What Makes a Good YouTube Video

By Rob Ciampa, Theresa Moore, John Carucci, Stan Muller, Adam Wescott

An immediate side effect of watching bad video is that you no longer want to watch it. But what makes a YouTube video truly good? Sometimes, that answer is a little harder to figure out. The more obvious indicators of a good YouTube video are that it’s informative, depicts compelling situations, and, of course, makes people laugh.

All these factors certainly contribute to the success of a YouTube video, but you have more pertinent issues to consider that deal with the technical aspects of making these videos enjoyable.

Keeping the camera steady provides a good start, as does making sure the lighting effectively represents the scene and that the audio is clear and pristine for the viewer to understand. It’s also important to have a mix of shot types to keep things visually interesting — in an interview, for example, cut between the subject and a scene of what the subject is discussing.

Though these attributes are somewhat “below the radar” when people are enjoying the video, they lie nonetheless at the core of an enjoyable experience.

Here are a few of the components that make a good video:

  • Good lighting: “Let there be light” remains one of the oldest phrases ever. And for good reason. Without light of any kind, people clearly wouldn’t be able to see anything — though good video depends on more than just seeing the subject.

    Good lighting — as opposed to merely adequate lighting — needs to bathe the subject in a flattering way, as shown. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a sophisticated light kit or ambient illumination or depending on the sun, as long as the final product looks good.

    The peppers come to life as the sun bathes this outdoor market in late afternoon light.

    The peppers come to life as the sun bathes this outdoor market in late afternoon light.
  • Top-quality audio: The better a video sounds, the better it looks. Less‐than‐stellar visual elements can easily be accepted when the sound is clear. But the opposite statement rarely applies.

  • Steady camera: Using a tripod or another means of stabilization clearly makes it easier to maintain a steady shot, but if you’re stuck without a tripod, at least try to keep your handheld camera as steady as possible so that you can avoid that annoying herky‐jerky motion.

    Neither tripods nor cameras need to be big now, as proven with this GoPro mounted on a Gorillapod.

    Neither tripods nor cameras need to be big now, as proven with this GoPro mounted on a Gorillapod.
  • Shot structure: If you’re editing video, you should strive for a nice selection of shot types and angles in order to keep your viewers engaged. Think about it: Nobody wants to see the same exact shot and angle for 10 minutes.