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Elements of a Viral Video–Cute Animals

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Not too long ago, a friend introduced me to the most adorable viral video ever! My life has not been the same since. Take a look!

Since then, my computer wallpaper has been sloths, my avatars in many places are also those absolutely charming creatures as well. My mind is forever filled with images of sloths climbing out of boxes and buckets, clamoring for a hug, it seems. So curious and engaging!

Today is the International Day of the Sloth as promoted by a Colombian based foundation, Fundacion Aiunau that protects sloths, anteaters and armadillos.

In honor of the day, let’s watch another sloth video. I’m certain twisting your arm is not required! This comes from director and producer Lucy Cooke, who created “Meet the Sloths”

There are many sloth videos out there, but none have made it to the number of total views that these two have. In addition to the numerous adorable sloths to view in the videos, there is care in the editing and a charming choice of music that matches the sloth personality.

I contacted Lucy to ask her how these videos came to be and what the secret is to making a viral video!

Director and Producer Lucy Cooke

Will please share with your readers a little bit about yourself, your job and your background? Were you a filmmaker first and science/nature enthusiast second or vice versa? Tell us a little about your interest in  science.

I have always loved nature and was lucky to study zoology at Oxford under Richard Dawkins. After that I moved into TV working first on cult British comedy shows and then documentary.  I’ve produced and directed prime time series for BBC, PBS and Fox on everything from architecture to history but my first love is of course natural history. So I recently decided to dedicate myself to making quirky but funny films about animals – especially those that don’t normally hit the headlines, the ugly and unloved underdogs of the natural world.

Of course, you are well known for the most adorable video ever made, “Meet the Sloths”, which, I admit, is on my bookmarks toolbar! How did this all come about?

I was traveling around South America writing a blog about the amphibian extinction crisis called the Amphibian Avenger . I wanted to draw a big crowd to this issue which rarely gets the coverage it deserves. I’d seen a video on Youtube of a baby sloth which made me laugh a lot and knew that sloths had viral potential. So I went to the sanctuary and made my own film. In the end it did the job – it drove traffic to my blog, raised money for the frogs and also promoted the amazing work done by Judy and her crew at the sloth sanctuary.

Since Lucy’s first passion is frogs, tak a look at Lucy’s video “The Mystery of Darwin’s Disappearing Frog”

You are a professional film maker. Our readers may be curious what kind of equipment you used to film the sloths. Did you have a cameraman or was it just you?

I used a Canon Legria HF200 camcorder. I love Canon cameras but am no camerawoman (when I make films for TV I have a full crew). This is a small tourist camcorder, easy to use and perfect for me to take on my travels with me.

You are on the speaking circuit to tell us all how to make a viral video. What do you usually share with the audience?

Half the job is making something good and the other half is marketing. There is a massive audience online but you have to know where to find it and use all the social media tools there are to reach out, get noticed and build your audience.

Many of our readers who produce videos might be curious about how to break into the business or merely learn how to make an enjoyable video to help share their passion for science. Do you have any advice?

My advise is simply to start making stuff. Write a blog, get a Vimeo or Youtube page and start producing content. Listen to your voice and start telling stories that you are passionate about. The great thing about the internet is the long tail so look for like minded people and start making connections to build your audience.

What are some of your future plans? You mentioned a show about the sloths on Animal Planet. Any other pet projects you are working on?

I am producing and presenting a documentary for Animal Planet and writing a book – “A Little Book of Sloth” for Simon and Schuster – about the sloth sanctuary (for more information on these projects keep an eye on www.slothville.com), another documentary about frogs based on my blog is in development with the BBC, and I have just got the greenlight for my own series with National Geographic.

As some time has elapsed since I first interviewed Lucy, I thought I would follow up with her to see where her projects were at and she kindly provided the following information:

“The news on the film is that we have finished filming. We had the most outrageous luck and managed to film something that has never been filmed before and rarely witnessed – wild sloths having sex! We are in the process of editing now and it is coming together t\really well and will probably feature about 5 or 6 sloth characters, each with a unique storyline. The film will be delivered at the end of the year and will air sometime next year (no idea when just yet).
My book, ‘The Little Book of Sloth’ with photos and humorous stories about the sanctuary sloths will be published by Simon and Schuster next year. All in all 2012 is shaping up to be the year of the sloth!
In the meantime I have also launched the Sloth Appreciation Club (watch inaugural meeting here) and hosting a fun talks at various festivals in the Uk. Hopefully I shall be able to bring the SAS to the US next year when the book and film come out.”

In addition to her blogs linked above, Lucy can be found on twitter at @Amphib_avenger and her sloth postings can be found @slothville. You can also find her on Facebook

Other videos, including The Amphibian Avenger and A Mottephobiac’s nightmare can be found on her vimeo page .

Potty Training at the Sloth Orphanage

I will keep all of you updated on the release of her TV programs as well as her book! I’m looking forward to these!

Image of Lucy Cooke courtesy of Lucy Cooke.

Image of sloth video is screen shot by Joanne Manaster

Joanne Manaster About the Author: Joanne Manaster is a university level cell and molecular biology lecturer with an insatiable passion for science outreach to all ages. Enjoy her quirky videos at www.joannelovesscience.com, on twitter @sciencegoddess and on her Facebook page at JoanneLovesScience Follow on Twitter @sciencegoddess.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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