The Future of Youtube

Not Youtube generally, but the corner of it in which I am most interested: first-person-made outdoor adventure videos.  They’ve revolutionized the outdoor industry.  Before, video of any quality at all required big gear, and this big teams and big money.  Now the best adventure video is increasingly on the leading edge of credibility (see the Camp 4 Collective in the previous link).  Having the adventurers tell their own story is in my eyes a positive development.

Camp 4 is still playing the commercial game, and my aesthetic heart is closer to more intimate, “pure” works. These videos are works of art and of storytelling, and insofar as I view art as primarily concerned with affective communication, those closest to the experience itself are best equipped to tell it.

Luc and Roman’s videos seem to tell us that the Aniakchak trip was a particularly moving one.

My own struggle with making videos, and the main reason I haven’t taken doing so very seriously for about 6 months, is that they seem to have a hard time going beyond outdoor-themed music videos. Pick a trip, do what you can with circumstance to catch it with the camera, pick a song, and fit the three together. What narrative intentionality exists is all too often vaguely emotive only, with salient details left for the reader to intuit from the tone of the music and editing.

Roman’s video above is especially timely in this respect. It has a narrative structure which doesn’t seem overly linear or didactic, and nonetheless plays at character development and intrapersonal growth. It might show a way in which many of us can raise our ambitions, game, and the quality of our work.

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24 thoughts on “The Future of Youtube

  1. As much as I like great videos, I prefer prose with great pictures. If nothing else, reading prose and viewing pictures is just a lot faster. I can also enjoy it at work (where I have no headphones).

    There are exceptions, of course. For example, there is nothing like watching someone ski. You can learn a lot from that (including technique, conditions, or how well they managed to use the equipment). The rafting section of this video comes close to that.

  2. I have a hard time making videos for my blog without feeling like I made a fool of myself, but at the same time I have found others videos essential to helping me pick trips, gear, and techniques to try and buy.

    1. Welcome aboard Joslyn. When I saw your name in the dashboard I thought my sister-in-law was commenting.

      Nice blog, good to see more women writing about outdoor adventure.

    1. Thanks Rog. That’s a nice find, those Smileys. I’ve done a few of the 50 and they capture them fairly well.

      I do want to yell at folks whenever I see them laying back the Kor-Ingalls crux: “quit making it harder!”

  3. I share a lot of your views about the recent surge in outdoor video blogging. With a few exceptions I rarely click on them, despite the promise of beautiful or exciting cinematography, only because I often find myself two minutes in wondering “what the heck is going on here?” I too yearn for real narratives, which often even a string of uncaptioned photos provide with more clarity than a video montage of seemingly random awesomeness interspersed with popular music (present company and those you’ve recently posted are definitely not included in this generalization.)

    Roman’s vignettes are artful and they also convey an actual experience. Luc’s videos are always amazing. I’m of course bringing my own bias into these assessments (basically, I only watch Alaska and people I know, and occasionally the well-circulated downhill bike video.) But I wish more people who took the time to make these videos would make an effort to tell more of a story.

  4. I think the first video is just too long and not actually interesting enough to jsutify my watching for that long. The second one is no different really than the ones you do, though the music is different. I tend to prefer pictures but like videos where I was actually there.

  5. In its essence, evolution in the outdoor video making realm is much like the movie industry itself: silent films (with sound track) progress to talkies. One hope is that it’s not simply a re-invention, that some new kind of story-telling comes out of it.

    As an aside, Camp 4 makes hyperhigh end perfect no shale while Hollywood seems to try and fake out the shaky you-are-there feel. Weird turn of events….

    One problem is sound is absurdly difficult to capture in the outdoors! There’s all that white noise wind and water running. People are far away. Recording devices are not so consumer-friendly. Anyone who’s ever worked in pro-vid production can tel you the soundman’s job is the most important but under appreciated of all.

    To Danni, I’d say that the first video, the long one, is too long — I almost never click on anything over 7 minutes — but it was made for those who were, as you put, it “actually there”.

    As for video blogging vs text+stills, when I see a big stack of photos filling the screen, I cringe a little.

    Mostly, it seems that the little videos that Luc and I make are for us and the people who were there with us (I know I am speaking for Luc here), but the music and the images are our effort to convey the feelings. And yes, it’s a bit cheaper than using text, which demands creative investment. Using other’s music is a bit like cheating, since the sounds they created are easily borrowed to offer up feelings already.

    But I love making those little videos and will continue to do so, in part because stills are harder to shoot.

