Why did Kony 2012 go viral? More than 30 million views in the last 24 hours, and likely well past 40 million total by the time you read this. Sure the story is being picked apart as I type, but let’s stay focused…
So what made this 30-min documentary viral? We asked the author of Beyond Viral for answers, and he provides 13 reasons:
1. USING SOCIAL MEDIA: The film begins by meeting people where they are… on social media’s impact. The Invisible Children (the organization behind the film) are clearly skilled social-media users. The film urges you to pay attention as part of an “experiment,” and shows many other US students and children already engaged. Many of his “calls to action” ask people to leverage what they already use: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.
2. TIMING: presents a countdown clock as if it’s live. He presents 2012 as the year that we will stop Joseph Kony (the rebel leader).
3. LANGUAGE: In one clip in a public forum, the film’s director (Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell) is seen saying: “Who are you to end a war? I’m tell you who are you not to.” It’s very Kennedy, and the video’s script is loaded with powerful language that forges allegiance to its cause. “Crucial time in history where what we do (or don’t do) will effect generations to come.” “We are shaping human history.”
PERSONAL: The film personalizes the creator by showing his child’s birth and progress (and the son happens to be adorable). Russell personalizes the threat by showing an individual (Jason) who he’s met. And Jason’s brother was killed by the “rebels” while he watched. Even when we see children crowded into inhumane sleeping conditions, we don’t lost the focus on Jason.
5. VILLAIN: At 7:25 we see this get very emotional. Most importantly, the director focuses on one individual (Joseph Kony) to create an “Osama Bin Laden” focus. Almost every good story needs a villain or foil, and it’s far more achievable to stop Kony than to stop rebels. (News reports this morning had skeptics suggesting someone else will simply replace him).
6. THROUGH EYES OF CHILD: We see Russell explaining to his own son about this cause. Again we see the story focused on Jason and Kony. Gavin’s reaction is extremely powerful. “It’s sad,” he says, watching with crinkled brow.
7. JUST ENOUGH: The crimes by Kony are horrifying and the director provides us with visual storytelling that reinforce that fact… without making it horrible to watch.
8. THEY SAID WE’D NEVER WALK AGAIN. One of the most powerful influencers is resistance. How many patients say a doctor “said I’d never walk again”? It creates a force in the opposite direction. The filmmaker says his talks in D.C. have been met with indifference… He said everyone he spoke to said, “there’s no way the US will ever get involved in a conflict where our national security or financial interests aren’t at stake.”
9. CROWD MORNING: At 14:30 we get the sense the train is in motion. He shows progress and normalizes the participation in the cause. He talks of “building a community” around the idea that “Where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live.”
We see an “army of kids” that stand in defiance to the war. At 17:09 we’re treated to a powerful musical segment that shows progress to date.
10. SUCCESS. ALMOST THERE. At 18:30 we see “what I was told would never happen” occur: Obama pledged troops to Uganda in October 2011… to “assist” and “advise” not to fight. The move, states the director, was a first: The US participated “not for self defense but because it was right.”
11. WILL YOUR CONSCIENCE LET YOU DO NOTHING? The film waits until 21:12 to make Hitler and holocaust references. Most of us believe we’d have taken action against the holocaust, and now Russell makes maintaing that that belief difficult (if we do nothing here).
12. TAPPING CELEBRITIES AND POLICY MAKERS: At 23:00 we are invited into a personal appeal to celebrities and 12 policy makers. Now viewers know who to reach. “We’re making Kony world news,” Russell says. Little did he know how this video would shake online and offline news.
13. GET YOUR KIT: The 26th minute shows social cause marketing at its finest… a pack of info with a bracelet that’s numbered. A specific date where posters will be placed all over the world.
What do you think? Why did this spread so quickly when there are surely other atrocities like it?
You’ve seen the Ferris Bueller homage that promoted Honda during the Superbowl. Now watch Michael Broderick “then and now” as he delivers key lines in both the Superbowl ad and the film.
Be sure to check out all the advertisement’s “Easter egg” subtle nods to the film.
