Advice for Vaping Videographers
The contents of this document are the author’s opinions.
This document presents the author’s advice — from a viewer's standpoint — to videographers producing vaping review and tutorial videos for YouTube™ and other online video hosting sites. It covers:
I learned a great deal about vaping by watching videos, primarily on YouTube, and am grateful to those videographers who educated me at the expense of their own time and money. Nevertheless, this education included watching many videos that were poorly produced and wasted my time despite the videographer having great equipment. I don’t expect a Stanley Kubrick level of production, but many amateur videographers attempting to produce informative vaping reviews and tutorials make common mistakes in planning and execution that result in videos the viewer regrets watching and cost the producer potential subscribers. Squandering the viewer’s time and attention is the surest path to videos that aren’t watched, a channel without subscribers, and rude comments from trolls. Your work will only be appreciated if you value your viewer’s time and attention.
Therefore, as a consumer of vaping videos, I have the following advice for those brave souls who promote vaping by filming and posting product reviews and tutorials.
Clean your hands. I’ve seen a number of videos where the reviewer holds something up to the camera and their hand looks like they were servicing an engine, slaughtering cattle, or burying bodies before they started recording. I don’t expect hand-model hands, but clean hands and neat nails are a good idea. Looking your best on camera never hurts.
Invest in good lighting and a decent microphone. Unless you’re in the Witness Protection Program, you and whatever you are demonstrating should be well lit. If you can’t afford studio lights and are filming on a laptop, place two table lamps behind your laptop on either side to evenly light your face and anything you hold up to the camera. Likewise, a decent microphone will assure viewers you’re not filming from the in-store side of a fast-food drive-thru. Most laptop microphones are only effective over a short distance: an external mic will improve your audio track.
Test your equipment. Don’t post a video telling the viewer you have a new microphone, camera, or computer and then ask them to post comments as to whether or not it’s working properly. Guess what? It probably didn’t and the viewer wasted their time. Shoot a test video and find out yourself.
Have a script. Post some bullet points on a sheet of paper you can see off-camera to remind yourself of the topics you want to cover and the order in which you will address them. Think cue cards from TV broadcasting. If you think it would help, write a script and purchase a teleprompter app for your computer. If you use a teleprompter app, practice so the viewer can’t tell you’re using this prop.
Rehearse. Viewers expect a video blog to be an unscripted, stream-of-consciousness experience filled with extemporaneous commentary. Viewers of product reviews and tutorials expect relevant information delivered succinctly. Rehearsing your script will help you fine-tune your delivery and increase your comfort with the material, all leading to a better presentation that garners subscribers.
Get organized. Don’t waste the viewers' time by searching for tools or other things you plan to show or demonstrate. Lay out everything needed for your review, demonstration, or tutorial before filming. Here again, rehearsal helps.
Have a short intro or, better yet, none at all. I admire how Dimitri Agrafiotis (VapinGreek) begins his videos by simply saying “Hello my fellow vapers!” The intro to Phil Busardo’s (pbusardo) videos lasts all of 3 seconds. Long intros waste viewers' time. In my opinion, intros mimicking the title sequence of Seven or emphasizing how metal, gangsta, or edgy the reviewer wants to appear may dissuade viewers and deter subscribers.
Get to the point. There’s an old adage in the speech-making business:
This applies to online videos, especially product reviews and tutorials. For example, tutorials have only three elements: stating what will be taught, the teaching, and a quick review of what was taught. Your script or cue cards should keep you on track and prevent you from straying off topic or endlessly repeating yourself. Your viewer’s time and attention are not to be wasted!
In two-camera videos, assure the viewer can see what you’re doing. I’ve watched too many build or product demonstrations where the video switches to an overhead camera to show details, but the videographer forgets they’re filming and performs important steps that wind up off-camera. Here again, rehearsing or shooting a test video will help. Visibly mark the in-camera area of your workbench to assure you’re not working outside those boundaries and merely filming empty space. If you make a mistake, re-shoot and edit.
Bleep profanity or, better still, avoid profanity. Viewers watch your videos to learn, not to see if you can beat Scarface in f-bombs per minute: avoid profanity in your videos. If you inadvertently use profanity, bleep it out. What you post to the Web lives forever and may return to haunt you.
Edit, edit, edit! Oscars are awarded for editing because it's a critical element of good film making. If you’ve planned, scripted, organized, and rehearsed your material you will spend less time editing. Nevertheless, be ruthless in your editing to conserve the viewers' precious time. If you can’t fix a problem with editing, re-shoot.
Keep sound levels uniform. A loud intro followed by barely audible narration means the viewer must to adjust the volume twice. Don't force the viewer to constantly adjust the volume while watching your videos. Watch your audio levels and keep them uniform.
Use the About section and provide useful information. Video hosting sites provide features for the videographer to describe their video, provide links to additional content, and other related information. On YouTube, this information is supplied in the About section of the video; there is also an About section for the YouTube channel. Use these sections!
Don’t waste time begging for subscribers. If your videos are informative and well presented, people will subscribe. Don’t waste the viewer’s time and bandwidth begging for subscribers. Work on making the best, most informative videos you can and the subscribers will follow.
As an aside, subscribers are an artificial measure of success. Make vaping videos because you are passionate about vaping, without any expectation of reward — including subscribers. To the video hosting service, you — the videographer — are the product. You are producing content for them. You are dragging eyeballs to their site and they hope your viewers will watch other hosted videos from which they earn advertising revenue.
A special note for e-liquid reviews
E-liquid reviews are, by far, the biggest opportunity to waste viewers' time and turn them off; I rarely watch e-liquid reviews. If you plan to post e-liquid review videos, note the following:
On camera, talk about it instead of vaping it. The viewer doesn’t need to see you smacking, slurping, hemming and hawing, or otherwise playing e-liquid sommelier. Vape it off camera, develop your impressions, take notes, and use those notes as the basis of the script for your review. Every vaper knows what “good vapor production” looks like, hence it doesn’t need to be shown. Hold up the bottle so the viewer can see it clearly, discuss your impressions succinctly, and then move on.
There’s more to an e-liquid than VTF. Phil Busardo is known for his VTF e-liquid criteria: Vapor, Throat hit, and Flavor. But there’s more to an e-liquid than these three basics. I’ve seen too many e-liquid reviews where only VTF are discussed. Thoroughly test the e-liquid before filming a review to learn if it’s an atomizer-killer, coil clogger, or tank cracker. Say something about the lab: are they AEMSA-certified and do they test their liquids for toxins like Diacetyl? I've rarely seen these important factors discussed in e-liquid reviews and your viewers need to know.
List the e-liquids you reviewed in the About section of the video. E-liquid reviews are often posted with uninformative titles such as “5 e-liquids from name_of_lab” and the reviewer fails to list the e-liquids in the About section of the video. Is the viewer supposed to guess which e-liquids you reviewed? Do they have to spend 30 minutes of their time watching you vape it to find out? Listing the e-liquids and the manufacturer in the About section of the video helps viewers find reviews they want to see.
2014.10.09 Initial version of this document.