Blissful Silence: Four days without youtube

I’m really enjoying the second of four days without youtube.  I’ve been trying to write this post for months but would get angry and couldn’t finish.  Now I can finally do this without using profanity (blog rule #3).

I’m sure many reading will have heard of Photosensitive Epilepsy (PSE), a disability where seizures can be triggered by flashing lights or similar stimulae.  According to the Epilepsy Society of the UK (the most recent link above), approximately one person in 100 people has epilepsy, and 3% of people with epilepsy have photosensitive epilepsy.  That means approximately three in every 10,000 people has PSE.

That’s a tiny percentage of the population, and yet those who produce movies, television, lighted billboards, software for handheld devices or other electric and electronic media all accede to and accomodate these people’s needs.  News programs give warnings if there will be flash protography, and nearly all forms of entertainment have stopped using them altogether.  Respecting a rare form of disability was easily and painlessly done, and what was taken away (flashing lights) wasn’t essential to the message being conveyed.

People who have had a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and suffer Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) have a problem similar to PSE: the brain can’t process information the same way anymore.  Most people with PCS have no difficulty with natural input (e.g. conversational speaking, animals, even moving traffic).  But unnatural and jarring input ranges from difficult to impossible to follow.  According to this link from the CDC in 1999, there were approximately 5.3 million americans living with TBIs out of a population of 280 million, approximately 1.9%, yet little or no accomodation is made for them.  Like depression, people are told to “get over it and stop using it as an excuse”.

The symptoms of PCS vary with everyone; two people could be hit in the same part of the head in the exact same way and with the exact same force and still have different symptoms.  Early common Post-Concussion symptoms include (list and quoted text stolen from the Mayo Clinic):

* Headaches
* Dizziness
* Fatigue
* Irritability
* Anxiety
* Insomnia
* Loss of concentration and memory
* Ringing in the ears
* Blurry vision
* Noise and light sensitivity
* Rarely, decreases in taste and smell

Post-concussion headaches can vary and may feel like tension-type headaches or migraines. Most often, they are tension-type headaches. These may be associated with a neck injury that happened at the same time as the head injury.

Doctors regularly ignore and dismiss the concerns of patients with PCS because it’s difficult to treat with such wide ranging symptoms and causes. Doctors want a one-size-fits-all solution, and when they don’t have one, some shrug and walk away.  Worse yet, some doctors write off disabled TBI patients as “A1!” and force them back to work.  They should be on disability but are instead cut off of income if they refuse.  Many people can’t return to work immediately or require a significant adjustment time.  It requires accomodation and consideration by the employer to let the person find out what tasks they can handle.

Going back to youtube and videos, I’m specifically talking about jump cuts.  For those who don’t know what they are, a jump cut is abrupt and sharp editing, cutting off the end (or start) of two sentences and splicing them together.  But it’s not just a shift from one scene to another, I’m talking about repetitive and intentionally jarring cuts.

Try reading this sentence:


If parsing out words from that sentence is difficult and bothers you, imagine having to do it while text is scrolling up the screen, and every single line of a 3000 word article is written like that.  And then the writer of it blames YOU for not adapting to his “style”.  Is it your fault that you can’t follow the text, or the writer’s for not publishing in an accessible and readable format?

Again the sentence: There are makers of videos who cut out the gaps between EVERY SINGLE SENTENCE in a five or ten minute video.  And it’s not just audio, it’s visual too.  It’s like the editing in a Michael Bay movie or the Freddie Mercury movie, constant switching between images and positions on the screen.  This is why I mentioned flashing lights and PSE, because jump cuts have a similar effect on people who aren’t neurotypical.

Those who do it “think” that it’s a ‘style’, that it’s ‘fashionable’.  No.  Jump cuts are ableist.  And it’s not just people with PCS.  I know this is apocryphal and said without evidence, but I’ve had conversations with people who have epilepsy and autism and some say the similar things: videos with unnatural speech are hard to process, unnatural visual patterns hard to watch, while natural speech is easy.  I can watch clips of John Moschitta Jr. talk at 300 words per minute and still understand what he says.  He may talk fast, but there are still natural patterns so the brain can fill in the gaps.

Take for example, Rebecca Watson’s videos.  Most of hers are done in a single take, which makes them easy to follow.  Unfortunately (aigh! criticizing an atheist!) there are a few points in certain videos where she edits clips together and abruptly cuts from one sentence to another.  I have to rewind and try and shut out the first part to focus on the second.  Now compare with Zinnia Jones, another ex-FTB member, whose videos may be separate segments spliced together, but all have smooth fade outs and fade ins, giving the viewer time to adjust between cuts.

