Tips to Make Better Videos: Telling a Story vs Video-porn

One of the first questions you have to ask before you begin editing any clips, or even before you press record on your camera, is, “What type of video do I want to make?” I don’t mean the infinite cinematic-subcategories that are out there, but just these two types instead: are you going to tell a story to an audience or just make a video-porn/music video style video.

A lot of people on Youtube, Instagram, etc, might think all their epic GoPro/POV videos tell a story (myself included), but in reality they do not. It is just a collection of shots that have the audience fixated on the screen because it shows things most people never get to experience in their own “normal” lives (a.k.a video porn). Sorry to guys like Jay Alvarrez, your content is amazing and epic, but we only watch it for the beautiful people & places that are in them… not for the captivating story which doesn’t exist. See below if you’re not sure what I mean by video-porn.

Story telling is an art that humans have been practicing since long before cave paintings were discovered. The ability for someone to share a tale to a group of people who weren’t there, and by the end of the story they have each one of them feel like they were standing along side the main characters, is the level we all strive to reach. You know, like when you start inching towards the edge of your seat in the movie theater when the main character of the story is about to get into trouble with a bad-guy or with love, and you want to jump into that scene to help them any way you can. And when it finally gets resolved, your body relaxes all those muscles that were tensed up and you sink back into your seat. That is story telling at it’s finest. See the trailer below for an epic story telling example:

Of course, not every story will have us on the edge of our seats, and not every video needs to tell some meaningful story. After the release of the GoPro, consumers across the globe began to enter the world of videography (speaking from experience here). And since these GoPros were awful at recording audio, nearly every video was silent and backed with Dubstep or EDM music, resulting in a wave of new content that has since never been surpassed. I’m not going to lie, I too made countless POV videos of me skiing resort trails, mountain biking, kayaking, etc. Not a single one of them told a meaningful story, but I thought they were fun to watch. And I have come to terms with this fact. There is a time and place for everything, including these nonstop action sequences, and we only need to look to the professionals to understand this: Hollywood’s Action Movies and Ski films. And I think we can all remember this wave of videos after the GoPro came out:

The reason why nonstop action sequences can work, is because films should build into them. These stories are great at developing the characters, plot, and conflict until the tension is too much and we get those classic 1-3 minute fight scene. This might not seem long, but just realize that is how long the average video is on YouTube. As much as we hate the “useless” backstories, it is those boring portions of the movie that allow us to ride the rollercoaster of emotion and thrills. Without them, it would be just one high-octane shot after another, which can turn an epic scene into a boring one if it was just preceded by 10 other epic shots in a row, resulting in the audience no longer paying attention. If you haven’t realized by now, this also describes porn.

I originally started writing this to give healthy advice about story telling, but it has turned into a tirade against GoPro content. I’m sure all real filmmakers were the first to make this point when all the GoPro videos began going viral in the early 2010’s, pushing their meaningful content to the bottom of the pile. And now that I have finally come around to this fact, I am trying to do my best to tell meaningful stories of my travels and experiences. It is way harder than I could have ever imagined; and even when I have a great story to tell, I still struggle matching it up to videos I shot on the trip. I find it difficult to live in the moment during something while also shooting videos to tell a story afterwards, and then create a story about it to share to an audience that was never there. But that is the beauty of it.

Admittedly, I wish that I was better at telling stories through videos, and it is way easier to go the GoPro, video-porn route to get content out there. But I think that everyone would benefit, both creators and audiences alike, if we all just focus on telling a story, even if it is a simple one. And ways to do that, is by narrating or explaining to your audience what it was like during these moments your filming. It was obviously important enough to you to film it, so project that meaning onto your audience so that they can relate to your story. Explain why you’re there in the first place and what you hope to accomplish. And after-the-fact, relay the feelings of accomplishment or failures. This is what audiences really wish to know after watching your videos. In the end, just get out there and keep doing what you love; whether thats telling stories or just making cool videos.

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