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I wanted to throw this out as a general discussion proposal after some feedback we've received on our latest web series, "Dead Man's Trigger," where we sought to recreate a gritty, crime-drama type network piece but with the pace of a web series (4-5 minute episodes). In general feedback has been really positive, but, we've also been consistently hearing the series actually progresses too fast, which surprised us given our traditional expectations - wrong or not - of the YouTube attention span.
You can obviously create very memorable characters/personalities in the vblogging format in these types of episode increments, but if you're trying to do more elaborate drama, does your web series need to be at least 7-10 minutes per episode? How do users think about "cramming" character and plot development into such a confined medium (akin to like a Tolstoy novel)?
Curious what others think about this.
I'm including an episode from our series if anyone wants to judge or give feedback on the pace and what we're shooting for:
Lonelygirl15 didn't need more than 2-3 minutes per episode to drive it's lengthy storylines and gain a huge following. Neither does Haunting of Sunshine Girl.
yes but both examples you site are vlogs which have scripted/production elements but are basically faux-non-fiction vlogs. Getting to know a real person (or something who is more or less in character as themself) is much different than fiction which requires a lot of plot development, set changes, etc. in addition to the character development
You can't dismiss what they accomplished flat like that. It was innovative storytelling that TV does in a lot of cases today and even the Guild took elements from LG15 to craft what it became. The characters were fictional, the episodes were scripted so you can't just dismiss it something that isn't legitimate because few so-called 'scripted shows' have been able to match the engagement or numbers they got since.
And everything you said, "plot development, set changes, etc," ALL happened on Lonelygirl15. If you ever sat down and watched it before you dismissed it flat.
Chris, this is almost one of the most talked about issues on this forum. lol. The length of an episode determines how much time the audience spends with them, right? So the longer, the more exposure to those characters. So I wouldn't call a "web series" equivalent to a few minutes, those are what they consider "webisodes", not Web Television episodes.
Just watched your episode link, I really like what's going on and the quality of the cinematography and the acting direction! I think that based on how often you come out with these will determine if people consider them as scenes/clips rather than "episodes", know what I mean? Because technically, they are one scene each. A full-on episode contains dozens of scenes, depending on half hour or hour slot.
Take my show, Day Zero, for instance. I've won awards already for our pilot, but here's episode 5 which is one of my favorites: http://blip.tv/dayzerotv/day-zero-season-1-episode-5-memoriam-6273176
This one is just over 19 minutes. My average is about 22. The shortest so far is our next episode this Wednesday clocking in at 13.5 minutes while my last episode (#6), was 31 minutes! I don't film for the web nor for commercials, per se.
Anyway, hope that helps! And my featured video on here is just me giving pointers for guerrilla style filmmakers: http://webseriesnetwork.com/video/day-zero-production-notes-schedul...
As you can see by just the thumbnail even, that particular scene I refer to is scene #16 for our 3rd episode, "Suspicion" (that episode is 25 minutes). So yes, in essence, that would be 16 "episodes" if we compare it to your episode 4. ;) Not 16 times length of course, but you get the drift.
Cal - thanks. You make some good points - ultimately, as the content creator/producer it's ultimately a function of your objective (and also, your production schedule, budget, etc).
I do think inherently it's a little harder to sustain a viewer's "attention" for, say 30 continuous minutes in digital than on TV. I use quotes because, with TV, I really mean a consistent sitting, since most viewers are checking their smartphone or iPad from time to time, maybe DVRing/fast-forwarding past commercials or just tuning out, but typically the production value and the pacing through commercial breaks keeps viewers on the couch (if it's a good show to begin with). There's more distraction with digital and - because the commercial break element doesn't exist - you're either sequencing webisodes so that the break to start the next video on the playlist replicates the commercial pause or you need to actually sustain a higher continuous engagement than network TV (typically with a smaller budget for talent, FX and other bells and whistles). Not always an easy feat.
