2. The Video Definition

The Vidtionary Video Definition
I have given much thought to whether a Vidtionary definition should have a standard format. A standard dictionary never strays from its format: the entry begins with the word, then a short definition, followed by an example sentence. To be useful as a tool, some degree of consistency is important, but on the other hand surprising and defying expectations is part of the fun. There are a few rules that I expect all Vidtionary definitions to adhere to. One is that the word must appear in the video, and it is preferable that it appears in such a way that a visual link is made between the word and that which it signifies. Examples of this include the word ‘wind’ appearing to be blown away, the letters of the word ‘orbit’ orbiting around the first letter ‘o’, the letters in the word ‘walk’ appearing to walk, or the letters in ‘pomegranate’ being made from pomegranate arils. It is not always easy to create a visual link for each word, so I am sure that sometimes I will simply present the word in an unadorned manner. It is also necessary that the word be heard in the video. If possible, the audio of the word should also mimic the word it represents; for instance, the word ‘hole’ sounds like it is being spoken in a hole, while the word ‘underwater’ sounds like it is being spoken underwater. It is not a major concern if audibility is sacrificed, since there are other standard dictionary sites on the Internet where the clear pronunciation of a word can be heard. Finally, all video definitions should be between 15 seconds and 1 minute in length. Ideally, the video should include example images representing the word, and videos less than 15 seconds would seem to be insufficient in their examples. Brevity is important and a video should certainly be able to communicate the definition, while giving examples, in under a minute. A dictionary’s goal is to summarize things, rather than be comprehensive in the way that encyclopedia might be.
I find it easier to create the definition if I have a general format in mind. The pattern of the recent videos I have created is 10-20 seconds of images (moving or still) before the word appears on screen, then the word appears and is also heard on the soundtrack, and finally some specific examples are shown. The videos generally range from 25 seconds to 50 seconds in length. Good illustrations of this format are provided in the following video definitions: ‘pomegranate’, ‘above’, ‘color’, ‘hole’, and ‘cube’. For a while I was having trouble deciding whether the word should appear at the beginning or the end of the video, and decided that by putting the word in the middle, the video could then be both inductive (until the word appears) and then deductive (after the word appears). There have been a few formats for earlier Vidtionary videos that I have discarded. The first format I used for Vidtionary can be seen in the videos for ‘disappear’, ‘ghost’, and ‘mother’. In these videos, the approach is more verbal than visual. I subsequently decided that I wanted to make Vidtionary’s video definitions to be more of a visual than a verbal experience.
In some of the earlier Vidtionary videos I made, the word did not appear at all. But after creating a few videos where the word appeared in a visually meaningful manner, I realized that the appearance of the word in the video could be a key element. From a teacher’s perspective, however, there are also times when it would be nice to have a video in which no word appears at all. This wordless version would be useful for playing games with students or prompting discussions. To this end, I will also be creating wordless versions of the videos, which will be accessible in a different area of the website. In fact, the wordless versions of the videos would certainly be quicker to make than the ones with the word-picture visual link. The wordless version can also be more flexible, because the same video could be used to represent various synonyms. For instance, the same wordless video could be used for ‘gargantuan’, ‘humongous’, ‘colossal’, and ‘huge’.