Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Science: it's a girl thing...Pulled videos: a Commission thing?

I had posted, some time ago, a video on European enlargement, produced for the European Commission, that was accused of being racist.... I thought it was a clumsy attempt to capture young audiences, but that it did not strike me as racist; especially, I really did not want to be too negative as the Commission had started producing more daring - hence prone to criticism - videos.

That was then. Now, a couple of friends have separately sent me the YouTube link to a new Commission video that in theory should push young women to study science. Well, frankly I am speechless. Have a look:

Do I need to comment?

What bothers me though is:
A) that the European Commission spent probably a large sum of money to get the video done;
B) that no doubt they must have brainstormed and decided that this approach was not sexist or stereotypical but an effective way to communicate to young women (surely there must have been young women in the room, right?); C) that the producers went ahead and finished the beauty but then, when they started being criticised - exactly as it has happened with the video on the benefits of enlargement that I mentioned above- the Commission decided to pull the video from the website.

This means that:
A) Commission people don't really believe in what they do;
B) they are scared of being cricised so in fact they are not daring at all;
C) all the money spent is wasted as the video is not shown any longer.

One tricky thought: the link above has probably more views than many - if not all- videos the Commission has produced until now. So, let me get this right: I produce a video that I know will be criticised and for this reason it will be watched a lot; as soon as I get negative comments, I pull it from my site - people can still find it on YouTube - but I can say I am not showing it; and in fact, since people talk about it, it is probably money well spent even if they talk about it because it is bad..is this a new Commission audio-visual communication strategy? Oh dear, way too perverse....don't think so.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Size (actually length!) matters, but good and long is fine by me! (Oh dear, that sounds weird!)

Ok, I have been thinking quite a lot about the length of videos lately: a couple of people told me that the video on the Council Summit, shown in the last post, is maybe nicely done but it is definitely too long. True. Well, maybe.

This actually got me thinking: is it really always the case that short is better? Aren't we just contributing to the trend of the ever decreasing attention span of people, mainly young, who are not able to concentrate for more than 5 minutes before getting bored? Should we make a distinction between what has viral potential and what is interesting, informative and well done?

I guess part of the answer to these questions lies in what is the prime objective of the film maker: to reach the biggest audience? To explain something in more detail? To produce a beautiful film? Can and should one aim to achieve all of these objectives with a carefully crafted 5 minute video?

Blaise Pascal once wrote on the top of a 17 pages long letter: "I have made this letter rather long because I have not had time to make it shorter". So, in theory, with time and effort, it should be possible to condense a long thought into a much shorter one and that should surely also apply to videos. Certainly this is not done enough. But sometimes it is not the issue: if after watching the first two minutes of a long video you would rather shoot yourself than watch the rest, then it is simply not a good video, never mind the length!

On the other hand, there are amazing hours-long documentaries that are shown - unfortunately less and less - on television, then posted on Youtube: they grip you from the first seconds; they are very well done; they give you insights that you had no idea of and, most importantly, they leave you with something to think about and remember. To be fair, they are incredibly expensive and time consuming to produce, but the quality is truly outstanding. And it is sad that public broadcasters have dramatically reduced investing in these types of programmes because - they say - the audience is no longer interested in such lengthy and detailed films. True? Don't know really, probably yes.

Frankly though, if you asked me to chose between this:

(the second episode of a four part series on Putin, Russia and his relationship with the West) I am afraid this is no longer available due to BBC copyright!

...and this:

(more than 100 million views for....well have a look!)

...I know which one I would go for (all right, maybe I am very biased and it is an unfair comparison but this is where length, quality and virality clash...or do they? Guess what is considered the most viral video of all times?: the 30-minute long 'Kony 2012'!)

Friday, June 1, 2012

So, Herman and Janez, ready for the Oscar?

I promised myself that if I saw well produced (if not necessarily viral!) EU videos I would post them on my blog, not to be accused of always being too critical or polemical...  well, here are two examples. The first video was produced recently by the Council (main protagonist: Herman van Rompuy, but don't let this scare you!), describing the frantic preparations ahead of and during a European Council Summit in Brussels (brief positive parenthesis: the fact that the video talks about the March Council summit and that it has been posted on Youtube at the beginning of May is not bad; well, coming from television news, it seems an eternity but for a documentary, not bad at all). The other comes out of the Commission (main, and only protagonist - if you exclude some ducks-: Janez Poto─Źnik, but same as above!)and it was the opening video at this year's Green Week conference on water issues. Well done (a bit too long the Summit one, but with a good pace), clear message, relatively
entertaining (and I say relatively as a disclaimer, as they are obviously not made for entertainment but for information purposes). They both convey the importance of what is being described but in a light way, light in terms of visuals (Green week),or in term of script (Summit). I was told one evening that the Commission has been trying to assess the number of videos that it has produced over the years and they are still counting.  Well, maybe fewer but good ones such as these would be a responsible and effective strategy from now on.

Here they are: