Time was when ‘corporate video’ was commonplace, at least in larger organisations. In the 1980s many employers established their own in-house video studios to develop a constant stream of communications and training programmes for distribution on their dedicated VHS video networks. Others made use of external production companies and were happy to pay at least £1000 per finished minute for the privilege. It is commonly thought that the main driver behind the growth of corporate video was the proliferation of low-cost VCRs in the home – managers realised the potential of video by using it for themselves.
The shift towards digital media in the 1990s rather left analogue video behind. CD-ROM was a more interactive, versatile and easily-distributed medium, although it was far too slow in the early days to handle video in anything other than the tiniest windows. By the time CD-ROMs had increased sufficiently in speed to cope with video, the in-house video units had been disbanded and the whole idea lost. When, at the end of the 1990s, technology shifted again towards online delivery, bandwidth restrictions kept video very much on the back burner.
Well, video has returned and with a vengeance. Bandwidth is now much less of an issue and it is incomparably cheaper than it was in the 1980s to produce video – low-cost cameras and easy-to-use PC-based editing software have taken much of the mystery out of video production. But it is the fantastic success of YouTube which has done the most to bring online video into the public consciousness. Now many organisations are seeking to emulate YouTube behind the firewall by establishing their own video channels, often with Web 2.0 characteristics, including the tagging of content, commenting and rating on content by viewers and – in some cases – the uploading of new videos to the library by any user.
Video is a powerful medium which is capable of attracting and holding attention more powerfully than text, audio or still images. As long as the content is relevant and clearly communicated there is no need for high production values. YouTube has emphasised once again that fitness for purpose is the only true test of quality.
Online video is:
- at its best when delivered in short chunks, highly relevant, visually varied, the audio is of good quality;
- best avoided when too static, over-long, with poor audio, monotone delivery.