Following on from my recent rant regarding Patterns Dos and Don’ts, I’d like to share some observations regarding craft videos and photographic tutorials. The following is a list of things to consider when creating a video or a tutorial with photos of each step if you’d like it to be one that many people will refer to and refer others to because it is helpful and not because it is a good example of how not to do something. Screen shots, where they are included are for illustration purposes only and it should be pointed out that I’ve likely found them because I like the person giving those videos or making those tutorials.
I should add, I’ve seen all of these things over the years
The General Video Environment
- lighting should be neutral, daylight is best. Flickering flourescents, dim yellow incandescent lights or the glare of a TV/computer screen are distracting
- where are you sitting in relation to the light sources? If you’re in front of a window you’re going to look like a black blob to the camera (see above left)
- look at the shadows – are they covering the important thing you’re trying to show? Are they very strong and distracting. Watching one pair of hands work something is hard enough, watching the shadow copying it as well is distracting to the point of confusion
- think about the term ‘visual clutter’ and clear it. We don’t need to see busy 70s style table cloths or your collection of dolls in the background and if you’re working a piece of lace having that hovering above a lace tablecloth is too much – they all distract
- also, we know you’re proud of your stash and of your past projects but they do not make good backgrounds (see above right)
- also think about the word ‘filth’ and make sure there’s none of it on show. Clear away the dirty dishes please!
All About You
- the focus is on your hands, show some pride. Don’t have chipped nail polish or hang nails. A manicure takes 10 minutes and makes a world of difference. (see above left and centre)
- the best is clean relatively short and well manicured nails. French polish is preferred if you’re a polish person but if not then go for a fairly neutral shade although this point is not as important as the previous one – I’d rather see goth black or flourescent pink well manicured than chipped French polish. (see above right)
- definitely don’t have dirty nails – that’s just disgusting! (exception to the rule, if your hands get dirty doing whatever you’re showing us that’s fine but dirt under your fingernails before you begin is nauseating)
- if you’re going to be appearing in the shot please wash your hair
- choose neat and simple clothing. Liberty prints are gorgeous but again with the visual clutter.
- iron your clothes!
- keep your cleavage relatively modest (I know it can be hard to hide the girls and nor should you but don’t turn this into a boob-fest unless you’re after a different kind of audience)
- keep jewellery to a non-distracting level
- give your rings a bit of a clean
- consider continuity – if you’re showing us how to do tatting then don’t be wearing a crochet necklace
What You’re Showing Us
- your hands should not disappear out of shot when working with them. If the shot is too close, back off (above left)
- your work should be visible, if you need to pinch the work then regularly unpinch to show us what you’re doing (above third from left)
- think of the angle that you should be on for someone to learn. Facing you is often not helpful, whereas looking over your shoulder shows us what you’re doing from your perspective which is much more helpful. (above right)
- slow it down. Yes it’s impressive how fast you tat/knit/crochet but that doesn’t teach me anything except frustration
- is there a larger version of the tools you’re using? If so, use them! The goal is clarity
- don’t use variegated threads/yarns. They come under the heading of visual clutter. Don’t use black threads either. Use a colour that shows your stitch definition so we can see what we’re supposed to end up with
- keep everything in focus. If you need to get another person to help you video, if the video is out of focus then there’s not much point (above second from left)
- keep demonstration patterns as simple as possible, we need to concentrate on techniques not on trying to remember what the next stitch was
- continuity again – don’t teach us one technique and then use another to move on to the next step, it will confuse us. Most people need reinforcement and repetition
- don’t pretend that you’re going to teach us a particular technique and then show a different one – I came across a video for “long-tail thumb cast-on” in knitting that did not use the thumb method because the demonstrator had decided that he preferred a different method. Why call it that?
- fancy floral borders and faded round shapes on photos – really? And as for that soft focus, give it a rest!
- make it concise. A 5 minute video about a long-tail cast on method that spends the first 4 minutes describing different ways to determine the length of your tail is no where near as helpful as the 1 minute of what I’m actually looking for, consider making that into two videos!
What We Can Hear
- learn the correct terminology
- learn about alternative terminology, for example, the UK and US crochet terms. You instantly cover a much wider audience if you include them both
- pronounce things correctly. Picots is pronounced pee-coes not pickets
- pronounce things clearly, which for most people means slowing down. You may not think you have an accent but trust me, you do!
- speak with confidence, you’re doing this cos you’re the expert
- I mentioned visual clutter earlier, there’s also such a thing as ‘aural clutter’. Turn off the television. Background music can go too, you don’t need it and nor do I. That washing machine is horribly noisy too.
- umms and ahhs, coughs and sneezes are irritating, re-record so that you get a clean take
- if you’re talking on the video explain what you’re doing, even if you’ve done that two steps ago
- are there kids shouting in the background? Did your Hubby come home and start talking to you without realising what you’re doing? Reshoot!
- is it possible to do the video without any audio at all? If you can show us clearly way you’re doing without any talking you’ve just included every language in your audience
A Few Other Tips
- mistakes should generally be edited out, however if the mistake is extremely common such as dropping the working stitch off your crochet hook and can be recovered in a few seconds then feel free to leave it in. A dropped stitch in knitting that will require you to go back three rows to fix should be taken out (this is again clutter)
- a 30 second video is often much much better than a 10 minute one
- leave out all the irrelevant stuff. The story about your Aunt may be quirky and cute, but there’s a time and a place for it. Exactly what scene in Titanic you were watching when you decided you had to learn this is also likely to be clutter
- in particular please drop the biblical references. We know you mean well, but in many cultures a simple statement about God or praying can be seen as pushy and even offensive. Someone who is watching your video about a knitting cast on technique is not going to be converted to Christianity by your quoting scriptures. Consider how you would feel if the only video for the technique you really wanted to learn was put out by someone who was of another religion that you do not agree with and if they told you all about their beliefs while they were giving the video – it’s clutter again and it’s not helpful
- too many options are clutter as well, show us how to do what you’re doing. We’re pretty smart, we know we could add in a few extra rows of garter stitch before we did the cast off, we also are smart enough to figure out that if we use larger yarn or needles we’ll get a different size and you know what? We also know we could choose another colour if we wanted to! Sometimes options are useful, but give them context. For example “You can use any stretchy cast-on here but I’m going to use a twisted German cast on”
So there you have my list, let me know if I’ve missed your particular bug-bear in the comments.