10 questions to ask before shooting your next Vine

By Andrew Gibson
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons
How difficult can it be to shoot six seconds of smartphone video?

Turns out, pretty difficult. Twitter's video-based social network Vine presents many challenges typical of social platforms -- gaining and maintaining followers, for instance -- but also some unique to its format. Shooting a good Vine requires much forethought about how you can possibly grab viewers' interest, convey your message and provide context in so short a time. I'd argue six seconds is far more challenging than 140 characters.

Hence this post. These questions serve as a checklist to go through before making a Vine. Now, you might be thinking this: I watched your Vines, and they weren't too impressive. I agree. My 15 or so Vines will not earn me a Pulitzer or Webby or whatever category they might fit under. However, what I have done is watch hundreds of Vines created by people who are talented -- enough to where I felt comfortable making this list. To be honest, this post is rather selfish because I'm writing these down as much for my benefit as for yours.

1. Does this need to be a Vine?
Don't shoot a Vine because you want to shoot a Vine. If the story is best told as a single still image, open Instagram. If the visuals are lacking, use your phone's audio recorder and upload something to SoundCloud.

2. Do I always have to open with my best video? (Answer: no)
It's standard in TV journalism to open stories with the most enticing video. That makes sense: Broadcast packages are often longer than one minute, so it's crucial to feed viewers something juicy from the start to keep them watching the entire time.

Vines are not one minute long. At full length, they're one-tenth of that. Even if users aren't intrigued from the get-go, there's a decent chance they'll hang on for another five seconds. Think less about opening with your best shot and more about where that shot makes sense in your mini-narrative.

3. Can I shoot a sequence?
Here's something from traditional video journalism you shouldn't forget. Sequences are "a series of shots from a single event that are put together in a way that tells the story," according to the website for the Missouri School of Journalism's Convergence program (full disclosure: I'm a student in this program). For example, instead of recording a single shot of someone drinking a Coke, maybe you get a tight shot of the condensation on the can, then shoot the can rising to the mouth, then shoot the person going "ahh" afterward. (I encourage you to click that last link because it gives much better examples than I do.)

Including sequences in Vines is a simple way to make them more interesting. Maybe an entire Vine is just one sequence. But, remember this: Vines aren't editable. In traditional video, you can perfect how sequences match up by dropping your footage into Final Cut Pro X and slicing out fractions of time. In Vine, you better be ready to capture nearly perfect shots as they happen.

4. Have I established a timing rhythm?
Sometimes, I try to make rapid-fire Vines. Ones that pack tons of shots into six seconds and only spend fractions of a second on each. When done well, Vines like this look wicked cool.

But usually not mine. That's because my shots often end up being too long to include many others -- but still too short to let viewers comprehend what I'm showing. Avoid this problem by establishing a rhythm from the beginning. Roughly sketch out in your mind how long each shot should last.

5. Am I paying attention to the edges of the frame?
A common Vine technique is to hold a steady shot, put an object in your shot, shoot that object, stop recording, remove that object, add another object, shoot that object, stop recording, and so forth. This creates the illusion of things magically appearing in your frame.

The key to success here is ensuring your phone doesn't move. Pay attention to where the edges of your frame are and use those as reference points to ensure you shoot the same square each time.

6. Can I shoot from a unique angle?
Go where the eye usually doesn't. Low angle, high angle, extreme close-ups, etc. You get it.

7. Will my audio be jumbled?
"Good video is good audio," Lynda Kraxberger, my sophomore-year reporting instructor, used to say. When using Vine, it's easy to get caught up in making your visuals pop. But awkward cuts between loud and quiet or different voices can easily ruin your stop-motion masterpiece.

8. Am I holding something in my other hand?
If you're as shaky-gripped as I am, you know two hands on the phone is the only way to go.

9. Will too much time pass between shots?
I use Vine on an iPhone 4S, and more than once I've waited longer than 10 minutes between shots, only to see my hard work disappear into the digital abyss. Maybe this is an isolated problem. But I'm putting out a warning just in case.

10. Am I being ethical?
Vine can make objects disappear and people fly. As journalists, it's critical we don't abuse these capabilities to deceive our audience.

Is anything missing from the list? Tell us in the comments.

1 comment:

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