Looking for the latest YouTube phenomenon? Look no further than video essays.
Creators have been making school-level educational content on YouTube for years (some of it has even been shown in a classroom setting), so does it come as any surprise that the natural progression of these informative ideas and entertainment would be video essays? Elevating the traditional essay with live video and audio examples, video essays on topics spanning film to popular culture have swept the platform, and we’re obsessed.
The following videos are just six examples of the analyses and voices that make a video essay brilliant.
David Lynch: The Treachery of Language | What’s So Great About That?
The largest sub-genre in video essays is film criticism. It’s not surprising, considering the medium’s natural fit with visual analysis, but it does make it hard for videos to stand out amongst the thousands.
Grace Lee of the channel What’s So Great About That? distinguishes herself and stands out from the crowd with the use of beautiful animation to connect scene clips and illustrate ideas. That’s not to diminish the examination of filmmaker David Lynch’s use of language and the written work. Grace uses precise examples to offer a potential explanation of the paradox of Lynch, who resists using explicit words to explain his work, yet relies so heavily on words within it. It’s a really interesting take.
Colour In Storytelling | Channel Criswell
Toronto-based Lewis Bond demonstrates his skills for dissecting film with this video on how colour is used on screen. Starting with the psychological and cultural explanations of different colours, Lewis goes on to dive into how films build their own colour vocabularies. Using examples of colour-focused directors, such as Wes Anderson, he examines the power of colour to influence and enhance the viewer’s experience.
For those who aren’t film students, the use of colour in film might not be something given much thought, but we promise that’ll all change after watching this video.
(Warning: flashing colours that could be dangerous for viewers with epilepsy until 0:21.)
Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness [Video Essay] | Trash Theory
This video by Trash Theory starts as an interesting look at the connection between films and musical albums. Citing the often-held fan theory that Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon matches up with The Wizard of Oz, he looks to see if Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World matches up with The Smashing Pumpkin’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness in the same way. However, the video reveals that it’s really about how fans interpret meaning that wasn’t intended in the original work and how that influences our perception of art.
Really makes you think, huh?
Exploring CORALINE’s Childhood Horror | Ryan Hollinger
Interested in the analysis of videos games and horror movies? Then Ryan Hollinger‘s videos were made for you!
In this selection, Ryan examines the place of childhood in Tim Burton’s Coraline. By comparing it to other properties that feature children and horror elements in different ways, he builds a theory of what Coraline’s age means for the plot and her personal arc. Ryan’s comedic voice keeps the dark subject matter light, as well as deeply interesting, and we left the video with a whole new perspective on the film that scarred us when we were younger.
Examining the Problems of Life is Strange: Before the Storm | Writing on Games
While it’s not yet as popular as film criticism, video game analysis is a rising focus of video essays. Hamish Black of Writing on Games has some of the best videos of the genre out there, including this detailed breakdown of Life Is Strange: Before the Storm.
Many video essays are dedicated to breaking down the problems in a media property, but this video has a distinct heart to it because every criticism comes from comparing this game to its predecessor, Life Is Strange. Hamish clearly cares about the series and his criticisms come from a genuine disappointment with his experience playing Before the Storm, which lends it a weight and way to relate, even if you haven’t played either.
What Is “Virtue Signalling”? | hbomberguy
The only entry on this list that doesn’t analyse a media property, Harry Brewis‘ What Is “Virtue Signalling”? examines a phrase from popular culture. Using the same techniques of the previously discussed essays – often using hand-drawn animations – and spoken narration, Harry breaks down the history and usage of the phrase “virtue signalling”.
Beyond being informative and often hilarious, Harry’s videos point to the potentially expansive future of video essays, and we look forward to seeing where he takes the genre.
So there you have it…
Six video essays about film, games and culture you should watch. Whether you’re looking for an at-home film school or the tools to analyse popular culture, video essays on YouTube are reaching more subjects and sharing more ideas every day, and we highly recommend you check some of them out. We guarantee you’ll learn something new.
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