What is a Video Essay - Best Video Essays Film of 2020 - Top Movie Video Essay

What is a Video Essay? The Art of the Video Analysis Essay

I n the era of the internet and Youtube, the video essay has become an increasingly popular means of expressing ideas and concepts. However, there is a bit of an enigma behind the construction of the video essay largely due to the vagueness of the term.

What defines a video analysis essay? What is a video essay supposed to be about? In this article, we’ll take a look at the foundation of these videos and the various ways writers and editors use them creatively. Let’s dive in.

Watch: Our Best Film Video Essays of the Year

Subscribe for more filmmaking videos like this.

What is a video essay?

First, let’s define video essay.

There is narrative film, documentary film, short films, and then there is the video essay. What is its role within the realm of visual media? Let’s begin with the video essay definition. 

VIDEO ESSAY DEFINITION

A video essay is a video that analyzes a specific topic, theme, person or thesis. Because video essays are a rather new form, they can be difficult to define, but recognizable nonetheless. To put it simply, they are essays in video form that aim to persuade, educate, or critique. 

These essays have become increasingly popular within the era of Youtube and with many creatives writing video essays on topics such as politics, music, film, and pop culture. 

What is a video essay used for?

  • To persuade an audience of a thesis
  • To educate on a specific subject
  • To analyze and/or critique 

What is a video essay based on?

Establish a thesis.

Video analysis essays lack distinguished boundaries since there are countless topics a video essayist can tackle. Most essays, however, begin with a thesis. 

How Christopher Nolan Elevates the Movie Montage  •  Video Analysis Essays

Good essays often have a point to make. This point, or thesis, should be at the heart of every video analysis essay and is what binds the video together. 

Related Posts

  • Stanley Kubrick Directing Style Explained →
  • A Filmmaker’s Guide to Nolan’s Directing Style →
  • How to Write a Voice Over Montage in a Script →

interviews in video essay

Utilize interviews.

A key determinant for the structure of an essay is the source of the ideas. A common source for this are interviews from experts in the field. These interviews can be cut and rearranged to support a thesis. 

Roger Deakins on "Learning to Light"  •  Video Analysis Essays

Utilizing first hand interviews is a great way to utilize ethos into the rhetoric of a video. However, it can be limiting since you are given a limited amount to work with. Voice over scripts, however, can give you the room to say anything. 

How to create the best video essays on Youtube

Write voice over scripts.

Voice over (VO) scripts allow video essayists to write out exactly what they want to say. This is one of the most common ways to structure a video analysis essay since it gives more freedom to the writer. It is also a great technique to use when taking on large topics.

In this video, it would have been difficult to explain every type of camera lens by cutting sound bites from interviews of filmmakers. A voice over script, on the other hand, allowed us to communicate information directly when and where we wanted to.

Ultimate Guide to Camera Lenses  •  Video essay examples

Some of the most famous video essayists like Every Frame a Painting and Nerdwriter1 utilize voice over to capitalize on their strength in writing video analysis essays. However, if you’re more of an editor than a writer, the next type of essay will be more up your alley. 

Video analysis essay without a script

Edit a supercut.

Rather than leaning on interview sound bites or voice over, the supercut video depends more on editing. You might be thinking “What is a video essay without writing?” The beauty of the video essay is that the writing can be done throughout the editing. Supercuts create arguments or themes visually through specific sequences. 

Another one of the great video essay channels, Screen Junkies, put together a supercut of the last decade in cinema. The video could be called a portrait of the last decade in cinema.

2010 - 2019: A Decade In Film  •  Best videos on Youtube

This video is rather general as it visually establishes the theme of art during a general time period. Other essays can be much more specific. 

Critical essays

Video essays are a uniquely effective means of creating an argument. This is especially true in critical essays. This type of video critiques the facets of a specific topic. 

In this video, by one of the best video essay channels, Every Frame a Painting, the topic of the film score is analyzed and critiqued — specifically temp film score.

Every Frame a Painting Marvel Symphonic Universe  •  Essay examples

Of course, not all essays critique the work of artists. Persuasion of an opinion is only one way to use the video form. Another popular use is to educate. 

  • The Different Types of Camera Lenses →
  • Write and Create Professionally Formatted Screenplays →
  • How to Create Unforgettable Film Moments with Music →

Video analysis essay

Visual analysis.

One of the biggest advantages that video analysis essays have over traditional, written essays is the use of visuals. The use of visuals has allowed video essayists to display the subject or work that they are analyzing. It has also allowed them to be more specific with what they are analyzing. Writing video essays entails structuring both words and visuals. 

Take this video on There Will Be Blood for example. In a traditional, written essay, the writer would have had to first explain what occurs in the film then make their analysis and repeat.

This can be extremely inefficient and redundant. By analyzing the scene through a video, the points and lessons are much more clear and efficient. 

There Will Be Blood  •   Subscribe on YouTube

Through these video analysis essays, the scene of a film becomes support for a claim rather than the topic of the essay. 

Dissect an artist

Essays that focus on analysis do not always focus on a work of art. Oftentimes, they focus on the artist themself. In this type of essay, a thesis is typically made about an artist’s style or approach. The work of that artist is then used to support this thesis.

Nerdwriter1, one of the best video essays on Youtube, creates this type to analyze filmmakers, actors, photographers or in this case, iconic painters. 

Caravaggio: Master Of Light  •  Best video essays on YouTube

In the world of film, the artist video analysis essay tends to cover auteur filmmakers. Auteur filmmakers tend to have distinct styles and repetitive techniques that many filmmakers learn from and use in their own work. 

Stanley Kubrick is perhaps the most notable example. In this video, we analyze Kubrick’s best films and the techniques he uses that make so many of us drawn to his films. 

Why We're Obsessed with Stanley Kubrick Movies  •  Video essay examples

Critical essays and analytical essays choose to focus on a piece of work or an artist. Essays that aim to educate, however, draw on various sources to teach technique and the purpose behind those techniques. 

What is a video essay written about?

Historical analysis.

Another popular type of essay is historical analysis. Video analysis essays are a great medium to analyze the history of a specific topic. They are an opportunity for essayists to share their research as well as their opinion on history. 

Our video on aspect ratio , for example, analyzes how aspect ratios began in cinema and how they continue to evolve. We also make and support the claim that the 2:1 aspect ratio is becoming increasingly popular among filmmakers. 

Why More Directors are Switching to 18:9  •  Video analysis essay

Analyzing the work of great artists inherently yields a lesson to be learned. Some essays teach more directly.

  • Types of Camera Movements in Film Explained →
  • What is Aspect Ratio? A Formula for Framing Success →
  • Visualize your scenes with intuitive online shotlist software →

Writing video essays about technique

Teach technique.

Educational essays designed to teach are typically more direct. They tend to be more valuable for those looking to create art rather than solely analyze it.

In this video, we explain every type of camera movement and the storytelling value of each. Educational essays must be based on research, evidence, and facts rather than opinion.

Ultimate Guide to Camera Movement  •  Best video essays on YouTube

As you can see, there are many reasons why the video essay has become an increasingly popular means of communicating information. Its ability to use both sound and picture makes it efficient and effective. It also draws on the language of filmmaking to express ideas through editing. But it also gives writers the creative freedom they love. 

Writing video essays is a new art form that many channels have set high standards for. What is a video essay supposed to be about? That’s up to you. 

Organize Post Production Workflow

The quality of an essay largely depends on the quality of the edit. If editing is not your strong suit, check out our next article. We dive into tips and techniques that will help you organize your Post-Production workflow to edit like a pro. 

Up Next: Post Production →

Showcase your vision with elegant shot lists and storyboards..

Create robust and customizable shot lists. Upload images to make storyboards and slideshows.

Learn More ➜

  • Pricing & Plans
  • Product Updates
  • Featured On
  • StudioBinder Partners
  • The Ultimate Guide to Call Sheets (with FREE Call Sheet Template)
  • How to Break Down a Script (with FREE Script Breakdown Sheet)
  • The Only Shot List Template You Need — with Free Download
  • Managing Your Film Budget Cashflow & PO Log (Free Template)
  • A Better Film Crew List Template Booking Sheet
  • Best Storyboard Softwares (with free Storyboard Templates)
  • Movie Magic Scheduling
  • Gorilla Software
  • Storyboard That

A visual medium requires visual methods. Master the art of visual storytelling with our FREE video series on directing and filmmaking techniques.

We’re in a golden age of TV writing and development. More and more people are flocking to the small screen to find daily entertainment. So how can you break put from the pack and get your idea onto the small screen? We’re here to help.

  • Making It: From Pre-Production to Screen
  • Static vs Dynamic Characters — And Why Writers Use Them
  • Best Free Romantic Movie Scripts Online (with PDF Downloads)
  • What is a Romance Trope — A Guide to Romantic Storylines
  • What is Digital Distribution — Film, Music, and Gaming
  • What Does an Animator Do — Job Description Explained
  • 100 Facebook
  • 0 Pinterest

  • Learning Tips
  • Exam Guides
  • School Life

How to Write a Video Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide and Tips

  • by Joseph Kenas
  • January 5, 2024
  • Writing Tips

How-to-write-a-video-essay

The video essay has become an increasingly popular way of presenting ideas and concepts in the age of the internet and YouTube. In this guide, we present a step-by-step guide on how to write a video essay and tips on how to make it.

While it is easy to write a normal essay, the structure of the video essay is a bit of a mystery, owing to the newness of the term.

However, in this article, we are going to define what is a video essay, how to write a video essay, and also How to present a video essay well in class.

What is a Video Essay?

A video essay is a video that delves into a certain subject, concept, person, or thesis. Video essays are difficult to characterize because they are a relatively new form, yet they are recognized regardless. Simply, video essays are visual compilations that try to persuade, educate, or criticize.

What is a video essay?

These days, there are many creatives making video essays on topics like politics, music, movies, and pop culture.

With these, essays have become increasingly popular in the era of video media such as Youtube, Vimeo, and others.

Video essays, like photo and traditional essays, tell a story or make a point.

The distinction is that video essays provide information through visuals.

When creating a video essay, you can incorporate video, images, text, music, and/or narration to make it dynamic and successful.

When you consider it, many music videos are actually video essays. 

Since making videos for YouTube and other video sites has grown so popular, many professors are now assigning video essays instead of regular essays to their students. So the question is, how do you write a video essay script?

Steps on How to Write a Video Essay Script

Unscripted videos cost time, effort, and are unpleasant to watch. The first thing you should do before making a video writes a script, even if it’s only a few lines long. Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of writing a script. All you need is a starting point.

A video script is important for anyone who wants to film a video with more confidence and clarity. They all contain comparable forms of information, such as who is speaking, what is said, where, and other important details.

While there are no precise criteria that a video essay must follow, it appears that most renowned video essayists are adhering to some steps as the form gets more popular and acknowledged online. 

1. Write a Thesis

Because a video essayist can handle a wide range of themes, video analysis essays lack defined bounds. The majority of essays, on the other hand, begin with a thesis.

A thesis is a statement, claim, theme, or concept that the rest of the essay is built around. A thesis might be broad, including a variety of art forms. Other theses can be quite detailed.

A good essay will almost always have a point to express. Every video analysis essay should have a central idea, or thesis, that ties the film together.

2. Write a Summary

Starting with a brief allows you and your team to document the answers to the most pressing project concerns. It ensures that everyone participating in the video production is on the same page.

This will avoid problems of mixing ideas or getting stuck when you are almost completing the project.

3. Choose a Proper Environment and Appropriate Tools

When it comes to writing your script, use any tool you’re familiar with, such as pen and paper. Also, find a writing atmosphere that is relaxing for you, where you can concentrate and be creative.

Consider what you don’t have to express out loud when you’re writing. Visual elements will be used to communicate a large portion of your content.

4. Use a Template

When you don’t have to reinvent the process every time you sit down, you get speed and consistency.

It’s using your cumulative knowledge of what works and doing it over and over again. Don’t start with a blank page when I sit down to create a script- try to use an already made template. 

5. Be Conversational

You want scripts that use language that is specific and targeted. Always avoid buzzwords, cliches, and generalizations. You want your audience to comprehend you clearly without rolling their eyes.

6. Be Narrative

Make careful to use a strong story structure when you’re trying to explain anything clearly. Ensure your script has a beginning, middle, and end, no matter how short it is. This will provide a familiar path for the viewers of your video script.

7. Edit Your Script

Make each word work for a certain position on the page when you choose your words.

script editing

They must serve a purpose.

After you’ve completed your first draft, go over your script and review it.

Then begin editing, reordering, and trimming. Remove as much as possible.

Consider cutting it if it isn’t helping you achieve your goal.

 8. Read Your Script Loudly

Before recording or going on in your process, it’s recommended to read your script aloud at least once. Even if you won’t be the one reading it, this is a good method to ensure that your message is clear. It’s a good idea to be away from people so you may practice in peace.

Words that flow well on paper don’t always flow well when spoken aloud. You might need to make some adjustments based on how tough certain phrases are to pronounce- it’s a lot easier to change it now than when recording.

9. Get Feedback

Sometimes it is very difficult to point out your mistakes in any piece of writing. Therefore, if you want a perfect video essay script, it is advisable to seek feedback from people who are not involved in the project.

Keep in mind that many will try to tear your work apart and make you feel incompetent. However, it can also be an opportunity to make your video better.

The best way to gather feedback is to assemble a group of people and read your script to them. Watch their facial reaction and jot own comments as you read. Make sure not to defend your decisions. Only listen to comments and ask questions to clarify.

After gathering feedback, decide on what points to include in your video essay. Also, you can ask someone else to read it to you so that you can listen to its follow.

A video essay can be a good mode to present all types of essays, especially compare and contrast essays as you can visually contrast the two subjects of your content.

How to make a Good Video from your Essay Script

You can make a good video from your script if you ask yourself the following questions;

MAKE YOUR VIDEO GOOD

  • What is the video’s purpose? What is the purpose of the video in the first place?
  • Who is this video’s intended audience?
  • What is the subject of our video? (The more precise you can be, the better.) 
  • What are the most important points to remember from the video?- What should viewers take away from it?

If the context had multiple characters, present their dialogues well in the essay to bring originality. If there is a need to involve another person, feel free to incorporate them.

How to Present a Video Essay Well in Class

  • Write down keywords or main ideas in a notecard; do not write details- writing main ideas will help you remember your points when presenting. This helps you scan through your notecard for information.
  • Practice- in presentations it is easy to tell who has practiced and who hasn’t. For your video essay to grab your class and professor’s attention, practice is the key. Practice in front of your friends and family asking for feedback and try to improve.
  • Smile at your audience- this is one of the most important points when presenting anything in front of an audience. A smiley face draws the attention of the audience making them smile in return thus giving you confidence.
  • Walk to your seat with a smile- try not to be disappointed even if you are not applauded. Be confident that you have aced your video presentation.

Other video presentations tips include;

  • Making eye contact
  • Have a good posture
  • Do not argue with the audience 
  • Look at everyone around the room, not just one audience or one spot
  • Rember to use your hand and facial expressions to make a point.

is video essay

Joseph is a freelance journalist and a part-time writer with a particular interest in the gig economy. He writes about schooling, college life, and changing trends in education. When not writing, Joseph is hiking or playing chess.

How to do a Video Essay: What is a Video Essay?

Introducing the Video Essay: Assignment of Now!

is video essay

  • What is a Video Essay?

The term Video Essay is hard to define as it is still evolving from a long cinematic history. From the screen studies perspective, it is a video that analyses specific topics or themes relating to film and television and is relevant as it comments on film in its own language. On a basic level it could be defined as the video equivalent of the written essay.

This guide refers to the video essay from the context of the academic audiovisual essay as a multimodal form that combines written, audio and visual modes to communicate an idea. As a structure, the video essay is thesis-driven, and uses images with text so that the audience can read and interpret the idea or argument in a multimodal way.

In educational settings, the term video essay is used broadly for teacher/student-learner generated video and as a vehicle to transmediate between written-text to digital forms.  Through the video essay form, students are able to achieve learning outcomes in a new way as a multimodal experience while engaging with the subject, task or assessment through expression and creation of self-knowledge.

