Have you noticed an annoying trend? Every videographer from “Cousin Harry” in Saskatoon to the BBC in London is causing our eyes and ears to bleed with cranked up sound and tightly edited, over-the-top visual effects.
Today, even the simplest home editing software has a myriad of “bells and whistles”. You can use the “Ken Burns” effect to pan or zoom in and out of photos. You can have dazzling titles and credits not to mention fancy dissolves and fades.
Now I’m not against effects. Don’t get me wrong. I use them myself. Applied judiciously to enhance a story they can be a valuable tool. The problem arises when they’re overused and distract you from the story being told.
I’ve watched many a video ruined by a filmmaker adding endless ramped-up motion to their photos. After a while I want to shout out, “For God’s sake stop with all the motion! I’m getting seasick!” Nothing spells amateurish more than the overuse of visual effects.
Life story videos are not rock videos. Unless of course you’re producing Bryan Adams’s life story. The effects should work with the subject being documented. We don’t need MTV “razzle-dazzle”. What we need are well-edited sequences that tell a compelling story with a beginning, middle, and end. We want to see pathos and joy, gravity and humor. We want, as with a good feature film, to be entertained.
If you’re about to begin editing a video biography, stop! Keep your hands off the effects buttons. Only when you’ve got a strong storyline in place – only then – consider using effects. Think of them as the icing on the cake.
Maybe, if we’re lucky, we can begin a movement back to thoughtful, elegant storytelling. And maybe my ears and eyes will stop bleeding.
Photo by Matt Reinbold