If you like this first “Where’s the Girl” video below (“Save Miranda” by Zoochosis), you also may like the second wonderfully cute but edgy dancing-sheep-girl video titled “Thanks Smokey.” Good luck getting that hypnotic sheep-dancing song out of your head the next time you see an adorable animal… after you watch the Smokey clip, I recommend closing your eyes and listening to it. The audio engineering really adds more to the magic than you realize… a gust of wind, a bell, a jail cell door, sirens, and the repetitive pen tap. Brilliant.
[/caption]Bleach Bypass: There’s a very cool video software effect that comes with some editing packages called the “bleach bypass” (also called skipped bleach or silver retention) look that I used in this Fringe parody. It creates bold colors and a really cinematic look. I constantly search how-to videos before applying this effect, and often mistake “bleach bypass” with “bleach bypass” for reasons that are obvious at least to me. Here’s a nice how-to on creating bleach/beach bypass using Final Cut Pro. I typically use Final Cut Express to fetch this effect, but only after I’ve edited the video using my antiquated iMovie 6.
Many YouTubers and quasi-professional video creators are using traditional SLR cameras as their primary videocamera. Sxephil, for instance, was using a Canon 5D when he showed how he establishes his home studio. Now that the video quality rivals many high-end video cameras, we’re able to enjoy the beautiful effect that decent SLR lenses provide — like that depth-of-field look you see in WheezyWaiter and MysteryGuitarMan videos. Let’s call these HDSLRs.
With help from a variety of sources (Videomaker, Amazon, B&H, PCMag, Cnet and the cameras used by top YouTubers) I’ve compiled some of the winners on this Amazon videocamera store, and it’s an affiliate program that makes me almost nothing except when stalkerofnalts told me he was buying expensive new gear, and let me generate Amazon affiliate links for his products). At least I can provide people with this link when they ask for my advice.
Now back to the poor-man effects. There’s a lot more to professional-looking video than a decent camera, and some of the most important factors are lighting, camera movements, audio and a really good lense. That being said, the latest issue of Videomaker (Sept. 2011) has an article by Kyle Cassidy titled “Home Grown Video Gear.” The same author wrote a nice piece last year titled “Making Your Video Look More Like Film.” The top-three tips are thanks to Kyle.
Now the Top-10 Creative Budget DIY (do it yourself) Production Tips and Tricks to Create Film-Like Special Effects
1. Very Steady Car Tripod Using Bag of Rice: I do a lot of video vlogs, and I find a bunched-up shirt works as well as any fancy device. It keeps the camera from sliding and falling over, and it’s also easy to adjust (just scrunch more shirt under the front to tilt the camera up). Kyle’s technique is even better. A bag of rice! Isn’t that brilliant? It’s easy to adjust, can work well on the window to keep your camera steady on a zoom, and it might even buffer some of the shake from the car.
2. Underwater Housing With Partially-Immersed Fish Tank: Turn your existing camera into an underwater one without the fancy, cost-prohibitive custom-housings. Simply use a small fish tank that’s partially immersed in the water. Now you’ve got the ability to adjust the camera (focus, zoom, turn on and off) and it stays dry. Brilliant! Kyle suggests covering it with a towel to avoid flashes, and I’d recommend putting it on top of something like that rice bag below it. Then if a careless move causes the tank to go under, you’ve got the camera away before the tank fills.
4. Hello, Do-It-Yourself Dolly: A gently moving horizontal-slide of a camera (slider, dolly) can create a powerful effect (see example), especially when there are objects near and far to show perspective. While drooling over the $800 Cinevate Atlas 10 FLT, I went about searching for homemade Dolly tracks. I once bought a steadicam that worked pretty well, and was constructed with weights and plumbing equipment. Courtesy of LifeHacker, I found a guy with a how-to video on Veoh where J.G. Pasterjack created a dolly with skateboard wheels, and it can run on a flat surface or along a 2-by-4 board. Knowing I’d burn too much time and probably screw it up, I asked to be on his waiting list. He’s since created MoveYourCameraCheap.com, and is having trouble keeping up with demand on eBay.
