Eye contact and video cameras

Eye contact and video camerasWhen filming a subject who is talking, should that person look directly at the camera or look off to the side? This is a common question which can have a number of answers.

The first consideration is what type of video are you making and who is the real audience? Most business videos are either interview or direct ‘to-camera’ and therefore have two different audiences.

An interview will usually feature the interviewer visibly in the shot or audibly (i.e you can hear the questions). In this case it is normal for the main subject to be looking at the person who has asked the questions, this can be in the form of a ‘two-shot’ (shot that shows both the subject and the interviewer), an ‘over the shoulder shot’ (shows the back of the interviewer/subject in the foreground and the subject/interviewer in the main frame – depending on who is talking) or an ‘off-camera’ shot (interviewer will not be visible but standing to one side of the camera lens).

In each of the above scenarios it is clear to the viewer that the answer is being directed at the interviewer and that they are an observer. Despite being obviously set-up for the purpose of the video, this is comfortable to watch and looks normal to the viewer. However if the questions are edited out of the final video, then the lack of eye contact with the camera normally looks wrong. Without a reason for this offset the viewer will likely feel disconnected and therefore your video may risk confusing the viewer with the overall result feeling unprofessional.

If your video is a single ‘piece-to-camera’ with no other persons present (either in the shot or known to be behind the camera) then your audience will clearly be the viewer. Eye contact with the camera lens will be essential to connect with your audience, anything else simply won’t work. If you are using a teleprompter or off-camera notes, then you need to get these as close to the lens as possible. Often moving the camera back and zooming in can help reduce any slight offset.

Although creativity and experimentation can add to the interest factor of a video (or make it less boring!), these observations are based on how we might observe a live situation. If you were observing an in-depth conversation of someone you didn’t know you wouldn’t expect them to make eye contact with you. Equally if someone was to talk to you with no one else present, you would be rather confused if they didn’t look you in the eye.

Why does my YouTube video show 301+ views?

Why does my YouTube video show 301+ views?You may have noticed some YouTube videos that have view counts stuck at 301+. They can stay like this for weeks and can then suddenly show the real view count. Other videos don’t have this problem and their views just increment normally. So why does this happen?

Originally it used to freeze the count at 301 (there was no ‘+’ at the end). Because there was no indication to show that the video was actually at 301 views or it was being ‘inspected’ by YouTube and therefore temporally frozen, the ‘+’ was added. As for why the number is set to 301 and not 300, this is believed to be a programming mistake – it was meant to be 300.

The count freeze is understood to be initiated when the views rise faster that what YouTube believes to be normal. One cause could be because your video has just experienced viral growth and this rapid exposure has suddenly resulted in a huge number of views. Or it could be because the views are suspected to be false and therefore YouTube wants to analyse their origin before allowing you to display the number next to your video. Either way you will see a 301+ result for the view count and no new updates until the freeze is lifted.

One strange side-effect of this scenario is that the comment count and the likes/dislikes are not frozen. This results in a mismatch of statistics that often causes viewers to make additional comments, sometimes accusing the video owner of suspicious promotional activities.

A common question is what can you do to remove the 301+ and return to displaying normal views. The answer is quite simple – nothing can be done. When YouTube is happy it will revert to the proper view count, if you have done nothing wong then there is nothing to worry about. However if you did decide to speed things up by purchasing fake views then you will have to wait and see what happens next.

How to track links from your YouTube video description

How to track links from your YouTube video descriptionYouTube videos often feature a ‘call to action’ that requests the viewer to click on a link. The link is usually placed near the top of the videos description field so that it is highly visible. This link may lead to a website, a social media network such as Facebook, or maybe on to an eCommerce site. The end destination will of course vary, depending on what you are trying to achieve and what you believe the viewer requires.

A quick note on linking from YouTube videos, it is also possible to link out using annotations (overlaid hotspots that have a variety of time controlled actions), however due to the lack of support with mobile viewing platforms (e.g. phones and tablets) this is not a reliable solution and hence why the description link is generally preferred. This is a massive shame because if it was properly supported, it would almost certainly be more effective due to the link being inside of the main viewing area.

Obviously you will want to check how popular your video is and of course if viewers are following through and continuing on with your suggested ‘call to action’. There are a number of ways to achieve this depending on where you are linking to. For links to your own website, you can use Google Analytics to track referrals from your YouTube video. This works very well and as you are probably already using Analytics for your other statistical needs, it will require very little extra work.

If you are linking out to a third party website then things become a little more tricky. Unless you are provided with Google Analytics tracking integration or access to another comprehensive statistical system, then you may find there is simply is no data to view.

One solution often employed is the use of link shorteners such as http://bit.ly/ and http://goo.gl/. These all offer easy to digest, click-through statistics and are free to use and easy to implement. The main issues with such links is that users can be wary of where they might be redirected to. Links such as http://bit.ly/1h1dSTw don’t have any real words in and besides the lack of branding do not offer any sort of guarantee that you won’t be sent to an unknown destination.

By setting up your own redirect and tracking system you can have access to full statistics and provide branded, trustworthy links which viewers will be happy to click. If you feel that your domain name is the most suitable, then install a tracking system (http://yourls.org/ is a popular option) on your website and use that for your links. If your domain name is not relevant, too long or you just prefer to separate everything then register a new short domain. There are many international domains that can provide very short brand matching options, which can work well. Some domain providers will also provide link shortening services with tracking data ready to use. Regardless of which option you choose, make sure that the link suffix can be customised to read as something meaningful rather than a random string of characters.

Once you have your new tracking solution set-up, you will be able to give your viewers professional, nice looking links that they will feel comfortable clicking on. You will now be able to track this activity and hopefully use the data provided to improve your ‘call to action’ both in your video and in your description text.