School of Motion

How to Land a Vimeo Staff Pick

  • By Caleb Ward
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We analyzed 100 Vimeo Staff Pick videos to determine the best way to get a Vimeo Staff Pick badge.

Editor's note: It should never be your goal to create something just to win a Vimeo Staff Pick or any award for that matter. The first step you need to take is to make GREAT work... and of course that's the hard part. If you can manage that, then the information below may increase your chances of getting your work picked and seen by a larger audience.
What’s the highest honor that you could receive as a motion designer? A screening at a short film fest? A motion award? An edible arrangement from Ash Thorp? For many in the motion community, it’s a Vimeo Staff Pick.
There’s just something so elusive and mesmerizing about the pursuit of that little badge, but that begs the question… how do you land a Vimeo Staff Pick? I couldn’t get this question out of my head so I decided to take a deep-dive into the world of Staff Picks and figure out if there are any correlations or techniques to land that coveted little badge.
Staff Pick Cat.jpg
Note: This article covers Staff Picks for animation and motion design, not live-action video, but many of the concepts and takeaways could be applied to film or video projects. Also, I don't know if that kitten is cute or terrifying...

What is a Vimeo Staff Pick?

A Vimeo Staff Pick is exactly what the name implies, a selection of videos featured on Vimeo that have been curated by the staff at Vimeo. According to Vimeo there are 5 current members of the curation department:
No single person has the power to give a video a Vimeo Staff Pick. The team uses a secret 'system' to rate and determine if a project is good enough to make the cut.
If your video receives a Staff Pick you will be featured on the Staff Picks page on Vimeo and your video will have the Staff Pick badge connected to it.
Staff Pick Badge.png
Must...have...badge!

Why are Vimeo Staff Picks Important?

Aside from the bragging rights with your friends and family, a Staff Pick can be very important as a tool for growing your brand as an artist. Staff Picks get your work in front of a huge community of artists, producers, influencers, and perhaps more importantly hiring managers.
Think about it, as an artist you could take your film to a festival and maybe 1000 people would watch it, or it could get Staff Picked and you can pretty much guarantee over 15K views at the very least. There are even stories of people that took their film on the festival circuit, only to find that distribution offers came after a staff pick, not winning an award.
School of Motion Alumni Zach Christy recently landed a Vimeo Staff Pick. Great work Zach!
A badge is also an incredibly easy way to distinguish yourself and your portfolio. This can be important when you are applying for a job.
So in short, A staff pick is important and prestigious.

Analyzing Vimeo’s Animation Staff Picks

Now that we’ve taken a look at the importance of Staff Picks let’s get to the data. In order to get a good idea about what it takes to get a Vimeo Staff Pick we analyzed the last 100 Vimeo Staff Picks in the ‘Animation’ category. We would have loved to analyze more, but it takes a lot of time to watch 100 videos…

Title Length

  • 2 - 5 Words - 50%
  • Single Word - 34%
  • More than 5 Words - 16%
When it comes to your title it seems like you want to keep your length below 5 words. In fact, a sizable portion of the videos (34%) only features a single word. This is likely because of the Cachet that comes with a film-like title.

Thumbnail Type

  • Still from Video - 56%
  • Custom Thumbnail - 44%
There seems to be an even mix of custom thumbnails and thumbnails that feature stills from the video. The thumbnails tended to feature the very best artwork from the videos. Whether you need to create custom art in a 16:9 format, or just take a still from your video, it’s incredibly important to make it captivating.
Look at that awesome thumbnail!

Description

  • Short 65%
  • Long 35%
When I say description I literally mean the lines that describe the video, not the credits or awards listed in the description. I was shocked to see that the descriptions for the majority of the selected videos were less than 140 characters long. There doesn’t seem to be a benefit to a long video description. However… It seems to be very important for you to include credits to everyone who was involved in your film, even if they only played a minor role on the project. Vimeo enjoys highlighting collaborative films. Which leads us to the next section...

