I started watching Zoella around late 2014 when her name began to pop up almost everywhere with the release of her fiction book Girl Online. I was immediately fascinated by her and her YouTube videos. I was amazed by her following and by the fact that essentially, her videos were so simple yet so entertaining to watch. Someone I once asked told me it was because the content "appeals to people's vanity." This is true. I never really thought a lot about buying makeup, stationary or homeware until I started watching vloggers. I am easily sold to. And yes, I want 'to have' and 'look like that' sometimes. But there is something else about Zoella's video style, from a production point of view that makes them work. I appreciate some people may be reading this thinking, I want to be a proper filmmaker, Zoella is a vlogger. Well, that's great but she captivates her audience and that's what you want to do. So stick with me and I will try and pinpoint what I think elevates her vlogging style and how you can apply them to your own videos: 1. Lighting. Her videos are bright and full of colour and immediately say, "Come in! Welcome. Let's sit and chat."
I don't know exactly what lights she uses but she has obviously invested time and money into making sure she is well lit. I would say, always invest time into lighting, over money. The more hours you spend practising the lighting style, trying different colours and lights and moving things around to get exactly what you want, the more it will show in your final production.
2. Production design. You don't believe all the lovely trinkets, casually placed behind her are accidental do you?
I personally loved the videos where she had that cool light 'Z' in the background but I also appreciate the very carefully planned subtle positioning of toys, decorations and makeup in her videos. It tells you about her style, her content and makes you feel like you're in her home with her - which is what her channel is all about. Production design elevates the professionalism and feel of your video whatever you are doing. Think of it as creating your world on screen. Take time over it. If you say your film is set in a fantasy land, what will you do to your background to make it feel like a fantasy land? It only needs a few things but put the effort in. I let a lot of my films down because I did not pay attention to details like this.
3. Jump cuts or in other words EDITING. Zoella's use of jump cuts are very effective. They move the talking along, they cut out the boring bits. They are even used to comedy effect. She isn't just cutting willy nilly to get rid of mistakes. There is an art to the cut and she does it very well. Think about your edit when you're doing pre-production and while you are filming. How does one scene transition into the next. That is important. It matters and if you get it wrong it can ruin the story or not have the feel you wanted. Practise editing. It's fun and you can spend hours learning whilst having fun with it. Take some footage you don't care about and just play with it. Cut it to music. Cut it without. Try new things while you can on something that isn't important.
4. Zoella. She is a character. You want to watch her. She speaks clearly, her excitement for products and makeup comes through and makes you want to try them. That is just who she is. So remember that when you're making your films. Talent matters. Casting matters. One actor will bring your story to life when another will make it average and yet another will kill it altogether. Don't just cast someone because they are there. Cast someone who catches your eye or moves you tears or fascinates you. A large part of Zoella's success is her personality. That can be applied to production on any level.
5. She collaborates. Collaborations are something that YouTube itself advises up and coming youtubers to do. Basically it is the online version of networking. Working with other people brings a different audience to your work. If you make a film and cast a moderately well known local singer, they are going to share your film to their audience who normally would not have found your videos. Also, working with other people means you start to build up a small network of people you can tap into when you need them. I believe in paying people if possible, but if you have done a lot of jobs with one person, they know you and are far more likely to want to help you out and do things for free later when you are struggling for cash. Working with other people teaches you a lot about teamwork and you can learn an awful lot from other filmmakers who have different skills to you.
You can apply some of the techniques used by Zoella in her videos to any production you are working on and it can't hurt to think about how you can use them and make them even better.