PHOTO: TWITTER/@GIZMODO. Retrieved from http://www.straitstimes.com/tech/death-of-the-vcr-5-things-to-remember-about-the-iconic-technology

  • About Video Essays
  • What is a Video Essay? Creators Grapple with a Definition
  • The Video Essay As Art: 11 Ways to Make a Video Essay
  • << Previous: Home
  • Next: The Video Essay Process >>
  • The Video Essay Process
  • Modes, MultiModality & Multiliteracies
  • A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies
  • Modes Of Multimodality
  • Video Essay Journals
  • Video Essay Channels
  • Weblinks to Video Essay Resources
  • Weblinks to Creative Commons Resources
  • Titles in the Library
  • Referencing & Copyright
  • Marking Rubric
  • Last Updated: Aug 28, 2023 2:57 PM
  • URL: https://ecu.au.libguides.com/video-essay

Edith Cowan University acknowledges and respects the Noongar people, who are the traditional custodians of the land upon which its campuses stand and its programs operate. In particular ECU pays its respects to the Elders, past and present, of the Noongar people, and embrace their culture, wisdom and knowledge.

We use cookies to improve your browsing experience and to personalise content for you. See our privacy and cookie policy .

Home Resources Free Guides Video Essays Guide Introduction to Video Essays

VIDEO ESSAYS GUIDE

Introductory guide to video essays, introduction to video essays, studying and researching film through film, “if it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed” – stanley kubrick, "...why can filmmaking, film curation, and film criticism not co-exist” – lindiwe dovey.

Drawing on the inspiring work of pioneering educators and researchers engaging with this creative method, this guide aims to offer a research-led introduction for students, teachers and researchers approaching the video essay for the first time.

From 2014, with the foundation of [in]Transition, the first online, open access, peer-reviewed journal of videographic film and moving image studies, an increasing number of academic journals have been welcoming video essays. However, the written word remains the dominant language to disseminate scholarly work, with shared conventions in terms of register, structure and length. In contrast, a glimpse at the range of published video essays evidences the diversity of approaches. While this may be a great opportunity for innovation and creativity, it also presents challenges. How to make video essays? What are their pedagogical benefits, as compared to written papers? What are the technological expectations? How to design assessment briefs to ensure they are equivalent to written papers? Is such equivalence relevant? If the approaches are so varied, what are the criteria of evaluation? What are the copyright issues, if any, when reusing creative work for the purpose of making an argument, audiovisually? And, more importantly, where to start?

Video essays are scholarly videos that invite researchers and class members to explore the audiovisual and multimedia language to make an academic argument. When applied to film research and pedagogy, the video essay is thus a recursive text. That is, the object of study, film, is mediated, or rather, performed, through the film medium. This is a kind of academic piece that encourages creativity, but more importantly, action. As such, video essays have a transformative dimension. When used in the classroom, for instance, as creative assessment methods, they foster a collaborative environment where teachers and students - that is, class members - are co-producers of knowledge, informed by different positionalities. Video essays can thus contribute to a kind of education that Paulo Friere (2018[1978]: 80-81) referred to as the “problem-posing education”, as “the practice of freedom”. This contrasts with the “banking” or “digestive” education as the practice of domination, where students are mere passive recipients of the knowledge transferred from tutors. As universities seek to decolonise the curriculum, video essays seem as pertinent as ever to foster active, creative and critical modes of learning, based on thinking through making. However, the experimental potential in video essays also leads to a certain degree of uncertainty to all class members and eager researchers who would like to venture into this creative arena of knowledge production. Creative educators and researchers are collectively seeking an academic space for video essays, legitimising their production, and suggesting ways of engaging with this kind of recursive language.

As Christian Keathley notes, “the essential question faced in the production of scholarly video is not technical, but conceptual” (2012). That is, video essays, like any other scholarly work, are concerned with the contribution to knowledge. But, how to achieve this? In this guide, we first look at the existing guidelines for the production and evaluation across the different journals, finding some coherence across them. We then suggest some ways of making them, dividing the process in three phases: preproduction, production and postproduction, in alignment with the filmmaking process. These guidelines do not aim to be prescriptive by any means. Rather, they seek to assist the video-making process . Due to our emphasis on the academic value of video essays, we further offer an overview to copyright considerations to take into account for its lawful, ethical and rigorous publication . We also include several journals and dissemination spaces. Finally, we share a case study of the application of the video essay as a creative assessment method at SOAS, University of London.

How to make video essays. Dr Shane O’Sullivan, Senior Lecturer in Filmmaking at Kingston University and Curator of Archives for Education .

Finding Coherence Across Journals

How to make video essay guides, copyright considerations, dissemination.

Creative Arts Toolkit

The video essay, what is a video essay.

A video essay – like a written essay – develops an argument on a defined topic, working as a kind of argument, explanation, discussion. The topic will have been either given to you (e.g. as a set essay question) or developed by you in negotiation with your tutor.

The video essay is linear, time-based, and requires a complex interplay of developing ideas and gathered material. It uses:

  • moving image visual elements;
  • spoken word commentary and/or caption cards, subtitles, etc.

A video essay is not a simple collage or montage of material. It works partly by juxtaposition, by placing images in sequence and using them as ‘reveals’, but it is also structured by a ‘presence’ and ‘intervening consciousness’ – an essay author, in other words – that directs the viewer’s attention and takes them on a thought-provoking journey.

In short, a video essay is a kind of persuasive storytelling, presenting a viewpoint and the evidence for it, telling a convincing story about it. To be done well, it needs to be:

  • planned in detail;
  • fully documented;
  • storyboarded

Do not just present a random sequence of materials which vaguely refer to a topic: that is not a video essay and is a sure route to assignment failure.

And overview of the process

A video essay uses ‘footage’ sourced from libraries, archives, or other collections (BoB: Box of Broadcasts, YouTube, ted: torrent episode downloader, etc.) which is carefully selected and edited, and which:

  • incorporates ‘talking head’ sections where the author (or others) speak to the camera in original shots made for the purpose;
  • uses captions, subtitles and/or other on-screen text to comment on images, to add to them, to subvert them;
  • incorporates panning, tracking over, or zooming in and out of static images to reveal detail;
  • uses transitions to manage time, maintain interest and interconnect the extracts, excerpts and commentaries.

In many ways a video essay is a semi-documentary form and requires many of the same kind of strategies. It means identifying a topic and gathering material, working with that material to develop, refine and understand the idea more fully, working from a clear vision of how the final sequence will be.

This is no mean task and should certainly never be seen as an ‘easy option’ in comparison to traditional essay work.

How long should a video essay be?

This is a bit of a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question and there is no hard and fast answer. However, it is worth thinking about the following:

  • Many students who attempt the video essay format are unrealistic in their ambitions, proposing pieces of work which are an hour in length, or even longer. Be sensible: to produce an effective video essay of even a few minutes requires a considerable amount of work. The aim is not to make a feature film.
  • A 10 minute video essay that is sharp, focused, stylish, and well crafted is far better than a 60 minute video essay that is loose, vague, obvious and thrown together.

So, in relation to a traditional written essay, the following might offer an idea of expected equivalent length:

  • for a 1500-2000 word essay, think in terms of a video essay of 8-10 minutes in length
  • for a 2000-2500 word essay, think in terms of a video essay of 10-15 minutes in length
  • for a 4000-6000 word essay, think in terms of a video essay of 15-20 minutes in length

Of course, these are only guidelines, and in each case you would also need to submit appropriate supporting documentation, including scripts, storyboards, research folder, and assets list/bibliography (see below).

Storyboarding: essential for a successful outcome

A video essay requires conceptual thinking and organization, record keeping, documentation. To this end it needs some sort of storyboarding as an integral part of shaping ideas and materials. Effective storyboarding underpins the conceptual planning and the creative realisation of the video essay.

At its simplest a storyboard is a way of working with time-based sequences ‘off-line’ in either a conceptual, inventive state, dreaming up the sequence, or in a tighter, more organised, planning state to control resources, pre-visualise outcomes, identify and solve problems before they arise. Working ‘off-line’ like this is both cheaper and clearer than trying to work direct to the machine.

Storyboards are used extensively in the media industries to communicate and share ideas. They enable the invention and planning of things which are inherently visual, and they enable groups to work together to a shared end. They are also used analytically, as a tool for developing an understanding of, say, the customer experience, or as a way of identifying key parts of a flow or sequence.

There are three stages of storyboard which play a key role in developing a video essay:

The first (see figure 1) provides a quick overview or outline: it is sketchy and easily changed or discarded. It might be very untidy and – to those other than yourself – hard to read. It is still extremely valuable documentation.

video_essay_Fig1-11

Figure 1: Stage 1 storyboard: sketchy at this stage, and perhaps only you can read it… but it’s good enough to talk through ideas with a tutor at an early tutorial

The second (see figure 2) is concerned with ‘managing assets’. It involves timing any existing video sections and building them in to the video essay sequence. The storyboard now includes a clearer and finer grain of time, and it is accompanied by an asset list which shows the filename, start- and end-point (from time code), etc., of all materials to be used. You will also be identifying ‘gaps’ in the assets – and looking for material that will fill those gaps.

video_essay_Fig2

Figure 2: Stage 2 storyboard: much clearer now, more detailed, and the kind of plan that shows confidence, knowledge, a distinct way forward

The third is a production list ready for the editing sequence, acting as a checklist of media assets, with commentaries about edit transitions, timing, and so on. This final storyboard may ‘steal’ screen dumps from the materials and is worked up to a visual ‘look’n’feel’ condition. It might even exist as a semi-animated sequence that checks out timing and related issues (in animation this would be called an animatic, here it may be a mock-up in Powerpoint) bur it is still not ‘carved in stone’. The storyboard is a guide to intentions rather than a finished instruction list.

Sourcing the Video Essay

Accompanying the Stage 3 storyboard is a complete asset list. This is effectively a Bibliography and should be thought of as such. It should use the Harvard or Author-Date system and will include some ‘rejected’ material (with reasons for rejection) as well as material used.

Some examples

There are some fascinating experiments in the video essay format on the blog hosting website Tumblr:

  • http://videoessays.tumblr.com/ [accessed 30 August 2015]

Some other examples worth looking at include:

  • HuesForAlice (2007) ‘The Big Brother State’. YouTube. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJTLL1UjvfU&feature=autoplay&list=PL72CC64E20549FE72&index=21&playnext=1 [accessed 21 July 2016]
  • mwesch (2007) ‘The Machine is Us/ing Us (Final Version)’. YouTube. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gmP4nk0EOE&feature=view_all&list=PL72CC64E20549FE72&index=1 [accessed 21 July 2016]

Suggested further reading

  • Biemann, U. (2003) Stuff It: the Video Essay in the Digital Age . Dusseldort: Springer Verlag.
  • Faden, E. (2009) ‘A Manifesto For Critical Media’. Mediascape: UCLA’s Journal of Cinema and Media Studies . (Fall) Available at: http://www.tft.ucla.edu/mediascape/Spring08_ManifestoForCriticalMedia.html [accessed 21 July 2016]

How can we improve this article? If you would like a reply, please provide your email address.

Captcha: + = Verify Human or Spambot ?

Banner

Communications: Video Essay

  • Ask for Help
  • Find Journals and Articles
  • Media Research
  • Internet Media Sites
  • General works
  • Methodologies
  • Media analysis
  • Visual methods
  • Topic-focused resources
  • Online resources
  • Ecomedia Research
  • New York Times
  • Find Videos
  • Video Essay
  • Find Images
  • Find Audio Resources
  • Comics Research
  • Music Web Resources (from the Humanistic Studies Guide)
  • CMS/PL 331: Media in the Arab World
  • COM 210: Introduction to Cinema
  • COM 220: Media, Culture and Society
  • COM 221: Writing Across the Media
  • DJRN 221: Introduction to News Reporting and Writing
  • CMS 333: TV After TV
  • CW/DJRN 346: Creative Writing Workshop: Travel Writing

What is a video essay?

A video essay is a short video that illustrates a topic, expresses an opinion and develops a thesis statement based on research through editing video, sound and image.

What is a video essay assignment?

(Source: Morrissey, K. (2015, September). Stop Teaching Software, Start Teaching Software Literacy. Flowjournal . https://www.flowjournal.org/2015/09/stop-teaching-software-start-teaching-software-literacy/?print=print )

It is made of three main elements:

  • Image (filmed footage and found footage)
  • Sound (music and audio)
  • Words (spoken and written)

All of them are linked to your own voice and argument. It is a way to write with video.

  • Guidelines for Video Essay Best Practices Official technical guidelines by Prof. Antonio Lopez.

Video essays about video essays

Elements of the Essay Film from Kevin B. Lee on Vimeo .

F for Fake (1973) – How to Structure a Video Essay from Tony Zhou on Vimeo .

Sample Video Essays

  • How to Use Color in Film A blog post with multiple video essays about the use of color palettes by multiple great directors.
  • Seed, Image, Ground by Abelardo Gil-Fournier & Jussi Parikka.
  • Every Covid-19 Commercial is Exactly the Same
  • Top Video Essayists some videos on this page are set to private
  • VideoEssay: A subreddit for analytic videos and supercuts
  • ISIL videos imitate Hollywood and video games to win converts
  • Best Video Essays of 2022 by British Film Institute
  • Best Video Essays of 2020 by British Film Institute.
  • Best Video Essays of 2019 by British Film Institute.
  • Best Video Essays of 2018 by British Film Institute.
  • Best Video Essays of 2017 by British Film Institute.
  • Video Essays (Historical) A YouTube playlist of historically important films that helped define the concept of video essays.
  • What Is Neorealism by kogonada.
  • Analyzing Isis' propaganda - Mujatweets by Azza el Masri and Catherine Otayek.
  • Oh dear! by Adam Curtis.
  • Fembot in a Red Dress by Alison De Fren.
  • WHY IS CINEMA: Women Filmmakers? NOT SEXIST, BUT LET'S BE REAL??? by Cameron Carpenter.
  • Women as Reward - Tropes vs Women in Video Games by feministfrequency.
  • Il corpo delle donne (sub eng) by Lorella Zanardo.

Video essays beyond COM

Video essays can be a valuable form of academic production, and they can be brilliant and insightful in many other fields apart from Communications and media studies. Here are some examples that cover all the JCU departments:

  • Lady of Shalott | Art Analysis A look at John William Waterhouse's Pre-Raphaelite painting "The Lady of Shalott".
  • How to ace your MBA video essay The 60-second online video essay is a recent addition to the MBA application process for some business schools.
  • The Last Jedi - Forcing Change An analysis of Finn's and Kylo's narrative arc in Episode VIII of the Star Wars franchise.
  • How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio A simple but not simplistic and easy to follow 30 minute animated video that answers the question.
  • Evolution of the Hero in British Literature This video essay discusses the literary heroes throughout the Anglo-Saxon Period, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance Era in British Literature.
  • Fast Math Tricks - How to multiply 2 digit numbers up to 100 - the fast way! An easy video tutorial unveiling some math tricks.
  • Here's why we need to rethink veganism A brief climate change video essay on the environmental impacts of veganism, and how we can reframe going vegan less as a lifestyle and more as an aspiration.
  • Italy on the edge of crisis: Should Europe be worried? Channel 4 discussing the delicate political juncture in Italy (May 2018).
  • International Relations: An Introduction An overview by the London School of Economics and Social Science.

A video is basically a series of still images- each one is called a frame- that play back at a specific  rate . The frame rate (often abbreviated FPS for "frames per second") differs depending on where you are in the world and what you're shooting on.

If you're shooting a movie on celluloid (actual film that needs to be developed) then you are probably shooting at 24fps.

If you are shooting video in Europe then you are probably shooting at 25fps...

...unless you are shooting sports. Then you're probably shooting at 50fps.

If you're shooting video in the US or Canada then you are probably shooting at 30(29.98)fps...

...unless you're shooting sports. Then you're probably shooting at 60(59.98)fps...

...or unless you're shooting "cinematic video" at a frame rate of 23.976fps.

***The weird numbers for shooting in the US and Canada stem from the fact that while Europe's 50Hz electrical system operates at 50Hz, the 60Hz electrical system of the US actually operates at 59.98 Hz.***

If you're shooting at a higher frame rate (like 120fps or 250fps) it is probably because you want to play it back at one of these frame rates in order to achieve a slow motion effect.

Video sizes are measured in pixels. Resolution   refers to Width x Height. Here are some common resolutions:

  • FullHD (1080p): 1920 x 1080
  • HD (720p): 1280 x 720
  • 4K (2160p): 3840 x 2160
  • 4K Cinema: 4096 x 2160
  • Standard Defintion (NTSC- US/Canada): 720 x 480
  • Standard Definition (PAL- Europe): 720 x 576
  • VGA: 640 x 360

Types of video essays

1. Supercut

A supercut is a compilation of a large number of (short) film clips, focusing on a common characteristic these clips have. That commonality can be anything: a formal or stylistic aspect, a shared theme or subject matter... 

Supercuts are a staple of fandom, but they can also be used as a form of audiovisual critique: to reveal cinematic tropes, to trace thematic or stylistic constants in a filmmaker’s work and so on.

