Because Video Is Harder

Downes on the amateurish state of digital video online:

To me, what we are seeing reminds me of the early days of HTML, when some web pages were just awful. We rarely see that any more – not because people became better HTML programmers, but because the tools made HTML programming unnecessary. The same will be true of video.

This would be true if video production’s tallest hurdle were technical, as it was when all these competent writers found a way past HTML programming with blogging. Rather, video’s tallest hurdle is creative. Cheap hardware and simple software won’t matter a bit if you don’t know where to put the camera or where to put that edit.

Stephen’s outlook on digital video struck me as overly sanguine last November. A year later, having completed just ten videos with dy/av, I can report that no form of creative expression has been so difficult, or so satisfying.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. His entire line of thinking is wrong, in that we still see many poorly-made sites filled with useless widgets and horrible design sensibilities. This is despite (or, perhaps, because of) the many easy HTML editors out there. I can only imagine the situating being exponentially worse with video, since it is an even harder medium to master on a conceptual level.

  2. Think websites aren’t awful anymore? Go to the #1 web home of our students — Hopefully our kids figure it out before they start their own edublogs.

    I just watched all of dy/av. Amazing! But I agree with Downes, I can imagine many of the effects you used that require a lot of technical knowledge becoming more accessible to the average youtube user. But the effects alone are not a substitute for creativity, you’re right on that.

    Also, I really liked what you said in dy/av about focusing around an image and questioning (you used the stacking cups example), and bringing the outside world (the things you observe) into the classroom seamlessly.

  3. I don’t think there’s a lack of creativity out there but wannabe video makers haven’t realized that speaking video involves speaking a language different from essays and blogging.

    I don’t think you’ll ever be able to make a really good video without learning to speak a visual language.

    What’s frustrating to me is that while HTML IS a foreign language, it’s not like we’re not bombarded with visual images from TV to the internet to the iPhone…you’d think some of us would’ve caught on by now. Yet schools (and teachers) still remain ill-equipped to teach students to think critically about media or to internalize some of its basic constructs.

    I do think it will get better over time as some of the younger youtube video creators grow up and become teachers. But you’re right that it won’t be some magic software package that comes out and takes the place of learning to tell a story visually.

  4. I dispute the notion that video is technically difficult now. There are certainly different levels: Windows Movie Maker < s/w that came with your DVD burner < ShowBiz < Premiere. Similarly MySpace < WordPress < ExpressionWeb/Dreamweaver. It really depends on how much you want to delve into the medium versus the content.

  5. Morgante Pell,

    I think the poorly created web pages you are refering to are also a result of the same problem Dan is talking about; “video’s tallest hurdle is creative”

    That is the web pages that are “poorly-made sites filled with useless widgets and horrible design sensibilities” are bad not because of ugly HTML but because the author has no idea how to put it together in a cohesive and attrative way.

    It isn’t a technical problem, but rather a creative one.

  6. Brendan, in short, I completely agree.

    It’s not a technical problem — there are easy tools out there. It is a creativity and basic “skill” level. I remain unconvinced that having easier tools for video will help to foster this creativity. If anything, easier tools will just perpetuate the creation of uncreative videos made by those without the skill to understand how to use the medium in a cohesive and attractive way.

  7. After just creating my first video production, I totally agree that the creative piece is the big hurdle for video. Just as computerized word processing may have made creating, editing, and revising poems easier, it hasn’t had any effect on the quality of the poems.

    However, with more people able to easily create a video, I’d imagine there’d be an increase in the number of quality video pieces. However, there’s also going to be an increase in the number of totally horrible videos to wade through to get to those quality few.

  8. Could it be that we don’t teach design, unless you are in an art class? Good design is also part of a media literacy/fluency that allows for effective communication.

    I know that I have to consider good design principles in nearly everything I create, whether it’s a blog format, a web page I’m paid to produce, a video, or even handouts for sessions where I present. It seems like we’re so caught up in the technical aspects (how to use the tool) and the content delivery (“covering everything”) that we forget how brains process visual information.

    So, people who are good at design will naturally have improved web pages, videos, etc. as the tools advance. People who have not learned good design principles will be producing awful pages and awful videos, regardless of the tool.

    Daniel Pink has a lot to say about design, and I agree with him.

  9. There’s a reason I stick to text most of the time. It’s what I’m good at. I taught film for years, so I know I *can* do it, but I also realized how much harder it was for me. The technical stuff is (reasonably) easy. Capitalizing on the medium is a lot harder.

    (so this is to say, I’m dying trying to take advantage of the K12Online medium to do something interesting. It is killing me.)