Stanley Kubrick, one of the great storytellers of our time, said that any feature film should have seven or eight fundamental story pieces where all the non-essential padding has been stripped away. He called these story pieces or sequences of action non-submersible units. These units should be so strong and interesting that they would, by themselves, be able to keep the viewer hooked. They would contain only what is absolutely necessary for the story. And when pieced together they would create a greater narrative.
But what about online video? It is only a fraction of the length of a feature film. The rule of the non-submersible unit is just as relevant in online video, except that an online video can be seen as one single unit. An online video needs only one interesting and compelling story. That story should immediately hook the audience and should not contain any non-essential information. If a feature film is a seven course meal, an online video is only a snack.
And online video becomes even more interesting when we start talking about what we can do with playlists. Where a feature film has a window of about two hours to tell it’s story, an online video has an unlimited amount of time to tell a story that can go on for as long as we like.
Here is a great example of one single unit, a single video, that is told very simply without any effects or any unnecessary information. The Power of a Glass by The UNICEF Tap Project 2012. It’s just a few images and a few words, a little snack. But it is just as compelling as any other story. And when viewed beside the other videos we are given a bigger picture of what is going on.
Using playlists we can create individual non-submersible units that when pieced together become a part of a greater narrative.
The story will always be what makes a video interesting. That will never change. But how we tell these stories, that is up to us.