Examples: ROYGBIV: A Pixar Supercut  or Microsoft Sam's  Every Covid-19 Commercial is Exactly the Same .

2. Voiceover based

In this form, analysis is done by combining clips and images with a narrator’s voice that guides the process. This could be done for a variety of video essays styles: scene breakdowns, shot analyses, structural analyses, vlogs, etc. What is common is the integral role of the creator’s voice in advancing the argument.

Example: Tony Zhou’s Jackie Chan—How to Do Action Comedy or David Chen’s Edgar Wright and the Art of Close-Ups .

3. Text/Image/Sound-Based

In this form, analysis is done by combining text, images and sounds without a narrator’s voice to guide the process. Again, this could be done for a variety of video essays styles, but relies much more on editing to advance the argument.

Example: Kevin B. Lee’s Elements of the Essay Film or Catherine Grant’s All That Pastiche Allows Redux .

4. Desktop Films

A desktop film uses the screen of a computer or gadget to serve as the camera and canvas for all of the content of an audiovisual narrative. It can include content from videos, apps, and programs that would be viewable on a screen. It is a screen-based experience that uses the desktop as its primary medium.

Example: Katja Jansen’s Desktop Films ; Kevin B. Lee’s Reading // Binging // Benning ; kogonada's What is Neorealism .

Descriptions adapted from  Filmscalpel

Resources: background and fundamentals

Best Practices

  • Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education Also downloadable as a PDF file
  • Streaming: film criticism you can watch by Guy Lodge
  • What is a Video Essay? Creators Grapple with a Definition Paula Bernstein from Filmmaker journal .
  • The Video Essay As Art: 11 Ways to Make a Video Essay by Norman Bateman.
  • Video essay: The essay film – some thoughts of discontent by Kevin B. Lee.
  • Deep Focus - The Essay Film by British Film Institute and Sight & Sound .

Scholarly Websites about Video Essays

  • The Videographic Essay: Practice and Pedagogy
  • Audiovisualcy Video Essays on Vimeo.
  • [In]Transition Journal of Videographic Films and Moving Image Studies.
  • Introductory guide to video essay From the British Universities and Colleges Film and Video Council.

Resources: software and how-to

  • How-to video essays by Greer Fyfe and Miriam Ross.
  • Media Production Guide by Tisch Library, Tufts University.
  • Video Reactions with OBS (Open Broadcast Software) Part 01 Setting up your scenes
  • Video Reactions with OBS (Open Broadcast Software) Part 02 Recording with OBS

Storyboarding

  • Planning and Storyboarding from Royal Roads University Library.
  • Video Essay Script Template

Screencasting

  • Quicktime (cross-platform)
  • Screencast-O-Matic
  • OBS Studio (open source, cross-platform) Open Broadcaster Software
  • Flashback Express (PC only)
  • 5 Free Tools for Creating a Screencast from Mashable.

Downloading and ripping

  • Pasty Software for downloading.
  • Savefrom allows up to 720p downloads of full video, 1080p downloads of video only (no audio). Select “download video in browser” on the site.
  • Y2mate allows up to 1080p video downloads.
  • Jdownloader Software for downloading
  • Handbrake Software for ripping and converting
  • DMA Basics: OBS for Video Essays A tutorial on how to use OBS for Netflix.

Note: Try to to ensure that you download in 720p resolution or higher. Your minimum level of quality should be 480p. If searching on YouTube, you can filter the search results to only show HD or 4K results. Check also the  Find Video   tab of this guide.

Free editing software options

  • DaVinci Resolve (cross-platform) A color grading and non-linear video editing (NLE) application for macOS, Windows, and Linux, incorporating tools from Fairlight (audio production) and Fusion (motion graphics and visual effects that throw shade on After Effects).
  • iMovie (Mac only)
  • Videopad (cross-plaftorm)
  • OpenShot (open source, cross-platform)
  • Shortcut (open source, cross-platform)
  • HitFilm Express (cross-platform)
  • Free Music Archive An interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads directed by the radio station WFMU.
  • SoundCloud SoundCloud is one of the world’s largest music and audio platform and you can search for creative commons music.
  • YouTube Audio Library A library of free music and sound effects by YouTube. Each track is accompanied by information on the use.
  • Sound Image Free music (and more) for your Projects by Eric Matyas. Only requires crediting the author for legal use (see "attribution info" page).
  • Audacity A free and open-source digital audio editor and recording application software. Very useful to trim audio, convert a sample rate, apply a little compression, chop & screw, etc.
  • REAPER A digital audio workstation and MIDI sequencer software. Technically a paid-for platform, its free-trial never ends.

Check also the  Find  Audio Resources  tab of this guide.

Creating credits, copyright and fair use

  • Creating credits for video essays From Digital Design Studio at Tisch Library
  • Fair Use Evaluator
  • YouTube Fair Use Channel
  • Society for Cinema and Media Studies Statement on Fair Use
  • Blender A free and open-source 3D computer graphics software toolset used for creating animated films, visual effects, art, 3D printed models, motion graphics, interactive 3D applications, virtual reality, and computer games.
  • GIMP A free and open-source raster graphics editor used for image manipulation (retouching) and image editing, free-form drawing, transcoding between different image file formats, and more specialized tasks.
  • Inkscape A free and open-source vector graphics editor used to create vector images, primarily in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format.
  • Krita A free and open-source raster graphics editor designed primarily for digital painting and 2D animation. Good for sketching and conceptual art.

Stock footage

  • Final Cut Pro X Tutorial by JCU Digital Media Lab.
  • Final Cut Pro X Tutorial (PDF)
  • Final Cut Pro X Full Tutorial by David A. Cox
  • Audio Recording Tutorial by JCU Digital Media Lab.
  • << Previous: Find Videos
  • Next: Find Images >>
  • Last Updated: Feb 19, 2024 7:55 PM
  • URL: https://johncabot.libguides.com/communications

Creative Commons License

Visual Rhetoric

Video essay resource guide.

PAR 102 (M-Th, 9 AM- 5 PM) Fine Arts Library Media Lab (same hours as FAL) PCL Media Lab (same hours as PCL)

About video essays

What are they.

“The video essay is often described as a form of new media, but the basic principles are as old as rhetoric: the author makes an assertion, then presents evidence to back up his claim. Of course it was always possible for film critics to do this in print, and they’ve been doing it for over 100 years, following more or less the same template that one would use while writing about any art form: state your thesis or opinion, then back it with examples. In college, I was assured that in its heart, all written criticism was essentially the same – that in terms of rhetorical construction, book reviews, music reviews, dance reviews and film reviews were cut from the same cloth, but tailored to suit the specific properties of the medium being described, with greater emphasis given to form or content depending on the author’s goals and the reader’s presumed interest.”

Matt Zoller Seitz on the video essay .

what makes a good video essay? 

Tony Zhou on how to structure a video essay

Kevin B. Lee on what makes a video essay “ great “

why should we use them? what are their limits?

Kevin B. Lee’s  experimental/artistic pitch for video essays

Kevin B. Lee’s mainstream pitch for video essay

“Of all the many developments in the short history of film criticism and scholarship, the video essay has the greatest potential to challenge the now historically located text-based dominance of the appraisal and interpretation of film and its contextual cultures…”

Andrew McWhirter argues that t he video essay has significant academic potential in the Fall 2015 issue of  Screen

“Importantly, the [new] media stylo does not replace traditional scholarship. This is a new practice beyond traditional scholarship. So how does critical media differ from traditional scholarship and what advantages does it offer? First, as you will see with the works in this issue, critical media demonstrates a shift in rhetorical mode. The traditional essay is argumentative-thesis, evidence, conclusion. Traditional scholarship aspires to exhaustion, to be the definitive, end-all-be-all, last word on a particular subject. The media stylo, by contrast, suggests possibilities-it is not the end of scholarly inquiry; it is the beginning. It explores and experiments and is designed just as much to inspire as to convince…”

Eric Fadden’s “ A Manifesto for Critical Media “

the web video problem

Adam Westbrook’s “ The Web-Video Problem: Why It’s Time to Rethinking Visual Storytelling from the Bottom Up “

Video essayists and venues

Matt Zoller Seitz (various venues) A writer and director by trade, Zoller Seitz is nonetheless probably best known as a prominent American cultural critic.  He’s made over 1000 hours of video essays and is generally recognized as a founder of the video essay movement in high-brow periodicals.  A recognized expert on Wes Anderson, Zoller Seitz is also notable because he often mixes other cinematic media (especially television) into his analysis, as in the above example, which doubles as an experiment in the absence of voiceover.

carol glance

Various contributors, Press Play Co-founded by Matt Zoller Seitz and Ken Cancelosi,  Press Play  (published by Indiewire)   is one of the oldest high-brow venues for video essays about television, cinema, and other aspects of popular culture.

Various contributors, Keyframe   (A Fandor online publication) Fandor’s video essay department publishes work from many editors (what many video essayists call themselves) on and in a range of topics and styles.  Check it out to get an idea of all that things a video essay can do!

fantastic mr fox

Various contributors, Moving Image Source A high-brow publication for video essays.

Tony Zhou, Every Frame a Painting The master of video essays on filmic form, Tony’s arguments are clean, simple, and well-evidenced.  Look to Tony as an example of aggressive and precise editing and arrangement.  He’s also an excellent sound editor–pay attention to his choices and try out some of his sound-mixing techniques in your essay.

Adam Johnston, Your Movie Sucks (YMS) Although an excellent example of epideictic film rhetoric, this channel is a great example of what  not  to do in this assignment (write a movie review, gush about how good/bad you think a movie is, focus on motifs or narrative content instead of  film form  as the center of your argument).  What you  can  learn from Adam is a lot about style.  Adam’s delivery, pacing, and editing all work together to promote a mildly-disinterested-and-therefore-credible ethos through a near-monotone, which I’ll affectionately dub the “Daria” narratorial ethos.

Adam Westbrook, delve.tv Adam Westbrook is part of an emerging group of professional video essayists and delve.tv is his version of a visual podcast.  Using the video essay form, Adam has developed a professional public intellectual ethos for himself through skillful overlay of explanation/interpretation and concept.  Check out Westbrook’s work as a really good example of presenting and representing visual concepts crucial to an argument.  He’s a master at making an argument in the form of storytelling, and he uses the video essay as a vehicle for that enterprise.

:: kogonada (various venues) If you found yourself wondering what the auteur video essay might look like, :: kogonada is it.  I like to call this “expressionist” video essay style.  Kogonada is the ultimate minimalist when it comes to voiceover/text over–its message impossibly and almost excessively efficient.  Half of the videos in his library are simple, expertly-executed supercuts , highlighting how heavily video essays rely on the “supercut” technique to make an argument.  Crafting an essay in this style really limits your audience and may not be a very good fit for the constraints of assignment (very “cutting edge,” as we talked about it in class), but you will probably draw inspiration from ::kogonada’s distinct, recognizable style, as well as an idea of what a video essay can do at the outer limits of its form.

Lewis Bond,  Channel Criswell Narrating in brogue-y Northern English, Bond takes his time, releasing a very carefully-edited, high-production video essay once every couple of months.  He’s a decent editor, but I feel his essays tend to run long, and I feel rushed by his narration at times.  Bond also makes a useful distinction between video essays and analysis/reviews on his channel–and while most of his analysis/reviews focus on film content (what you don’t want to imitate), his video essays stay pretty focused on film technique (what you do).  Hearing the same author consciously engage in two different modes of analysis might help you better understand the distinction between the two, as well.

Jack Nugent,  Now You See It Nugent’s brisk, formal analysis is both insightful and accessible–a good example of what it takes to secure a significant following in the highly-competitive Youtube marketplace.  [That’s my way of slyly calling him commercial.] Nugent is especially good at pairing his narration with his images.  Concentrate and reflect upon his simple pairings as you watch–how does Nugent help you process both sets of information at the pacing he sets?

Evan Puschak, The Nerdwriter Nerdwriter  is a great example the diversity of topics a video essay can be used to craft an argument about.  Every week, Puschak publishes an episode on science, art, and culture.  Look at all the different things Puschak considers visual rhetoric and think about how he’s using the video essay form to make honed, precisely-executed arguments about popular culture.

Dennis Hartwig and John P. Hess,  FilmmakerIQ Hartwig and Hess use video essays to explain filmmaking technique to aspiring filmmakers.  I’ve included the channel here as another example of what  not  to do in your argument, although perhaps some of the technical explanations that Hartwig and Hess have produced might help you as secondary sources.  Your target audience (someone familiar on basic film theory trying to better understand film form) is likely to find the highly technical, prescriptive arguments on FilmIQ boring or alienating. Don’t focus on technical production in your essay (how the film accomplishes a particular visual technique using a camera); rather, focus on how the audience interprets the end result in the film itself; in other words, focus on choices the audience can notice and interpret–how is the audience interpreting the product of production?  How often is the audience thinking about/noticing production in that process?

Kevin B. Lee (various venues) A good example of the older, high-brow generation of video essayists, Kevin’s collection of work hosted on his Vimeo channel offers slow, deliberate, lecture-inspired readings of film techniques and form.  Note the distinct stylistic difference between Kevin’s pacing and someone like Zhou or Lewis.  How does delivery affect reception?

Software Guides

How to access Lynda tutorials (these will change your life)

Handbrake and MakeMKV  (file converters)

Adobe Premiere  (video editing)

Camtasia  (screen capture)

File management

Use your free UTBox account to upload and manage your files.  Make sure you’ve got some sort of system for tracking and assembling everything into your video editing software.   UTBox has a 2 terabyte limit (much higher than Google Drive) and is an excellent file management resource for all sorts of academic work.

Adobe Premiere saves versions with links to your video files, so it’s imperative that you keep your video files folder in the same place on every machine you open it up on.  That’s why I keep all my video files in a big folder on box that I drop on the desktop of any machine I’m working on before I open my premiere files.  The Adobe Premiere project walkthrough  has more details on this.

Where to find video and how to capture it

About fair use . Make sure your composition complies with the Fair Use doctrine and familiarize yourself with the four criteria.

The best place to capture images is always from a high-resolution DVD or video file .  The first place you should go to get the film is the library– see instructions for searching here .

To import the video and audio from your DVD or video file into your video editing software (like Premiere), you will first need to use a software to convert it to an .mkv.  See instructions on how to do that here .

Camtasia tutorials .  Camtasia is a program that allows you to capture anything that’s going on on your screen .  This is a critical tool for this assignment as you decide what kind of interface you want to present to your reader in your video essay.  Camtasia also allows you to capture any high-quality video playing on your desktop without licensing restrictions.

You can also use Clip Converter to capture images and sound from pre-existing YouTube videos , and it may be a little faster and easier than Camtasia.   I suggest converting things into .mkv before putting them into your video editor, regardless of where you get the material from.

Film theory and criticism

  • /r/truefilm’s reading and viewing guide

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Scripting Video Essays: How to Write a Great Narrative

There are many ways in which you can write video essays. Some have argued that video essays are a new trend in the world of creative writing. There is so much emphasis on developing a story from visuals, photographs, videos, and music to tell an enduring tale or lesson in this day and age. 

So, if you want to join the video essay bandwagon as an artist, expert, researcher, or student, you must know how to write them first before creating them.

Writing a narrative video essay is a great way to share your ideas with the world. Narrative essays let you not only say something meaningful but also show it. A good narrative video essay is also about the art of visual storytelling.

But first, if you are wondering what exactly is a video essay. Let’s address it first.

What is a Video Essay?

A video essay is a form of a documentary-like video narrative film using film footage, video clips, and graphics to discuss an issue or topic. Academics and artists can typically use video essays to discuss their research. 

In addition to blog posts and magazine articles, video essays are a new type of storytelling in the digital world. They take one idea and meticulously construct a narrative on how it came to be, how it’s been used/applied, or what it means.

video essay script

In its most popular form (one person talking head), a video essay is made up of between 3-7 minutes in length and usually presents one concept or topic.

It often looks at a film and demonstrates how it is engaging in meaning or does not. The video essay can also emphasize the acts performed by actors or directors, such as performance, staging, and editing techniques.

But today, it is not fixated to film subjects only.  You can also expand your visual stories about anything under the sun like history, politics, science, technology, etc. Just choose an idea and proceed with your essay writing.

Here is an excellent example of the best video essays –  Example: Best Video Essays by Vox

How do you Create a Narrative in your Video Essay?

To create a compelling video essay, you must know how to write an essay with a video component to produce a compelling story. A good video essay should have the following qualities:

  • It should be insightful, thought-provoking, or informative.
  • It should be argumentative and practice critical thinking
  • It should be visual, formal, and well-structured.
  • It should help the viewer understand and appreciate a topic/situation from various angles.
  • It should inspire viewers through findings, vocabulary, and plot.

