Who’s making video clips? Not me…but does it matter anymore?

video clip

Clip, clip, clip...

I’m usually happy and eager to explain my work to anyone who asks. I keep cool when people mix up technicalities related to film and video – after all, I don’t know the finer points in other professions and industries.

One thing I’m a bit tired of hearing is the wide-spread misuse of the term ‘video clip’. I try to keep a straight face when well-meaning people ask me about recent ‘video clips’ I’ve made. The truth is, I don’t make any: I make fully edited films – sometimes long, sometimes short, but always finished (That is, if a film can ever be called ‘finished’. An industry giant once told me that no film is ever finished; it’s only abandoned…)

For example, my latest climate film Small Islands – Big Impact is slightly under 6 minutes, yet it’s a complete product. I spent two months working on actually making it, and almost 20 years covering the story itself.

But the distinction between film and clip is not widely understood. In fact, the digital revolution seems to have added to the confusion.

The Wikipedia says a media clip is a short segment of media either an audio clip or a video clip. In other words, a part of something bigger.

It further explains: “Media clips may be promotional in nature, as with movie clips. For example, to promote upcoming movies, many actors are accompanied by movie clips on their circuits. Additionally, media clips may be raw materials of other productions, such as audio clips used for sound effects.”

Video clips are short clips of video, usually part of a longer piece. Wikipedia adds, however, that this term is “also more loosely used to mean any short video less than the length of a traditional television program.”

That’s part of the confusion. With the spread of broadband Internet , which enabled greater bandwidth to both content creators and users, video clips have become very popular online.

About.com, another widely used online reference, says: “A video clip is a small section of a larger video presentation. A series of video frames are run in succession to produce a short, animated video. This compilation of video frames results in a video clip.”

But that’s not all. While the TV/video industry widely accepts the above definition, the computer industry seems to use ‘video clip’ generically to mean any short video, processed or otherwise. This is how video clip is defined, for example, by YourDictionary.com and PC Magazine’s online encyclopedia.

New Real Player

Snip, snip, snip...?

In this era of media convergence, when films an TV programmes are made using non-linear technologies enabled by computers, it’s no wonder that ‘video clip’ means different things to different people.

Wikipedia also talks of an emerging clip culture: “The widespread popularity of video clips, with the aid of new distribution channels, has evolved into clip culture. It is compared to “lean-back” experience of seeing traditional movies, refers to an internet activity of sharing and viewing a short video, mostly less than 15 minutes. The culture began as early as the development of broadband network, but it sees the boom since 2005 when websites for uploading clips are emerging on the market, including Shockinghumor, YouTube, Google Video, MSN Video and Yahoo! Video. These video clips often show moments of significance, humour, oddity, or prodigy performance. Sources for video clips include news, movies, music video and amateur video shot. In addition to the clip recorded by high-quality camcorders, it is becoming common to produce clips with digital camera, webcam, and mobile phone.”

Until recently, I used to get irked when people ask me about ‘video clips’ I make. My stock answer has been: “We only make fully edited, self-contained short films of various durations…partly because less is more these days. We don’t, as a policy, make ‘clips’ which in TV industry terms means semi-edited or unedited extracts that are not self-contained.”

Maybe I should stop being such a purist. After all, as I keep reminding my colleagues, students and anyone else who cares to listen to me, media is a plural!

One thing is for sure. Literacy rates and computer literacy rates have been rising worldwide in recent decades. But when it comes to basic media literacy, our societies still have a long way to go.

PS: In July 2007, we had an interesting discussion on this blog on the shrinking durations of Nature and environment films and TV programmes. The moving images community seems divided on this, with some purists holding out that to pack complex, nuanced messages into a few minutes is akin to ‘dumbing down’. Noted film-makers like Neil Curry disagreed.

UK Nepal Climate Change Film Competition: We’re toast in 3 minutes!

Tell a climate story in just 180 seconds...

Tell a climate story in just 180 seconds...

In July 2007, we had an interesting discussion on this blog on the shrinking durations of Nature and environment films and TV programmes. The moving images community is divided on this, with some purists holding out that to pack complex, nuanced messages into a few minutes is akin to dumbing everything down. Noted film-makers like Neil Curry disagreed.