No prob Chris! My show was originally written so that we could approach television, and I did create gaps where one can put commercials in, but they're not at your typical intervals per se (the 5 minutes, 15 and 26 minute mark or whatever). If you check out episode 5, you can see how I did it -- it's timed with music, so you get the feeling a commercial is about to come on, just like TV. :)
The attention span thing, like Greg has said, is not actually a real issue. In fact, advertisers love the longer format (in the end, we all want to make money, don't we?). People who cut the cord from cable or satellite, go to Netflix and Hulu to watch the very same TV shows they missed watching on TV, so they are taking the time to watch 30 to 60 minute programs daily. So that is probably why you were getting some remarks about length in the first place. I was telling Rich about how Tom Hanks' "Electric City" got panned for being too short and too fast paced.
The way you're going about your show is correctly-paced -- therefore, it's not artsy fartsy (like Electric City, etc.), so all you need to do now is piece together everything to form a whole, long episode :) If it's too late now, start with season 2. Yes, it takes a lot of time and sometimes a lot of money, but unless you release it weekly, the audience wants more and more! They can't wait for every episode, but if you give them a lot to begin with, it ties them over, IMO. I release it monthly as I edit each one, but once I have it all, it's all there... if we started over, we would've filmed the entire season (10 episodes worth over 4 hours total!) all in one shot so we could release it weekly.
I think those are all good points. We shot DMT in August and wanted a quick turnaround in post-production so we've been releasing episodes weekly because that's about the pace we can get through editing, thoroughly review the episode and tweak it to our liking. In the name of trying to stick to a schedule we let the first episode go with a little sloppy editing left in because we announced a release schedule and wanted to stick with it (so far no one's complained).
If we weren't trying to maintain that type of release schedule I agree I think it's beneficial to make sure you have ample content to tide your users over. Anticipation is nice but it's harder to build momentum releasing 5 minutes of content a week even with an established viewer-base. With those type of 'vingettes' I'd rather release 15-20 minutes a week at least, if not more.
Thanks Chris, glad to be able to share my experiences to answer your topic question here :) I really like what you got with your show, it's a lot better than The Guild and other short-form series. Keep it narrative like that, and hopefully you get a mini-cliffhanger for each one, especially for short form. For us, it would be technically triggered before an ad/commercial break, in order to hook the viewer to continue watching after the break. It's not easy, but it all depends.
What you may find is that scenes with action are more consistently watched all the way through. lol. I went beyond the script and the initial story to ensure there was at least what I call, the Incredible Hulk moment, per episode. Ha! Glad you're getting it out weekly, that's the least you can do.
For us, the monthly schedule accommodates the 22 minute averages nicely, even though I finish editing between 1 to 2 weeks, but then it goes to the composer to score as much as possible, thus, the monthly release. :P I hear ya on the anticipated release schedule thing! Slebisodes actually told us to do that, heh.
Hi Chris, I watched Episode 4. Well done. I am in post-production on a web series and have settled on longer episodes to tell my story. Statistics show that web attention span is alive and well, still, tolerance for longer video is still growing.
This studyshows that audiences have a different (longer) tolerance for branded content. So...since you've worked hard to build a look/feel and a story, and audiences "get" it and want more, they'll stick around for more.
I have no definitive proof...yet. But let's keep talking, you and I, about the potential to just tell the story and stop worrying if addled minds can follow along. We've got a story to tell, dang it.
Thanks for the links and the kind words. I hadn't seen some of that data previously and you're right, the content itself defines the attention span, the attention span shouldn't define the content.
I've seen studies that suggest the threshold for a lot of viewers' initially engagement is only about 35-45 seconds, BUT, if you can hook them within that time frame, there's a high statistical probability they'll watch the whole way through. Anecdotally, I find that to be true - I don't consume a ton of digital media but if a web series doesn't hook me in the first 30 seconds I'm usually going to stop watching it because there's unequivocally a lot of good content out there.
All the best with post-production - look forward to seeing something new and great.
Hope so because I'm embarking on one now, have ep 1 shot and almost ready to post!