The best video essays also use candid footage and demonstrate the use of nonfiction or documentary filmmaking techniques . And the main reason why people gravitate towards narrative essays is that they let you show your ideas visually to your viewers.

How to Write a Video Essay Script?

Many people are starting to make video essays as a way of presenting their own thoughts and experiences. The problem is that these videos do not have any actual narration, leaving the viewer lost trying to understand what’s happening.

But to write a grand narrative, you must follow the following stages:

how to come up with short film ideas

Brainstorming ideas is the first stage. At this stage, you should list a few interesting concepts in an organized way. You may want to use the topic form like: “A Case for Video Essays” or “How to Create a Story Using Text and Images?” So, while ideating, follow these:

  • Begin by picking a topic ( mostly what you are passionate about).
  • Think about your point of view and audience. 
  • Set up the background and context for your essay or story (the “what”). 
  • Reveal the turning point in your story (the “why”). 
  • Provide evidence to support your account of events (the “where”) 
  • Discuss how the incident relates to broader social concerns (the “what now?”).

Research is the next stage of writing a video essay. The moment you decide to make a video essay, you should have enough information about the topic. The more information and research you do in the ideation stage, the easier it will be for you as a writer and speaker to share your knowledge with the audience. Research may include:

  • Finding out facts from books, interviews, or research papers.
  • Finding out relevant video footage of the person, place, or event.
  • Getting access to the video footage of a particular event (e.g., presidential speeches).
  • Find audio or video files on the Internet and transcribe them into text format (e.g., podcasts, interviews).
  • THE ESSAY STRUCTURE: 

Because the video essay is still relatively new, there are no definitive rules about structure and genre for these films.  But still, we should adhere to some basic rules while constructing the script structure. Your structure is the most crucial stage for a crackling narrative. 

how to come up with short film ideas

The essentials of a great narrative essay structure are as follows :

  • First, create a rough outline from your research material.
  • Think about a compelling opening line with a single line answer to the question of the essay
  • Begin with questions, then answer in a way to create an argument.
  • The Argument then leads to the next question.
  • The emotion and Tone of the script should be formal, thought-provoking, insightful, and informative, supported by relevant visual reference.
  • The essay must represent a single point of view.
  • But it should be a well-reasoned perspective.
  • It must have the writer or creator’s personal touch.
  • Good writing is about the economy of words articulated to the point.
  • Don’t forget to mention the What is the Takeaway for the audience.
  • Don’t make it lengthy. Video essays are also about documenting or reviewing videos. So the script should not eat it all.
  • Once you have structured the script, go back to the beginning and review your work.

Once you have prepared a rough draft of your essay, read it out loud and find the rhythm in the story. Is it telling the theme visually?  Rewrite and get the tone right. Your first few scripts may not be satisfactory. Don’t worry about that. It is a learning process.

  • WRITING THE FINAL DRAFT:

Now, once you have gotten all the ideas into a script, you will be eager to write the final draft. At this stage, make sure to follow the following tips:

  • Make sure every line is comprehensible so that viewers can easily understand your point of view without missing anything important in it.
  • Proofread and make sure that you don’t leave any unfinished work or broken sentences in the video essay structure.
  • Check the length of the video essay and make sure to follow the minimum requirements.
  • Once you are done with the script, check for the formatting of your work.
  • Spend extra time on a great narration that helps explain your content effectively and concisely.
  • Get a clear idea about what you want to say so that you know what kind of images to use in the final draft of your essay and how they should be arranged.
  • Conclude the essay by providing the audience with everything they need to know about your subject.

For a compelling narrative, the first thing to do is identify what makes the story you are trying to tell unique and why an audience wants to learn about it.

Related Question:

Are Video Essays Popular Today?

Though the concept was coined in the mid-1990s, it has only become popular in the last five years or so. As of now, a considerable amount of video essays and short films are uploaded on Youtube. Some have even garnered millions of views.  The prominent mentions are the Nerdwriter, and Every Frame is a Painting.

check out – Best Video Essays of last year

How Long Does a Video Essay Take to Write?

If you are writing a long video essay, it can take you a considerable amount of time. However, if you aim to create a short film covering one event, it can be done in a day or two. 

But, you may take time if you don’t have the research material in your hand. 

Final words:

The video essay became popular because it is a way to engage with the writer rather than just “watching” them talk about something. But, to make a great narrative, you have to research a lot and put in your best efforts. 

We hope this write-up has helped you create a great video essay. Happy writing!

Newbie Film School

Recent Content

What To Study To Become A VFX Artist?

Unlock the secrets of becoming a VFX artist by blending creativity, technical expertise, and practical skills. Discover the different streams of VFX, study at institutions or learn independently, and...

8 Tips For Shooting Your Own Videos On YouTube

When it comes to shooting your YouTube videos as a content creator, what are some crucial information you must keep in mind? Here are the tips for shooting your own videos on YouTube

Filmmaking Lifestyle

What Is a Video Essay? Definition & Examples Of Video Essays

is video essay

A video essay consists of a series of videos that collectively, present an in-depth analysis or interpretation of a given subject or topic.

In this way, a video essay can be thought of as a condensed version of a lengthy written article.

VIDEO ESSAY

What is a video essay.

A video essay is an audio-visual presentation of your thoughts on a topic or text that usually lasts between 5 and 10 minutes long.

It can take the form of any type of media such as film, animation, or even PowerPoint presentations.

The most important thing to remember when creating a video essay is to include voiceover narration throughout the whole project so that viewers feel they are listening in on your thoughts and ideas rather than watching passively.

Video essays are typically created by content creators’ critics to make arguments about cinema, television, art history, and culture more broadly.

Ever wondered how ideas unfold in the dynamic world of video?

That’s where video essays come in.

They’re a compelling blend of documentary and personal reflection, packed into a visually engaging package.

We’ll dive deep into the art of the video essay, a form that’s taken the internet by storm.

In this article, we’ll explore how video essays have revolutionized storytelling and education.

They’re not just a person talking to a camera; they’re a meticulously crafted narrative, often weaving together film footage, voiceover, text, and music to argue and inform.

Stick with us as we unpack the nuances that make video essays a unique and powerful medium for expression and learning.

Components Of A Video Essay

As storytellers and educators, we recognize the intricate elements that comprise a video essay.

Each component is vital for communicating the essay’s message and maintaining the audience’s engagement.

Narrative Structure serves as the backbone of a video essay.

Our crafting of this structure relies on a cinematic approach where the beginning, middle, and end serve to introduce, argue, and explore our ideas.

Film Footage then breathes life into our words.

We handpick scenes from various sources, be it iconic or obscure, to visually accentuate our narrative.

The Voiceover we provide acts as a guide for our viewers.

It delivers our analysis and commentary, ensuring our perspective is heard.

Paired with this is the Text and Graphics segment, offering another layer of interpretation.

We animate bullet points, overlay subtitles, and incorporate infographics to highlight key points.

Our sound design, specifically the Music and Sound Effects , creates the video essay’s atmosphere.

It underscores the emotions we wish to evoke and punctuates the points we make.

This auditory component is as crucial as the visual, as it can completely change the viewer’s experience.

We also pay close attention to the Editing and Pacing .

This ensures our video essays are not only informative but also engaging.

The rhythm of the cuts and transitions keeps viewers invested from start to finish.

In essence, a strong video essay is a tapestry woven with:

  • Narrative Structure – the story’s framework,
  • Film Footage – visual evidence supporting our claims,
  • Voiceover – our distinctive voice that narrates the essay,
  • Text and Graphics – the clarity of our arguments through visual aids,
  • Music and Sound Effects – the emotive undercurrent of our piece,
  • Editing and Pacing – the flow that maintains engagement.

Each element works Along with the others, making our video essays not just informative, but also a cinematic experience.

Through these components, we offer a comprehensive yet compelling way of storytelling that captivates and educates our audience.

The Power Of Visual Storytelling

Visual storytelling harnesses the innate human attraction to imagery and narrative.

At its core, a video essay is a compelling form of visual storytelling that combines the rich tradition of oral narrative with the dynamic appeal of cinema.

The impact of visual storytelling in video essays can be profound.

When crafted effectively, they engage viewers on multiple sensory levels – not just audibly but visually, leading to a more immersive and memorable experience.

Imagery in visual storytelling isn’t merely decorative.

It’s a crucial carrier of thematic content, enhancing the narrative and supporting the overarching message.

By incorporating film footage and stills, video essays create a tapestry of visuals that resonate with viewers.

  • Film Footage – Brings concepts to life with cinematic flair,
  • Stills and Graphics – Emphasize key points and add depth to the narrative.

Through the deliberate choice of images and juxtaposition, video essays are able to articulate complex ideas.

They elicit emotions and evoke reactions that pure text or speech cannot match.

From documentaries like An Inconvenient Truth to educational content on platforms like TED-Ed, video essays have proven their capacity to inform and inspire.

Sound design in video essays goes beyond mere accompaniment; it’s an integral component of storytelling.

Music and sound effects set the tone, heighten tension, and can even alter the audience’s perception of the visuals.

It’s this synergy that elevates the story, giving it texture and nuance.

  • Music – Sets the emotional tone,
  • Sound Effects – Enhances the realism of the visuals.

Crafting a narrative in this medium isn’t just about what’s on screen.

It requires an understanding of how each element – from script to sound – works in concert.

This unity forms an intricate dance of auditory and visual elements that can transform a simple message into a powerful narrative experience.

The Influence Of Video Essays In Education

Video essays have become a dynamic tool in academic settings, transcending traditional teaching methods.

By blending entertainment with education, they engage students in ways that lectures and textbooks alone cannot.

is video essay

How To Create A Powerful Video Essay

Creating a compelling video essay isn’t just about stitching clips together.

It requires a blend of critical thinking, storytelling, and technical skill.

Choose a Central Thesis that resonates with your intended audience.

Like any persuasive essay, your video should have a clear argument or point of view that you aim to get across.

Research Thoroughly to support your thesis with factual data and thought-provoking insights.

Whether you’re dissecting themes in The Great Gatsby or examining the cinematography of Citizen Kane , your analysis must be thorough and well-founded.

Plan Your Narrative Structure before jumping into the editing process.

Decide the flow of your argument and how each segment supports your central message.

Typically, you’d include:

  • An intriguing introduction – set the stage for what’s coming,
  • A body that elaborates your thesis – present your evidence and arguments,
  • Clearly separated sections – these act as paragraphs would in written essays.

Visuals Are Key in a video essay.

We opt for high-quality footage that not only illustrates but also enhances our narrative.

Think of visuals as examples that will bring your argument to life.

Audio selection Should Never Be an Afterthought.

Pair your visuals with a soundtrack that complements the mood you’re aiming to create.

Voice-overs should be clear and paced in a way that’s easy for the audience to follow.

Editing Is Where It All Comes Together.

Here, timing and rhythm are crucial to maintain viewer engagement.

We ensure our cuts are clean and purposeful, and transition effects are used judiciously.

Interactive Elements like on-screen text or graphics can add a layer of depth to your video essay.

Use such elements to highlight important points or data without disrupting the flow of your narrative.

Feedback Is Invaluable before finalizing your video essay.

We often share our drafts with a trusted group to gain insights that we might have missed.

It’s a part of refining our work to make sure it’s as impactful as it can be.

Remember, creating a video essay is about more than compiling clips and sound – it’s a form of expression that combines film criticism with visual storytelling.

It’s about crafting an experience that informs and intrigues, compelling the viewer to see a subject through a new lens.

With the right approach, we’re not just delivering information; we’re creating an immersive narrative experience.

What Is A Video Essay – Wrap Up

We’ve explored the intricate craft of video essays, shedding light on their ability to captivate and inform.

By weaving together compelling visuals and sound with a strong narrative, we can create immersive experiences that resonate with our audience.

Let’s harness these tools and share our stories, knowing that with the right approach, our video essays can truly make an impact.

Remember, it’s our unique perspective and creative vision that will set our work apart in the ever-evolving landscape of digital storytelling.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is visual storytelling in video essays.

Visual storytelling in video essays is the craft of using visual elements to narrate a story or present an argument, engaging viewers on a sensory level beyond just text or speech.

Why Is Visual Storytelling Important In Video Essays?

Visual storytelling is important because it captures attention and immerses the audience, making the content more memorable and impactful through the integration of visuals, sound, and narrative.

What Are The Key Elements Of A Powerful Video Essay?

The key elements include a central thesis, thorough research, a well-planned narrative structure, high-quality visuals, fitting audio, effective editing, interactive components, and a compelling immersive narrative experience.

How Do I Choose A Central Thesis For My Video Essay?

Choose a central thesis that is focused, debatable, and thought-provoking to anchor your video essay and give it a clear direction.

What Should I Focus On During The Research Phase?

Focus on gathering varied and credible information that supports your thesis and enriches the narrative with compelling facts and insights.

What Role Does Audio Play In Video Essays?

Audio enhances the visual experience by adding depth to the narrative, providing emotional cues, and aiding in information retention.

How Can Interactive Elements Improve My Video Essay?

Interactive elements can enhance engagement by allowing viewers to participate actively, often leading to a deeper understanding and connection with the content.

Why Is Feedback Important In Creating A Video Essay?

Feedback is crucial as it provides insights into how your video essay is perceived, allowing you to make adjustments to improve clarity, impact, and viewer experience.

Buying Electronics Online - How to Not Get Scammed

What Is a Prime Lens? Learn About This Crucial Lens

is video essay

Matt Crawford

Related posts, best film app in 2024: 19 amazing apps to improve your filmmaking, the best of filmmaking & video production june 2016, storyboard camera movement: essential guide [with examples & tips], what is a prequel definition, examples & tutorials, what is technicolor definition & examples from the history of cinema, what is a stock character definition & examples.

'  data-srcset=

A video essay is a type of video that is used to present a single, cohesive argument or idea. They can be used to communicate a complex idea in a way that is easy to understand. They can also be used to show how a

is video essay

It is indeed.

'  data-srcset=

Absolutely, Greg.

'  data-srcset=

Great post! I found the definition of video essays to be particularly insightful.

As someone who is new to the world of video essays, it’s helpful to understand the different forms and purposes of this medium. The examples you provided were also enlightening, particularly the one on the First Amendment.

I’m looking forward to exploring more video essays in the future!

'  data-srcset=

I found this post to be incredibly informative and helpful in understanding the concept of video essays.

As a budding filmmaker, I’m intrigued by the idea of blending traditional essay structure with visual storytelling. The examples provided in the post were particularly insightful, showcasing the versatility of video essays in capturing complex ideas and emotions. I can’t wait to explore this medium further and see where it takes me!

'  data-srcset=

I found this post really fascinating, especially the section on the different types of video essays. I never knew there were so many variations!

As a student, I’m definitely going to start experimenting with video essays as a way to express myself and communicate my ideas. Thanks for sharing!

'  data-srcset=

Interesting read! I’m curious to explore more video essays and see how they can be used to convey complex ideas in an engaging way.

Appreciate the comment

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

Username or Email Address

Remember Me

Registration is closed.

Pin It on Pinterest

CONTACT US

POSTS BY TOPIC

  • ABOUT MFE PROGRAM

Scroll to top

MASTER OF FINANCIAL ENGINEERING PROGRAM

Berkeley mfe blog, how to prepare for the video essay.

By The Berkeley MFE Program | Jun 22, 2022 | Applying , STEM , Data Science , MFE , quant finance , graduate studies , video essay

Share on Facebook

It is important that we are able to hear and see you. Before you start recording, make sure you are in a quiet space with good lighting. In orde r to minimize distractions, please have a neutral background that isn’t busy with objects or bright colors.

You want to make sure you are in a well lit room. If possible, we recommend recording during the day with natural light. If your space has a window directly behind you, ensure that the shades or curtains are closed.

Check the quality of the device you are recording on. Make sure that your face is fully in frame and visible, and that your audio is clear. You will have an opportunity to do a test before you begin the recording, be sure to take advantage of this opportunity. 

You have two attempts to record your video, so make sure beforehand that you are in an area with stable Internet connection. Since you will record the video essay directly in the application portal. We encourage you to check your internet speed and that your video will upload properly at the end of your recording. You can use an online speed test to check your speed.

We all know that the first impression is usually the most important. The video essay may be the only time the admissions committee will see and hear you, so take the time to ensure you are well dressed and groomed.

