HOW TO ‘DOCUMENT’ LIKE CASEY NEISTAT: THE PHILOSOPHY
Quick cuts. Speed. Pacing. P.O.V. Juxtaposition.
The overall arch of the story must be clear. Here’s the formula:
- Tell them what you’re going to tell them
- Tell them
- Tell them what you told them
Show exactly what happens in the order in which it happens. Use a variety of shots to add interest, highlighting exactly what’s happening.
Strategically break up a series of fast cuts of story detail by juxtaposing them with moments of expedited storyline with music in the foreground. This is the same technique used in film. Dialogue with no music that shows detailed storytelling moments (short cuts) interrupted by action sequences that rapidly move the story along with music in the fore.
When showing an event that spans a long period of time in reality, use time-lapse to show the event, but in fast-paced manner to keep the overall arch and pace engaging.
Fast cuts help eliminate lulls in the action and help push the story along. Opening a boxed product during a review video? Eliminate any moments where the audience is sitting there waiting for the next event to happen. Cut out the moments where you’re fighting the box cutter to open or taking out the packing peanuts. Curveball: it could actually be interesting to show those moments if you’re trying to create the suspense you felt when you were actually doing it. You could intensify this suspend by actually slowing down the speed.
Explore the story from the perspective of all the active characters involved. Show the action from the visual point-of-view of each character. Don’t forget, the characters don’t have to be humans. They can be the baton of a conductor, the rope between two playful dogs, and the hot dog at a hot dog eating contest.
Consider the point-of-view of passive characters that just happen to be in the same environment. Show the action from the point-of-view of passersby or people from across the park that may not even be paying attention to you. This is great because it provides a lot of context of how the primary story fits in the world around it.
Explore characters’ and places’ proximity to the action. Close, medium, and distant.
Pace the story as if you were verbally summarizing a story to a friend that wasn’t there. Quick cuts match the way we describe detailed moments of a story, but keep the story moving without the awkwardness that sometimes accompanies reality. And quick descriptions of long real-time moments provides context of the situation, moves the story along, and doesn’t get bogged down.
Combining the aesthetics of fast cuts, time-lapse, and other interesting cinematography techniques with the consideration of story pacing, and the perspective of everyone and everything involved makes for a truly unique and engaging visual experience for the audience.
My favorite examples of these ideas in action are Casey Neistat‘s airline reviews.