Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Tech Quiz -

Un­til very re­cently the joke was al­ways about the fool­hardy man who didn’t bother to read the in­struc­tions. Now, it’s about the plod­ding sap who does. When you can go on Youtube and find am­a­teurs and pro­fes­sion­als to walk you through just about any­thing, it’s hard not to won­der, why the bother? Well, there’s a catch with Youtube: it’s a howl­ing wilder­ness of sub­ject mat­ter, where the com­pe­tent, the in­com­pe­tent, and the out­right dan­ger­ous vie for your at­ten­tion.

Al­low us to blaze you a trail of use­ful videos. We’ve writ­ten, read and watched our share of tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion; and what we can say with cer­tainty is that tech­ni­cal in­struc­tion is tricky and video is no dif­fer­ent. A good video is a gift. A bad video is less use­ful than a well-writ­ten ex­pla­na­tion ac­com­pa­nied by neatly drawn il­lus­tra­tions and proper pho­tog­ra­phy. So be­fore throw­ing out your in­struc­tion man­u­als (if your tools still come with them), con­sider these four rules for high-qual­ity DIY video.


It’s not about the narrator; it’s about the in­for­ma­tion he’s try­ing to con­vey. Be­ware the Kar­dashi­an­ite in­struc­tor, who is more in­ter­ested in you be­ing in­ter­ested in him than in his sub­ject mat­ter.


Some­times ac­tion is best viewed from di­rectly above. Other times you want a front view, or an oblique view. So mul­ti­ple an­gles are best – so long as they don’t in­clude clas­sics like “your butt is in my way” or “I could see it be­fore you put your head in my light”.


Wind, traf­fic and bark­ing dogs drown­ing out in­struc­tions or tell­tale au­di­tory cues can de­stroy an oth­er­wise well-shot video’s use­ful­ness. And if some­one can’t be both­ered to re-record their sound some­where quiet, they prob­a­bly don’t mea­sure twice.


It shouldn’t be 10 min­utes of ram­bling and guf­faws be­fore you re­mem­ber why you queued up the video. The ob­jec­tive should be stated and ad­dressed quickly.

ONE FI­NAL POINT: Just be­cause a video is well pro­duced doesn’t mean its in­for­ma­tion is re­li­able. How do you know? Watch more videos from the same source. Does the host gen­er­ally seem to know what he’s talk­ing about? Be sus­pi­cious of any­one whose ad­vice seems un­safe, who con­tra­dicts the in­struc­tions of a man­u­fac­turer, or who vi­o­lates a war­ranty or a build­ing reg­u­la­tion. Or, save your­self the trou­ble and sim­ply con­sult our list.

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