Vloggers who embrace the art of storytelling create much more meaningful content for YouTube.
As vloggers, we are the heroes of our stories, and we are the storytellers. We have full control over what we share. Vlogs can be as simple as creating a daily diary, or they can be more complex with thoughtful storylines and editing. Having so much creative control and freedom, it begs the question: What makes the best vlogs?
The best vlogs tell a story. Vlogs are much more complex than simple montages, a jumble of awesome shots cut to awesome music. Vlogs tell stories that are logical and narrative. The real question is, how? While many people focus on the gear, it’s also important to master the art of storytelling.
To vlog or not to vlog?
These days, everyone has a camera in their phone, but creating a quality story takes a lot more than hitting the red record button. A common mistake? Shooting EVERYTHING. Sure, it’s scary to think we might miss something if we don’t film everything! But, capturing everything is exhausting and unnecessary, and it creates a complicated editing process.
As creators, we have to make the conscious choice about when to record, and even more important, when NOT to record. Discipline is the secret and the challenge. Hit the record button only when everything is perfect. Choose carefully what you capture. Get plenty of coverage to focus on your key points, but in general, less is more.
The Plan of Action
Start with a shotlist or loose outline of what you want to film. Ask yourself: What’s going to happen today? Which of these events or scenes do I want to film and which ones can I ignore? Coming up with a rough outline will give you time to capture an interesting story while also allowing time for rest between scenes. Even if you don’t know everything that will happen, having a rough plan will be useful.
Of course, once you have a plan, it’s OK to change the plan! Keep your camera at the ready in case something interesting pops up!
While the format for vlogs tends to vary from person to person, there are many key elements you’ll want to include:
Tell us who you are and what we’re doing today. It’s OK to briefly re-introduce your channel to your viewers — you never know who is watching for the first time. Just keep it snappy.
2. Dive into your first mini-story.
Tell us about your first exciting event or story point. Remember, all stories have a beginning, middle and end. Share relevant footage that explains what we’re about to do, what we’re doing and what we did.
When filming your on-camera moments, it’s OK if you don’t say it all perfectly in one take. Feel free to ad-lib or do a couple takes to make sure you got it. For vlogs, jump cuts are very much in style. You won’t get away with that as a TV news reporter, but for casual video blogs — you’re all good! So, in the edit, trim your story down as needed to add style and to refine the key points. You should also add relevant B-roll to make the story more interesting.
These are essential to keeping your story moving, and will help viewers travel with you to the next story point. There are several ways you can transition. You can tell us on-camera when you’re moving on to the next thing (ie. I just did this, and now I’m going to do that). Another option — add cinematic transitions like time-lapses or cool speed ramps, or add interesting B-roll to reflect upon the events that just occured or establish a new scene and move the audience to the next beat in your narrative.
As far as adding editing transitions, use them with purpose. For many, straight cuts and a periodic fade to black or white can help you tell your story. Don’t just add a bunch of transitions to your video for the sake of adding style and flair. Sure, have fun experimenting with every star wipe and funky dissolve effect imaginable, and then, never touch them again. Only use them if they enhance your story. For example, the zoom out effect can be a super cool transition to move from a wide shot of a building exterior to an extra wide shot that reveals the surrounding buildings on the street. However, using this same zoom out effect to transition between two unrelated story beats would be jarring.
4. Repeat step two and three as needed.
The beauty of vlogging is that you can include as many or as few mini-scenes as you wish!
5. Conclusion and Sign-Off.
This is the payoff. We’ve been watching your video for minutes and minutes — give what we’ve been waiting for — some type of resolution.
Did we achieve what we said we were going to do? Reflect on this question as you wrap up the story.
Then, invite your audience to interact with you — give them a call to action! Ask them to give your video a thumbs up if they liked it, tell them to leave a comment or invite them to watch additional videos on your channel. It never hurts to ask!
The Daily Grind
Over time, you will fall into a flow and develop a format that you can repeat for all episodes. You’ll find that this type of daily vlog format can carry over to other forms of filmmaking.
While the secret to beating YouTube’s algorithm is ever-changing, creating regular and even daily content is a strategic and personal goal for many. In TV news, it takes a whole team of people to create quality shows around the clock. Vloggers, as one-person film crews, have the same challenge of “feeding the beast.” In order to run a successful YouTube channel, remember to be realistic and set goals that you can achieve. You’ll have a lot more fun and create work you are proud of.