Why Did Kony 2012 Go Viral?

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?

“Where’s the Little Girl?” and “Dancing Sheep” (funny videos)

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.

On the production of "Thanks Smokey," a Zoochosis production

Check out Patrick Scott’director’s cut voiceover to get some really cool insights into the subtle aspects that make “Save Miranda” so fantastic. Here’s the NPR storyabout “turtle bridges” that so wonderfully sets up the protagonist, and bookmarks the comedy.

I can only hope that Scott/Zoochosis and The Station will collab. They’re both in Venice Beach, right?

Great Resources on Creating Film Look Using HD-SLR Cameras

What are the best free online-resources to help you create a film look with a digital camera (even a $500 HD-SLR camera will do the trick). While writing my last post about how to create film-like effects using an HDSLR camera within a budget, I realized there’s loads of great articles, blogs, video tutorials, discussion boards and other forums to the free exchange of what people learn in the trenches. So here’s the beginning of a list of some very useful posts — some new and some old. See my last post for tips like using depth of field (with decent lens), 24-frames-per-second, panoramic display, decent lighting and audio.

Now for some free online-resources to help further…


The "bleach bypass" effect is seen here, where black and white (toned silver) sit over a more subtle color.
  1. Curated Articles on Making Video Look Like Film: Urban Fox curated some articles on making video look like film, and is well worth a glance. I especially liked Christina Fox’s article that sums up selecting an HD-SLR camera, using 24-frames-per-second setting, using depth of field, and lighting. He also mentions sound quality, and FilmRiot has a segment devoted to surround sound.
  2. Softweigh Multimedia has some detailed tutorials for building some clever video camera gear at nickles on the dollar. Note that what you’re purchasing is not the device, with supply estimates usually in the 10 or 20 dollars. You’re buying instructions.
  3. DIY Lighting Hacks: You know lighting can turn an amateur video into something quasi-pro, but you don’t know that you can make dramatic improvements to your lighting without spending a fortune. Got a coffee can? A milk-bottle jug, or a ? Want to make an affordable light tent to give your photos or video that catalog-like professional look? Check out Darren Rowse’s “DIY Lighting Hacks for Digital Photographers” at Digital Photography School.
  4. [/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.
  5. iJustine Blog: The top YouTuber provides a list of her production equipment in a post titled “How to Make a Video.” Couple that with the VideoFilmMaker’s contrast/zebra effects and you’re in good shape.
  6. Software You Didn’t Know You Needed: Rocketboom has a post about video-making software that I visit every once in a while to remind myself the name of software that I probably already own but can’t find.
  7. Videomaker’s Forum: Lots of smart vid production die-hards peruse the Videomaker forum (see home, which has search) to provide great answers to the curious. As an example, here’s on about HDSLRs.
  8. My little homemade Amazon store features some of the best-reviewed HD-SLR cameras. Buy 'em here and maybe I'll finally make some Amazon Affiliate money to offset my obsessive purchases of gear.

    Howcast Quick Videos: This short, instructional video site was founded by Google Video alumni, and offers a sleuth of simple instruction videos across a wide range of topics. You may want to search Google and Howcast” when seeking a video how-to. The search engine has a difficult time finding just the video production clips, and as you can see in the Howcast search results for “video production,” A refined search for videocamera did somewhat better. Some stink like “How to Get Great Video Production,” which is simply an air. The “How to Get Your Video Noticed on YouTube,” which is somewhat painfully remedial but useful as a primer.

  9. Picking a Semi-Pro Video Camera (in case the increasingly popular HD-SLR still cameras with video aren’t cutting it): VideoMaker’s blog (August 2011) has a nice post on the leading semi-pro (or professional) video cameras available, and here’s the WillVideoForFood Amazon store for these brads, which range from $2K to $5K.
  10. Shirtless Apprentice: While this For Your Imagination show was cancelled in 2008, its archive of production tips are somewhat evergreen, and the format is fun and simple.