Flatstyle - My Rant on Making Better Flatland Web Edits

Source: Flatstyle
URL of the article: http://www.flatstylebmx.com/2012/11/my-rant-on-making-better-flatland-web.html
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This is the first sentence and I'm already tripping over my tongue to avoid sounding condescending, or like a know-it-all. The thing is tho, in the past couple of years I can honestly say that I've seen as many, or in most cases, more flatland web edits than darned near anyone, because what I do every single day is go through all the new videos to determine which will be good for posting, and which won't. I've seen a ton now, and I want say some stuff based on that. 

Now that flatland has a chance for massive exposure to a whole new audience (The Come Up site, and hell, all over if it's done well), I'm finding myself seeing some of the same characteristics in video after video that is keeping them from being good shares and I feel almost obligated to say something about that. This isn't meant to criticise anyone of course; in fact I'm hoping that if you make videos, you might find something in here that makes sense and helps your videos be more successful online. I'd also like to add that I don't think all of my videos are great examples. I'm learning too, and figuring things out as I go. When you get into it, you'll find that just knowing the recipe doesn't always guarantee success. It takes a lot of work, practice, and attention to detail. That been said, here I go:

In the flatland scene, there are two main dudes that in my opinion do it right, every single time; James and Sevisual. You've seen their videos. It's likely that they've made at least one of your all time favorites if flatland is your main jam. The numbers don't lie either. I'm not saying saying "watch these videos and do it like them", I'm saying look at the way that they present it, and learn. Their seeming simplicity speaks volumes. You'll understand when you watch them and try to put together something as cleanly.

I think that part of what's holding flatland back while the other bmx disciplines have excelled is the fact that by and large, our videos just aren't as good. That's a hard pill to swallow, believe me. but it's true. Make killer videos and they will get exposure and interest. Those are good goals. You can totally sell without selling out. I see so many flatland edits that are done in a day that I've lost count. It takes time to make something good. Take that time.

Common mistakes when making an edit:

*Not learning the craft of filming and editing, but still putting out videos.

This one probably applies to most everyone that's put a video online at some point. Try to learn how to make the most of your camera, and learn to edit. It's better to take more time with trial and error until you figure things out, then just throw it out there half-baked. That's a mistake I've also made in the past, so I feel great about saying that to you now. It's wise to develop your basic fundamentals before putting a lot of stuff out. With hard work, starting from scratch you can get a decent working knowledge of your camera and editor in the space of a couple weeks. It's worth every second you spend because it translates directly back into quality of the edit.

Self edits. 

By definition, if no one is behind the camera, the chance of making a great, watchable video drops tremendously. This is a big one in flatland because our sport really is a solitary thing. Good solo edits can be done, but they are rare. David Nagy is one of the few guys that come to mind that has made some engaging self filmed edits. Check the link to see what I mean.

Tips: don't be like 200 yards from the camera. If we can't see the expression on the rider's face, the camera is probably too far away, and the result is a video that is less exciting than it could be. Do multiple angles and locations. If you're like me, you're first instinct is to just set the camera up and bust out for a session, but the result is mad boring to watch. Remember, you're making a video that other people will see, so get some visual diversity. Also, get the camera level! It's hugely annoying to me to see a 3 minute edit shot in one spot, with the camera tilted at 20 degrees. When you set it up, look at the shot. Take the extra 30 seconds and square it up if your tripod or whatever is all crooked. Please. It'll save nitpicky dudes like me from grinding my teeth when I watch. If you care about how you film, it's much more likely that your audience will too!

Music

Music sets the tone, and can almost make or break an edit. It's good to use music that's not on the radio right now, or has been in the past. Videos have a tremendous opportunity to associate a song to them, so I feel like you should use a great song that your audience hears for the first time in your video (and hopefully loves!). Then it's "your song". Does that make sense? 

I'd also recommend getting permission to use copyrighted music if that's the case. Youtube for example gets real mad when you use music that is owned by a label that's used without any rights to use it. They also block the videos or audio in your vid in some countries depending on what label the track is on. All in all, it's problematic to steal music, and illegal. If you're going to do it tho, make it worthwhile and post a banger of a song that no one has used in a video. Oh yeah, do searches for the song name and 'bmx' or 'flatland' in youtube or vimeo to see how many other edits have already used the song you want. If there's a bunch, or any with big views, you should prolly look for another song.

Gettin' Too Artsy 

This one may touch a nerve with a lot of people, (including me) but we've gone too far with the artsiness, man. Let the riding speak too. I've seen too many dudes wistfully staring off into space, too many spinning wheels, too many shoes being tied. That shit isn't interesting any more, it's cliche. It's gotten so bad in flatland videos (not saying I haven't been guilty. I have haha) that I've started making up little rules. Partly because we've gone too far, and partly because I'm a jaded dick sometimes when it comes to edits. 

Here are some guidelines that would chub me up if more people followed: please PLEASE make sure there is more riding than b-roll in your video, and if the proportions are anywhere near equal, you'd better be blowing fucking minds with your riding, or you're just being too indulgent with the process of making a cool looking video. In the beginning I did a bit too much of that too

Here's the thing. Good b-roll adds a lot to a video. It turns a video of a dude riding circles in a parking lot into a story. But it's not easy to make it work, and few have succeeded. Of the great videos I've seen that made the most of it, the shots were all very concise, clean, short, and told a lot in the single frame. If you do it, imagine an incredibly loud second hand ticking while the b-roll plays. Edit it, and then edit again, making it crisp and essential. If you find that you like the shot but it takes away from the pace or vibe of the video, just get rid of it. Those shots are to propel and enrich an already good video, not bog it down or take us out of the action.

Length

There's different viewpoints on what a good length for a video is. I'm outspoken on this, even tho I make some of the longest edits out there. Let's start with length as applies to editing. One thing I've noticed is that plenty of flatland clips have way too much fat on them. We don't REALLY need to see a person roll a complete 20' circle before starting a link, so let's instead go frame by frame and trim it down some, eh? When you edit, try to become aware of how much time goes by where nothing is really happening. In well edited videos, that time is extremely small, even non-existent. 

As for overall length, any web edit over 10 minutes needs to have been filmed over the course of months to warrant that size in my opinion; or include a LOT of riders with amazing stuff. In most cases, videos should fall between the 2.5-5 minute marks. That's about the length of a song, and it's short enough that people can just click play without debating if they want to watch it now or later. 

Websites and video producers don't ever want people to take that half a second to debate. We want you to click play right away. A huge amount of views and shares online are I think lost due to videos that are simply too damn long. Again, keep it crisp, keep it on task, and keep it engaging. If your video does all those things, and people know that it's going to do those things, length is less important; but also keep in mind that a big chunk of any video's audience consists of people that you don't know. They may be watching one of your videos for the first time; or not watching it. It's super rare that I feel a video is too short; which says something.

My last rule about length for now is that riding needs to start in the first 15-20 seconds. That's even being generous. If the intro goes on longer than that, I may watch, or I may not. If I do, I'm probably going to go into it with a chip on my shoulder, unless I know for a fact that the video is going to blow my mind. 

If you've read this entire rant and don't hate me, I'm happy. Seriously, I love flatland, I love the videos, and I want to see flatland get the exposure and respect that it deserves, but we have to meet the Internet half way on this. I've said all these things hoping that someone will read it, have maybe one thing "click" and thereby make a better video.

If you've got any feedback, questions, hate comments, whatever; there's a comment box right below this. I'd love to hear it.

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