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Sometimes you can glean useful filmmaking techniques from the most unsuspecting of places—even the humble vlog.
I’ll be honest here. I’ve never really been a fan of “vlogging” (which is a strange, dirty sounding word), and I likely will continue not to be. However, when my friend Sven Pape, a professional film editor with an awesome educational YouTube channel, sent me a new video he made about one of the world’s most famous and prolific YouTube stars, I watched and immediately knew it was worth sharing on this site.
As you might have guessed, the video Sven sent over is all about Casey Neistat, whose 4.2 million YouTube subscribers make him one of the premier figures in the vlogging genre. And while vlogs are typically boring as all hell in their style and substance, Neistat’s are not. The dude lives an interesting life, and he manages to film and edit it all together in interesting ways.
And that’s what Sven’s new video is all about, the editing and storytelling techniques that Neistat has been infusing into his videos for years, many of which have come to make up his signature style. Check it out:
In case you’re not in a place to watch this video, here’s a quick breakdown of the storytelling techniques Sven discusses in the video.”
- Neistat Cut-Off: Abruptly cutting to a new scene in the middle of a sentence or a thought
- The Continuous Thought: Stringing together small pieces of a story in different locations. This manifests as Casey starting a story in one location, then finishing it in one or more other locations.
- Associative Cut: Cutting in small bits of referential content, usually clips from movies.
- Neistat Montage: Rapid cuts that show the progression of a single task, usually on footage that’s already sped up.
- The Neistat Zoom: Bringing the camera closer to the face (or zooming in) to intensify a moment, which basically creates a new shot. It’s an in-camera “edit.”
- Neistat Transitions: Using in-camera transitions, like putting down/picking up the camera, “lens slap,” etc.
- Neistat Mise en Scène: Casey uses his keen eye for composition to make everyday situations look unique.
The only thing missing in this analysis is a discussion about Casey’s music choices. He has developed a signature style of vlogging music that completes his brand.
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Now, I’m sure some of these techniques don’t apply to your own work because they’re largely based on the idea of riffing on amateurism. Whether for clients or ourselves, most of our work demands a level of polish that would disqualify most of these.
However, with so much of our video content these days being created independently and being consumed specifically by online audiences, it might be worth discussing whether these techniques and Casey’s overall style shape the future of filmmaking on the internet. I know that sounds a little bit hyperbolic, but reserve those judgments until you check out this video from Nerdwriter’s Evan Puschak, who breaks down the overarching philosophy behind what Neistat does.
At this point, I’m curious to hear what you guys think. I know Casey’s a polarizing figure, but I really want to hear your thoughts, not on him, but about these storytelling and editing techniques and whether or not they’re going to find their way into our shared cinematic language.
So be sure to share your thoughts down in the comments!