/student will invite discussion with peers or the uninitiated.

This is outside of the scope of the above standards list, but is important none-the-less. Intentional Practice is taking items that you have learned in a Youtube tutorial or a book on the subject, and applying it to a made up project.
5x5s: VIMEO used to have 5x5 video challenges. While they’ve mostly fallen to the wayside, I still think it’s a powerful took to keep in practice- much like how an illustrator uses a sketchbook to draw. If you’ve never heard of a 5x5 video challenge, it is simply this: Five 5 second clips strung together in an experimental narrative or comparison. The end video should be 25 seconds, and should use only the audio that was recorded with it. Purists eschew text, but I like the idea of anything goes- it’s experimental.
The purpose of the 5x5 is to train your eye for aesthetics and visual composition. It keeps you active on observation, shooting, and editing. Here’s my first attempt:

The 52 Week Video Challenge: Some others have decided to create a 1-2 minute video weekly. I plan on starting this challenge in January- a clean run. My hope is that it will improve my shooting and production style, and create a body of work. I think the hardest thing will be coming up with content each week- so there is a huge amount of diligence. It’s a perfect challenge for where I am right now.