Watson’s sparse jump cut edits are NOTHING compared to what some people do.

There are a plethora of under-35 video makers who are guilty of making unwatchable and ableist videos, and many of them are Transgender or Non-binary: Stef Sanjati, Riley Dennis, Jammidodger, Sam Collins, and many others.  The single worst has to be Jake Van Gogh whose arrogance alone makes him unwatchable.  Essence of Thought was recently mentioned on PZ Myers’ blog in a discussion about Transgender people’s rights.  I didn’t comment because I couldn’t watch the video.  Not didn’t, but couldn’t.  Even a video with that few jump cuts can be hard to follow.

It’s not just younger producers who do this.  Brady Haran (Numberphile, Computerphile, Periodic Videos), SciShow, and The Young Turks are some of the worst, though there are other guilty parties I won’t name.

The thing that I REALLY don’t understand about the overuse of jump cuts is this:

It takes MORE time and effort to “edit” and visually plan all the jumps of location and text than it does to read paragraphs and have smooth transitions.  It doesn’t make the video more watchable and in increases the producer’s workload several times over.  Plus, what if you make a mistake in dialogue or scenes, how are you going to fix that?

Those who execessively use jump cuts actually write scripts and plan this out, so their dialogue is pre-written.  But if you ask them to release the transcript as plain text which people can read instead of watching, they won’t.

A video of a script read in a single take video is far easier to do, and it both looks and sounds better.


  1. says

    I had no idea that such a problem exists.

    Since I have been thinking about making some videos, I’ll ask what exactly is or isn’t a problem for people like you. When I’m freely speaking in a foreign language without reading some script, I frequently say the wrong thing. I mispronounce some word, immediately realize that I have pronounced said word incorrectly, and then I repeat said word again. Alternatively, I start a sentence, say a couple of words, realize that I cannot finish this sentence the way I intended, drop this sentence and make an entirely different sentence structure instead in order to say the same thing I wanted to express.

    If I was making a video, I would be tempted to cut out such mistakes. Does cutting out a couple of seconds from a video would be a problem for you?

    I don’t like writing scripts for my speeches. But whenever I speak freely, there are some fragments where I say the wrong thing, and I would want to cut out such fragments, possibly even several sentences that I want to remove from the final cut.

    Also, you mentioned “smooth fade outs and fade ins, giving the viewer time to adjust between cuts.” How many seconds long do those have to be?

    • says

      My simplest requests and suggestions would be:

      1) Write a script, just like you would write an essay. Trains of thought usually go off the rails. ^_^

      2) Record one paragraph at a time. You don’t have to speak for more than a minute or two, and if you make a mistake, you don’t have to go back very far.

      3) Even if you don’t have the software to do a smooth transition, leave a half second of silence at the beginning and end of paragraphs. The cuts won’t be as abrupt.

      4) Post the transcript for anyone who wants to read it (e.g. the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), not just post the video. (Bonus: If people don’t understand your pronunciations at first, reading what you say will help people adjust. You won’t need to change how you speak.)

      I do similar things when I have to record speeches for students to practice, though that’s just audio. I keep it short and edit together with silence.

  2. says

    OK, got it. If I ever get to making any videos, I’ll try to pay attention to what I’m doing. At least some of the items on your list are very easy to do.

    Write a script, just like you would write an essay. Trains of thought usually go off the rails.

    I hate writing scripts for my speeches. I have been a teacher in my university’s debate club, I spent several years participating in debate tournaments. I’m very used to speaking without scripts, just a few notes to remind me the next idea I have to discuss.

    On top of being lazy, I also dislike scripts, because whenever I’m reading, my voice automatically becomes monotonous. I find it much easier to speak less monotonously while speaking freely.

    Oh well, I do get the point about some people needing scripts, so I guess laziness is a poor excuse.

    Bonus: If people don’t understand your pronunciations at first, reading what you say will help people adjust. You won’t need to change how you speak.

    I’m pretty certain that my accent should be subtle enough for people to have no problems understanding me. At least I think so. I recently wrote about accents here , there’s also an audio recording of how I sound in English.

    My problem is different. As I’m speaking, I occasionally pronounce some word incorrectly, then my brain goes, “Whoops, that’s not how this word is pronounced in English,” and then I instinctively repeat the word.