Youtube Video Essays: Useful Guidelines

Essay paper writing

Academic writing


The very term is self-explanatory and somewhat misleading at the same time. Any video essay definition tells that it is a video content solving the tasks of an essay. Originally, an essay is a piece of writing. And if you use video tools to reach the goals of an essay, you need to understand the differences and where they might take you to.

What is a Video Essay?

A video is a powerful tool to deliver your message and to showcase you, your communication skills, your knowledge and your personality in general. Shaped as a video essay, your message is more convincing, more emotionally loaded, and, in the end, more interesting. The popularity of self-made videos has increased dramatically over the past decade, entertainment still being the main purpose of this kind of medium. However, the very concept of video essay-making gains more and more ground. Its valuable educational, academic, career, social and general information properties and features acquire a broad recognition.

Video Essay Ideas and main Agendas

Writing essays is an art, and so making video-essays is. Which means that exactly as you cannot just sit down and write a good essay if you are not respectively trained, you are not able to make a good video-essay just by clicking a “Rec” button. As ancient alchemists said, “Ars totum requirit hominem” which means “the art requires the whole man”. If you want to make a strong and appealing video essay, you need to learn many things and thoroughly concentrate on them.

Of course, technical skills in making a video essay are very important. But before getting straight to learning them, you should develop a somewhat deeper understanding of how a combination of visual imagery and sound work. Then it would be much easier for you to determine what exactly your video essay must include, what can be unnecessary, and what is better to avoid. You can also find out how to write a reaction paper to a video. Like with any tool, the more powerful it is, the more delicate and precise your work with it should be.

But you should have no doubt: if there is an option to make a video essay for submission, just do it. For example, if you are submitting it to an Admission Committee even before the interview, your video essay will give you a great advantage over the other applicants with their regular written essays. The advantage is that it displays your communication skills, emphasizes your personal qualities and strengths that cannot be assessed with a written essay.

However, there are many people who mistakenly believe that the video essay genre irons out the wrinkles of writing, and eliminates the importance of mastering the words. It does not. Even more, video essay magnifies wrong word choice, inappropriate style, and lack of logic. If you cannot put your words together well, does it really matter where exactly you cannot put them together - on a paper, in a Word document, in an email or in a video essay? Actually, a video essay would be a real disaster in this case. Unfortunately, there are too many negative examples - check youtube video essays to see the striking dos and donts yourself.

Another critical issue is how exactly you present your material: your oratorical skills and general ability to properly behave in front of the camera. Very few people are born orators and stand-up (or sit-down) presenters. These are the skills to acquire through learning and dedication. Take some classes, make some videos for yourself, work on your video presentation skills. It will pay out. It is not excluded that you would have to make many video essays and presentations in your life. In many cases, whether a project is going to fly or not largely depends on the quality of its video presentation. Take your first college video essay assignment as a useful exercise and do everything needed to master this relatively simple art. 

Auto-Recorded Video Essays

This type of video essays is the most common. A high-school or post-graduate applicant may receive a link from the Admission Body after a written application was submitted. Clicking on the link they give, you get to a specialized university service platform where you are proposed to immediately answer some questions. Your answers are being instantly recorded. Sometimes the universities prefer to include your auto-recorded video in the application process. Your application is not considered complete unless you recorded and uploaded your answers.

Such auto-recorded video-essays represent quite a challenging task. You cannot edit your video, and you cannot even start recording yourself. You receive your question watching a short video or listening to the audio file containing the question. Then you are given only 20-30 seconds to get ready, and then you should talk for one minute. The video recording service is automated to give you only one minute to answer the question, so it is important to start talking after the recording switches on and to stop talking before it switches off.

Frustration is also building up because you are not given a second chance to answer the question, or to answer it differently: one question - one video-recorded answer. Seems not fair? But the Admission really wants to see how the applicants perform under pressure, which is fair enough from their side. They just need to know you better - and that is the priceless opportunity your video essay gives them.

The applicant’s stress and frustration is just a part of the whole thing. To make it less painful, these interactive admission/application platforms allow the applicants to practice taking them through the whole procedure several times before the final versions of the video essay is uploaded.

Self-Recorded Video Essay

You record your essay yourself and then submit for the evaluation. With self-recorded essays, you have more time, more freedom, and less stress - everything you need for a better quality of your video essay. But as far as the Admission is concerned, it is still a rare option - just because in the majority of cases high schools are not interested to see how good your production skills are with all the effects, pictures, and fancy graphics. Even if you find a high school to accept your self-recorded video essay, don’t be surprised to learn that they don’t accept edited versions - only single-take recordings. 

youtube video essays

Video Essay Guidelines

Here we provide you with some important video essay tips and guidelines. Use them to serve your high-school academic and post-graduate submission purposes, and to go viral on YouTube and social media.

  • Make sure that the audio-visual quality of your essay is good enough. Give the people what they want with good quality visuals and a clear audio track. No grained screens, no noisy audios, no shaky selfie-style or mockumentary-style videos.
  • Put your smartphone on a tripod. A cheap one will perfectly do if you secure it properly.
  • Check the frame format. You can go ahead with 16:9 frame (1280 x 720) - it looks cinematic and gives you a possibility to fill the frame with some important ambient details - for example, your bookshelves, pictures on the wall etc.
  • Find yourself a better position in the screen: check your best waist-above angle shot corresponding to whether your frame opens left or right. Take a look on the frame composition that serious productions use for interviewing experts for documentaries - with the only difference that in your video essay you are going to look straight in the lens and not at the person interviewing you.
  • Take care of the light. The location should be lit with different sources of light. Again, study the best examples, try to make a simple imitation, and use your taste.
  • Make sure the place is quiet and no strange sounds are heard. Listen to your audio take: there should be no pre-echo, no post-echo, no audible noise.
  • It is a very useful exercise to gather your thoughts to talk for 1 minute, avoiding too long and muddy sentences. Keep it simple, don’t play too smart.
  • Study the examples and learn how to structure a video essay, then thoroughly plan yours. Practice spending 20-30 seconds to decide on what to say.
  • Model your performance as many times as you can. Practice, record, view and analyze your recordings several times. Ask your friends to evaluate them and to help with the shortcomings you may find.

Don’t Overdo It

It is a general guideline for making your video essay. The trick is that you should pay proper attention to your looks, your hairstyle, and makeup, your ambiance, your light, and sound, but your video essay is focused on a different task, so don’t overdo with all this stuff. Your essay is to present you as a confident, well-prepared young professional. So go ahead and show them who you are.



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