Vlogs: The state of the

NOTE: I see that Dive into Mark just gave me a link to this post on vlogs or video weblogs. The link to my showcase, below, does not work. Try these links:

Buzzmachine vlogs… Buzzmachine vlogs at Screenblast….]

Vlogs: The state of the art
: I’ve spent my holiday vacation playing with vlogs — video weblogs — to learn what this can do for work (I imagine high-school kids giving sports reports) and for pleasure (that is, this blog). The lessons come here and there and so as vacation ends, I’m pulling together the lessons and links in this post.

I also just put up two new vlogs (with scripts below, where you can also leave comments… be kind) — one about year-end media cliches and one about the fading fast-food culture. You can get to both, and my three maiden video voyages as well — at www.screenblast.com/buzzmachine.

Some of the lessons:

: Vlogs are about somebody saying something. That’s why the ability to work off a script and read off a teleprompter in Serious Magic‘s software is critical enabling technology. This isn’t just about staring at a camera and trying to think of something to say; it’s not about the live camboys and camgirls (to answer Jason Kottke); it’s about at least trying to say something. Vlogs are to cams as blogs are to web pages and forums: They are produced, edited, throught-through; they have a point.

: There are two reasons why something should be on video instead of in print: the need for (1) graphics and illustration or (2) expression and inflection. Here, too, Serious Magic helps because it allows very easy click-and-drop insertion of graphics tied to your words (rather than to a clock).

: I’m still trying to find the right voice for these things. I know that right now, they’re either embarrassing (my sacrifice for my art) or merely imitations of bad TV. But I’m starting to feel comfortable with the form. And I’ll repeat what I said when I started this: Vlogging lets us online go up against our true competitors — not news organizations and reporters but commentators, especially on TV (on Sunday morning, on Fox, on 60 Minutes). Bloggers compete with columnists; vloggers compete with pundits.

But that’s just one voice that will work. Put these tools in the hands of young people with something new to say and a new way to say it and I know we will be wowed.

: Bandwidth is the enemy, but the enemy will be vanquished. When Glenn Reynolds linked to my vlogs, the crush of simultaneous users brought my server down. I solved that, for now, by using Sony’s Screenblast. But I am confident that bandwidth will improve on the viewer’s side of the pipe and get much cheaper on the server’s side.

My links re vlogging so far:

: Introducing vlogging.

: How to vlog.

: To watch my vlogs go to my “showcase” at www.screenblast.com/buzzmachine.

: The drumbeat for Lileks TV.

Others’ links on vlogging:

: Glenn Reynolds includes multimedia blogging in his look at the year online.

: Justin Katz responds to my vlog with a vlog of his own raising questions about the ease and interactivity of the form. (My response.)

: Alex Knapp also doubts. (My response.)

: David Galbraith defends the future of vlogs and foresees armies of bloggerazzi.

: Howard Sherman says the young will be the ones to innovate here.

: Henry Copeland sees convergence in vlogging and Gawker.

: A Dutch filmmaker’s experiment in vlogging (more artsy, less scripted).

: An MIT Media Lab researcher, Aisling Kelliher, also experiments with video weblogging here.

: Macromedia folks videoed a recent conference here.

: The Shifted Librarian wants the text in RSS. Well, I’m halfway there: putting text up; RSS next.

: He hates the idea (because it ruins the off-the-cuff casualness of blogs) and so does he.

: Finally, I’m proud of this one: When I started this blog, the first snarky anti-me post online came from Follow Me Here. And now he’s snarking at vlogging. I must be onto something.

: UPDATE: I’ll try to keep this up-to-date with further links…

: Henry Copeland has a kind review of three of the vlogs.

: More kind words from Sean Kirby.

