Photos vs Movies

Video is becoming more popular with the mainstream consumer, largely thanks to video capturing devices that are getting smaller and can take pretty decent quality videos.  The iPhone 4, for example, can record 720p HD video.  Since I got mine, I’ve been taking a lot more videos than usual, because I always have it on me, and it’s easy to do.

Something I haven’t quite gotten a hang of yet is what to do with the videos once I’ve taken them.  The shorter videos (30 seconds or so), are usually fine to view and distribute as is.  If the un-edited video is longer, I’ve noticed people are less likely to watch the whole thing.  So this poses a dilemma to those taking the video.  It seems like the only way we can retain the audience’s attention is by editing to cut out the parts that aren’t that important & try to trim the length to something more bearable to sit through.  I’ve noticed that the more effort that goes into editing, the more likely a viewer is to watch the whole thing.  Certain effects, such as cutting to a different shot or fading in/out, add to the viewer’s enjoyment.  I think you’ll find that most videos available on the web that are worth viewing are edited to some level.

So what’s the problem?  Simple:  editing takes time.  In some cases, a lot of time.  The last video I took the effort to edit & make semi-enjoyable to view was before our son Nathan was born.  We had a “reveal shower”, where everyone knew what we were having before we did & we found out at the shower.  That was a lot of fun sharing the experience with everyone.  My sister had her HD video camera running the entire time & captured about 45 minutes of video.  I downloaded all of it to my laptop with the intention of making a short movie to distribute to people in my family.  I will say that I rarely ever edit movies, so tackling this project was not going to be my strong suit.  Thankfully iMovie has a shallow enough learning curve that I was able to get started in a relatively short amount of time.  However, getting to the final product that I was happy with took collectively about 5 hours and only wound up being 3min & 30sec long.  That was a considerable amount of time and effort to produce a single movie.  I can’t imagine ever finding enough time to do that for every video I ever take.

Photos are a lot easier to manage.  Most of the time, they just need a quick “auto-enhance” and they’re ready to be distributed.  People are more likely to enjoy looking at them right out of the box, even if the majority of them are bad.  The only reason I can think of for this is that a still picture can be viewed quickly.  If you don’t like the picture, you can move on to the next one at your own rate.  The anticipation of seeing the next one is enough to keep a person’s attention captive for the entire roll usually.

So what’s the answer?  For me, it’s this:

  • Keep the videos as short as possible.  Take multiple short videos when you would normally take one long one.  If you do wind up with a long one that only has a few key points in it, edit them out quickly.
  • Photos will, for the foreseeable future, be the medium of choice for sharing an event.  Don’t stop taking them just because you did a video too.
  • For *major* life events, do video.  These are worth the time it takes to edit the video into a movie.

I’m interested to see how other people feel about this topic as well.