    1. I wasn’t there, though I am perhaps less far removed than some. (Proximity of experience has to help a lot with emotional relevance.) And I don’t think it was too long, I’ve watched it all 3 times.

      But I’m a humanities guy and have a longer attention span than some (scientistsCOUGHlawyersCOUGH).

      😉

      Good discussion everyone.

      1. Chalk me up for a ‘ditto,’ Dave.

        You simply cannot take a trip like the AK Peninsula traverse, chop it down to a three minute video, and still have the same end result.

  6. my two cents –

    roman nailed it with the fact that a narrative has to be carried by sound. sound, for video, is incredibly difficult. and while technology allows great HD footage to be acquired easily in the field (and cheap!), there are still no easy workarounds for good sound. getting good sound that tells a good story? that’s the toughest thing you can do. there aren’t a lot of talented writers out there, and there are even fewer who are good storytellers with video who can shoot, edit, write, and produce a great narrative. it takes a lot of time, time most of us don’t have.

    i do a lot of videos. but i disagree with roman about video being easier to acquire. i can shoot good photos much more easily than i can video. good video is time consuming, and usually involves heavier gear, like tripods and fluid heads at the very least.

    – dan

  7. I definitely have a ahort attention span. I guess I tend to like text + pictures because I can skim :p In my case, I don’t really “write” on my blog just post pictures as a means of trying to get my friends and family to visit. I don’t have much to say so possibly video would be a better mode…

    Roman, I hope my comment didn’t come off as offensive/insulting. Dave’s description of whatever video is meant to be “commercial” made me think it’s too long to be “commercial” — not too long to exist or be cool for friends to watch.

    I will end with an insuolt though. I cnanot see what I’m typing because it’s black-on-black while I’m typing. Dave please fix this :p

  8. In re-reading (or re-skimming) I see Dave isn’t referring to either video as the comercial one — you have to go to another website. I’d read more carefully if I could bill this time 🙂

  9. I agree that audio is hard. It doesn’t matter whether it is inside or outside. One of the common ways you can tell an amateur video from a professional one is the audio (there are exceptions, of course).

    I read a lot of trip reports. I’ve noticed a lot more pictures over the years and a lot more video recently. This makes sense, as the technology progresses. One of the things that hasn’t changed, however, is the nature of the reports. It is difficult to tell if the report is going to be worth my time or not. If I read a magazine, especially a very popular one, I know the writing is likely to be very good. If it isn’t, then the subject matter is supposed to make up for it. Magazines vary. Some, like the New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly are comfortable with very long articles that contain nothing but text. Others, like sports magazines, want things short and to the point. They make up for it with great photos (otherwise, you would just stick with the newspaper). Regardless, though, you expect a certain amount of quality, and are rarely disappointed. Random trip reports, on the other hand, are another matter. That is why I look forward to reading the winners of your contest — you’ll do the work of editor, in picking which selections are worthy.

    I typically read trip reports because I am curious about the area, and curious about the possibilities. I’ll admit that I also like reading about areas or experiences that are way out of my league. Even then, I find it easier to follow if I can relate to it in some way. For example, I read a lot of trip reports on Turns All Year. I would not attempt most of these. However, I know the area well, so I can read about someone skiing an area that is too difficult for me to climb (in the summer) and admire it. I have a tougher time in areas that I’m not familiar with.

    The internet is relatively young. It is full of possibilities, and they are changing all the time (you tube wouldn’t be feasible if it weren’t for the improvements in hard drives and streaming technology that occurred recently). I think it is easy to create things that are like the other media that we all grew up with. There is nothing wrong with that. A really good video (like the ones mentioned) would be great on a big T. V. Likewise, a really good text and picture report reminds me of a great magazine article. However, I think it will be nice when folks really integrate the interactive nature of the internet with their reports. For example, I’ve seen reports that link to paths on maps (whether the path was generated by a GPS receiver or hand drawn). My own crude attempt at this is here: http://tinyurl.com/3mq3atx The map is “clickable”. You can click on a segment, or an icon, and get a little report of the actions for the day (including links to pictures). Imagine this type of thing in the hands of someone who is a really good writer, photographer or cinematographer. Sounds good to me.

