The 9 Video Gimmicks to Avoid in 2020

The 9 Video Gimmicks to Avoid in 2020

The way we shoot is often a fashion trend. Make sure you’re creating original ideas, rather than following a cliche.

In this article, I’m going to draw up three videography gimmicks each from the past, present, and future. Without a doubt, I’m going to miss one, so please let us know what you think in the comments. Hopefully, this list will help readers steer clear of overdone concepts that will stereotype your work down the line.

The Past

Quasar Lights

I’m not suggesting that Quasar Science lights aren’t a very handy tool, but they’ve certainly earned their reputation as a lazy music video idea. Bonus points if you add fog.

Let's not forget about Astera tubes and Digital Sputnik too. The latter is certainly a cool concept, being able to animate light down the tube and go underwater. Also, these lights are inordinately versatile behind the camera.

Lazy Match Cuts

A film cliche is often lazy, and this one wins first place. A match cut is a cut between shots where the first shot shares a similarity to the second shot. I won’t overexplain when this video does the trick.

This auto-generated edit attempts to use whip pans and zooms to create the feeling of a match cut, but generally falls short.

Compare the well thought-out match cuts in this video to the automatic whip-pan-zoom “match cuts” that I made in a review. My video was generated by AI, but the point is that so many YouTubers use “transition packs” to make just this. They’re taking the beauty of pairing scenes and creating a cheaper knock-off.


M31 is both a galaxy and a New York City bus route. It’s also a tragically overused orange-teal LUT created by Vision Color. To me, it defines the "post-DSLR revolution" indie world. It was loved by both filmmakers and clients alike. It forced skin tones to look tanned and could kill low bit-rate footage (which was often how you’d see it). Now, it seems like most M31 abusers have moved on.

The Present

Barrel Rolling

With new tech brings new ways to shoot. DJI’s Ronin S ushered in a new and nauseating era of rolling shots. This isn’t a creative trend; it’s born out of convenience. Since it’s the latter, I don’t think many users are thinking about why the camera is rolling around in circles.

I still think it’s a cool type of shot, and it will always have its place. I've been part of shoots that have used it, and it cut together quite well in small doses. However, I worry that we’ll look back and say: “remember when everybody needed to have a rolling shot?”

Wes Anderson’s 2D Vision

If I mention Anderson’s work, your mind might immediately jump to his famous “3D but looks like 2D” scenes. It’s a film essay that we’ve all read or watched and likely recreated.

I feel like this trend will take a long time to pass. Unlike a lot of other cliche techniques, this one usually adds more value than it takes away. By compressing the scene into a 2D-esque frame, we’re trimming away unimportant information. This could make the scene easier to digest, less noisy, and perhaps more thoughtful. Nonetheless, latching onto another directors trendy idea doesn’t usually age well.

Robotic Movement

I’m mainly talking about the unnatural movement one gets from a gimbal. Without stabilizing the Z-axis, the shot can bob up and down. Without properly tuning the settings, inhuman camera pans or tilts can become noticeable.

The gimbal is here to stay, but the Steadicam will last forever, I suspect. A gimbal will get a shot that’s technically stable, but a Steadicam and its operator will get a shot that flows. Cheap, computerized movement won’t look so hot in 10 years.

Generally speaking, I consider original-looking shots to be something that’s difficult to shoot on a smartphone. Drones with a longer lens might get more interesting shots than a standard wide angle lens. Shallow depth of field with tack-sharp focus looks professional. Steadicam work will stand the test of time when compared with gimbal work.

The Future

360 Drones

This is a mashup of tech that’s allowing shots that were never possible before. By splitting a 360 camera in two and putting a drone in the middle, one can have a floating 360 camera. This means the angle can point upward, something most drones can’t do.

Insta360 has just released a package to do this. I’m guessing it’ll be the next big kind of shot creators will strive to achieve. However, I worry that if everybody’s doing it, it will become a gimmick. We’ll have to wait and see on this one, but I’m looking forward to fresh ideas.

Smartphone Crash Zooms

You know the kind, popularized by Snapchat, then Instagram, and now the iPhone’s camera app. You press the record button, and then slide your finger up to zoom in. It’s a handy feature, but totally overused.

The reason I assume this will become a cliche is that the viewer knows exactly how it was shot. It’s low effort, it’s been done hundreds of millions of times, and it speaks to very specific social networks. That’s not to say it’s not fun, especially with Instagram’s filters.

Too Wide Angle to See Anything

We saw it with the GoPro, and we’re going to see it again with the iPhone 11. Wide angle is the modus operandi for 2020. Once everybody’s doing it, will it be become overdone?

One obvious issue that will make this a cliche is lazy wide angle shots. In the above video, you can see the difference between the “get it all in” attitude and actually framing the shot with thought. I suspect we’ll look back at the early ‘20s as being flooded with wide angle shots. Maybe we’ll see the telephoto ‘30s in 10 years?

In conclusion, I hope nobody thinks I’m taking apart their art here. Every shot is worth something, but an original shot will always be worth more than a thoughtless copycat. I hope that this list inspires readers to follow their own path. Of course, let us know if you’ve got any gripes with other trends or instead find them a platform from which to jump.

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Robert Feliciano's picture

Good list.
Can we add unnecessary slow motion?
I love seeing a bullet break something, but I don't need to see a vlogger crossing the street in slow motion.

Kieran Stone's picture

slow motion b-roll footage with super upbeat dance music...of a vlogger crossing the street, or tying a shoelace.

Lee Ramsden's picture

The story has to be the strongest pull of a movie, not the transitions.
I know it was titled LUT test, but for example, the little boy on his bike and the blonde girl is cut back and forth. No connection, the girl's clips even go back in time one-minute eating, then shopping, back to eating to sat on her bed, back to shopping... Makes my brain itch trying to work out what is going on :)

Kevin Loiselle's picture

Disagree on the gimbal work comment, for a long time now there's been solutions to stabilizing the z-axis. Also, steadicams and gimbals are used for different applications and looks. Obviously Steadicams are to allow the camera operator to have precise, stable movement. On the other hand, gimbals are great for when the camera has to move through a scene in ways that one person could not do alone, e.g. on a crane or drone, or even being passed around between all of those.

Another Username's picture

How about this one: Avoid any article from Fstoppers that looks down its nose at "Trends" In any given year. The fact is, I am not on instagram or most of the social sites and so this stuff doesn't come across as over used or even a trend to me. I think you guys need to stop obsessing over your instagram and Vimeo feeds and stop worrying so much about what other people are doing. Every one of these examples screams of elitist attitude by someone who now works on high end productions (and probably did ALL of these themselves at some point).

I will post about it every time I see it in a effort to keep this site honest, STOP telling me what gear is only for PROS, or what techniques not to use, or any other reason that makes me second guess picking up my camera which is exactly what these articles do for me. A lot of people out there are afraid to post there work for fear they might be labeled "An ORANGE AND TEAL YOUTUBER..." simply because they like orange and teal. If you dont like the work, move on.

You know what I see in ALL those examples of overused Quasar lights?? WORKING VIDEOGRAPHERS MAKING MONEY.

Lets put it another get hired by sometime big name rapper and he pays you $15,000 for the shoot and one of HIS requests are quasar lights to light up the girls.....are you gonna pass on that paycheck because its trendy??

Sam Jewel's picture

Great content.
Achieving a professional look is more about your technique than your tools, so you don’t need to drop a fortune on expensive equipment – chances are good that you can make great videos with whatever you’ve got right now, just by paying attention to a few key details.