To videoblog or not to videoblog

There’s a whole debate going on over on TechMeme about whether or not more people should videoblog.

There’s a lot of opinions out there on both sides, so let’s do a little bit of “truth or fiction.”

1) Mark Evans says he’s not doing it cause it takes more time than doing a podcast. TRUE. But not for the reason you might think. It’s cause the files take longer to upload. An hour podcast can be something less than 20mb, but the same hour of video can be 800 MBs, which can take a considerable time to upload. I find that I can do the same kind of show, though, with the same quality on video.

2) Jon Watson says “To create a videocast you have to have set/studio; lighting; personal appearance; visuals.” FALSE. You don’t need a set/studio. I do my videoshow in geek’s offices. You don’t need lighting (but you do need to be aware of it). You don’t need visuals, although it makes you look professional. Who said videoblogs need to look professional? If someone told you that they are totally missing the point. We’ll talk more about this after my show is up, though. But keep in mind that I wanted a more professional look than is possible with just standard videoblog content.

3) Mathew Ingram and Alec Saunders say “Alec says he doesn’t find video a very good way of getting information across, which is why he doesn’t follow many vlogs — and I would agree.” FALSE AND TRUE. False because there are some things that just require video. Here’s a test. Give me one minute of video or 10,000 words to explain to me what Halo 3 does. The video will beat the text every single time, even if you have a Pulitzer-prize winning author write the words. True because words are far easier to skim, far easier to search, far easier to store, far easier to upload, and generally have more information imparted per minute spent consuming than video does.

4) Alec Sanders says “And conversely, why would I want to turn my blog into just two minutes of daily sound bites?” Translation, he thinks that videoblogging needs to be two minutes each post. FALSE. My Channel 9 videos were regularly 50 or more minutes long and, while some people complained, I really didn’t ever listen to them. It still built an audience of 4.3 million unique visitors in a month. If you want to watch short videos that don’t go in depth I suggest you don’t watch my show (although I won’t always have long ones either, some topics/demos/interviews only need two to five minutes to cover well).

There are a few other things I’ve heard on the street about videoblogging too.

4) You need a professional camera rig. FALSE. Geek Entertainment TV got an audience of thousands per month by using a borrowed cheap camera without good microphones or lights.

5) You need a tripod. FALSE, but I wish it were TRUE. Most video can be dramatically improved with the use of a tripod. But, I watch a lot of videos that have good content even though they are shaky.

6) You need to worry about sound. TRUE. There are few things worse than a videoblog that you can’t clearly hear. Almost all of the complaints about my work come when the audio is faint or obscured by some noise.

7) If you want a pat on your back from other videobloggers you need to have good lighting. GENERALLY TRUE. One trick I’ve learned is that you need to keep the brighest thing in the room BEHIND the camera. Why? Cameras don’t have the dynamic range of your eye, so you need a consistent source of light. Putting something bright behind you, like Andy Abramson here does, makes the video look unprofessional (he is too dark in many parts of this video). Oh, and Andy also makes another common videoblogger mistake: too much headroom. He looks like he’s falling off of the bottom of the frame.

8) You need to keep the camera within three feet of whoever is talking. TRUE (maybe). This is true if you’re using the on-camera microphone, which generally sucks. If you use a wireless lavalier microphone then you can put the camera wherever you like.

By the way, we’re working on “The Vloggies” which is a contest to find the best videoblogs. That’ll be in San Francisco, November 4. Judges are being picked by the community (we all hang out on the Yahoo videoblogger mailing list, this is a great place to get help doing your own videoblog).

My answer to “should you videoblog?” It depends. 🙂

UPDATE: Andrew Baron (the guy who does Rocketboom) points out that videobloggers are joining the A list at a very quick rate. THAT is a reason we’ll see more videoblogs.