I’ve been struggling with something lately. In the social media world where content is king, does having better production values (i.e. lighting and sound) really make for a better internet video? When I started this blog, I believed that being able to clearly see and hear your subject was crucial to being taken seriously on YouTube. Now however, I’m starting to wonder if maybe the raw element of shaky YouTube videos can help add to a person’s authenticity. Maybe high production values actually work against you. I posted this question to several different forums to get expert advice on my video which was shot at the mercy of an iPhone 3GS: an extremely convenient video camera with very limited settings to control the quality of the video.

Some of the excellent responses I’ve gotten so far:

  • “This is a great question. I’ve yet to be convinced that low production values diminish the impact of web video.” -Robin Fray, Social Media Today
  • “Like any element in production, it either supports or detracts from the message. So, depending on what you want to accomplish, low production values can be [an] asset if it effectively supports the message. Does the lower production value fit the personality of the brand? Does it communicate the message more effectively? What does the user hear/see?” -Scott Veigel, Contentomenon
  • “I saw the video. I believe the content of the video adds authenticity to the video, thus overriding the quality of the camera work. My 2.5 cents.” –Rafael Dominguez
  • “Jeff, I agree with Raf’s comment above. I am going to elaborate a bit. At a certain point, form and content merge to enhance the overall effect. Given the content of your message, the ‘production aspects’ add value to the overall experience. If the content was different, the same ‘production aspects’ might detract from the overall experience.” –David Eytan
  • “I think it all has to do with your client and their target audience. Sometimes clients are going for a less-polished look, others want something that looks professional.” -Tony Gnau, Video Producer
  • To add to Tony’s comment, the video quality should match the vibe and intent of the video subject, topic and delivery. If you’re shooting a candid, one-take video of someone speaking that is supposed to look casual like it was shot on an Iphone then mission accomplished. If you’re shooting a cinematic, high-end commercial or feature with an Iphone then the quality may get in the way. Then again, if shooting the commercial or feature on an Iphone is part of the creative and people know it was shot so, you’re OK again… So, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here… just depends on who you’re serving, what their message is, and who they’re targeting.” -David Murdico, Web video producer

Those are all great comments. Now I’d like to hear from my readers. Where do you stand on the question of high production values in a YouTube video? Are you usually more drawn into watching a video with a raw or a more polished look?

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