September 21, 2017

We've talked about some easy ways to get started making your own videos in the past. This week, we explore another tool that helps you make videos and comes with some nice extras. 

Hare: OK, friend, before we get started, can we share with our friends in tools that you’re not young anymore?

LaForme: Alas, I am turning 30 this weekend. My only hope is that people still listen to me when I talk about the latest and greatest tools for journalism. Do you think they’ll let me keep this job?

Hare: Maybe. If you can transition from snappy young one to wise but hip 30-year-old, you’ll be OK. But don’t be too hip. That’s my best advice. What are we talking about this week?

LaForme: Phew. I think I can do that.

Anyway, let’s talk about video. Have I mentioned how much I hate to see the phrase “pivot to video” right now? It is such a weird, lateral business move, it has proven to not be an effective one and it seems like it’s just code for “lots of people are going to be fired.”

That said, I do think it’s smart for the average journalist to be able to put together some type of video, even if it’s just an add-on for a written piece they’re doing. The barrier to that has always been the learning curve. There has always been a lot of technology and software in the way when it comes to making video. Today’s tool is a meaningful step forward for making video production available to everyone. And it comes from Playbuzz, the folks whose quizzes we’ve all probably taken!

Hare: Do I have to take a quiz to make a video?

LaForme: You don’t! So Playbuzz has a ton of tools, all free for journalists, that are meant to drive up engagement with our work. They just added a video creator tool to their Playbuzz Story tool, and it’s probably the most intuitive video maker I’ve ever used.

The tool comes with a couple of templates that are largely in the vein of those Facebook videos you see all the time now. There’s an X vs. Y template, a listicle template and then a couple of other interesting ones with fun transitions.

It essentially works just like you’re building a presentation. You create an introductory clip, add as many clips after that as you’d like and then end with some sort of call-to-action. The text is all preformatted and easily editable, so you don’t have to mess around with things like titles in Adobe Premiere, which is probably my least favorite part of video editing.

I almost forgot the best part. One of the hardest things about creating videos, especially if you don’t have a bunch of people out filming video all the time, is getting the clips that you actually use to put a video together. Playbuzz worked out a deal with Getty so that its library is available to anyone creating a video on Playbuzz Story. There are so many great clips of all sorts of things, and you can trim them to as short or as long as you want. It also has Giphy, if you’re into that sort of thing. I am.

Hare: Same. I love tools that are easy. What do you not love about it? What would you change?

LaForme: Great question. Since this is part of Playbuzz’s Story tool, it comes with all of those trappings. For instance, unless I’m overlooking something here, you have to have a title and header image above the video. You can’t just make the video by itself. The Playbuzz embed also comes with a social share bar above and below the video that can start to make things look a little cluttered. But I just now realized that you can turn off the header image, social bar and some of the other things when you embed, so never mind! 

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One other limitation is that you can’t really take the video outside of the Playbuzz player. If you want to add the video to YouTube, say, you wouldn’t be able to do that. You can make it appear on Facebook through this sort of integration thing.

My final issue is less about the tool itself and more about human nature. I made a couple of videos using this tool and deleted them shortly after because I made them all so cheesy! Between the music Playbuzz offers, some of those Getty videos and the gifs, I couldn’t help but pick the most fun and silly stuff. My videos were ridiculous. So I guess, if folks were to try this tool, I would caution them to have some self-restraint. I certainly didn’t.

Hare: Self-restraint for journalists is probably a good rule in general. Also for new 30-year-olds. Before we go, do you want to show everyone what you mean by “my videos were ridiculous”?

LaForme: Yes. I’m going to post my third or fourth shot at a video below. Don’t bother looking for the others because they’re long gone. I set out to use the Playbuzz Story tool to create a meta-video about some of the great features of the tool. It’s a little silly. I may or may not have been driven to use a Jonah Hill gif. And my restraint on some of those Getty videos wasn’t so strong. Take a look.


Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of articles that highlight digital tools for journalists. You can read the others here. Got a tool we should talk about? Let Ren know!

Clarification: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said that Playbuzz Story videos uploaded to Facebook don't appear as Facebook native videos. They actually do. It has been updated. 

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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