Team Size

  • Large Team (6+) 47%
  • Small Team (2-5) 41%
  • Individual 12%
It seems like team projects perform way better than individual projects on Vimeo. This could be an intentional curation preference or just the reality of what it takes to create something great. Either way, it should be noted that if you want to give your video a 7x better chance of getting Staff Picked you need to team up with a friend or two.

Genre

  • Short Film - 64%
  • Abstract - 15%
  • Explainer - 12%
  • Music Video - 7%
  • Commercial - 2%
Odds are if you took a look at your favorite motion design studio’s Vimeo page they probably don’t have that many Vimeo Staff Picks. Why is that? Well, Vimeo heavily favors narrative short films for their Staff Picks. That’s not to say that other genre’s don’t make it into the Staff Pick feed, but if you want to give your project the best chance of getting a badge it needs to tell a story.

2D vs 3D

  • 2D - 61%
  • 3D - 28%
  • Both - 11%
2D motion design seemed to show up twice as much as 3D motion design on the Staff Pick feed. This is probably because it’s simply easier to create 2D art, but definitely worth noting.

Color Pallet

  • 7+ Colors - 48%
  • 3-6 Colors - 45%
  • Black & White - 7%
This is one of the most important data points on this list, 45% of projects featured only 3-6 total colors across the entire project. Even projects with more than 7 colors featured a consistent color pallet. In short, your work needs to have a color palette. Do some research and stick with a color scheme throughout your entire project.

External Assets

  • None - 49%
  • Some - 51%
There seems to be an almost even split between projects that used outside assets and ones that used native tools on their projects.

Assets Used

  • Overlays/Elements - 35%
  • Photos - 26%
  • Live-Action Footage - 14%
Of all of the projects analyzed, 35% used some sort of overlay or element in the project. This could be anything from a looping texture to a film grain. It’s a common finishing technique in MoGraph to put looping textures on your work to make it look more custom. Most of the Motion Graphics projects didn’t utilize outside photos or live-action footage. Except for this one... this one used a lot.
So many elements...

Artistic Style

  • Hand-Drawn - 58%
  • Keyframe Driven - 42%
This is incredibly interesting. It seems like Vimeo tends to prefer projects that have a hand-animated touch to them. This can be everything from literal pencil and paper animation to cel animation that uses a Cintiq. The more ‘handmade’ something looks, the better chance it has to get a badge.

Sound

  • Music + Sound Effects - 80%
  • Music - 10%
  • Sound Effects - 10%
Every single Staff Pick video we watched had some sort of sound in it, and 80% had music and sound effects. The Vimeo curation team clearly uses a pair of headphones in their work.

Mature Content

  • None - 77%
  • Some - 23%
It was interesting to see that only 23% of the Vimeo staff picks had ‘mature’ content in them, with 14% having nudity/sex, 9% having violence, and 4% having drug use. Only 10% actually had the mature content button selected.

Tips for Landing a Vimeo Staff Pick

Now that our brain is overloaded with info, I think it’d be helpful to create an organized list of tips that you can use the next time you’re looking to land a Vimeo Staff Pick. This isn’t THE definitive way to get a Vimeo Staff Pick, but I’m certain that if you follow these tips you’ll give your project a MUCH better chance at landing a badge.

1. Be Interesting or Different

Staff Picked projects tend to look very different from the typical popular styles seen around the industry. Even if your idea isn’t fully refined or perfect, if it’s different you have a much better chance of getting selected. This will likely require you to pull inspiration from beyond Instagram or Dribbble.
This project has an incredibly unique design style.

2. Use Your Hands

Like I said before, Vimeo gives an edge to projects that look like they were created by hand. Whether it’s cel-animation or literal physical objects, the more ‘by-hand’ something looks the more likely it will be selected.
This project was literally hand-drawn...

3. Make it a Labor of Love, with an Emphasis on the Labor.

In addition to a ‘hand-animated’ feeling, your project needs to look like it took some time to create. If you think you can just throw a Vimeo Staff Picked project together in a night you’re probably going to be disappointed. Some people literally painted every frame of their project by hand...
Every frame a painting...

4. Your Title Should Sound like a Film

Take a note from the film industry and give your project a film-like title. A short, official title will give your project legitimacy and tell others to take it seriously. Try to keep it under 5 words.

