Six Lessons from the Cutting Room Floor

Making video is an ever-evolving process. At Wistia, we're iterating non-stop, striving to improve our videos and try out new things (strange concepts, new visuals, and even acting!). Until now, we've neglected to talk about an extremely essential part of this process: critically reviewing every video we make and being willing to scrap the ones we're not satisfied with.

We've figured out that for us, there are two keys to learning from the negative side of the iterative process. The first is being able to admit to ourselves when things don't quite pan out, even if we've already put a lot of time into a video or concept. The second is digging deeper to figure out why that video didn't make the cut, usually through lengthy, sometimes-heated conversations.

We thought we'd share a few of the videos that we've decided not to publish, as well as the reasons they didn't make it off the cutting room floor and the lessons we've learned.

Set a clear goal for each video you make.

Our last major blog article was about creating longform video content, and it differed from past blog features in that we didn't end up including a video made specifically for the article. We did include a couple of videos alongside the written content, but they were videos we'd produced previously for Wistia Labs. Here, we were trying something new by pushing a lengthy, written article without a pithy video version.

But it's not that we didn't try. Feeling uncomfortable with pushing new content sans a new video, at first we tried to force it. There was no clear goal or message for the video: we were making a video for the sake of having a video. While in the future, we'd like to figure out new approaches for supplementary video content for articles like this, in this case, we scrapped both of the videos below and trusted in the quality of the written content.

For a video series, keep your setup simple and repeatable.

The Wistia Zero-to-Hero series was our first stab at an onboarding series walking people through Wistia basics, everything that Project Randor now covers. We shot this series live with three cameras and Screenflow running with a loose script. Because of this complicated setup, the series would be very difficult to update, so we scrapped it because it wasn't repeatable. We later simplified the process to create Project Randor, the successful product walkthrough series we're currently using to introduce people to Wistia.

Don't be afraid to experiment and toss out the rejects!

Our clever friends at Vooza asked us to submit a short Wistia promotional video to be used on their website. We knew that their audience was interested in being entertained by funny content, so we wanted to make this a very funny video. We tried the video below as a proof-of-concept without putting a ton of thought into it, but after we saw the edited version, we realized we had tried too hard (and, consequently, the video wasn't very funny). Instead, we ended up making a different video where Chris S. has a giant head, a camera trick Chris L. had been eager to try out for a while.

Separate out your goals and keep videos as specific as possible.

We made this instructional video for the Wistia Learning Center. This one wasn't a straight-up reject, and looking back at it for this post, it honestly took us a couple minutes to remember why we didn't go live with it. After some inspection, we remembered that the main reasons were as follows: 1.) the introduction seemed a bit heavy-handed; 2.) someone outside the innermost circle of our audience might find it confusing; 3.) we were afraid the video was essentially saying "don't put your video on YouTube" without actually saying it; and 4.) we were concerned that the sections about "on your site" and "slow burn" weren't actually connected that closely.

In short, we decided we were trying to do too much in one video: both explaining why you should be releasing content and building an audience frequently and why you should do that on your website.

What do you think? Was the video too confusing or overwhelming? Did you find it useful?

Some things sound better in your head or on paper than they do on video.

For this video we were trying out for our front page, we had a concept that we were pretty jazzed up about. It was an excuse to get out of the office and throw a basketball around, the idea being that people would want to watch to see if the basketball went in the hoop or not (alongside a demo of our video analytics).

The problem here was that we tried to shoot the concept before we knew exactly what the message was, and therefore, once we saw the footage, it felt disingenuous and not like "us." We scrapped this footage, re-concepted and scripted, and ended up with our old front page video . We learned not to be afraid to pull the plug early (in this case, before we even finished shooting) when we're 100% convinced that a concept feels forced and contrived.

Know where your video will live.

We get pretty excited about Customer Happiness. So excited that, at one point, we decided to do a whole video series about it! We wanted to create a series of brand/buzz pieces from a Customer Happiness angle, and we dove right in and created the first video about our Wistia t-shirts. However, we later realized that, although we liked the video, we had no solid set of metrics, no solid goal, and no plan for where these videos would live. We had three or four other concepts like this planned, but never ended up continuing with the series because we had nowhere to put it. Now, this video lives in the Wistia Megaplex.

How about you?

Can you think of any examples of videos you've made or started making that you didn't end up sharing with your audience? Why didn't those videos work out for you?

We'd be willing to bet that anyone who's making video regularly has had to scrap a few concepts along the way. Don't be afraid to experiment, and most importantly, don't be afraid to fail! It's from "failure" that we've learned our most valuable lessons.

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