5. Disappear or Defy Gravity With Wall-Decorated Floor: Your floor makes a good wall, can give the effect that people, objects or pets are climbing on the wall. See “lovey” the kitten crawling up a door, which was laid on the ground. This 2006 “Gravity Wall” video with my kids is a bit more obvious. To disappear, a) mount a camera perfectly still on a tripod or surface, b) simply shoot the background/setting alone and be sure lighting doesn’t change noticeably, c) videotape yourself (or person/object you wish to vanish), then d) use a “dissolve” effect when editing between the two clips (which diminishes subtle changes in the video). For instance, I provided a shock ending that made it look like a garbage truck ran over me inside a garbage can — seen in this fairly popolar “Garbage Can Prank” video. I used it in one of my first kid videos (Katie turned invisible in this video shot maybe 5 years ago and uploaded in April) and more recently in this Dr. Who sponsored video, with some added glow via Iggy35.
6. Poor-Man’s Green Screen: Green screen allows you to replace a plain green background with a video or photo of your choosing. There are two ways to create a cheap green screen. First, you can use green posters or a dollar-store plastic table cloth. Second, you can use a painted wall that’s close to green. Most video-editing software with “green screen” functionality can “knock out” a background even if it’s not pure green. You just want to: a) ensure that you’re not wearing any colors that are close, b) light the wall separately to avoid shadows, and c) avoid wrinkles or seams that will invariably catch shadows. I have a cloth green screen, but that’s because I use green-screen to make it appear that I fall down steps. Cloth is critical to that effect.
7. Clone Yourself With Matte Effect: The Matte effect, where you overlay a portion of one video over another, is somewhat painstaking. But it can give you the ability to hire the cheapest support cast you’ll find: yourself. Here I cloned myself by shooting two scenes of myself and overlaying the clean Nalts over a video of my clone surfacing from mud. It’s something that requires a higher-end editing tool like Final Cut Express… but worth it.
9. Sundry Techniques for Leveling Camera, Hiding Wires & Creating Soft Effect: Kipkay is a prolific video creator that shares many of his production tricks and hacks, and this rapid fire “volume one” video is loaded with clever Magiver-like techniques. KipKay’s second Howcast video provides some less sexy but handy tips — such as using bread clips to mark cables.
10. Set your HDSLR to Resemble Film: Lastly and most importantly, there are a load of ways to get your HDSLR to give you a film-like quality… there’s even a book devoted to the subject (DSLR Cinema), which is on my wishlist. I’ve embedded a fantastic instructional video by Drumat5280 who has other videos like “DSLR settings.” He jokes that he’s an expert because he and his wife watch videos weekly. The important items include avoiding zoom, setting your camera to highest resolution (1080i) or higher, mic carefully, and set camera to 24 frames per second (which creates the film look and smaller file size). He encourages you to use a “shallow depth of field” which encourages viewer to focus on that which your camera focuses. VideoUniversity has a nice piece on little nuggets like avoiding auto-white balance and any setting that is called an “enhancement” (which is almost as bad as the cursed “digital zooms,” which pixelate the video by cropping only a portion of the screen). And Techwaffle has a how-to video that shows you how to auto-focus and use your computer to control your camera (at least with the Canon 5D).
What’d a miss? Any tips you’ve learned and are willing to share? Even little things help — like how to use a laptop as a tele-prompt (something discussed in the valuable Videomaker forum). Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention Film Riot, a Revision3 show that is loaded with amateur-ready tips that produce very cool and otherwise-costly effects. Check it out.
P.S. My birthday is May 12 in case you wanted to buy me a Canon 5D. It’s less than $3500. If all of my susbcribers chipped in, it’d be a fraction of a penny. If all of my active viewers chipped in it would be just $35 each. If all of the readers of WillVideoForFood chipped in, it’d only be $3500 each.
On July 24 individuals from across the globe will be videotaping moments from their day, and submitting for potential inclusion in a film produced by Ridley Scott (see his explanation video).
