Chinese video firm makes short clips on history, culture
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.”