Vine is great! Specifically, it’s a great place for comedy. As the old saying goes, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” And with Vine’s six-second limit on video length, we’re dealing with something pretty brief. So the set up is practically begging to be used for comedic purposes, and boy howdy, are there enough people out there to oblige! Maybe you’re already following some of the big comedic Vine stars out there, and you really want to get in on the action yourself.
Well, if that sounds interesting to you, then good news! We here at Appamatix have a few ideas for you to make good, funny Vines!
I have always felt comedy and tragedy are roommates. If you look up comedy and tragedy, you will find a very old picture of two masks. One mask is tragedy. It looks like it’s crying. The other mask is comedy. It looks like it’s laughing. Nowadays, we would say, ‘How tasteless and insensitive. A comedy mask is laughing at a tragedy mask.’ — Gilbert Gottfried
Funny Ideas to Make Good Vines
On our Facebook walls, or our Twitter feeds, or whatever social media networking you are using, odds are you have encountered one or two viral Vine feeds that have made their way to you. And when a Vine takes off, it takes off big. This makes sense, of course, because the six-second limit ensures that these short videos aren’t asking too much of its audience.
I mean, how many times have you clicked on an interesting link in Facebook, only to find that it’s a five minute video (mostly filler), which could easily have been replaced with three paragraphs. And now, not only are you disappointed, but you’ve wasted your time. Maybe you only have a little bit of time to check your social media profiles before you get back to work, or maybe you spend all day on them. Either way, nobody likes to have their time wasted.
That’s the great thing about Vine. It’s all very short. You can usually click on a Vine link with confidence knowing that, even if it is horrible, it will be horrible briefly. But when it’s great, it’s so easy just to share it again. And so the cycle continues.
Meanwhile, the proliferation of formats that an individual can use to find an audience is increasing every day, and with each new venue comes the greater and greater hope of internet stardom. Or even that rare internet stardom which crosses over into more widely recgonized ztardom. Such as the brief run of the My Dad Says sitcom, or YouTube star John Roberts scoring the role of Linda Belcher on Bob’s Burgers.
Internet Stardom is Alriiight!
So, granted, the odds of that lightning striking again are slight. However, you can’t win if you don’t play, and with that in mind, let’s think about some strategies for making a great Vine.
Rule Number 1: There are No Rules
Yes, a cop out of a rule, but it’s worth saying. Ultimately, it’s hard to get someone’s attention. And that has nothing to do with what you choose to do, and everything to do with the incredible variety of people and work already out there. So, take with a grain of salt whenever anybody is giving you hard and fast rules for success, because odds are, those rules only come down to “Here’s what has succeeded in the past.” And don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly valuable to be aware of what has been attempted before, and what has succeeded before. But the thing about things that have succeeded in the past… they’re usually still out there succeeding. And competing. And inspiring a million new competitors to go out there with exactly the same models.
Which means, if you want to stand out (and you do), then that may mean throwing out some of those rules that you’ve been handed. Play around with the medium and the format, and see if you can find something you can do that no one else is doing out there. Yes, it can be scary, and I’m not saying you have to go off the beaten path, especially if you already know what you want to do, and it doesn’t fit that description..
It just needs to be said that you can.
So, with that in mind, we’re going to ditch rules for the rest of the discussion and talk in terms of guidelines, which can be followed and discarded as the situation demands. Ultimately, remember that your Vines are yours. Getting a ton of followers is great, but the only fan your work really needs is you. If you wouldn’t want to watch what you’re putting out, why would you expect anybody else to?
Guideline Number 1: Plan, Plan, Plan!
In his poem “Adam’s Curse,” W.B. Yeats has the following lines that have always stuck with me:
For Yeats, poetry is always the product of a lot of toil and deliberation. But if that toil and deliberation actually show up in the final product, if the lines sound like someone spent a lot of time on them, then it fails as a poem.
Comedy, especially in the short form, very often operates on the same principle. If you watch a Marx Brothers movie, oftentimes it’ll look like all their comedic business is entirely improvised — especially Groucho, with his one liners. But, while there is always some room for improvisation, oftentimes improvisation is a style of delivery instead of a means of origination. So, they thought about exactly what they wanted each comic beat to be, and then they rehearsed and rehearsed to make sure that beat was working. And they rehearsed some more, until they could get the business to work so effortlessly that it looked like something that just spontaneously happened.
When you make a Vine, you may be tempted just to cut loose and record what happens. But you only have six seconds so you need to be sure that each second (or even each frame) has a specific job to do and does it. So that means knowing exactly what you want. It means storyboarding to make sure you hit all the marks in six seconds. It means rehearsing enough so it looks like this is just a moment that has been captured instead of something that was the product of all the hard work you’ve put into it.
Guideline Number 2: Know (and Watch) What’s Out There
I’ve said it before, but if you’re not willing to watch what other people are doing, then why should anybody watch you? Be the kind of audience member you want.
But there’s more behind this second guideline than just good karma. You also need to watch what other Vine Stars are doing so you can adapt to trends. In this case, adapting may mean starting to do something when you see it’s becoming popular. However, it may also mean just the opposite: ditching the sinking ship when it starts to sink, or even moving away from a particular style or topic when you see the market is starting to get oversaturated with that.
But also, you can take inspiration. Maybe you see a video, and it gives you a brilliant idea for your own. I’m not saying copy (in fact, that’s the very opposite of what I’m saying), but I am saying it’s okay to get ideas.
No, you don’t want to copy. And that’s another reason why you should keep abreast of what’s going on on Vine, and strive to find your own voice: it’s bad enough when you’re just doing the same thing everyone else is doing. That won’t get you any kind of attention at all. But if you’re visibly (and demonstrably) just stealing jokes and gags from other Vine users, that won’t fly. You’ll get worse than no attention, you’ll be labeled as a hack.
Guideline Number 3: Practice Good Technique
I know I’ve belabored this point enough by now, but a Vine is only six seconds long. That makes it extra crucial that your viewer gets exactly what you want them to out of the six seconds. That means you need to be solid with your camera technique.
Invest in a tripod. Yes, Battlestar Galactica used shaky-cam a lot. But shaky-cam, when used effectively (which it seldom is) is a means of delaying understanding of what’s going on. The viewer has to get his bearings for a second before the subject matter (and thus the import) of the shot really hits him.
You. Don’t. Have. That. Time.
It’s not pretentious to watch movies lauded for their cinematography and mimic what you like.
So, keep your camera steady. This is also worth noting since Vine has allowed a lot of people to pursue amateur stop-motion animation. The effect of stop-motion is completely lost if you can’t maintain that singular focus to make the illusion work.
Also under this heading, know how to maintain focus. While most of us are probably using digital exclusively these days, even digital video cameras (and a good number of phones) will usually allow some setting to manually manage focus. Whether you do it manually or you use auto-focus, you need to make sure that everything in your frame is crystal clear. Remember, you only have 6 seconds (or 144 frames), so make sure they’re all good ones.
For any Vine stars that are out there, did we leave anything out? What techniques have worked for you that you would like to pass on? Feel free to share them in the comments.