  10. I have a good attention span for words, much less so for video. That’s not to say I don’t watch videos, but it has to be pretty compelling to get me to finish it. Right now that doesn’t happen too often. With a written report, if the prose doesn’t captivate me, I can skip it and just look at the photos, whereas with a video I have to put up with the narration and/or music to see the footage (unless I mute it, which usually makes it even less appealing to try to finish). Certain people make consistently good videos, and certain topics provide consistently good footage, and I’ll make a point to watch those. But just for example, Shug’s videos are a wealth of information on hammocking and his cold weather experience is invaluable. But for whatever reason, I find it hard to sit and watch a vid of his straight through. Is the problem me? (Probably).

    And yet, I’m thinking of videoing my next trip. Maybe if I do it myself I’ll better understand the appeal.

  11. I can’t help but think most peoples reactions to outdoor videos comes from the fact that it’s a passive endeavor. Like several people have mentioned, if text isn’t interesting you can skim it, and you can stay longer with the pictures that appeal to you and skip the ones that don’t, whereas videos force you to wait.

    It make take 4 or 5 minutes to read through a thorough trip report, but the whole time you’re engaged and feel like you’re doing something, and you feel in control of your time. Whereas a 3 minute video of the same trip makes you passive, and gives your mind a chance to wander more easily.

    I guess I don’t think it has anything to do with actual preferences, and more to do with the psychological sense of control…

  12. I think control and time are the two big things. I can fast forward a video (which is similar to skimming it). But I can read much faster than anyone can talk. This gets me back to the humanities major comment. I can’t imagine going through college using books on tape. It would be fun, I just don’t think you could do it in the time they allow (the exception being the poetry classes).

    That being said, there are times when videos can convey the information way more quickly and clearly than words or pictures. Skiing is a great example. There are plenty of magazines that describe various skiing techniques, but they are really hard to follow. On the other hand, seeing someone go through the motions (literally) is a lot better.

    I agree, though, that the more that a website is interactive, the more likely it is to engage the reader. Part of this can be chalked up to our shorter attention span, but part of it is really taking advantage of the strength of the internet. I have friends who do all of their newspaper and magazine reading online. I’m not like that. I prefer paper. However, the web can do things that T. V. and print can’t. To go back to my example, a “clickable” map is great.* Not only does it show you where the hiker was, but it shows you what was nearby. A reader who knows the area will immediately understand the trip. But someone who doesn’t can grab important information quite easily. For example, a reader may wonder “where is that? how did they get there?”. Just expand the map and you see a few roads. Expand it further and you see Seattle. In a magazine, you might print several maps of various sizes, with references to other pages in the magazine. A reader can spend his or her time flipping back and forth. But while this is annoying in a magazine, it is ridiculously easy (and fun) on a computer.

    I would like to see more of this type of thing. nwhikers.net uses a pretty cool feature (I don’t know who created it, and I’m sure it is used for plenty of other sites). It allows anyone to “edit” a picture, and put labels on parts of it. So, for example, a person will post a picture of a view from Mount Dickerman. Other people will put in the names of the peaks. Not only is this sort of interactive (wiki-esque) collaboration great, but so is the end result. The labels only show up when you slide your mouse over it. That way, you can admire a nice picture (as is) or slide the mouse over to gather more information. Pretty cool.

    *I’ll admit I’m a big map fan, so maybe I get a bit too excited about this type of thing.

  13. Thanks for the tip, Spelt, I hadn’t heard of it. I use GMap4 to display my report, but plain old Google for creating it. It is kind of tedious, because Google doesn’t have a topo layer (I still wonder why they don’t). I’ve also used a lot of GeoTags (for spots on my Flickr pictures) but Yahoo isn’t any better than Google. mapper.acme.com is great for generating GeoTags.

    I’m very curious about other uses for linking technology. For example, I could imagine a trip report where one of the early pictures shows a guy skiing. Click on the skis, and you can see who makes it. Click on the hat, and you can read a blog about the guy’s custom (homemade) hat.

  14. I believe video will be the future of how we tell about our stories. That said, I agree that the current format is often not of a lot of interest to those who haven’t been there. “Music, film your trip, edit” is the standard, and something like Camp 4 is not possible for the average backpacker (who carries a Dolly or Jib when backpacking, for example?). I totally love the C4C stuff, though, really inspirational.

    Last spring I tried a variation on the trip report video, which consisted of stills (http://vimeo.com/22793994) and I liked that. It does not give the freedom of video, but presenting photos in a video, together with a nice song, in a narrative way, could be one option. Or combine stills & video, with text, maps, commentary and music – Euegen did a nice one of that sorts (http://vimeo.com/24959020).

    Anyway, it is a young medium, so there’s plenty of opportunities to experiment. I’m curious to see what I and others come up with!

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