Tim Lorang Blog

Video Length: How long to make your online video?

Posted by Timothy Lorang on Tue, Oct 26, 2010 @ 05:31 PM

Videos, like books, come in many sizesI am often asked how long to make an online video. Is there an optimum length? Don’t people click away after 10 seconds? How long should I make my video?

This is like asking how high is high or how long a book should be. Is The Little Prince better than War and Peace because it is shorter? Of course not, that is a ridiculous criterion for judging the value of a book. The book should be as long as it needs to be to tell its story. That being said there are a lot of books that are way too long. But there are a lot of things to consider when finding the optimal length for your video.

A general rule is that no matter how long it is the video could probably be shorter. Just like writing most videos could use some editing. One of the major communication innovations in the past century was the thirty second commercial. Having made a fair number of commercials in my time I can say that honing a message down to its essence so it communicates is no easy task. Does this mean every video should be thirty seconds? Of course not, here are some general things to think about.

  • Are there technical limitations? YouTube and many free hosting and streaming services have length restrictions that often limit videos to under 10 minutes. Bandwidth restrictions can also affect the length. Commercials were generally 30 seconds because of the amount of time available between programs.
  • What are the audience’s needs? For example an online training video may be 30 minutes or an hour long. Viewers who are part of a class that need the training will sit through a 60 minute presentation. But another viewer may be referencing a video to find out how to do a specific task. It may be better to make thirty 2 minute training videos then one long one.
  • Are you using the video for outreach? If the purpose of the video is to draw attention to your company or cause and you are posting it in social sharing sites like YouTube and Facebook the video should be short. People are opening the video because it looks entertaining or informative and if it is not they have other things to do. These videos need to be funny or compelling immediately and not take up too much time.
  • Is this a conversion video on your web site? If you are using video on your home page to close a sale you don’t want to lose the viewer. You want the viewer to select the “buy” button so this is not the time to wax poetic about your corporate philosophy or show a documentary about your CEO’s childhood. Get to the point and make the sale.

I have a tendency to make videos too long. An editor I used to work with called it the “sacred shot syndrome.” We get caught up in our own creativity. We love a certain shot and we have to use it. Don’t think about the shot; think about your message and your audience. If the video makes sense without the shot and the extra narration, then take it out.

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Topics: Video