One-Second Videos: Motion and Emotion

Sure, you’ll wince skeptically when I tell you about one-second videos.

“How can you tell a story in just one second?” you’ll ask. “What is it? The ultimate cave-in to the short-attention-span generation?”

Actually, these one-second videos are moving still pictures in both senses of the term “moving”: motion and emotion. Think of a baby’s smile, not just the snapshot but the moment when the lips and eyes move into shape. Think of a bird taking wing, the close-up ticking of watch gears, legs splashing down a water-slide, the sun breaking through trees, kids running two steps or a fountain pen touching paper as the first ink drop begins to create a message.

Those fountain pen and watch images - among the 60 videos in the one-minute “Beauty of a Second” compilation  - are especially significant. Montblanc, the luxury pen- and watchmaker, is the sponsor of the contest that is encouraging viewers to create ultra-short videos. It’s a good example of innovative branding in a congested marketing world; the competition offers both audience-engaging opportunities and a template for new advertising messages.

There have been other showcases of “micro-cinema” and cell-phone videos, but this one is particularly impressive with its blend of art and business. The user-generated videos (interspersed with commercial references) spur ideas for both linear and broadband segments that are especially appealing to audiences weaned on fast-cut visuals.

I looked at the 60-second compilation of videos, scored with appropriately simple new-age music, as a gallery: lots of good pictures, a few great, memorable ones - and if you don’t like something, a second later, you’ll see something else. The format holds promise as an interstitial visual compendium and also as a commercial format. For example, customers can be invited to show how they use a product, and their instant videos can be compiled into a demo reel. If the one-second visions are sufficiently compelling, viewers will return to catch the individual images - much as we do when flipping through a photo album and turning back to see a favorite picture.

Montblanc figured this out with its “Seize the Moment” contest, which is now soliciting one-second video submissions for the next round of its showcase competition. Renowned film director Wim Wenders describes the concept of the moving visual image  at the website, which offers more examples of how much we can see in a second.

If you’re feeling visually inspired, the deadline for the next round of entries is Dec. 13; you could win a Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph and a trip to Berlin. Or you can just watch the early stages of a new form of creative expression. The contest’s website offers inspiring ideas, and if you don’t like it, well, it only took a moment.

Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications LLC in Bethesda, Md., and a long-time interactive TV enthusiast. Reach him at

Gary Arlen

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.