Monday, February 16, 2009

How to make a YouTube video that no one will want to watch

Let's say you want to make a YouTube video that no one will want to watch. How could you do that?

First, make sure that your video has lots of loud, obnoxious music, especially if your video depicts something that normally has nothing to do with music. People might like your video of your dog and cat playing on the floor together, so why not ruin it by replacing the sound with Ted Nugent? For extra points, dial the gain up until it distorts. It's important to choose the right music, too. You don't want something with a quiet intro. Ideally you want to lure people into clicking on your video, then hammer them with decibels so that they jump out of their seats and scramble for the volume control. As a side benefit, you'll help the economic recovery by exposing people who are browsing YouTube at the office when they should be working.

You also want to go for the worst quality possible. Find lots of videos that are already low-quality, then re-encode them at an even lower bit rate. Twice! You can also use this opportunity to screw up the aspect ratio: if the original video was wide, then squeeze it so it's narrow, or vice-versa. If you quickly cut between dozens of low-quality clips, then the viewer will never know what's happening!

Better yet, don't even use video. Just make your "video" a long slide show of still photos. Programs that generate slide shows, like iPhoto, often add some hokey pan, zoom, and transition effects, so remember to shut those off, since they may make the slide show (barely) watchable. Of course, just because you've successfully tricked the user into watching a slide show when they wanted a video doesn't mean that you should neglect the other points. You should still include inappropriate, high-volume music and only select low-quality photos for your show.

Using still photos instead of video works because it makes the user feel duped, which is a fantastic turn-off. You can achieve the same effect by using your video's thumbnail image and description to mislead visitors. Everyone knows that YouTube generates the thumbnail image from the middle of the video, so put a high-quality photo of a swimsuit babe on the screen for a few seconds, right at that point. For the description, enter: "This video is all about pussy!" Won't they feel fooled when they click on the video and get to watch your amateur reporting from the local cat show!

Another way to make users pay for clicking on your video is to use half the video for your own stupid title and credits sequence. There are many ways to drag this on. Users already know what your video is called, but that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be on the screen or five or ten seconds anyway. Lots of moving-text effects can waste a lot of time too. Have the title scroll in from the bottom, Star Wars-style. Then plug your web site, make some call outs to your friends, identify the video to which you're "responding," and give credit to the artist who unknowingly provided the sound track without compensation from you. There's no reason not to take as long as possible with the title sequence. Storage and bandwidth are cheap!

Now maybe you're thinking that this all seems too hard. It's tough to gather together all that loud music and all those crummy still photos and put it all together into a video with a long title sequence. Fortunately there's another way to make crappy, boring videos on the cheap. All you need to do is mount your camera on top of your monitor (iMac users can just use the built-in camera), look straight into it, and talk forever about something that's incredibly boring. Include lots of ums and ahs so we all know that you're not used to public speaking and will never be able to work in broadcasting. And provide your viewers with long-winded descriptions of things instead of actually using the camera to show them. Just because this is video doesn't mean that you can't treat it as radio!

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