Friday’s here again, and that means it’s time for another Viral Video Lessons Round Up.  What videos went viral this week?  What did they have going for them that was special and unique–what helped them stand out from the competition?  Read on for three examples of smart viral video production, along with a lesson or two for each that we can take away and apply to our own video creation efforts.  Let’s dive in:

Look, Ma, No Instruments

When you’re a rock band trying to make it in the music industry, you have lots of competition.  And while the Internet has created a host of new ways for more bands to find and sustain an audience, it’s still hard to stand out from the crowd of wanna-be rock stars.  That is, unless you come up with a gimmick to get noticed.

Which is exactly what Atomic Tom did.  While in New York City, the band’s instruments were stolen.  Bummer.  That happens to a lot of up-and-coming bands, and even some major bands.  Gear theft is a growing problem.  But rather than pout, moan, or hold a pity party… the band decided to turn the unexpected lemons into some awesome tech-savvy lemonade, and used iPhones to craft a public performance on the subway.  Check it out:

You might remember AppleGirl002, who made waves in March (and accrued nearly 4 million views) with her video of a musical performance featuring only iPhones as the instruments.  This Atomic Tom performance is the next logical progression.  Fortunately, they’re really good.  By that I mean , really good at playing the various instrument apps on the iPhone.  I have a guitar app and a piano app on my Android phone, and though I’ve played both of those instruments in real life for many years, it’s tricky to master the i-versions.  But Atomic Tom seems to have it down to a science.

There’s a lot going on in this video that’s good, and it’s gone viral for a host of reasons.  First, there is the iPhone connection.  iPhone continues to be one of the most popular gadgets on the market, and almost anything with even a hint of entertainment to it that deals with the iPhone stands a shot at going viral.

Second, we have the actual performance and song itself.  While it may not be everyone’s favorite musical style, these guys have some talent.

Finally, there is the “surprise performance” element.  While public musical performances are nothing new to New York City, it’s still a rarity to find yourself on a subway car when a rock song suddenly breaks out—as you might have noticed in the expressions of the various spectators.

Lite Brite Brilliance

Bands continue to dominate our Round Up this week, proving that they still know how to innovate and captivate our attention online.  Our next example of viral success comes from religious rockers the David Crowder Band.  I think you’ll see some pretty obvious viral genius at work in their music video, combining the always-popular stop-motion animation with a classic child’s toy, the Lite Brite.

Take a look:

I don’t even want to think about how long that took.  Stop-motion is time-consuming enough even when your “changes” between frames are minimal—such as moving the arm of a clay figurine.  But for a lot of the frames in this video, there would have been complete overhauls to the positioning of the lights on the Lite Brite board.  I could easily see it taking 15-30 minutes or more between frames just to reset the next image.

So the first lesson learned here is one of my old favorites—hard work pays off, particularly when the end result video makes your monumental effort in planning and execution obvious to the viewer (as is often the case with stop-motion).  People are easily impressed when it’s clear that an artist labored for a long time in creating a video, probably because we don’t all have the follow through to start and finish such a huge undertaking.

I think using a Lite Brite as the canvas for their stop-motion  work was a stroke of genius, and the nostalgia factor for an old childhood toy probably doesn’t hurt their viral buzz at all either.

The Jump

Something pretty cool happened last week before the big college football game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans:  a member of the 101st Airborne Division parachuted into the stadium, from several thousand feet above, and landed on a small “X” near the end zone.

Know what else he did?  He filmed the entire jump, from plane to landing, and put the footage on YouTube.  It’s amazing:

This video succeeds on so many levels, and there are a host of great nuggets we can learn from.  He’s showing us something pretty much never seen before for most of us. Sure, there are other videos of parachute jumps online, but few are from an elite member of the 101st Airborne—you know, the guys that pretty much invented parachuting.

In fact, the jumper in question—Sgt. Adam Sniffen—has never missed a target in over 800 jumps.  We’re witnessing something elite here, not an ordinary jump.  This is a black-belt in parachuting.  It’s crazy to watch how many little adjustments he makes to the ropes and contraptions as he’s rapidly descending… frequently checking gauges and reacting.

It’s also pretty cool to hear the roar of the crowd as he finally gets close enough to the stadium.  This video is one of my favorites of the year, because I’ve never seen anything like it.  And that’s always a good path to viral success.  Viewers like to be amazed.  They like to see events they’ve never seen before—or to see events from entirely new perspectives.  If you can do that, you’ve got your foot in the door and a head start toward viral fame.

Honorable Mention

I really wanted to include the following clips as well: