You might not know who Candide Thovex is now, but trust me, by the time you finish this article, you will probably be more than a little in awe of him. His latest video is averaging 1.5 million hits a day and counting since going live last week. It could easily be the single best action spots video we’ll see all year. Today, I’ll break down why I think it’s so successful, and how we can apply the same techniques to our own work.
Like probably 99% of you reading this, I didn’t know who Candide Thovex was until a few days ago. Then I stumbled upon his latest epic video, 'One Of Those Days Part 2' and was blown away. The video is genius - it's a blend of perfect simplicity with great production and thought behind it, and astounding execution. Turns out Candide is actually one of the best skiers in the world – and it’s not difficult to see why. Before you do anything else today, check out his latest video below, it's totally-off-the-wall insane.
His first video came out almost 2 years ago and has since racked up a significant 1.9million views.
Almost 2 million views is not to be sniffed at - but his new piece has already smashed that record more than 3 times over and in just a mere 5 days.
How has this happened?
What Causes A Video To Go Viral?
The causes of virality are certainly not always clear cut. Last week, I experienced my own taste of what happens when your work can go viral with this BTS video I shot of Vincent Laforet on an aerial job back in November of last year.
It’s racked up 100,000+ hits in the last week alone, but had been online for a couple of weeks before that, but hadn’t gotten more than several thousand views before that time. A post by Vincent on the Storehouse site caused it to start generating noise and eventually getting picked up by news channels globally.
Just over a year ago, as some of you may remember, I accidentally brought down Fstoppers for several days when I posted an analysis of the then new Volvo truck commercial, featuring the Jean Claude Van Damme and his epic splits. The article ended up with somewhere in the region of 800,000+ views or so and took off when JCVD actually ended up seeing the article and posting it out to his own social network, causing a giant feed back loop to the original article on Fstoppers.
These causes of something going viral can sometimes be difficult to figure out and orchestrate. However, I think Candide’s latest epic video gives clear reasons as to why it’s racked up
7 9 million views in 5 7 days. While this doesn't mean we can all go out and start creating viral content, this sort of simple analysis is something we can all bear in mind when we are looking to reach a wider audience with our work.
I’ve set out 6 key points below which we can all think about when producing our own work and hoping for it to get traction and be picked up wider than what it is now.
1.) Start With Amazing Content…
Without a doubt, even for those of us who don’t really ski (I’m one of those people), the visual content of this video is jaw droppingly insane. The moves, tricks, sense of speed and skill in this video are all just incredible.
We have to start with outstanding content as a baseline – but that by itself isn’t going to be enough to make a video great (Candide’s first video is good evidence of this. Two million views is great, as is the video itself, but it’s taken 2 year to get to almost 2 million views compared to the sequel which has more than 7 million in less than a week).
2.) Bring More Than JUST Content
Candide edits the video so it feels like we’re not only there with him, but rather, that we are actually him. The camera placement immerses us totally in the feeling of what it must be like to experience what he is going through. Some neat trickery with After Effects shows him putting his goggles on in the mirror with apparently no camera visible as he looks at his own reflection (this simple but highly effective trick is relatively straight forward to do in post).
The goggles go over the camera (the screen, our eyes) and we are right there in the moment, not just with him, but actually as him. A subtle but important point to set the context for the main body of the film.
We then see him (us) look up and watch a flock of birds, only to tilt down and have been magically teleported to the slopes through the use of a seamless edit transition. These great little touches totally add to the immersion and feeling we are watching something that looks simple but has been carefully put together.
3.) For More Impact - Don’t Use Music
I grew up making videos set to music, and watching countless music videos and seeing how the visuals and audio worked together. Why does not having music work here? It simply adds another layer of immersion, so we feel we are actually there on the slopes, racing as Candide. No music in an action sports film is almost beyond comprehension these days yet without the ‘distraction’ of the music track, it pushes us to engage our visual senses even further. Ambient is in.
4.) Start Small, End Huge
The opening is genius. Getting up, brewing and drinking some tea and putting on clothes while calmly taking it all in as birds soar over head…and then ending in one of the most insane finales to any ski run I think anyone of us has ever seen. The key - start small and draw the audience in through to the big finale and climactic pay off at the end. Leave them scratching their head wondering what it was they just saw, because doing that will cause them to hit replay immediately (which is exactly what I did the moment I finished watching the video).
5.) Use Slow Motion In Moderation
We’ve all become slightly obsessed with the over use of extreme slow motion and while I still love it, like everything else in the tool kit, I’m a big fan of using it in moderation and when necessary for greater narrative effect. Candide uses slow motion for those moments where our brains probably couldn’t comprehend the sheer craziness and expert skill of what he’s doing so going into a brief slow motion transition really helps us see and experience what he is doing.
6.) Sprinkle In Surprises
When Candide skis over rocks, grass, through the mountain itself into the seemingly pitch dark tunnel around the 3min 55second mark, the ski lift jump, right through to the epic surprise ending, he constantly leaves us shaking our head in disbelief. This visual "discombobulation" effect of messing with our heads is a great way to get us to share the content with friends, as we want nothing more than to have them relish the same disbelief we ourselves did.
There is no magic formula to have a video or your work go viral. Conversely, it’s not exactly rocket science when trying to look at ways to maximize the chances of it happening - or at least setting up a video to have good penetration amongst the intended audience. If you start with great content, build in some nice surprises and originality as you go from a slower start to a climactic ending, using motion and speed changes in moderation, you’ll be well on your way.
Have your experienced any content or videos you’ve produced that’s gone viral? What do you think the causes are for virality? Share in the comments below!