5. Tell a Story

To give your project the best chance of being selected you need to tell a story. Even if the story is simple.

6. Partner Up

Projects with multiple collaborators have a 733% higher chance of being Vimeo Staff Picked. So if you want to give your project the greatest chance of being recognized ask a few friends to help you with it. Also, be sure to credit them in the description of your video.
This project had a few dozen collaborators.

7. Don’t Overthink the Description, Think About the Metadata

Aside from crediting your collaborators, you don’t need a big fancy description to land a Vimeo Staff Pick. It’s way more important to make sure you tag and categorize your video in your metadata. When you think you have too many tags, you finally have enough.

8. Pick a Color Palette

Find a color palette and stick to it throughout your video. Even if you’re working on a 3D animation it’s incredibly important to art-direct your project using color.
Check out the consistent color palette in this project.

9. You Don’t Have to be Pixar

Although it’s great to collaborate, your project doesn’t have to be an army-sized undertaking. Very few of the projects on Vimeo look like they were created in a Pixar-like style that requires dozens of artists. Focus on a style that you and your team/friends can do well. This is a Vimeo Staff Pick, not an Academy Award.
A simple, yet effective project.

10. Sound is Important

From our research, your project must include sound to have a Vimeo Staff Pick. While you can certainly purchase royalty free music from a website, most Staff Pick projects feature legitimate music from a composer or an actual band. It would be a great idea to ask a sound designer to help with your project.
The sound on this project is incredible.

11. Release it Early in the Week

One idea that Vimeo recommends is posting a video early in the week. This is probably because the curation team is in-office and more likely to see great work. Early posting also gives your project a greater ability to get picked up around the web.

12. Tell Your Friends and Social Networks

The initial push to your video is very important. Once your video goes live, share it in as many places as you can. From your grandma to online motion design communities it’s incredibly important to get the video out to as many people as possible. Make sure you're using hashtags on Twitter and sharing it in Facebook groups. The Vimeo curation team hangs out on these social media channels and they want to find your stuff.
Highly Sharable + Collaborative = Perfect Project

13. Send it to Media Outlets

One of the best ways to get more views to your video is to leverage the audience of other online websites. Simply go to as many online curation sites as possible and share your work with their editor. Even if they don’t do a full write-up on your project, they might share it out on their social channels. After you find their contact information create a spreadsheet and organize their emails, position, and response for future reference when you share out a new project.
This project has been featured all over the internet.
Vimeo's curators read websites like Short of the Week and Nowness. If your work is on curated sites there's a good chance that it will be seen by the Staff Pick team.

14. Send it Directly to the Vimeo Curation Team

The Vimeo curation team is actually a team of people that can be contacted via the Vimeo messenger. If you want to reach out to them here is a link to their Vimeo profiles.
They probably get a lot of mail, but it's definitely worth reaching out to them. You never know what might happen...

15. Send People to Vimeo

While you are totally free to publish your video anywhere are the internet, it's a really good idea to only share out your Vimeo video. By funneling all of your views to your Vimeo video you'll have a highly likelihood of getting your video found in the trending feed.

16. Have a Captivating Thumbnail

Your thumbnail needs to be clickable and interesting. It's as simple as that. You can either take a still from your video or create something custom. The Vimeo Staff doesn't seem to prefer one over the other (see above study).
Well I gotta click on this one...

Download the Guide

To help make the process easier in the future we’ve created a simple PDF checklist featuring the steps above. Feel free to download and save the PDF to reference it in the future.
Collection

Download the Vimeo Staff Pick cheat sheet

Download the Guide

You're Awesome Either Way.

Even if you never land a Staff Pick in your career, it’s important to remember that the most important recognition comes from yourself, not a team of curators. If you tell stories that you’re passionate about, you’ll always be a pick in our book. And if you ever need the skills to tell your story, we’re here to help.
We also curate a weekly feed of inspiration called Motion Mondays. If you like awesome projects, motion design news, and the latest tips + trick, it's an essential read. You can get it by registering for a free student account.
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