Video Story Critique: How Wolves Change Rivers

The video story I am critiquing is called “How Wolves Change Rivers,” a video produced by Steve and Chris Agnos, brothers behind a environmental media group called “Sustainable Human,” which makes video stories that help educate and explain the role of humans in the environment.   The video itself is actually a mix of separate pieces edited into a single form.  It has been viewed over 21 million times on YouTube.

The narration is done by environmental writer and activist George Monbiot, who gave a TED talk about the ways humans have and can restore the environment restoring animals into the habitats they were once wiped out of.   Monbiot’s primary example (and what the video is about) is how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone, where they went almost extinct, created a massive butterfly effect in Yellowstone’s ecosystem – eventually leading to a monumental physical change in the very way the rivers flowed.  The video is B-roll footage from different videos shot in Yellowstone, including time lapse videos and nature videos, with images and video synchronized with Monbiot’s narration.  The music is a creative commons ambient piece that ties it all in together and gives the whole video an ethereal feel.

The story starts off with how the introduction of wolves led to both a reduction and migration of deer away from river banks and other areas they once frequented, and nearly wiped vegetation out of.  This led to trees almost quintupling in height in some areas, and vegetation growing, which invited songbirds and small mammals, which also led to the influx of beavers, and other animals and carnivores that had been driven out.  The regrowth of trees also strengthened the banks of rivers and reduced soil erosion, leading to more established river and stream routes and tributaries, creating entire new ecosystems on their own.

It’s an amazing journey that the video takes us in a few short minutes.  The TED talk itself was not done justice without these visuals, and Sustainable Human, to their credit, added to the story rather than distracted from it as many mashups tend to do.  The only slight is that the audio echoes, as the TED talk was obviously done to a large theater, but aside from that it works as a narration.  The editing is top notch, with every sequence being relevant to what is being spoken.  The chill one feels when hearing the wolves howl add to the amazing effect the entire video and audio experience has.  It’s a hopeful, educational look at environmentalism that many videos in the same genre aren’t as effective at.  It also makes me want to get better at video editing and mixing so I could try producing something like it in the future.


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