Group Essay- ‘What can we do with online video?’

Online video practice can be broadly defined as any video content that we put online. Inherent in this definition is that it is a new form of video unbound by the constraints of the previous platforms of film and television. Traditionally, producing video content for film and television has been an expensive and labour-intensive task. The processes of development, pre-production, production, post-production and sale all contributed to a high price of entry in terms of expense and technical knowledge, and this was largely controlled by industry professionals.

Today, with the increased affordability of video technology, the ubiquity of mobile phones with video capability and general literacy in these technologies (Berry 2015), and a restructuring of internet networks on a commercial/industry level to allow for better streaming (Ian Wong, 2016), the practise of authoring, publishing and distributing video content online is more accessible than ever before. In fact, video content currently makes up 70% of all internet traffic, and this figure continues to rise.

There are many ways to publish video online, mainly this involves publishing video content to the internet via platforms, such as Youtube, Netflix, Stan, or Vimeo, and applications, such as Instagram, Snapchat, or Vine. Each platform is different in what it permits you to do. For instance some platforms allow uploading, and some are just for streaming. Videos on Vine and Instagram tend to be short-form, whereas Youtube can allow for long-form structure. Platforms such as Netflix and Stan don’t allow users to author content, and only host industry-made video for streaming. In thinking about what it is that we can do with video on each platform, it’s useful to think of a platform or application in terms of its affordances. Norman (2002) describes affordances as the perceived and actual properties of a thing, that determine how the thing could possibly be used. A chair, for instance, permits sitting, whilst a computer interface permits the navigation of a web page. In the context of online video platforms, Youtube affords the authoring of online videos, whereas Netflix and Stan do not. By this same token, a constraint can be viewed as opposite, meaning that which a platform restricts you from doing. For example, Vine only permits videos of a maximum 6 second duration.

For this task we chose Instagram, because due to it’s particular affordances (and constraints), it was most suited to our needs. Instagram is a platform designed purely for mobile, and videos can only be uploaded via the mobile app. It’s interface is also optimised for mobile use, with commands being issued via swipes, or the mobile keyboard, rather than via a mouse.

On a technical level, Instagram videos tend to be quite short (60 seconds max). They are often accompanied by a brief caption which often includes emoticons. Videos can include sound, though the user must tap the frame to hear. Editing has traditionally not been a feature of Instagram videos though that seems to be changing as Instagram use continues to grow in popularity. More recent additions to Instagram’s affordances are the direct message feature (DMs), and “stories”, which are short personal videos which expire after use. These last two affordances echo a growing trend of platforms increasingly attempting to offer everything in the one place, i.e. messaging used to be mainly done via iMessage or Messenger, whilst stories are very reminiscent of a function previously unique to Snapchat.

In a broader cultural sense, Instagram videos tend to be their most effective when they are informal, human and share behind-the-scenes content. This harks back to the days when Instagram was largely used by individuals to share their personal lives, and has carried over into the overall tone of Instagram even though it is now also heavily utilised by brands and organisations. Indeed this tone is so pronounced today that Instagram also has it’s own vocabulary and vernacular which breaks away from formal and institutionalised vocabulary (Gibbs, Meese, Arnold, Nansen, & Carter, 2014). This includes the use of hashtags, platform conventions such as “link in bio” (due to Instagram’s constraint of not allowing users to link content in captions), and abbreviations such as “TBT” (Throwback Thursday), and “MFW” (My Face When). Indeed, it is one of these conventions, the hashtag #aboutlastnight which led us to create our Instagram account for this task, @aboutlastnightmelbourne, a play on words referencing Instagram culture to showcase the nightlife in Melbourne through a casual and informal Instagram lens.

Through this Instagram lens we were able to draw on the idea of connectivity, the idea of ‘what can we do with online video’. The hashtag and the term itself, “about last night”, is a interactive way of showcasing our nights out, and getting people to create online conversations. Instagram is a platform where interactivity can make an amatuer video become viral and socially connected. This is an affordance of Instagram, due to the its ability to connect through multiple ways. Hashtags, messaging, and tagging are all ways of sharing and distributing videos on Instagram. However videos cannot easily be inserted onto other websites, such as a personal blog which is the only constraint Instagram has when it comes to connectivity.

