A history of online video, a look back at vlogging

Overlander.tv just clocked 11 Million views on youtube! Pretty amazing really. But I suppose not as amazing as youtube’s stats themselves. Last year YouTube had more than 1 trillion views or almost 140 views for every person on Earth! At the moment more than one hour of video is uploaded to YouTube every second!

I got involved in video in the mid 1990’s, when digital video cameras introduced broadcast quality images at consumer prices. From the very start it was about telling stories and documenting my travels. My first trip being with my brother through the Aussie Outback. We had a simple effective plan of attack, visit the local pubs and find people to interview. Looking back on the clip below, it’s great to see a lot of my family involved. Dad as the farmer, Andrew and friend as sheepdogs, Stephen as the waiter.

I could see the potential of the internet early on and set up one of Australia’s first video sites in 2001. It was a little bit too early, with bandwith speeds meaning the video quality and image size wasn’t really conducive with a great viewing experience.

There were tricks I used to help give the appearance of online video, such as by using flash animation in the project below commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in August 2003

I joined youtube in Feb 2006. Back then I was posting to blip.tv as they were hosting more professional content and youtube was more about bedroom vloggers, which at the time I saw as amateur. I remember the day I joined, youtube was getting a lot of press in the Australian media and I thought I’ve got to at least reserve the overlander channel name. In November 2006 google bought youtube for $1.65 Billion. I was made one of the first Australian youtube partners which meant I got a little bit of promotion, but at the time I derided the whole youtube vlogging genre. I didn’t see much skill in people sitting in their bedrooms ranting into a camera!

Boy how that has changed! I now understand how vlogging has changed the whole media landscape. Viewers now want to be engaged, they want honesty and opinion. Even though I didn’t like vlogging at the time, looking back, my most successful film, ‘The Way’, due to the circumstances of filming, was vlogging!. In ‘The Way’ I walked the Camino de Santiago, all 760 kms lugging 17 kilograms of camera gear. I wanted to be completely honest with what I felt along the way. What I found fascinating is how my struggle, my personal journey has resonated with viewers. And it seems the harder I did it, such as the day I said I was just sick of it all, the more people enjoyed it.

So my ideas on vlogging changed. I realised this raw personalized form of filmmaking could move people. So I started watching the innovators at the time Nalts and Ze Frank. I even gave it a go myself, trying to mimic the wide eyed machine gun delivery of Ze Frank.

Which brings me to where I am today. After more than 15 years producing videos I now want to get back to the rawest, most barebones productions I can make! I’ve been living on the road since July 2011 and I dont want to spend days editing ‘masterpieces’ I just want to capture some of the things I see while traveling, preferably with a local person as a guide, and just keep it really lo-fi and punk! And this has been a big leap, to unlearn, to put myself in front of the camera and see if I can master audio-visual storytelling as a presenter. The video below was my first attempt, walking and talking, one take, trying to engage.

With the advent of cheap DSLR cameras anyone now can capture amazing imagery. Anyone can now afford the tools to make films. And this is wonderful. But for me, I want to move away from bigger and brighter and better. I want to return to the essence of good filmmaking, a bloody good yarn, plain and simple!

What do you think, is a good story enough, or do viewers also expect fancy production values?

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3 thoughts on “A history of online video, a look back at vlogging

  1. Great post…but all i can say is how i enjoyed ur family potrait and most of all….hahahahahahha…OMG..i cant stop laughing..is ur vlogging post…i remember seeing it for the first time and i nearly wet myself laughing..STILL LAUGHING..and by the way the BBB theory works well with the brunettes Mark…Wait til u get to Europe!!!!!!

  2. “What do you think, is a good story enough, or do viewers also expect fancy production values?”

    There’s got to be a happy medium in there somewhere. As a rabid consumer of video in many different formats, as a producer, and as a critical reviewer, I can get really annoyed by the handheld “shakey-cam” that seems to be all the rage these days, even in mainstream films. It gets so bad to the point, that it’s distracting no matter the gorgeous scenery that’s going on in the film. About 40 seconds of shakey-cam, and I’m moving on to the next video. However, I really enjoy the very personal perspective and experience of the video blogging style that drew me in with the Video Blogging Yahoo Group back in 2001. At that time, most vloggers were podcasting with Blogger and RSS. YouTube wasn’t really on the horizon then.

    I love personal stories and the unique perspective each person has, but in terms of camera? Keep the happy medium. Being personal with the camera is good, but having beautiful imagery that illustrates your story and that inspires but doesn’t distract , is golden to me.

  3. Thanks for your reply Chris. I find the same with bad audio, as soon as I hear it, I tend not to watch anymore.

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