The essay question(s) will not be available beforehand. While you will not be able to prepare in advance, we recommend preparing yourself mentally: take deep breaths, go out for a walk, hydrate, etc. Do what you need to get in the right mind set. When you are ready and completed the video and audio check, the question(s) will appear on screen when you hit “Ready.” We have designed the question(s) to be answered it on the spot and you will have a few seconds to read the prompt before the recording begins. 

You only have two minutes to answer the prompt. Make sure to pay attention to the time and start wrapping up before time runs out. Once you completed the recording, take a few minutes to review your response. Utilize the second attempt if needed. If you decide to record your response using the second att empt, we strongly advise that you do not read your answer or look it up on the internet. Use your own words, be yourself and talk to us as if you were sitting across from us during an interview.  This is not a pass or fail exercise. We want to hear from you, your opinion, and what you have to say on this subject.   

We hope these tips will help you feel more confident and ready for the video portion. If you have not already done so, we encourage you review the application tips . If you still have questions or need additional guidance, here are ways to connect or learn more: sign-up for an information session or join the weekly Q&A session via zoom on Tuesdays from 3-4 PM PT/Wednesday from 9-10 AM PT.

is video essay

About The Author

The Berkeley Master of Financial Engineering Program, a STEM designated degree, provides you with the knowledge and skills to prepare you for a career in the finance/fintech industry.

berkeley haas cronk gate

  • Finance (29)
  • MFE Alumni (21)
  • Applying (19)

RECENT ARTICLES

Popular articles.

Copyright © 1996-2024 | University of California, Berkeley | Haas School of Business | Privacy Policy

Facebook

is video essay

We’re in a Golden Era of Video Essays and That Is Awesome

is video essay

Exclusive content curated for Create: All things pre-production to post. See trends and topics like this and more come to life at NAB Show in Las Vegas. Explore the latest tools and advanced workflows elevating the art of storytelling.

author

READ MORE: The video essay boom (Vox)

Video essays are thriving in the TikTok era, even while platforms like YouTube are pivoting to promote short-form content. According to Vox , their popularity reflects our desire for more nuanced content online.

Video essays have been around for a decade or more on YouTube. Since 2012, when the platform began to prioritize watch-time over views , the genre has flourished.

READ MORE: YouTube search, now optimized for time watched (YouTube)

Today, there are video essays devoted to virtually any topic you can think of, ranging anywhere from about 10 minutes to upward of an hour.

“Video essays are a form that has lent itself particularly well to pop culture because of its analytical nature,” Madeline Buxton, the culture and trends manager at YouTube, tells Vox . “We’re starting to see more creators using video essays to comment on growing trends across social media. They’re serving as sort of real-time internet historians by helping viewers understand not just what is a trend, but the larger cultural context of something.”

To Vox writer Terry Nguyen , what seems especially relevant is how the video essay is becoming repackaged, as long-form video creators find a home on platforms besides YouTube. This has played out concurrently with the pandemic-era shift toward short-form video, with Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube respectively launching Reels, Spotlight, and Shorts to compete against TikTok.

Yet audiences have not been deterred from watching lengthy videos on TikTok either. Emerging video essayists aren’t shying away from length or nuance, even while using TikTok or Reels as a supplement to grow their online following, Nguyen finds.

She points to the growth of “creator economy” crowdfunding tools , especially during the pandemic, that have allowed video essayists to take longer breaks between uploads while retaining their production quality.

READ MORE: Virtual tips are helping content creators actually make money (Vox)

CRUSHING IT IN THE CREATOR ECONOMY:

The cultural impact a creator has is already surpassing that of traditional media, but there’s still a stark imbalance of power between proprietary platforms and the creators who use them. Discover what it takes to stay ahead of the game with these fresh insights hand-picked from the NAB Amplify archives:

  • The Developer’s Role in Building the Creator Economy Is More Important Than You Think
  • How Social Platforms Are Attempting to Co-Opt the Creator Economy
  • Now There’s a Creator Economy for Enterprise
  • The Creator Economy Is in Crisis. Now Let’s Fix It. | Source: Li Jin
  • Is the Creator Economy Really a Democratic Utopia Realized?

YouTube creator Tiffany Ferguson admits to feeling some pressure from audiences to make her videos longer.

“I’ve seen comments, both on my own videos and those I watch, where fans are like, ‘Yes, you’re feeding us,’ when it comes to longer videos, especially the hour to two-hour ones. In a way, the mentality seems to be: The longer the better.”

In a Medium post, “ We Live in the Golden Age of Video Essays ,” blogger A. Khaled remarked that viewers were “willing to indulge user-generated content that is as long as a multi-million dollar cinematic production by a major Hollywood studio” — a notion that seemed improbable just a few years ago, even to the most popular video essayists. To creators, this hunger for well-edited, long-form video is unprecedented and uniquely suited to pandemic times.

READ MORE: We Live in the Golden Age of Video Essays (Medium)

Last month, the YouTube channel Folding Ideas published a two-hour video essay on “ the problem with NFTs ,” which has garnered more than 6.4 million views to date.

Hour-plus-long videos can be hits, depending on the creator, the subject matter, the production quality, and the audience base that the content attracts. There will always be an early drop-off point with some viewers, who make it roughly two to five minutes into a video essay.

“About half of my viewers watch up to the halfway point, and a smaller group finishes the entire video,” Ferguson said. “It’s just how YouTube is. If your video is longer than two minutes, I think you’re going to see that drop-off regardless if it’s for a video that’s 15 or 60 minutes long.”

Some video essayists have experimented with shorter content as a topic testing ground for longer videos or as a discovery tool to reach new audiences, whether it be on the same platform (like Shorts) or an entirely different one (like TikTok).

“The video essay is not a static format, and its development is heavily shaped by platforms, which play a crucial role in algorithmically determining how such content is received and promoted. Some of these changes are reflective of cultural shifts, too.”

The growth of shorts, according to Buxton, has given rise to this class of “hybrid creators,” who alternate between short- and long-form content. They can also be a starting point for new creators, who are not yet comfortable with scripting a 30-minute video.

“It’s common for TikTokers to tease a multi-part video to gain followers,” Nguyen reports. “Many have attempted to direct viewers to their YouTube channel and other platforms for longer content. On the contrary, it’s in TikTok’s best interests to retain creators — and therefore viewers — on the app.”

In late February, TikTok announced plans to extend its maximum video length from three minutes to 10 minutes, more than tripling a video’s run-time possibility.

READ MORE: TikTok expands maximum video length to 10 minutes (The Verge)

Last October, Spotify introduced “ video podcasts ,” which allows users the option of toggling between actively watching a podcast or traditionally listening to one.

READ MORE: Introducing Video Podcasts on Spotify (Spotify)

is video essay

What’s interesting about the video podcast, Nguyen suggests, is how Spotify is positioning itself as an interchangeable, if not more intimate, alternative to a pure audio podcast: “The video essay, then, appears to occupy a middle ground between podcast and traditional video by making use of these key elements. For creators, the boundaries are no longer so easy to define,” she writes.

The video essay is not a static format, and its development is heavily shaped by platforms, which play a crucial role in algorithmically determining how such content is received and promoted. Some of these changes are reflective of cultural shifts, too.

That’s because the basic premise of the video essay — whether the video is a mini-explainer or explores a 40-minute hypothesis — requires the creator to, at the very least, do their research. This often leads to personal disclaimers and summaries of alternative opinions or perspectives, which is very different from the more self-centered “reaction videos” and “story time” clickbait side of YouTube.

“The things I’m talking about are bigger than me. I recognize the limitations of my own experience,” Ferguson reports. “Once I started talking about intersections of race, gender, sexuality — so many experiences that were different from my own — I couldn’t just share my own narrow, straight, white woman perspective. I have to provide context.”

This is a positive shift, Nguyen concludes. “A video essay, in a way, encourages us to engage in good faith with ideas that we might not typically entertain or think of ourselves.”

Are you interested in contributing ideas, suggestions or opinions? We’d love to hear from you. Email us here .

  • Content Creation
  • Media Content
  • Content Publishers
  • Social Networking / UGC

for more content like this sent directly to your inbox:

is video essay

  • Newsletters

Site search

  • Israel-Hamas war
  • 2024 election
  • Supreme Court
  • Animal welfare
  • Climate change
  • What to watch
  • All explainers
  • Future Perfect

Filed under:

The video essay boom

Hour-long YouTube videos are thriving in the TikTok era. Their popularity reflects our desire for more nuanced content online.

Share this story

  • Share this on Facebook
  • Share this on Twitter
  • Share this on Reddit
  • Share All sharing options

Share All sharing options for: The video essay boom

A stock image illustration of a girl sitting on a couch, filming herself.

The video essay’s reintroduction into my adult life was, like many things, a side effect of the pandemic. On days when I couldn’t bring myself to read recreationally, I tried to unwind after work by watching hours and hours of YouTube.

My pseudo-intellectual superego, however, soon became dissatisfied with the brain-numbing monotony of “day in the life” vlogs, old Bon Appétit test kitchen videos, and makeup tutorials. I wanted content that was entertaining, but simultaneously informational, thoughtful, and analytical. In short, I wanted something that gave the impression that I, the passive viewer, was smart. Enter: the video essay.

Video essays have been around for about a decade, if not more, on YouTube. There is some debate over how the form preceded the platform; some film scholars believe the video essay was born out of and remains heavily influenced by essay films , a type of nonfiction filmmaking. Regardless, YouTube has become the undisputed home of the contemporary video essay. Since 2012, when the platform began to prioritize watch-time over views , the genre flourished. These videos became a significant part of the 2010s YouTube landscape, and were popularized by creators across film, politics, and academic subcultures.

Today, there are video essays devoted to virtually any topic you can think of, ranging anywhere from about 10 minutes to upward of an hour. The video essay has been a means to entertain fan theories , explore the lore of a video game or a historical deep dive , explain or critique a social media trend , or like most written essays, expound upon an argument, hypothesis , or curiosity proposed by the creator.

Some of the best-known video essay creators — Lindsay Ellis, Natalie Wynn of ContraPoints, and Abigail Thorn of PhilosophyTube — are often associated with BreadTube , an umbrella term for a group of left-leaning, long-form YouTubers who provide intellectualized commentary on political and cultural topics.

It’s not an exaggeration to claim that I — and many of my fellow Gen Zers — were raised on video essays, academically and intellectually. They were helpful resources for late-night cramming sessions (thanks Crash Course), and responsible for introducing a generation to first-person commentary on all sorts of cultural and political phenomena. Now, the kids who grew up on this content are producing their own.

“Video essays are a form that has lent itself particularly well to pop culture because of its analytical nature,” Madeline Buxton, the culture and trends manager at YouTube, told me. “We are starting to see more creators using video essays to comment on growing trends across social media. They’re serving as sort of real-time internet historians by helping viewers understand not just what is a trend, but the larger cultural context of something.”

any video that starts with "the rise and fall of" I'm clicking on it no matter the topic — zae | industry plant (@ItsZaeOk) February 23, 2022

A lot has been said about the video essay and its ever-shifting parameters . What does seem newly relevant is how the video essay is becoming repackaged, as long-form video creators find a home on platforms besides YouTube. This has played out concurrently with the pandemic-era shift toward short-form video, with Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube respectively launching Reels, Spotlight, and Shorts to compete against TikTok.

TikTok’s sudden, unwavering rise has proven the viability of bite-size content, and the app’s addictive nature has spawned fears about young people’s dwindling attention spans. Yet, the prevailing popularity of video essays, from new and old creators alike, suggests otherwise. Audiences have not been deterred from watching lengthy videos, nor has the short-form pivot significantly affected creators and their output. Emerging video essayists aren’t shying away from length or nuance, even while using TikTok or Reels as a supplement to grow their online following.

One can even argue that we are witnessing the video essay’s golden era . Run times are longer than ever, while more and more creators are producing long-form videos. The growth of “creator economy” crowdfunding tools, especially during the pandemic, has allowed video essayists to take longer breaks between uploads while retaining their production quality.

“I do feel some pressure to make my videos longer because my audience continues to ask for it,” said Tiffany Ferguson, a YouTube creator specializing in media criticism and pop culture commentary. “I’ve seen comments, both on my own videos and those I watch, where fans are like, ‘Yes, you’re feeding us,’ when it comes to longer videos, especially the hour to two-hour ones. In a way, the mentality seems to be: The longer the better.”

In a Medium post last April, the blogger A. Khaled remarked that viewers were “willing to indulge user-generated content that is as long as a multi-million dollar cinematic production by a major Hollywood studio” — a notion that seemed improbable just a few years ago, even to the most popular video essayists. To creators, this hunger for well-edited, long-form video is unprecedented and uniquely suitable for pandemic times.

The internet might’ve changed what we pay attention to, but it hasn’t entirely shortened our attention span, argued Jessica Maddox, an assistant professor of digital media technology at the University of Alabama. “It has made us more selective about the things we want to devote our attention to,” she told me. “People are willing to devote time to content they find interesting.”

Every viewer is different, of course. I find that my attention starts to wane around the 20-minute mark if I’m actively watching and doing nothing else — although I will admit to once spending a non-consecutive four hours on an epic Twin Peaks explainer . Last month, the channel Folding Ideas published a two-hour video essay on “the problem with NFTs,” which has garnered more than 6 million views so far.

Hour-plus-long videos can be hits, depending on the creator, the subject matter, the production quality, and the audience base that the content attracts. There will always be an early drop-off point with some viewers, according to Ferguson, who make it about two to five minutes into a video essay. Those numbers don’t often concern her; she trusts that her devoted subscribers will be interested enough to stick around.

“About half of my viewers watch up to the halfway point, and a smaller group finishes the entire video,” Ferguson said. “It’s just how YouTube is. If your video is longer than two minutes, I think you’re going to see that drop-off regardless if it’s for a video that’s 15 or 60 minutes long.”

Some video essayists have experimented with shorter content as a topic testing ground for longer videos or as a discovery tool to reach new audiences, whether it be on the same platform (like Shorts) or an entirely different one (like TikTok).

“Short-form video can expose people to topics or types of content they’re not super familiar with yet,” Maddox said. “Shorts are almost like a sampling of what you can get with long-form content.” The growth of Shorts, according to Buxton of YouTube, has given rise to this class of “hybrid creators,” who alternate between short- and long-form content. They can also be a starting point for new creators, who are not yet comfortable with scripting a 30-minute video.

Queline Meadows, a student in Ithaca College’s screen cultures program, became interested in how young people were using TikTok to casually talk about film, using editing techniques that borrowed heavily from video essays. She created her own YouTube video essay titled “The Rise of Film TikTok” to analyze the phenomenon, and produces both TikTok micro-essays and lengthy videos.

“I think people have a desire to understand things more deeply,” Meadows told me. “Even with TikTok, I find it hard to unfold an argument or explore multiple angles of a subject. Once people get tired of the hot takes, they want to sit with something that’s more nuanced and in-depth.”

@que1ine link in bio #fyp #filmtok #filmtiktok #videoessay ♬ Swing Lynn - Harmless

It’s common for TikTokers to tease a multi-part video to gain followers. Many have attempted to direct viewers to their YouTube channel and other platforms for longer content. On the contrary, it’s in TikTok’s best interests to retain creators — and therefore viewers — on the app. In late February, TikTok announced plans to extend its maximum video length from three minutes to 10 minutes , more than tripling a video’s run-time possibility. This decision arrived months after TikTok’s move last July to start offering three-minute videos .

As TikTok inches into YouTube-length territory, Spotify, too, has introduced video on its platform, while YouTube has similarly signaled an interest in podcasting . In October, Spotify began introducing “video podcasts,” which allows listeners (or rather, viewers) to watch episodes. Users have the option to toggle between actively watching a podcast or traditionally listening to one.

What’s interesting about the video podcast is how Spotify is positioning it as an interchangeable, if not more intimate, alternative to a pure audio podcast. The video essay, then, appears to occupy a middle ground between podcast and traditional video by making use of these key elements. For creators, the boundaries are no longer so easy to define.

“Some video essay subcultures are more visual than others, while others are less so,” said Ferguson, who was approached by Spotify to upload her YouTube video essays onto the platform last year. “I was already in the process of trying to upload just the audio of my old videos since that’s more convenient for people to listen to and save on their podcast app. My reasoning has always been to make my content more accessible.”

To Ferguson, podcasts are a natural byproduct of the video essay. Many viewers are already consuming lengthy videos as ambient entertainment, as content to passively listen to while doing other tasks. The video essay is not a static format, and its development is heavily shaped by platforms, which play a crucial role in algorithmically determining how such content is received and promoted. Some of these changes are reflective of cultural shifts, too.