I revisited this topic in August 2008, saying: “But there’s no argument of the sheer power of well produced public service announcements (PSAs) to move people with a specific, short message. Nothing can beat them for the economy of time and efficacy of delivery.”

Kathmandu to Copenhagen - in three minutes?

Kathmandu to Copenhagen - in three minutes?

The trend to make ever shorter films has been fuelled by the growth of online video, where the dominant value seems to be: less is certainly more! This is the premise, for example, of the current competition One Minute to Save the World.

In Nepal, they were more generous — and allowed three minutes. I recently came across the winners of the UK Nepal Climate Change Film Competition, where Nepali film makers were invited to “make short, effective films of up to 3 minutes on the theme of Climate Change”. The submitted films had to be original in concept, innovative and highly motivational – no restrictions were set in terms of discipline or genre. It was organised by our friends at Himal Association, better known for sustaining Film South Asia festival for a decade.

The winning films were screened at an awards ceremony in September 2009 at the Regional Climate Change Conference in Kathmandu. They will also be screened at Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival 2009 (10-14 December) and will be broadcast on television.

The winning film, Act locally think globally, was directed by Santoshi Nepal and Ishu Lama:

First runner-up, Jeopardy, is an animation directed by Shiva Sharan Koirala:

Second runner-up, 3 Cs of Climate Change, directed by Binod K Dhami and Padam Raj Paneru:

The competition attracted an impressive 124 entries. Angelo D’Silva, an educationist and media critic in Kathmandu, recently reviewed the entries in Himal Southasian special issue on climate change. He wrote: “In cash-strapped times, these contests focusing on climate change prove to be a cost-effective strategy in generating content. With no funding directed to the filmmaker for production, and prize money amounting to NPR 130,000 (USD 1700) for the three winners, the climate-change film contest is a way to make a splash on the cheap.”

He added: “While the filmmakers, all of whom were Nepali, exhibited an impressive range and quality, it was a range obscured by the selection of some fairly typical public-service-announcement-type finalists. Hopefully, however, two sets among the entries will soon see the light of day: those documenting the effects of climate change on Nepali communities, and those exploring (and exploiting) anxieties and fears about the burgeoning climate crisis.”

Read full review here.

I have only seen the three winning entries that are available online, so it would be unfair to comment on other entries. But I found the three winners predictably text-bookish. For sure, simple awareness raising is always helpful, but much more is needed – and urgently so – to deal with climate change. Film can be a powerful force for changing lifestyles, and not all of them have to be feature film length in Al Gore style.

Free us from our addiction to oil: New PSAs from Al Gore’s climate campaign

In July 2007, we had an interesting discussion on this blog on the shrinking durations of nature and environment films and TV programmes. The moving images community is divided on this, with some purists holding out that to pack complex, nuanced messages into a few minutes is akin to dumbing everything down. Noted film-makers like Neil Curry disagreed.

But there’s no argument of the sheer power of well produced public service announcements (PSAs) to move people with a specific, short message. Nothing can beat them for the economy of time and efficacy of delivery.

During August 2008, Al Gore’s ‘We’ campaign for climate change activism released two new PSAs, both appealing to Americans to change their energy habits, especially their addiction to oil. This follows and promotes the challenge Al Gore posed to America in July 2008 “to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years”.

Make the Switch, Repower America

Real change can happen real fast. We can strengthen our economy, lower fuel costs, free ourselves from our addiction to oil, and help solve the climate crisis. We can do this by switching to clean, free energy sources like the wind and sun — and to do it within 10 years. Meeting this ambitious goal would create millions of new jobs, lead to permanently lower energy costs for families and help America lead the fight against global warming. William H. Macy narrates in this ad which premiered on network TV in the US during the 2008 Beijing Olympics coverage.

To Our Leaders: Give Us 100% Clean Electricity in 10 Years

We must save our economy, lower fuel costs, free ourselves from our addiction to oil, and solve the climate crisis. To do this, we must demand that we Repower America with 100% clean electricity within 10 years.

The We Campaign is a project of The Alliance for Climate Protection — a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort founded by Nobel laureate former Vice President Al Gore. Its ultimate aim is to halt global warming