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Short Video Tips from Two of Vine’s Top Storytellers

More than 40 million users are making six-second videos of everything from personal rants to elaborate works of art on Vine. Two of Vine’s most creative masters are Pinot (350,000 followers) and Tee Ken Ng (80,000 followers), whose Vines have been cumulatively looped nearly 60 million times. Their work offers up a lot of useful advice not just for fellow Vine users, but for anyone looking to excel at creating short videos. We spoke with both men to peek behind the curtain and pass along six helpful tips to boost your next video project.

Create Achievable Parameters for Your Project

Short-form videos come with limitations, like time, budget, and scope. Despite your best efforts, a Transformers-scale project is not likely to happen in a six-second video. All the more reason to stay realistic about your project’s feasibility. Take a page from Vine users like Pinot and Ng: Don’t just think of doable projects; actually define what you consider “doable.”

Pinot, for example, has a very specific definition to ensure all his projects maintain a clear path: “Doable means possible to produce in a short amount of time, in a small area, with limited equipment, and surrounded by my children. Simpler is helpful.” Establishing these kinds of parameters will ensure your videos are feasible, and easier to create.

See Limitations as Creative Opportunities

All that talk about feasibility being said, don’t let the limitations of short videos, well, limit you. A short running time — a whopping six seconds in the case of Vine videos — doesn’t have to shackle your creativity. “The short duration is a limitation that leads to unlimited opportunity,” says Pinot.

Ng agrees. “The benefit of the format and what really drew me in were its limitations,” he says. “I find the limitations force me to be more creative.” Don’t let the short-video format intimidate you. See it as a creative opportunity. And remember one more key bit of advice from Pinot: “If the story is strong and powerful, people will watch it.”

Choose Sound Carefully to Enhance Your Video

“Use sound” might seem like no-brainer advice. But it’s worth noting that sound is especially important when dealing with short video, because a small touch goes a long way. Why? “Sound is part of the object, character, and story,” says Pinot.

When you’re limited in time, every decibel can enhance the mood, tone, and impact. That’s why Ng considers the result of his sound selections carefully. “Sound effects can convey material quality of objects such as paper, which adds to the richness of the world you’re creating,” he says. “I mainly use it to heighten an effect, such as a hand smashing a paper mirror.” It’s why Ng’s Vines are so great. That sound makes the entire concept work. If it weren’t there, those six seconds would be wasted. The same goes for Pinot, who uses his kids as sound generators to sync them with the Vines they inspire.

Embrace Different Points of View (Especially Your Inner Child’s)

The beauty of visual mediums is their ability to bring different points of view to life. Pinot’s work proves just that. All his ideas come from his children, resulting in Vines that emulate the world through a child’s eyes. “They see what adults couldn’t see. For example, a Vine of Big Ben in a puddle came from my four-year-old son looking down at the sidewalk. Adults, like us, see nothing down in the sidewalk, but he saw the puddle and pointed, ‘Look, Big Ben is down there!'”

From that, he’s learned to draw a valuable lesson you should apply to your own work: “Clear your mind and try looking at something in a different way. Try to borrow children’s eyes and thoughts on something. Be playful, and you can get a lot from it.” The result will be videos that can push your creativity, while inspiring awe in audiences through short bursts with long-lasting impact.

Think Outside the Technological Box

We’re fortunate to have all the visual technology we do these days, but sometimes we use it too much just because it’s there. The analog work of Pinot and Ng is a reminder of how great it is when human creativity is unshackled from technology. “We don’t need techie tools to make a short story,” says Pinot. “Any simple tools will do. Just paper and pencil! It brings back the magic when sci-fi movies didn’t have CGI (Computer Graphic Imagery) in the old days. More fun, more crafty. More human.”

No, you don’t have to abandon your Photoshop or RED Digital Camera, but it’s worth considering what non-technological instruments you can use to enhance your short videos.

Plan (Almost) Everything in Advance

Pinot and Ng’s work may only last a few seconds, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of work involved. Given the wizardry of their work, a lot of preparation goes into making every second count. Because Ng aspires to keep post-production low, he invests a lot of time on pre-production to make that happen. The actual execution of his Vines is very streamlined. “There really isn’t much room for spontaneity during a shoot,” he says. Sometimes, that means having to start from scratch. Take his “Paper Cut” Vine, for example. “I first shot it without the scissor cutting my finger. It was only watching it back that it was obvious the story would be incomplete without it. This meant scrapping the entire shoot and redoing all the paper assets and shooting again.”

Now, most short videos have more leeway than his elaborate stop-motion-style work. But there’s still universal advice in his method and experience. When dealing with short form videos — which often come with short production periods — being as prepared as possible is always worth it.

More on Vine and Mobile Video:

Shooting for the Small Screen: 5 Tips for Optimizing Your Videos for Mobile Devices

6-Second Explorations of the Natural World and More via Vine

Top image: Young man using laptop at the cafe by Solis Images

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