Maddox, who researches digital culture and media, has a theory that social media discourse is becoming less reactionary. She described it as a “simmering down” of the hot take, which is often associated with cancel culture . These days, more creators are approaching controversy from a removed, secondhand standpoint; they seem less interested in engendering drama for clicks. “People are still providing their opinions, but in conjunction with deep analysis,” Maddox said. “I think it says a lot about the state of the world and what holds people’s attention.”

no u know what i HATE video essay slander......... they r forever gonna be my fav background noise YES i enjoy the lofi nintendo music and YES i want a 3 hour video explaining the importance of the hair color of someone from a show i've never watched — ☻smiley☻ (@smiley_jpeg) January 19, 2022

That’s the power of the video essay. Its basic premise — whether the video is a mini-explainer or explores a 40-minute hypothesis — requires the creator to, at the very least, do their research. This often leads to personal disclaimers and summaries of alternative opinions or perspectives, which is very different from the more self-centered “reaction videos” and “story time” clickbait side of YouTube.

“The things I’m talking about are bigger than me. I recognize the limitations of my own experience,” Ferguson said. “Once I started talking about intersections of race, gender, sexuality — so many experiences that were different from my own — I couldn’t just share my own narrow, straight, white woman perspective. I have to provide context.”

This doesn’t change the solipsistic nature of the internet, but it is a positive gear shift, at least in the realm of social media discourse, that makes being chronically online a little less soul-crushing. The video essay, in a way, encourages us to engage in good faith with ideas that we might not typically entertain or think of ourselves. Video essays can’t solve the many problems of the internet (or the world, for that matter), but they can certainly make learning about them a little more bearable.

Will you help keep Vox free for all?

At Vox, we believe that clarity is power, and that power shouldn’t only be available to those who can afford to pay. That’s why we keep our work free. Millions rely on Vox’s clear, high-quality journalism to understand the forces shaping today’s world. Support our mission and help keep Vox free for all by making a financial contribution to Vox today.

We accept credit card, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. You can also contribute via

is video essay

Next Up In Money

Sign up for the newsletter today, explained.

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.

Thanks for signing up!

Check your inbox for a welcome email.

Oops. Something went wrong. Please enter a valid email and try again.

Jon Stewart sits at a desk wearing a black suit jacket and light blue tie, smiling.

Jon Stewart is as funny as ever. But the world has changed around him.

A man wearing a brown jacket and jeans holds a bump stock on the left while fitting it onto an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle on the right. Behind him are shelves of ammunition.

The Supreme Court will decide whether to let civilians own automatic weapons

A woman holds a flashlight while kneeling, the light showing ice-covered water.

An attempt to reckon with True Detective: Night Country’s bonkers season finale

Anti-immigration protesters in Huntington Beach, California, hold a Trump flag and a sign saying “Build the Wall.”

How NIMBYs are helping to turn the public against immigrants

An illustration of a red bird looking out of a building at a natural landscape through an opening in the shape of a woman’s silhouette.

Why we fear uncertainty — and why we shouldn’t

is video essay

This Is Me… Now is the most J. Lo thing J. Lo’s ever done

Jessica Lang Ben Jurgensen Unferth & Bateman Video Essay Suite Irene Ziegler

On the Origin of the Video Essay

Beginning with this Spring 2010 edition, Blackbird is featuring a new form of creative nonfiction we’ve chosen to call the video essay. In its intent the video essay is no different from its print counterpart, which for thousands of years has been a means for writers to confront hard questions on the page. The essayist pushes toward some insight or some truth. That insight, that truth, tends to be hard won, if at all, for the essay tends to ask more than it answers. That asking—whether inscribed in ancient mud, printed on paper, or streamed thirty frames per second—is central to the essay, is the essay. 

So it’s been, since shortly after Christ, when a Delphic priest named Plutarch wondered which came first, the chicken or the egg. A thousand years later in Japan, Sei Shōnagon compiled a list in her Pillow Book of “Hateful Things” and “Things That Give a Hot Feeling.” These early works of nonfiction were meditations, lists, biographies, diary entries, advice. But it took an amateur in the time of Shakespeare—a French civil servant in midlife crisis who quit his job to become a writer—to attach a name to the act of exploring the limits of what we know. He called these works Essais . Attempts. Trials.

Michel de Montaigne drew thematic inspiration from Plutarch, but his meditations could be associative, rambling, prickly, polyvalent. Like Shōnagon’s. Which isn’t to say a personal assistant to the Japanese empress during the Heian dynasty shaped the work of Montaigne. She didn’t, so far as we know. But Shōnagon’s essay, “Things That Quicken the Heart,” is the central, soulful motif of Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1982), one of the first great film essays of our time. In Sans Soleil Marker channels his meditation on truth and memory through Sandor Krasna, an offscreen personage whose letters (in the English-language version) are voiced by Canadian actress Alexandra Stewart. Despite the fictional scrim, Sans Soleil remains solidly an essay, a work of nonfiction that casts multiple lines of inquiry—among them, how images rewrite memory—and renders them as poetic evocations of lived experience. Watching Sans Soleil , you can almost hear Chris Marker whisper, Here is the problem of being alive right now.

I suspect the heart-quickening now of sound and image is what drew the otherwise reclusive Marker to film. And by reclusive I don’t mean he was a poet and novelist with a promising literary career ahead of him—though he was, too, that kind of recluse, a writer, before he was anything else. Today, on the eve of his 90th birthday, Marker is still making films, yet less than a dozen photographs of the man exist. He avoids media, rarely gives interviews. When Marker appears in Agnes Varda’s video essay The Beaches of Agnes (2008), he does so in the guise of a talking cat. Filmmakers who let their work speak for itself, who hold their audience in high esteem, do exist. But they’re rare. And how like an essayist to refuse to explain his work. How like a poet to grant his audience a lasting measure of imaginative space.

Chris Marker grew up in Neuilly, on the posh rim of the Bois de Bologne outside Paris. Probably he read Montaigne as a boy—not from any precocity we know of, but rather because French kids read their Montaigne, just as they memorize the poems of Hugo and La Fontaine. After World War II, in which he fought for the resistance, he published a collection of poetry and, in 1949, his first novel. Then, like so many other writers and critics seduced by the French New Wave—Godard, Rohmer, Truffaut—Marker turned to celluloid, and so, for that matter, did the rest of the world.

Alongside Jean Cayrol, Marker wrote uncredited for Alain Resnais’s Night and Fog (1955), a film essay about the Holocaust, a work that welds haunting visuals (and a color scheme Spielberg later cribbed for Schindler’s List) to a refreshingly human voiceover. In a brilliant essay he wrote for Threepenny Review , Phillip Lopate describes that voiceover as worldly, tired, weighted down with the need to make fresh those horrors that had so quickly turned stale. It was a self-interrogatory voice, like a true essayist’s, dubious, ironical, wheeling and searching for the heart of its subject matter. That voice, I suspect, is Marker’s. And it’s the lone voice, decidedly unobjective, that resides at the heart of the visual essay. Or film essay. Or video essay.

What do we name it, anyway—this thing, this half-essay, half-film?

Lopate calls this hybrid literary form a centaur. I have an urge to see these two interests combined, he writes, through the works of filmmakers who commit essays on celluloid . The essay-film, as he terms it, barely exists as a cinematic genre. And this confounds Lopate. He puzzles over the rarity of personal films that track a person’s thoughts as she works through some mental knot. Why, he asks, aren’t there more of these things?

Lopate cites “promiscuity of the image” as one reason for the rarity of essay-films—the tendency of the motion picture, owing to its density of information, to defy clear expression of a filmmaker’s thoughts. And he gestures toward the belief, widely held in commercial film circles, that the screen resists language in higher densities. Even if an artist were to beat the odds, the thinking goes, even if she were to combine powerful visuals with an artful text and weave it all together with economy and grace, who’d pay twelve bucks at the cinema to see an essay?

That the image resists the precision of language is indeed a complication for the essayist. Much in the way, I would argue, that pianos complicate singing. That is to say another skill is called for but the payoff can be sublime. Images and sound are visceral stimuli that even animal sensoria can tap into. When my mother’s Italian Greyhound sees another dog on TV, he lunges for it, tries to maul the Samsung. And when a fish takes its last dying gasp on a sunlit pier in Ross McElwee’s Time Indefinite (1993), I’m consumed with sadness over our capacity for cruelty. Looking that creature in the eye while a young boy stomps on it, I find myself wanting to save the fish and stomp the boy. A canny essayist, McElwee knows that a literary text—the lone voice confronting hard questions—is only the beginning. Images and sound, those engines of emotion, have their own story to tell. Promiscuity of the image isn’t a weakness of the essay-film. It’s a feature. A volatile one, sure. And it’s changing the way we write, changing our conception of what writing means.

Film is visual; the essay is not. Film is collaborative; the essay is not. Film requires big money; the essay costs little and makes less. Essays and film, Lopate notes, are two different animals, and I agree with him on one condition: that it’s 1991. That’s when Lopate wrote “In Search of the Centaur” for Threepenny . The internet was just a baby then, nursed by dweebs. Then, financial considerations reigned. If you wanted your film made, you first needed grants, financing, distributors. Today, to make a small-scale personal film, you can shoot the thing on an inexpensive digital camera and upload it to any number of free video sharing sites. In ’91 you had to hustle for eyeballs. Now, of course, the artist still hustles (post a video in the middle of a digital forest, there’s no guarantee it’ll make a sound) but those once formidable barriers to entry—obtaining the gear to shoot your film, and getting it in position to be seen — have been leveled by digital technology. As more literary magazines migrate online, editors are discovering that the old genre categories—fiction, nonfiction, poetry—which made perfect sense on the page, no longer do. The Internet is a conveyance for images and sound as well as text, and print media is scrambling to catch up.

Today artists have access to video editing tools that ship free on most computers. A generation ago, such capability didn’t exist at any price. Now all it takes for a young artist to produce a documentary is an out-of-the-box Mac, a camera, and the will to see an idea through to its resolution. The act of writing has always been a personal pursuit, a concentrated form of thought. And now filmmaking, too, shares that meditative space. The tools are handheld, affordable, no less accessible than a Smith-Corona. You can shoot and edit video, compelling video, on a cell phone.

Brave new world, right? But what do we call it?

return to top

Menu.

  • How It Works
  • Prices & Discounts

Step-by-Step Guide: Mastering the Video Essay for College Applications

Stefani H.

Table of contents

Have you made up your mind about the college you want to attend yet? If so, the next step is to start the application process. In this stage, you may be required to record an introductory video to tell the admissions committee a little about yourself.

Most colleges are now veering from traditional written essays to video essays as part of the application process. Therefore, you need to master the art of writing an effective video essay that you’ll use to record your college application video.

In this blog post, we’ll show you how to write a winning video essay for college applications to take you a step closer to admission.

What is a video essay?

A video essay is a 2-5 minute video recording that allows students to showcase their personality and convince the admission committee to accept them into the college. It’s an innovative way for prospective students to show their creativity and communication skills beyond the traditional written application.

Since they are visual, video essays allow candidates to express themselves and make a lasting impression. They can cover a wide range of topics, such as the student’s background, values, interests, and experiences.

Compelling video essays allow college applicants to differentiate themselves from the competition and increase their chances of securing a place at their dream institution.

What makes a good video essay?

A good video essay should reflect your authentic voice, personal experiences, and future aspirations. It should showcase your ability to express your ideas clearly while also providing a glimpse into your character and personality. Creativity, storytelling, and attention to detail are all essential components, as they paint a vivid picture of who you are.

How long should my video essay be?

The ideal length of a video essay depends on the specific requirements of the college. Most colleges will require you to keep it 2-3 minutes long. However, it’s important to pay close attention to the guidelines of the college you’re applying to. And remember, quality is key over quantity.

9-step guide to writing a video essay for college applications

A video essay is your chance to make a lasting impression as to why you are a good fit for the college. So, it’s important to know how to craft the perfect one.

What should be included in a college application video?

A college application essay and personal statement should focus on your background, experiences, and passions. Consider your personal story and how it sets you apart. Also, identify what aspects about you would contribute to the college's community and your long-term goals after finishing your studies at the college.

Here’s how you can write a video essay in nine steps, along with useful examples.

Step #1 - Select a suitable topic

Once you’ve understood the instructions, choose a specific topic you’ll be addressing in the video. Though some colleges will give you a topic to talk about, most of them will give you the freedom to select your essay topic of interest.

Think about what will best represent who you are as an individual and what makes you want to attend this particular college.

Your topic should be interesting, original, and unique. After all, admissions officers will see hundreds of other video applications, so yours needs to stand out!

Step #2 - Outline your talking points

Now that you know what topic(s) you’ll address in your video essay, create an outline of your talking points. This is an organized list of the main points you’ll cover in your video essay.

Your video essay should be well-organized and follow a clear and logical structure.

This will help you create a strong narrative that carries the viewer from beginning to end.

Remember to include any anecdotes or story highlights that may help you illustrate a point. An effective outline will help keep your thoughts organized when writing your video essay.

Step #3 - Open with a strong hook

The fun part is here – it's time to write down your video essay for college application. This is where all those talking points you wrote in the outline come into play.

The opening moments of your video essay can make or break your impression. To engage your audience from the start, make sure you open with a captivating hook that will catch the viewer's curiosity.

This could be a compelling question, an interesting anecdote, or a short personal story. Remember, you only have a few seconds to grab the attention of the busy admission committee - so make them count!

Example of an opening hook:

“One unforgettable winter in my seventh grade, my mother's battle with alcoholism reached a shocking peak when she attempted to take her life. As I visited her in the psychiatric ward, I couldn't help but battle with emotions and questions about her heart-wrenching decision. The twists and turns of these events profoundly influenced both my personal and professional growth. It ultimately led me to pursue a career in psychology.”

Step #4 - Introduce yourself

Once you've hooked your viewers, give a brief and genuine introduction of who you are. Mention your name, where you come from, your educational background, and your interests. 

This is your chance to establish a memorable connection with the viewers, so let your authentic self shine.

Step #5 - Identify the course you’d like to study

Next, explain the major or program you want to pursue at college and elaborate on why it appeals to you. Also, identify what motivated you to pursue that particular course. This shows the college that you have a clear educational vision and are passionate about your chosen field.

Step #6 - Explain your reasons for joining college

Now that the committee knows about you and your goals tell them why their institution is the best fit for you. Highlight specific features that attracted you to their program, whether it’s the extracurricular opportunities, prestigious faculty members, or campus culture.

You could also mention alumni success stories or the college's unique facilities that make you want to study there.

“My desire to join the University of Manchester started when I participated in their graduate school visitation program right after high school. During the program, I learned more about the Department of Psychology and met the wonderful lecturers. I also interacted with some alumni who applauded my career choice. The experience made me see how my interests aligned with those of this particular school.”

Step #7 - Explain the skills and values you bring

Next, sell yourself by emphasizing your unique qualities and values that would positively impact the college community. For instance, you can talk about your passion for learning, your strong work ethic, your ability to collaborate with others, or your dedication to making a difference in the college.

You can also mention your skills in extracurricular activities like sports or arts that you’ll use to impact the college culture.

“Throughout high school, I’ve always been a highly disciplined student with the desire to excel in everything I do. I also have a collaborative spirit and a strong will to help my fellow students succeed. My effective communication and interpersonal skills will help me to collaborate with fellow students to make the college highly accommodative for all students.”

Step #8 - Explain what you want to achieve in the end

Lastly, go beyond the degree and paint a picture of your long-term goals. Explain what you want to achieve after college and the impact you hope to make on the world.

Also, let the admission committee understand how your education will empower your personal and professional growth and how your experiences at college will propel you toward those dreams.

“At the end of my learning period at the college, I hope to participate in community-based programs to provide viable solutions for issues affecting mental health. Will also use my knowledge and skills to build a mental health facility to encourage mental wellness and inspire young professionals who would like to take the same career path.”

Step #9 - Review and polish

Once you’ve finished writing the video essay, it's important to spend time reviewing and editing your work. Correct poor sentence structures and double-check to ensure you’ve included all the essential information according to the essay prompt.

You can also share it with a trusted friend or family member to get valuable feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Key takeaway

Unlike a written essay, a video essay provides an opportunity to show your personality and let the admissions committee know who you are. It’s an opportunity to use your individual story to pique their interests.

Writing a winning video essay for a college application requires confidence and enthusiasm. With some preparation and creativity, you can craft an interesting essay that sets you apart from other applicants for college acceptance.

Half your work is done when you have a solid video essay script. Writers Per Hour’s team of expert writers can help you write a 100% original college application video essay script that presents your candidature, showcases your personality, and demonstrates your enthusiasm to join the university.