“Life in a Day” may be the first crowd-sourced film, and will be directed by Kevin Macdonald (see the film’s YouTube channel, “LifeInADay” for more details). YouTube asked me to make a video to announce the film and encourage individuals to participate, and Waffle Bear joined me on this cheesy promotion (see video below).
Oh, Gus. It’s consumer-generated content. How can they be sure the people are real, the releases have been signed, and the footage isn’t a copyright infringement? Don’t sweat the small stuff, Gus.
You’ll have to wait until Sundance in 2011 to see the film (see thorough coverage on WSJ). That’s plenty of time for sifting through thousands of hours of awkward footage, editing, and for the more labor-intensive work of verifying copyrights.
Remember those bullies from the 1980s movies with the big blond hair, that ridiculed us — I mean the protagonists — in so many movies? Huffington Post & Film Drunk offers a montage of the best “dork” insults courtesy of the Woot blog.
“We Gotta Get Buscemi,” a film by YouTube legacy NickyNik, will be debuted June 4, 2010, at the Dances With Films festival. NickyNik’s trailer is the first video he’s posted since the days before YouTube had high definition or Spotlighted videos. You youngsters may recall those days where names like Boeheem, Emalina and Renetto drew mouths agape like the name LonelyGirl15 would years later.
Congratulations, NickyNik, who I met at YouTube’s NYC 777 event and who also appeared in “I Want My Three Minutes Back.” You, sir, are the definition of unyielding persistence (see also NickyNik2). You may remember a script floating around called “The Dead Man.”
The cast includes LisaNova, Renetto, Jason Acuna (Wee Man), and Danny Trejo. Not sure if Charles Trippy made it, but I thank him for help getting me some part… I can’t remember if I dropped the ball, or NickyNik gave up on me. In fact I can’t remember the part or the script, but I do recall a person wearing a hot dog outfit. I was hoping for that part because… hey who doesn’t want to wear a hotdog outfit?
I love it when a certain artist, video creator, or web series finds THE sponsor. Not a sponsor, but the ideal one. The kind of sponsor that you’d think would be stalking the entertainer, but sadly probably doesn’t know they exist. There are matches made in heaven: iJustine or Happyslip and Mac, Rhett & Link and any CPG brand, MysteryGuitarMan and a cool electronic device, SxePhil and Tequila, LisaNova and Stayfrees, ShayCarl and Twinkies.
To my surprise, while catching up with Revision3’s FilmRiot via TiVo, I heard Ryan Connolly (host) announce B&H as a sponsor. Yes it’s peanut butter meets chocolate, and I can’t imagine how they scored it. I don’t think of B&H as the type of marketing organization that would be so savvy.
Anyone serious about video, audio, production or schweet home entertainment is probably well aware of B&H. I think I’m an affiliate, and I think I’ve made nothing. But what the store lacks in marketing acumen it makes up for in an insane inventory of well price stuff, informed people, and excellent prices. That said, it’s easy to forget about them and go to what’s “top of mind” (like Amazon or BestBuy). The store is 50% of heaven for me, but missing the pools of white chocolate, dancing midgets and a few other things I’d like not to mention.
I always thought Netflix was getting the deal of its life with FilmRiot. I wonder if Netflix dropped, which would be enough to make me drop- maybe Louderback will spill the beans if I get him drunk enough. BTW Louderback (because I think you actually do read this blog) I just received a friggin’ awesome ethernet-via-electrical socket device on his reco and it rawks my previously stalled webTV rig). Next time I open my Roku I’m going to switch from Netflix to Revision3 shows just to pout. [5/12/2010 7:45 am Louderback says Netflix didn’t drop it’s rotating].
Anyway I think there’s an even better FilmRiot ROI for B&H — which wastes not a penny on promoting the show. It’s better than paid search, because it’s reaching the exact people who will/do buy there. Paid search churns money on people that will shop on B&H but buy locally. Yet B&H is unlikely see the direct benefit, just like Netflix will never know that I returned as a customer mostly because of FilmRiot and I’m its friggin’ dream customer (never quite watching/ordering enough movies to cost them much, but always paying my bill).