Our video helped us explore the idea of multiple points of view, by creating a video that connected different videos of current and past footage. It essentially became a sequence of multiple nights out from different stages and from different perspectives.

According to Hight, interactivity has a “strong emphasis on collaborative practice” (2017, p.1), we engaged in a collaborative practice through our concept and storytelling aspect. On instagram it is easy to tell stories, through individual videos and photos that can be grouped by hashtags or a single account. This affordance made it easier to create the individual stories of our videos, whilst the overall content was still connected.

However when administering and creating our own Instagram account @aboutlastnight filled with video content, we put our research into action. Using skills such as a personalised approach and showcasing the experience (Nickelson, Logan 2016) we enabled ourselves to create meaningful content from our prior research. Three instagram videos were created capturing three different music scenes, each telling a unique story yet contributing to the overarching theme of the Melbourne Nightlife. From our research into our Case Study (Vogue Instagram Video from February 11th ‘embracing spring’), we used a style of fast-paced, quick cut editing and a lively soundtrack in our works to create the desired comparison between the case study and our original video works. Through editing on Software such as Premier Pro and iMovie, we fabricated this and sourced non-copyright music from Bensound. However when uploading our edited pieces we experienced problems with the framing of the post. Reflecting on this problem now, it would be one thing we would fix in future. Although we can highlight this framing issue as a simple error and learning curve, it is worth noting that the informality and human aspect of Instagram as a platform can be quite forgiving of unpolished or “natural” videos. Next time we would also incorporate hashtags into our posts (Andreas M. Kaplan, and Michael Haenlein. 2010) as these reach a wider audience, targeting our desired demographics directly through this simple affordance. Also we would create titles within our captions for each work individually as a design affordance, to enable a starker contrast between each video, highlighting their individual uniques within this grouped theme.

Online video content enables producers to reach their market in a direct, easy way yet instilling the aesthetic design aspects within this trend of social media. Through a series of affordances, one can generate much attention from a single video post, manufacturing a sense of community and individuality with their account, swarming many consumers to view and it’s so easy and accessible that anyone can create it. Instagram is one of the most well known and commonly used social media platforms, allowing 60 second videos with a caption to be posted. As a team we decided to try this idea of producing our own Video Content to Instagram, showing that it can be easy, accessible, unique and have wide reach. Through stages of brainstorming, filming, editing and uploading we finalised our vision of creating online video content that’s humanized, aesthetically pleasing, incorporates relevant sound, and fast paced editing. We’ve learnt that online video, when produced using certain affordances and design aspects of specific social media platforms, is an effective way of targeting consumers that differs from the traditional video practises of film and television in terms of its accessibility and a host of affordances specific to online video.

References:

  1. Berry, M 2015, Out in the open: locating new vernacular practices with smartphone cameras, Taylor & Francis Online.
  2. Gibbs, M, Meese, J, Arnold, M, Nansen, B, & Carter, M 2014, #Funeral and Instagram: Death, social media, and platform vernacular, Information, Communication & Society.
  3. Hight, C 2017, Software as Co-Creator in Interactive Documentary, Columbia University Press, New York
  4. Nickelson, L 2016, The Secrets of Successful Social Media, Music for Makers, Web
  5. Norman, D 1999, Affordance, conventions and design (Part 2), Nielsen Norman.
  6. Ian Wong, J 2016, The Internet Has Been Quietly Rewired, and Video Is the Reason Why, Quartz.
  7. A M, Kaplan, Haenlein, M 2010, Users of the World, Unite! The Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media.” Business Horizons 53.1 2010. p. 59–68
  8. https://www.instagram.com/p/BQVzntAAMDl/ (vogue case study Instagram video, february 11th 2017)