Learning from Casey Neistat's Vlog

Casey Neistat has a daily Vlog on YouTube that I watch along with another 4 million or so folks around the globe as he goes through his daily routine. Based in New York city, he's known for riding an electric skate board through Manhattan traffic and a video style that is selfie to the max. He's built a following by being direct, open in a way that is honest, respectful of the audience and with boundaries for the privacy of others.

He is also an accomplished story teller, a video producer with credits on HBO and in theater release but he turned to YouTube when he saw that his son and his son's friends weren't watching TV, didn't go to the movies but did watch YouTube. So with the skills of a video producer, Casey began making YouTube video, had some go viral and was encouraged to begin experimenting with vlogs. He decided to become a committed daily vloger and that is when his channel went from Zero to One in commercial return. His deft editing, solid sound style and skilled production combine to make a compelling story that millions eagerly look forward to seeing.

So I spend some time just enjoying the Vlog, some time analyzing certain episodes as a video creator myself. Casey is a careful editor and has a pacing and rhythm that are worth understanding.

Today I have been working with this September 20, 2016 Vlog where he talks about his day September 19: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzunI-n23ec

There were approximately 43 segments in the 6:11 show. He used 4 clips from headline news video. Casey also has 5 interviews in 6 minutes! No long interviews but very high quality interactions that each move the story forward. The efficiency of his production process is amazing, the capitalist ideal--one guy doing directing, producing, editing, camera, audio, promotion. Actually we know he has a business manager, folks who do the sound track mixing, and sometimes camera folks who shoot, maybe editing people and admin folks who handle mail, travel, etc. So the operation generates millions and employs several people despite the view that it is just Casey......and it is his creative energy and effort that drives the vlog.

With the interview in the subway, he has two establishing shots of a subway train, a shot from the moving train of a station, the interview, and the guy walking away from the interview as the transition to the next segment.

In a masterful series he shows some security with weapons standing around (2 @3sec with folks walking in foreground), then a short 11 second interview with a woman tourist. then 8 seconds of subway and another 9 second interview. This time the man walks out of the subway (12 sec) as the transition to the street.

Then starting at 4:21 in 17 seconds, walking down Mulberry the block is pedistrian only and at Grand, we see a NYPD officer standing comfortably on the corner. Continue shot, walking across the street he greets the young NYPD officer standing on a corner, they shake hands then have a short 3 clip conversation. Second clip (36 sec) starts on Casey (one shot ecu) then pan to include cop and conversation. OneShot of cop talking then pan to include context Transition to dreamy rebuilt World Trade Center view with clouds for 3 seconds. The interview with the officer supports Casey's 40 second commentary that ends with beauty shot of NYC harbor and credits.

The way he leads up to the conversation with the police man and successively goes up to greet the guy with the camera rolling and then edits the conversation wasting no audience time yet has all the elements of a well directed sequence. Establishing shots, clip with interaction and quote, transition shot. Using a very wide lens both gives rich contextual detail as welll as enabling a developing scene that goes from casual to conversational to intimate extreme close up of the police person articulating the "keep calm and keep keeping on" New York grit and cut to the rebuilt World Trade Center.

To shoot this less than a minute sequence in a regular production sequence would require a video team, permits, schedule, actors, planning and hours of logistics. What I want to know is did Casey talk to the cop before shooting the sequence, did he know this fellow from earlier conversations or was this, as it appears, spontaneous? In any case, good directing.