  • john daker

    Perhaps Eliot is snarking at you because video weblogging has been experimented with, and used, long before you ‘discovered’ it. The ground you walk has been trodden before. Try Googling once in a while … or querying older more established webloggers for prior art. We might even help jump you up the learning curve.
    The arrogance of the ‘newly converted’ gets a little old to us old-timers. We get cranky.
    The technique is viable, but the bandwidth will remain a challenge. In professional manner, you should deliver content with transcripts available for those with slow connections, similar to how we’re stuck delivering flash sites with html backup, for those without the plugin. And, as with all things weblog, once done, it must stay online … permalinks are a must. Even for video footage.
    If you’re going to do it, do it for real, man.

  • Of course, video has been online since the start. But it has been of a few varieties: cam captures life or cam captures subject like deer caught in spotlight or artsy wow-this-moves images.
    I created and discovered nothing. What’s different here is only the introduction of incredibly cheap and easy software with a telepromoter and graphic inserts so you can actually say something, so you can produce what you say. That is what is new here. That is what brings this in sync with weblogs: the ability to say something.
    And saying something, old-timer, doesn’t always mean snarking. That’s something most people learn in high school.

  • john daker

    So, you are just the evangelist, not the self-acclaimed creator? That was the flavor I was getting from others linking your page.
    I hope you are not assuming that I intend to discourage you from vlogging. On the contrary.
    Camcorder technology has been taking the industry by storm since the early ’90’s – Hi-8 confounded professional video Betacam. Your evangelism is a natural extension of that progressive change.
    My major concern is that you make this *better* than conventional news-video. Jump-cuts are a no-no; that’s for Barbara Walters to play demigod. *Always* interview others in the same frame as the interviewer. Do take the time to learn the basics of professional video production. There are many books available.
    But as I mentioned before, how can you afford to handle the permalink issue? That is what discouraged us oldsters from continuing to do this kind of thing in the past [goes for audioblogging, too]. Without permanent archives, it will not really qualify as an offshoot of weblogging; that is a characteristic trait of the movement. Just too damned expensive.
    As for teleprompters … most folks need a little training with an experienced person to do it properly. The use of breath control, props [paper in the hands], head motions, hand motions, etc. Our President is the best example of a person who is untrainable in this vein. The three and four word phrases betray a man who’s afraid to talk at streaming speed, who needs the comfort of all the words on the screen at the time he’s reading them. His prompter operator must be on a permanent IV of Xanax …
    If you want to put prompter over your camcorder, you can do it physically, or you can buy the proper mounts and quarter-wave mirror glass (for over the camera lens, so you’re looking straight in the camera) from such outfits as q-tv. Can’t find them on the web at the moment, but they’re the *best.* Pricey, though. I think there are a couple of links on the web for building your own.
    Oh … never use full color red in your graphics. it transcodes really poorly. Wide differences in black levels in the colors of your graphics will help make them more readable. And, if displaying on a television set, don’t use odd numbers of pixels for the widths of lines or boxes. They’ll pulse at the same frequency and begin to ‘swim.’
    Best of luck with your endeavors. You can do it better than the networks. My professional career was based on this kind of philosophy. But you’ve got to do the groundwork to get it polished and excellent.
    My mistake years ago was trying to reinvent the wheel; I feel that you’re beginning to make the same mistake. Take the knowledge that’s available, and leverage the hell out of it. No sin in standing on the shoulders of others.
    Best of luck.

  • Re: “They are produced, edited, throught-through”.
    Shouldn’t that be *thought*-through?
    Sorry, I don’t mean to be a smartass; I just found that ironic. I make typos on my blog all the time … does moveable type have a spellchecker?
    Very interesting about the vlogs…

  • “Put these tools in the hands of young people with something new to say and a new way to say it and I know we will be wowed.”
    …you know, once us old folks get the hang of it: blogs & vlogs…the ones which keep our comments to ourselves, remain anonymous while watching our unvoiced thoughts prove true or sometimes false and unable to say, “I told you so”; we might just put in the effort to share some of our wisdoms- which may even impress ‘The Young People’.
    …um…now what was I saying? Oh dear me…