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Communications: Video Essay

An introductory guide for communication and media studies, journalism and cinema.

What is a video essay?

A video essay is a short video that illustrates a topic, expresses an opinion and develops a thesis statement based on research through editing video, sound and image.

What is a video essay assignment?

(Source: Morrissey, K. (2015, September). Stop Teaching Software, Start Teaching Software Literacy. Flowjournal.

It is made of three main elements:

  • Image (filmed footage and found footage)
  • Sound (music and audio)
  • Words (spoken and written)

All of them are linked to your own voice and argument. It is a way to write with video.

Sample Video Essays

Video essays beyond COM

Video essays can be a valuable form of academic production, and they can be brilliant and insightful in many other fields apart from Communications and media studies. Here are some examples that cover all the JCU departments:


Frame rate

A video is basically a series of still images- each one is called a frame- that play back at a specific rate. The frame rate (often abbreviated FPS for "frames per second") differs depending on where you are in the world and what you're shooting on.

If you're shooting a movie on celluloid (actual film that needs to be developed) then you are probably shooting at 24fps.

If you are shooting video in Europe then you are probably shooting at 25fps...

...unless you are shooting sports. Then you're probably shooting at 50fps.

If you're shooting video in the US or Canada then you are probably shooting at 30(29.98)fps...

...unless you're shooting sports. Then you're probably shooting at 60(59.98)fps...

...or unless you're shooting "cinematic video" at a frame rate of 23.976fps.

***The weird numbers for shooting in the US and Canada stem from the fact that while Europe's 50Hz electrical system operates at 50Hz, the 60Hz electrical system of the US actually operates at 59.98 Hz.***

If you're shooting at a higher frame rate (like 120fps or 250fps) it is probably because you want to play it back at one of these frame rates in order to achieve a slow motion effect.


Video sizes are measured in pixels. Resolution refers to Width x Height. Here are some common resolutions:

  • FullHD (1080p): 1920 x 1080
  • HD (720p): 1280 x 720
  • 4K (2160p): 3840 x 2160
  • 4K Cinema: 4096 x 2160
  • Standard Defintion (NTSC- US/Canada): 720 x 480
  • Standard Definition (PAL- Europe): 720 x 576
  • VGA: 640 x 360

Types of video essays

1. Supercut

A supercut is a compilation of a large number of (short) film clips, focusing on a common characteristic these clips have. That commonality can be anything: a formal or stylistic aspect, a shared theme or subject matter... 

Supercuts are a staple of fandom, but they can also be used as a form of audiovisual critique: to reveal cinematic tropes, to trace thematic or stylistic constants in a filmmaker’s work and so on.

Examples: ROYGBIV: A Pixar Supercut or Microsoft Sam's Every Covid-19 Commercial is Exactly the Same or Chloé Barreau's NON UNA DI MENO - l'8 MARZO sta arrivando!

2. Voiceover based

In this form, analysis is done by combining clips and images with a narrator’s voice that guides the process. This could be done for a variety of video essays styles: scene breakdowns, shot analyses, structural analyses, vlogs, etc. What is common is the integral role of the creator’s voice in advancing the argument.

Example: Tony Zhou’s Jackie Chan—How to Do Action Comedy or David Chen’s Edgar Wright and the Art of Close-Ups.

3. Text/Image/Sound-Based

In this form, analysis is done by combining text, images and sounds without a narrator’s voice to guide the process. Again, this could be done for a variety of video essays styles, but relies much more on editing to advance the argument.

Example: Kevin B. Lee’s Elements of the Essay Film or Catherine Grant’s All That Pastiche Allows Redux.

4. Desktop Films

A desktop film uses the screen of a computer or gadget to serve as the camera and canvas for all of the content of an audiovisual narrative. It can include content from videos, apps, and programs that would be viewable on a screen. It is a screen-based experience that uses the desktop as its primary medium.

Example: Katja Jansen’s Desktop Films; Kevin B. Lee’s Reading // Binging // Benning.


Descriptions adapted from Filmscalpel

Resources: background and fundamentals

Best Practices


Scholarly Websites about Video Essays

Resources: software and how-to




Downloading and ripping

Note: Try to to ensure that you download in 720p resolution or higher. Your minimum level of quality should be 480p. If searching on YouTube, you can filter the search results to only show HD or 4K results. Check also the Find Video tab of this guide.

Free editing software options


Check also the Find Audio Resources tab of this guide.

Creating credits, copyright and fair use


Stock footage

For stock footage, please check under the Find video tab of this guide.

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