Share this article

Achieve Academic Success with Expert Assistance!

Crafted from Scratch for You.

Ensuring Your Work’s Originality.

Transform Your Draft into Excellence.

Perfecting Your Paper’s Grammar, Style, and Format (APA, MLA, etc.).

Calculate the cost of your paper

Get ideas for your essay

  • Urgent Essay Writing Service
  • Write My Philosophy Paper
  • Buy Biology Paper
  • Marketing Plan Writing Service
  • Presentation Writing Service
  • Paper Editing Service
  • Do My Capstone Project
  • EE writing service
  • Report Writing Service
  • Do My Powerpoint
  • Pay Someone to Write a Paper
  • Write My Lab Report
  • Do My Accounting Assignment
  • Write My Book Report
  • Write My Assignment
  • Write My Discussion Post
  • Psychology Essay Writing Service
  • Write My Literature Review
  • Write My Annotated Bibliography
  • Write My Thesis Paper for Me
  • Buy College Paper Now
  • Analytical Essay Writing Service
  • Assessment Help Online
  • Buy Custom Personal Statement
  • Write My Speech
  • Buy Research Proposal
  • Do My Research Paper
  • Buy ToK Essay
  • Do My Coursework Online
  • Do My Case Study
  • Do My Math Problems Online

Follow Polygon online:

  • Follow Polygon on Facebook
  • Follow Polygon on Youtube
  • Follow Polygon on Instagram

Site search

  • What to Watch
  • What to Play
  • PlayStation
  • All Entertainment
  • Modern Warfare 3
  • Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
  • Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Buyer’s Guides
  • Galaxy Brains
  • All Podcasts

Filed under:

The best video essays of 2023

Get smarter with your entertainment

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement .

Share this story

  • Share this on Facebook
  • Share this on Reddit
  • Share All sharing options

Share All sharing options for: The best video essays of 2023

is video essay

Looking at the year’s notable video essays, many grapple with issues at the heart of contemporary media itself. There are dissections of video-playing tools, exposés of how corporations restrict access, contrasts between tropes and reality, and thorough investigations of trends in plagiarism and/or fabrication. As the essay landscape refines, it seems to peer inward as much as out.

On the making of this list: I’ve been trying to stay up to date on video essays for a while, and have been contributing to lists and/or voting in polls about the best videos made each year since 2018. Over this time, doing these kinds of roundups has gotten exponentially more difficult. As YouTube has grown to become a mega-business hosting powerful creators (part of the general trend of social media video sites becoming the new primary forum for cultural influence), I’ve seen essayists I once thought of as niche accrue follower counts in the millions. It’s been surreal. For this year’s list, I tried to shake things up by keeping the essayists who have appeared in previous editions to a minimum, along with the usual considerations about incorporating a diversity of creator backgrounds and video style. Once again, the videos are presented simply in order of publishing date.

[Also, I’m going to preface this with a mega mea culpa: It was absolute malpractice of me to not include Platformer Toolkit by Game Maker’s Toolkit in the best video essays of 2022 list . I don’t have a good excuse, either; I just straight up missed the essay at the time it came out, and then overlooked it during my catch-up phase at the end of the year. But an essay about game design that instructs you on its ideas by letting you actively engage with them through interactivity feels like a breakthrough in the form.]

Practices of Viewing by Johannes Binotto

Johannes Binotto is a Swiss researcher and lecturer who has been adding to his “Practices of Viewing” series for several years now, and every installment preceding 2023’s videos, “Ending” and “Description,” is well worth checking out. With each essay, Binotto examines a specific element of the media viewing interface, and how they affect an audience’s engagement with it. Some subjects, like fast-forwarding, pausing, or muting, may seem like obvious touchstones, while others, like sleep, are more out-there approaches to the conversation.

A History of the World According to Getty Images by Richard Misek

This technically debuted last year, making the rounds at film festivals, but it was made available online this past spring, so I’m including it here. A History of the World According to Getty Images is a great example of a work embedding its own ethos into its construction. Misek, another academic, is scrutinizing how for-profit companies (specifically Getty Images) mediate information that’s supposed to be available for all. In practice, a great deal of visual material that’s technically in the public domain can only be accessed in decent quality by paying an archive like Getty. Misek circumvents this by paying the fee to use select footage in this essay and then making this essay itself available for anyone to cite and clip from, putting that footage out into the world for real.

The Faces of Black Conservatism by F.D Signifier

I feel that video essays that consist mainly of the creator talking directly into a camera stretch the definition of the term – to me, the best cinematic and argumentative potential of the form lies in the power of editing. F.D Signifier’s contrast between fictional depictions of Black conservatives and the reality of how they appear across media exemplifies is what sets him apart in this genre: not just the depth of his thought (though it is considerable), but also the playful ways in which he presents the objects of his discussion. The running gag here in which he films himself holding hairstyling tools over the heads of various people on his screen had me laughing harder with each appearance.

Games That Don’t Fake the Space by Jacob Geller/Why We Can’t Stop Mapping Elden Ring by Ren or Raven

I don’t actually think this is the best essay Jacob Geller released this year (that would be either “Games that Aren’t Games” or “How Can We Bear to Throw Anything Away?” ), but it pairs so incredibly well with Renata Price’s essay (an impressive video debut building on her experience as a games critic) that it felt more appropriate to present them as a double feature. Both videos are sharp examinations of the ways that video games conjure physical space. Geller illuminates the shortcuts and tricks games often employ through examples of ones that, as the title suggests, don’t use such devices, while Price analyzes the impulses beneath what one could call the “cartographic instinct” in open-world games.

Why Do Brands Keep Doing These Crazy Influencer Trips?? by Mina Le

It’s been encouraging in recent years to see Le grow more confident in her mixing of media in her videos on fashion and film/television. You might remember the controversy around Shein granting influencers a limited hangout in a clothing factory this past summer. Le contextualizes this story by delving into the wider, supremely odd world of sponsored tours. If you watch this on your phone, the transitions between Le speaking to the camera and the clips of TikToks and other videos and photos flow together in a manner not unlike how one would scroll a social media feed, creating queasy resonance between message and medium.

Feeling Cynical About Barbie by Broey Deschanel / The Plastic Feminism of Barbie by Verilybitchie

I present these two videos not as a contrarian attack on Barbie (a film I enjoyed), but to highlight the important role of considered critical voices that dissent against prevailing opinions. Both Maia Wyman and Verity Ritchie unpack the issues with a heavily corporate product attempting to capitalize on feminist sentiment. Ritchie emphasizes the history of Barbie the brand and how the movie fits into it, while Wyman reads more into the specifics of the film’s plot. Together these videos do a good job of elaborating on legendary critic Amy Taubin’s Barbie reaction : “It’s about a fucking doll !’”

TikTok Gave Me Autism: The Politics of Self Diagnosis by Alexander Avila

There’s a lot of social media discourse over who can and can’t — and should or shouldn’t — claim the label of “autistic.” As someone who’s struggled with both the logistics and appropriateness of sussing out whether I’m on the spectrum, this video hit me hard. There are parts that feel like they veer so far into philosophical query that they threaten to obfuscate rather than elucidate the subject, but the essay as a whole is undeniably compelling. Avila’s own confessed stake in the question of self-diagnosis is itself affecting. This is the most searingly personal video on this list, uniting self-inquiry with rigorous research.

Chaste/Unchaste by Maryam Tafakory

This years shortest entry is a deceptively simple interrogation of the concept of “chastity” as defined by Iranian censorship standards. Takafory is a veteran of the academic essay scene, and I’m delighted by the opportunity to present her work to a wider audience. The video’s text is minimal, and its visuals are simply a montage of clips from Iranian films, but the implicit question of propriety grips the viewer with each cut.

Journey to Epcot Center: A Symphonic History by Defunctland

This is the most boundary-pushing essay on this year’s list. Completely lacking commentary, it instead emphasizes visuals and reenactment in telling the story of how Disney’s Epcot park went from concept to realization over the decades. Kevin Perjurer also provides a detailed set of notes that are meant to be read along with watching the video, further demanding one’s full attention. This is a direct acknowledgement of how we use the internet, the windowed experience of browsing and watching videos. I don’t think everything works; many of the reenactments, while impressively professional, feel somewhat redundant. But I’d prefer a creator take big swings that result in a few flaws rather than play it safe, and I hope both Perjurer and others continue in such an experimental vein.

Plagiarism and You(Tube) by Hbomberguy

Harry Brewis is popular enough that he doesn’t need any boost, but even in the very brief period since this video’s release as of the time of writing, Plagiarism and You(Tube) has made seismic impact on the YouTuber scene . Does it need to be almost four hours long? Maybe not. Yet the sheer volume of evidence it pulls together to support various accusations of plagiarism does seem vital. The main focus of the piece, James Somerton, went into lockdown over the fairly comprehensive evidence presented against him (and has since attempted to apologize ). I’m seeing conversations flourish around the endemic problem of plagiarism on the internet and what is to be done about it, and a surge of creators recognizing and calling out others who have taken their work without credit. There’s a deeper issue at play here, which is that the growth of YouTube entertainment has come with a truly daunting mountain of crap content that nonetheless attracts views (and thus dollars).

On the subject of low quality standards on YouTube, beyond plagiarism, Todd in the Shadows’ recent exhaustive effort to fact-check various false claims Somerton has made in his work is a useful supplement to this video.

Polygon’s Best of the Year 2023

  • The 50 best video games of 2023
  • The 50 best movies of 2023
  • The 50 best TV shows of 2023
  • The best sci-fi and fantasy books of 2023
  • The best anime of 2023
  • The best tabletop RPGs we played in 2023
  • The best board games we played in 2023
  • The best Blu-rays and 4K UHD releases of 2023
  • The best new tabletop RPG books of 2023
  • The best video game books of 2023
  • The best comics of 2023
  • What the Polygon staff bought and loved in 2023
  • The best documentaries of 2023
  • 10 great indie games you might have missed in 2023
  • The 10 best action scenes of 2023
  • The best TV episodes of 2023
  • The 5 best concert movies of 2023
  • Best horror movies of 2023, ranked by scariness
  • The 10 best Netflix originals of 2023

is video essay

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.

Sign up for the newsletter Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon

Just one more thing!

Please check your email to find a confirmation email, and follow the steps to confirm your humanity.

Oops. Something went wrong. Please enter a valid email and try again.

Loading comments...

Laptop illustration on maroon background with yellow pencil bulb

How to Prepare for Your Written and Video Essays

Monday, October 18, 2021

Carlson School Graduate Programs

There are many crucial steps in the MBA application process, and one that can sometimes be overlooked is the essay or personal statement portion. While all application materials are taken into consideration, this portion of the process allows you to highlight your authentic self and connect all the components of your application into one cohesive story.

When you apply to a business school, they want to know about you. You’re more than a GMAT score and a resume, and the essay or personal statement portion of your application is the best way for you to showcase who you are and what you would bring to a business school program. Below are some examples of what might be included in this portion of the application as well as some tips to get you started.

Written Essay and Personal Statement

A written essay or personal statement is a chance for the business school to get to know you more closely. Most universities will give you a prompt, some guidelines, and the rest is up to you. Each prompt will likely be different for this written portion, with some business schools asking about your career goals, how you can add to their school’s community, your previous experiences, or more.

For example, the Carlson School’s MBA and Master's programs personal essay statement could ask you to address the following (or something similar):

  • Why are you choosing to pursue a graduate at this time in your career? What are you hoping to accomplish by doing so?
  • What excites you about being part of the Carlson School graduate program? Do you have an enterprise program that you are currently interested in and why?
  • Can you tell us about how you have participated in and/or advocated for building more inclusive communities in your career?  

So what makes for the best-written essays? Here are five tips to get you started.

  • Be authentic. Business schools want to learn about YOU. Schools aren’t looking for just one answer, so make sure your personality shines through in your writing.
  • Talk about real-life examples. Adding specific anecdotes and details can have a tremendous impact.
  • Don’t just repeat your resume. Business schools have already seen your resume and your other materials, so use the essay as a way to expand on why you would be a great fit for the school. You can build on things that are mentioned on your resume, but make sure it’s additive to the rest of your application.
  • If you’re a unique applicant to a business school, play it up. Business schools across the country are looking to diversify their programs, and that includes people from unique backgrounds or who have an unorthodox path to getting an MBA.
  • Sell yourself. Ultimately, the essay portion of your application is your chance to sell yourself to a business school. Offer a convincing argument about why you would be a great fit for a particular school. Be sure to highlight what you will bring to the table and make sure your can-do attitude shows through.

Video Essays

In addition to written essays, some business schools also include a video essay portion of the application process. Think of this as a short elevator pitch where you’re answering a 'getting to know you' question with a member of the admissions team.

For instance, at the Carlson School, you will be asked one impromptu question from a bank of imaginative or behavioral questions selected by the school’s admissions team. You will then be given two minutes to prepare for an answer and then two minutes to record an answer.

Video essays are another great way for you to show a business school your individuality. Here are three tips for this portion of the process:

  • Be yourself. Programs are using this format as a way to get to know you, your personality, and how you would fit at the school. The best video essays reveal the applicant’s personality.
  • Practice, practice, practice. While students applying for the Carlson School only get one attempt at recording themselves, you can practice responding to the impromptu questions offline with a friend or colleague. Make sure you’re answering the questions directly and staying within the timeframe.
  • Don’t study too hard. The video essay questions are assigned at random, so while you should practice cadence and timing, it is not recommended you memorize all of the questions. Remember, you want to share your experiences, not a script!
  • Relax. The video essay is often one of the last pieces of your application. Your GMAT, letters of recommendation, and most of your application is finished. All the hard work is done, so take a deep breath to help you not come across as nervous in your video.
  • Majors & Minors
  • Freshman Students
  • Transfer Students
  • International Students
  • Returning Students
  • Class Profile
  • Scholarships
  • Impact Core
  • Experiential Learning
  • Immersion Core
  • International Experience
  • First Year Experience
  • Organizations
  • Student Ambassadors
  • Requirements & Deadlines
  • Deferred Entry MBA
  • International Applicants
  • Specializations
  • Employment Statistics
  • Alumni Profiles
  • Clubs & Organizations
  • Global Experience
  • State Authorization
  • Residency Options
  • Student Life
  • Leadership Development
  • International Residency
  • Global Team Project
  • Lingnan College
  • WU Executive Academy
  • Valuation Lab
  • Tuition & Aid
  • Artificial Intelligence in Business
  • Partner Schools
  • CFA Affiliation
  • Requirements
  • Student Papers
  • Graduate Placement
  • Award Winners
  • Department Staff
  • Dual Degrees
  • Custom Solutions
  • Talent Development Partnerships
  • Carlson General Management Program
  • Success Stories
  • Learning Measurement & Impact Services
  • Short Courses by Date
  • Participant Stories
  • Executive Certificates
  • Centers & Institutes
  • Departments
  • Behavioral Labs
  • 1st Tuesday Previous
  • Insight to Action
  • Regional Events
  • Professional Development Webinars
  • Past Events
  • National Chapters
  • International Chapters
  • Affinity Networks
  • Corporate Clubs
  • With Students
  • Career Coaching
  • Lifelong Learning
  • Subscribe to Magazine
  • Submit Class Note
  • Engagement Mode
  • People & Partners
  • Gender Equality Action Group
  • Teaching Cases
  • Research Grants
  • COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project
  • Publications
  • Partnerships
  • Get Involved
  • Program Finder
  • Connecting Flight
  • Identity Course
  • Financial Aid
  • Parents & Families
  • Policies & Forms
  • Identity Abroad
  • Health & Safety
  • Partner School
  • Global Executive Programs
  • Important Dates
  • Student Visa
  • Fees & Expenses
  • Arrival & Welcome Program
  • Global Education Management
  • Going Global Newsletter
  • Year in Review
  • Speaker Series
  • Video Series
  • Director's Message
  • Advisory Council
  • Alumni Newsletter
  • Herman Library
  • Support the Center
  • Program Staff
  • Advisory Committee
  • What We Offer
  • Benefactors
  • Advisory Board
  • Entrepreneurship in Action
  • Programs & Clubs
  • For Entrepreneurs
  • For Mentors
  • About the Institute
  • Ignite Conference
  • Joseph M. Juran
  • 2014-2018 Winners
  • 2009-2013 Winners
  • 2004-2008 Winners
  • 1999-2003 Winners
  • Analytics Maturity Model
  • Project Workshop
  • National Industry Council
  • Executive in Residence
  • Women & Allies
  • MILI Student Association (MILIsa)
  • MILI Undergraduates (MILIu)
  • Case Competitions
  • MILI Specialization
  • Platou Leadership Award
  • Data Resources
  • Laboratory Council
  • Lab Fellows
  • Student FAQs
  • For Clients
  • For Employers
  • Give to the Valuation Lab
  • Academic Programs
  • Hotel & Travel
  • 2010-present
  • Industry Partners
  • Friday Research Workshops
  • Seminar Series
  • New Product Design
  • Undergraduate Programs
  • Graduate Programs
  • Student Dissertations
  • Executive Committee
  • Board of Advisors
  • Capstone Projects
  • Employment Reports
  • Companies & Employers
  • Global Learning
  • Full-Time MBA Students
  • PTMBA & MSF Students
  • Undergraduate Students
  • MBA Students
  • Marketing Students
  • Faculty & Staff
  • Methodology
  • Project Structure
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Emerging Leaders of Color
  • Business Innovation Academy
  • Analytics U
  • Carlson THRIVE
  • Living in Minneapolis
  • Hire Students
  • Engage Student Talent
  • Access Expertise
  • Ways to Give
  • Investors Circle
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Request Info
  • Executive Fellows
  • Senior Staff
  • Current Initiatives
  • Cultural Competency
  • Annual Report
  • Building Maps
  • Building Information
  • Directions & Parking
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Facility Policies
  • Reserve a Space
  • Frequently Asked Questions

is video essay

To revisit this article, select My Account, then   View saved stories

Find anything you save across the site in your account

When A.I. Can Make a Movie, What Does “Video” Even Mean?

is video essay

By Joshua Rothman

An A.I.generated image of people on a train.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been making a home video on my phone, using Apple’s iMovie software. The idea is to weave together clips of my family that I’ve taken during the month of February; I plan to keep working on it until March. So far, the movie shows my five-month-old daughter cooing and waving her arms; my five-year-old son chasing me with a snowball; and a visit to the spooky, run-down amusement park in our town, among other things.

