Chi­nese video firm makes short clips on history, cul­ture

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - ByWANG KAIHAO wangkai­hao@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

The of­fice of an in­ter­net startup in east­ern Bei­jing’s Si­hui area feels qui­eter than many other such build­ings, thanks in part to the 43-yearold en­tre­pre­neur Li Feng.

While Li’s 60-mem­ber team, with an av­er­age age of 30, may look old-fash­ioned in an in­dus­try in China where many em­ploy­ees tend to be in their early 20s, he val­ues ex­pe­ri­ence.

His com­pany ZhonglanMe­dia.

“The in­dus­try has too much en­ter­tain­ment,” Li says of China’s on­line video space that is full of celebri­ties, real­ity shows and soap op­eras.

In such a sce­nario, he says it is a chal­lenge to have history as a sub­ject of stream­ing.

Last Novem­ber, he started Kan Jian (roughly trans­lates to “look and ap­praise”), a video se­ries that not only runs on an app but is also present on so­cial me­dia. It has ex­tended to ma­jor on­line broad­cast­ers such as Ten­cent, Youku and Toutiao since.

More than 600 video clips from three to five min­utes in­tro­duc­ing episodes on Chi­nese history and cul­ture have been up­loaded.

For ex­am­ple, one episode may ex­plain a tra­di­tional Chi­nese fes­ti­val, while the other may fo­cus on an em­peror’s life.

The app has been down­loaded 300,000 times, and its WeChat ac­count has at­tracted 270,000 fol­low­ers. The most-viewed episode was broad­cast some 9 mil­lion times on Ten­cent.

The videos also have hu­mor­ous sto­ry­telling. But Li em­pha­sizes that his­tor­i­cal ac­cu­racy is the pri­or­ity.

“They are made to be in­ter­est­ing, but they don’t mean to only make peo­ple laugh,” he says.

A doc­u­men­tary pro­ducer with China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion for 17 years, Li quit two years ago to “catch the last chance” to do some­thing dif­fer­ent. But he still thinks high-qual­ity Chi­nese doc­u­men­taries on cul­ture are ur­gently needed.

“I feel it is a cri­sis that today’s young gen­er­a­tions (in China) know lit­tle about their own coun­try’s history and ge­og­ra­phy,” Li says.

He says some top TV­doc­u­men­taries, which take years to shoot and edit, are only broad­cast on TV a few times and are eas­ily for­got­ten by peo­ple.

“New forms of doc­u­men­taries are needed,” he says of the rea­son be­hind his ca­reer move.

He even has es­tab­lished an edi­to­rial board at his stu­dio, just like a main­stream me­dia com­pany.

Weng Fei, 26, who is in charge of con­tent at Zhonglan Me­dia, says some creative meth­ods are used to bring high-qual­ity con­tent closer to young peo­ple.

For ex­am­ple, about 20 grad­u­ates orPhD­can­di­dates from renowned uni­ver­si­ties is called at home and abroad, in­clud­ing Pek­ing Univer­sity, Yale Univer­sity and UCLA, are be­ing of­fered part-time jobs to pre­pare the video clips.

“It’s im­pos­si­ble to give a panorama of an episode of history or a cul­tural phe­nom­e­non within three or five min­utes,” ex­plains Weng, who grad­u­ated from Bei­jing Nor­mal Univer­sity with an ed­u­ca­tion ma­jor.

“But we want to nur­ture our viewers to be good stu­dents.

“A good stu­dent will be en­light­ened and led by good in­tro­duc­tions, and the per­son will get more knowl­edge rel­e­vant to our clips.”

Weng says the clips are also to make today’s peo­ple re­late to history in many ways.

As vir­tual real­ity is pop­u­lar in today’sChina, Li’s team has be­gun shoot­ing VR clips

I feel it is a cri­sis that today’s young gen­er­a­tions (in China) know lit­tle about their own coun­try’s history.”

of the coun­try’s renowned scenic spots, with ex­pla­na­tions on their cul­tural back­grounds, to pre­pare for a huge data­base serv­ing his busi­ness in the fu­ture. He plans to cover 500 sites within the next three years.

Nev­er­the­less, un­like his short-video busi­ness, which has made prof­its from co­op­er­a­tion with smart­phone man­u­fac­tur­ers, spon­sors and air­line com­pa­nies, the VR model has yet to pick up.

Other than con­tent shot by the in-house team, more than one-third of the ex­penses of Li’s stu­dio are used to pur­chase clips from the­mak­ers of China’s best doc­u­men­taries.

“I don’t ex­pect them to make money at once,” he says. “But, th­ese clips are our im­mov­able as­set.”

His next big project is to use VR tech­nol­ogy in shoot­ing the coun­try’s main mu­se­ums.

“Kan Jian will co­op­er­ate with over­seas web­sites to­ward the end of the year to help the for­eign au­di­ence to un­der­stand Chi­nese history and ge­og­ra­phy bet­ter,” Li says.

“In the fu­ture, we aim to be­come the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel of China.”

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