Tutorial: Paper To Video

Paper to Visd 4

What is Paper to Video? 

The practice of “Paper to Video” involves the conversion of a written document into a visual, video-based medium. Your goal should be to take a composed academic essay, withdraw its best and most pertinent qualities and put them into a video that clearly describes your central thesis to a viewer. If done correctly, you should be able to craft an engaging video essay that clearly describes your central thesis to a viewer. Strive to make your point clear, and put an emphasis on both visual and auditory learning.

Why Video? 

Converting a text from one medium to another forces you to better understand your own work. When translating an academic essay to a visual medium, you’ll become better acquainted with your argument as you will be forced to help viewers understand your work on a fundamental level. Video is a medium that has great properties that will help make your argument more comprehensive, the same a way a slide-based presentation might. In the same vein, visual and audio entertainment can allow you to be humorous, entertaining and engaging in ways that a written paper can’t. Often, entertainment creates understanding. Lastly, consider all the qualities a filmic medium has to offer, each aspect typically enhances the way the marriage between picture and sound can create meaning:

Limitations of The Frame

-Consider how the image appears onscreen. How is your subject frame? Can things enter and exit the frame in unique ways? Use an object’s position in the frame to create meaning.


-Show us, don’t tell us. If your essay concerns the outdoors, use film to take us outside. If your essay is about art, take us to an art gallery. This can be done by shooting on-location or using free and cheap stock footage from online databases.

Juxtaposition + Editing

-How does relationship between one image and another reinforce an argument? A graphic match can create meaning. Juxtaposing two images either side by side or in sequence can help elevate a concept, or hammer-in a pre-existing idea. Audio and video juxtaposition can occur as well, consider how narration adheres to an image and creates new meaning. Great editing makes use of the following:

Control Over Duration of Image

Graphic Relationship Between Shots

Rhythmic Relationship Between Shots

Spatial Relationship Between Shots

Temporal Relationship Between Shots


-Close shots allow for small action. Wide shots allow for big action. Perspective can create new meaning.

 How to Construct Your Video Essay

Begin by taking a good look at your work. Disregard connective tissue like “thus” or “however” or “so” or “in other words” and ask yourself: what am I really trying to say? It’s important to get to know your own work. Next, develop a blueprint. Video essays should reinforce your central argument and highlight why that argument is so strong. If you don’t have an argument you don’t have a paper, and if you don’t have a paper then you don’t have a video. When scripting or considering what will go into your video, be sure to only include what is most important about the essay itself. If you can make your argument without including certain information, then that information won’t be necessary.

Next, collect video footage and source material for your video. If you have a narrative approach, go out and shoot it, and if you are doing a strict analysis, compile video footage from the web that will help you argue your point. This is the time to find concrete examples that will support your argument, be it video footage, still images, interviews, or sound bytes.

Compile that footage using an editor like WeVideo, Final Cut, or even iMovie. For tips on how to edit, check out or WeVideo tutorial.

Now, be sure to use the unique qualities of the medium to reinforce your ideas, create visceral subtext and new meaning through the relationship between your subject, picture, and sound. Be sure to show us your subject, guide us through your argument and engage your viewer.



Here are a few stellar examples of Video Essays released over the past year. All three are simple edits and/or shoots that can be done comfortably from home or school.

1). How to Do Visual Comedy

2). Down the Graphic Novel Rabbit Hole We Go

3). The Black Bruins