I thought of my movie while absorbing the announcement, yesterday, of Sora, an astonishing new text-to-video system from OpenAI , the makers of ChatGPT . Sora can take prompts from users and produce detailed, inventive, and photorealistic one-minute-long videos. OpenAI’s announcement featured many fantastical video clips: an astronaut seemingly marooned on a wintry planet, two pirate ships duelling in a cup of coffee, and “historical footage of California during the gold rush.” But two other clips were more intimate, the sort of thing that an iPhone might capture. The first was generated by a prompt asking for “a beautiful homemade video showing the people of Lagos, Nigeria in the year 2056.” It “captures,” if that’s the word, what seems to be a group of friends, or perhaps relatives, sitting at a table at an outdoor restaurant; the camera pans from a nearby open-air market to a cityscape, which is divided by highways sparkling with cars at dusk. The second shows “reflections in the window of a train traveling through the Tokyo suburbs.” It looks like footage any of us might capture on a train; in the glass of the window, you can even see the silhouettes of passengers superimposed on passing buildings. Curiously, none of them seem to be filming.

These videos have flaws. Many have a too-perfect, slightly cartoonish quality. But others seem to capture the texture of real life. The wizardry behind this is too complicated to easily describe; broadly speaking, it might be right to say that Sora does for video what ChatGPT does for writing. OpenAI claims that Sora “understands not only what the user has asked for in the prompt, but also how those things exist in the physical world.” In its statistical, mind-adjacent , (probably) unconscious way, it grasps how different kinds of objects move in space and time and interact with one another. Sora “may not understand specific instances of cause and effect,” the developers write—“for example, a person might take a bite out of a cookie, but afterward, the cookie may not have a bite mark.” And yet the A.I.’s over-all comprehension of the objects and spaces it conjures means that it isn’t just a system for generating video. It’s a step “towards building general purpose simulators of the physical world.” Sora performs its work not just by manipulating pixels but by conceptualizing three-dimensional scenes that unfold in time. Our own heads probably do something similar; when we picture scenes and places in our mind’s eye, we’re imagining not just how they look but what they are.

Right now, the system is available to a small number of experts for testing, but not to consumers; OpenAI is announcing it as a preview, “to give the public a sense of what AI capabilities are on the horizon.” The demo videos made me wonder what would become possible when I could use it for myself. Would I be able to ask a future version of Sora to generate clips for my home movie? Could I prompt “a phone video of a five-month-old girl in a red sweater, waving her arms and imitating her brother saying, ‘Lego’ ”? What if the A.I. had access to the home movies I’d previously shot, or to my photo library, which shows my house and family from many angles? Would I want it to have that kind of access? It’s a little uncanny to think that the A.I.’s source material is not just pictures but also ideas—the idea of Lagos or Tokyo, the idea of a family or group of friends, the idea of a “beautiful homemade video.” Sora isn’t Photoshop—it contains knowledge about what it shows us.

How will “synthetic” video, of the sort generated by Sora and its descendants, be used? Presumably, bad guys will create deepfakes , which could spread misinformation or be used as an interpersonal weapon. Businesspeople will put synthetic clips in their presentations. Filmmakers, advertisers, and studio executives could storyboard their ideas with synthetic video, or even—if film-industry labor unions let them—produce complete programs with it. New and unfamiliar creative enterprises that are hard to envision today will spring up—routes to entertainment, education, and distraction we can’t yet conceive. (If we knew what they’d be, we’d be future billionaires!) Assuming that lawsuits don’t stop these systems from ingesting copyrighted materials, visual styles invented by famous artists will be invoked in prompts and become tired through overuse. Shots that are expensive and time-consuming to produce today could become cheaply and instantly available. It will be no problem if your screenplay begins “EXT. A market in Lagos.”

Inevitably, the meaning of video as a medium will change. Maybe we’ll start suspecting all videos of being synthesized, and stop trusting them. We may sometimes choose to not make a distinction between the synthetic and the untrue. In 2018, Peter Jackson released “ They Shall Not Grow Old ,” a documentary about the First World War which consisted entirely of colorized archival footage; because real life is in color, the modified footage was arguably closer to reality than the black-and-white film on which it was based. “We tried to keep it real,” Jon Newell, one of the film’s colorists, said . A.I.s try to keep it real, too; if synthetic video is based on sound statistical extrapolation, then we might eventually consider synthetic video to be real enough.

The filming of things might come to feel superfluous. On YouTube, the channel Beirut Explosion Angles collects footage of the giant explosion that devastated that city on August 4, 2020; currently, it hosts nine hundred and thirty-eight clips of the blast, many filmed on phone cameras. The clips often capture people holding their phones aloft to film the explosion, creating yet more angles to collect. But, if you want to know what the explosion looked like from a particular address, you could rely on synthetic footage; it would be based on a large quantity of data, and be real enough. When OpenAI’s researchers asked Sora to produce an “aerial view of Santorini during the blue hour, showcasing the stunning architecture of white Cycladic buildings with blue domes,” it generated footage that’s broadly indistinguishable from what a tourist might get with a drone. So why launch the drone at all? The A.I. “gets” the concept of Santorini, and so do we.

Yesterday morning, my son was making funny faces at his sister. She smiled up at him from her bouncer. I reached for my phone to film the scene, then remembered that I’d put it in the other room, to avoid distraction. I know this moment happened; I can picture it in my mind. It would be a great clip in my home movie. There’s a sense in which I can “prompt” my brain (“Remember when?”) and generate a memory in response. So why not prompt an A.I.? What, exactly, would be wrong with a fake video of a real thing?

Possibly, nothing. But the synthetic video would be different from every clip that I have ever captured, because it wouldn’t be a recording. It would be a rendering of an idea.

Ideas are why today’s A.I.s are so powerful. Artificial intelligence depends on the fact that everything is information . The positions of the pieces on a chessboard, the style of a writer you admire, the look of Lagos at dusk—these can be described through text or images, video or audio, but they are, to a great extent, medium-agnostic; they are ideas. When ideas are written down, or painted, or filmed, they can seem static and sturdy, but, really, they’re fluid. There’s always another way to write a sentence. That photograph could’ve been taken from another angle. A book can become a movie. The same prompt, slightly modified, can elicit a short story from ChatGPT, a comic-book panel from DALL-E , or a video clip from Sora. When you prompt an A.I., you don’t have to get into the specifics—it understands more or less what you mean.

In the twenty-tens, Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-volume opus “ My Struggle ” became a literary sensation . It was marketed as fiction, but many of the events it described actually happened, and many of Knausgaard’s relatives were identified by their real names. Was it a novel or a memoir? Fiction or nonfiction? It was a little bit of all those things. We understand, intuitively, that text is always a rendering of an idea, and that ideas are fluid. We know a book is not a recording, and a text is always slippery.

We tend not to have textual intuitions about other media, mainly for logistical reasons—faking a video has always been harder than editing a document—but we’ll have to develop them. What’s true for text is becoming true for audio, video, and any other kind of representational artifact. If you want to know whether a book is true, you have to look outside the book; you can’t trust in its bookishness. On the other hand, books move us, sometimes happily, beyond representation and into imagination. That, apparently, is where everything is headed. ♦

More Science and Technology

Can we stop runaway A.I. ?

Saving the climate will depend on blue-collar workers. Can we train enough of them before time runs out ?

There are ways of controlling A.I.—but first we need to stop mythologizing it .

A security camera for the entire planet .

What’s the point of reading writing by humans ?

A heat shield for the most important ice on Earth .

The climate solutions we can’t live without .

Sign up for our daily newsletter to receive the best stories from The New Yorker .

By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement and Privacy Policy & Cookie Statement . This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

What Are Dreams For?

By Amanda Gefter

Are You the Same Person You Used to Be?

By Shayla Love

Will the Ozempic Era Change How We Think About Being Fat and Being Thin?

By Jia Tolentino

IMAGES

  1. How To Submit An Effective Video Essay

    is video essay

  2. How to Make a Video Essay on YouTube

    is video essay

  3. 💌 How to do an essay. 70 "How To" Essay Topics. 2022-10-15

    is video essay

  4. Definition essay: Example of a five paragraph essay

    is video essay

  5. What is a video essay? Five criteria explained

    is video essay

  6. Step-By-Step Guide to Essay Writing

    is video essay

VIDEO

  1. Academic Essay writing

  2. 10 Great YouTube Channels for Teaching Video Essays

  3. Write Excellent Essays

  4. Essay Writing for Beginners (Introductory, Body, and Concluding Paragraphs)

  5. Essay writing on teachers day in english

  6. Essay Types I Kinds of Essays I Narrative,Descriptive,Reflective,Analytical,Persuasive,Imaginative

COMMENTS

  1. What is a Video Essay? The Art of the Video Analysis Essay

    A video essay is a video that analyzes a specific topic, theme, person or thesis. Because video essays are a rather new form, they can be difficult to define, but recognizable nonetheless. To put it simply, they are essays in video form that aim to persuade, educate, or critique.

  2. Video essay

    A video essay is an essay, but unlike a written essay, utilizes a video 's structure to advance an argument, persuade, educate, analyze, or critique; often in an entertaining way.

  3. How to Create a Video Essay for Your College Application

    A video essay serves as a personal introduction on a college application. As a modern trend in the application process, some colleges and universities allow prospective students to submit a video essay, either in the place of the traditional written essay or, sometimes, as a separate element of the application packet.

  4. How to Write a Video Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide and Tips

    A video essay is a video that delves into a certain subject, concept, person, or thesis. Video essays are difficult to characterize because they are a relatively new form, yet they are recognized regardless. Simply, video essays are visual compilations that try to persuade, educate, or criticize.

  5. LibGuides: How to do a Video Essay: The Video Essay Process

    Storyboarding Finding, Filming & Editing References & Credits The Video Essay Process This section will give an introductory overview of the stages required to create a video essay. Video essayers advice is to start simple and work through each stage of the video production process. Visit the Resources page of this guide for more. Planning

  6. LibGuides: How to do a Video Essay: What is a Video Essay?

    In educational settings, the term video essay is used broadly for teacher/student-learner generated video and as a vehicle to transmediate between written-text to digital forms.

  7. Introduction to Video Essays · Learning on Screen

    Video essays are scholarly videos that invite researchers and class members to explore the audiovisual and multimedia language to make an academic argument. When applied to film research and pedagogy, the video essay is thus a recursive text. That is, the object of study, film, is mediated, or rather, performed, through the film medium.

  8. The video essay

    The video essay is linear, time-based, and requires a complex interplay of developing ideas and gathered material. It uses: moving image visual elements; spoken word commentary and/or caption cards, subtitles, etc. A video essay is not a simple collage or montage of material. It works partly by juxtaposition, by placing images in sequence and ...

  9. Video Essay

    A video essay is a short video that illustrates a topic, expresses an opinion and develops a thesis statement based on research through editing video, sound and image. (Source: Morrissey, K. (2015, September). Stop Teaching Software, Start Teaching Software Literacy.

  10. Video essay resource guide

    Kevin B. Lee's mainstream pitch for video essay "Of all the many developments in the short history of film criticism and scholarship, the video essay has the greatest potential to challenge the now historically located text-based dominance of the appraisal and interpretation of film and its contextual cultures…"

  11. Scripting Video Essays: How to Write a Great Narrative

    A video essay is a form of a documentary-like video narrative film using film footage, video clips, and graphics to discuss an issue or topic. Academics and artists can typically use video essays to discuss their research. In addition to blog posts and magazine articles, video essays are a new type of storytelling in the digital world.

  12. The best video essays of 2020

    With more and more creators choosing a video essay — or video essay-inspired — format, there are video essays about almost any topic you want to learn more about. To discuss what makes...

  13. What Is a Video Essay? Definition & Examples Of Video Essays

    A video essay is an audio-visual presentation of your thoughts on a topic or text that usually lasts between 5 and 10 minutes long. It can take the form of any type of media such as film, animation, or even PowerPoint presentations.

  14. The best video essays of 2021 to watch on YouTube

    The best video essays of 2021 An escape from the most popular to the most captivating By Ransford James and Wil Williams Dec 29, 2021, 2:00pm EST Illustration: Ariel Davis for Polygon As...

  15. How to Prepare for the Video Essay

    The video essay is an opportunity for you to showcase your communication and presentation skills. Candidates record themselves answering the prompt which appears once you hit start. A webcam and microphone are required for this section.

  16. The video essays that spawned an entire YouTube genre

    In Polygon's list of the best video essays of 2020, we outlined a taxonomy of what a video essay is. But time should be given to explain what video essays have been and where they...

  17. We're in a Golden Era of Video Essays and That Is Awesome

    In a Medium post, " We Live in the Golden Age of Video Essays ," blogger A. Khaled remarked that viewers were "willing to indulge user-generated content that is as long as a multi-million dollar cinematic production by a major Hollywood studio" — a notion that seemed improbable just a few years ago, even to the most popular video ...

  18. Video Essay Suite

    Video essays certainly do engage with fact, but like Chris Marker's great film essay, Sans Soleil (1982), the clear signposts of nonfiction—facts and reflection in pursuit of some deeper truth—can be enacted within a fictional narrative.

  19. Hour-long YouTube video essays are thriving in the TikTok era

    The video essay has been a means to entertain fan theories, explore the lore of a video game or a historical deep dive, explain or critique a social media trend, or like most written...

  20. On the Origin of the Video Essay

    In its intent the video essay is no different from its print counterpart, which for thousands of years has been a means for writers to confront hard questions on the page. The essayist pushes toward some insight or some truth. That insight, that truth, tends to be hard won, if at all, for the essay tends to ask more than it answers. ...

  21. Mastering the Video Essay for College Applications [Step-by-Step Guide]

    A video essay is a 2-5 minute video recording that allows students to showcase their personality and convince the admission committee to accept them into the college. It's an innovative way for prospective students to show their creativity and communication skills beyond the traditional written application.

  22. The best video essays of 2023

    The best video essays on YouTube came from Hbomberguy, Defunctland, F.D. Signifier and more, explaining race, politics, Barbie, media, and YouTube itself.

  23. How to Prepare for Your Written and Video Essays

    The video essay questions are assigned at random, so while you should practice cadence and timing, it is not recommended you memorize all of the questions. Remember, you want to share your experiences, not a script! Relax. The video essay is often one of the last pieces of your application. Your GMAT, letters of recommendation, and most of your ...

  24. When A.I. Can Make a Movie, What Does "Video" Even Mean?

    A screenshot of a video that Sora, OpenAI's new text-to-video system, created in response to the prompt "reflections in the window of a train traveling through the Tokyo suburbs."

  25. How the CIA Destabilizes the world

    Essay by Jeffrey D. Sachs, read by A.I. voice. Reat the original at Common Dreams: https://www.commondreams.org/opinion/cia-destablizes-the-worldThere are th...