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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ten Ways to Ensure Your Vlog Doesn't Suck

Posted By on Thu, May 12, 2011 at 8:55 AM


A few weeks ago, I got a question about video blogging, which is also called vlogging. Instead of answering it the usual way, I thought I'd go all meta and do a video blog about video blogging. More detailed descriptions of the tips are written below for your enjoyment and/or lack of headphones. Enjoy!

Dear Anna,

I would like to try vlogging, but a lot of the video blogs I see suck balls. How do I ensure that mine does not fit that description too?

Not Wanting to Suck Balls

Here's a quick rundown on 10 dos and don'ts about vlogging.

Tip #1: Keep it short.

Maximum 5 minutes, but preferably around 2 minutes, unless you're a honey badger or a puppycam. This is the Internet, not Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook. We have short attention spans. You're already competing with e-mail and Facebook and Twitter and several other elements of distraction. Don't make it harder than it has to be.

Tip #2: Include contact information

You want to have a way for people to find you, see your work, and give you the credit you so clearly deserve. If all someone has is a YouTube screen name, they're more likely to forget. Except YouTube user "sxephil," whom I remember because it reminds me of dyslexic porn. And actually his vlogs are pretty awesome. You should check them out.

Tip #3: Look at the camera and not at your image on the screen.

If you're using a computer to vlog, don't look at yourself. Look at the green dot. This is for two reasons. One, it'll help you stop fidgeting and/or fixating on your pores. Two, you'll be looking at your audience and not gazing slightly downward.

Tip #4 If you have a handheld camera, set it down.

Don't walk around with it and be all Wobbly McParkinsons. If you're vlogging for an amateur porn site, then fine, I can tolerate a little motion sickness for the greater good, but not when I'm listening to you wax poetic on, like, the best TGI Friday's cocktail, which is obviously the Frozen Kahlua Mudslide. That's not even a question.

Tip #5: Edit your video

You don't have to go all Matrix special effects or anything, but basic editing is a must for vlogging. If you have a MacBook, iMovie is probably already installed on your computer, and is not superdifficult to use. If you have a PC, there's free video editing software such as VideoSpin or Movie Maker if you have Windows Vista (my condolences), or VideoThang. Just do a quick web search and see what appeals.

In terms of the editing itself, even using a few different camera angles, backdrops, and framing will help your video seem less flat and monotonous. You don't have to always be sitting in one place, even if you're using a webcam. Move around; zoom in or out. One static long shot of a person talking is boring, especially if you do only one take.

Tip #6: Use music.

Music and sound effects provide a nice background. Plus it's fun. SAD TROMBONE NOISE.

There are lots of websites where you can get copyright-free music. A few of them can be found here, here, and here.

Also, iMovie comes with a selection of sound effects and music.

Tip # 7: Write a script or at least an outline.

This'll help prevent you from saying "um" and "like" at, um, like, every pause.

Tip #8: Turn on your lights.

This sounds obvious, but I see lots of vlogs where people are sitting alone in their dark rooms, the only light coming from the sad, ethereal reflection of their computers. Don't do that. It's creepy. And annoying. Unless you're Gary Busey or something. Then it's fine to keep the lights off.

Tip #9: Consider your background.

Don't sit in front of a pile of your dirty laundry and stacks of Weight Watchers Mac N' Cheeseproduct. However, just sitting in front of a white wall isn't terribly visually appealing either. Make sure your surroundings reflect the tone of your vlog. Or, at the very least, make sure your background is not needlessly distracting.

Tip #10: Watch and learn.

You know that expression, "Imitation is the highest form of flattery, unless you're Vanilla Ice and I'm Queen suing you for copyright infringement?" Vlogging is like that. Watch other awesome vloggers and do what they do. I like Jay Smooth at Ill Doctrine for his insightful and poignant rapping on political and current events. I also like Bitch magazine's videos and Slate's Dear Prudence, though that's an advice column that is also part animation.

There you have it. Best of luck having your vlog not suck balls, or anything else it doesn't want to suck for that matter.

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @ExhibitionistSF or Facebook
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