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Vimeo Curator Tips: Your Thumbnails and Descriptions

Jason Sondhi
September 21, 2012 by Jason Sondhi Alum

There are a multitude of things that makes our Vimeo community special, but one of the major ones is that so many of us take chances and watch cool content that we know nothing about. Other video platforms rely on embeds, celebrity power and social media to power their views, but we are members of diverse Groups and Channels. We avidly pick things that pique our curiosity from the Discover tab, and eagerly await the next Staff Pick.

As a curator of Vimeo, part of my job is to feature videos every day in the Staff Picks Channel, and in order to do my job well, I watch tons of videos every day. Believe me like waaaaay more than you. Even so, thousands more are being constantly uploaded, far more than can possibly be screened. How do you stand out from the crowd and make sure that your video is given the opportunity to be the next big thing on the site? Let me tell you, first impressions count, and the two best ways to exercise control over your video presentation and encourage people to take a chance on your work are your video’s thumbnail and its description.

There is a very mathematical and precise theorem known as the Picturus proof which shows that a quality thumbnail increases the probability that someone will click play on your video by about billion percent.

One of my favorite examples of this is Solipsist by Andy Huang. On its surface the video seems like a tough sell: a 10 minute experimental film with no dialogue and no narrative? Umm…what’s next in my feed? But, look at that thumbnail! The subject is large, taking up a lot of the frame, and the contrast between the black background and the crazy facepaint is striking. It also seems like he looking right out at the viewer— what is he up to? It is both an enticing scenario and a stunning composition, and the viewer is teased into learning more—exactly what you want.

How can you get a great thumbnail? Well, just last month we unveiled a new feature that allows you to pick a frame from anywhere in your video. You shot at least one terrific image right? And of course you can upload a custom thumbnail to the site in JPG, GIF or PNG formats, allowing you to tweak an image to perfection.

Next, the description. This is your opportunity to “pitch” your potential audience, and you shouldn’t take it any more lackadaisically than if you were pitching a Hollywood big shot! Remember, while your descriptions can be really really long, and include things like your collaborators, equipment lists or anecdotes from filming, only the first few lines will follow the video through the site and are able to be seen at just a glance in the Discover tab, Feeds or as a featured thumbnail in a Channel or Group. This is restricted real estate, so make it count!

As to what to put there, I think it is always best to lead off with a short description of what your video is about. Here is a recent video that had a really well written description, telling people exactly what it was, and briefly touching upon the themes it explores–

It might be a bit long, but the first sentence is a great summation, followed a slightly more- in-depth explication. Good combo!

Other things to include after the description are snippets that lend validation to your film. Festival honors are great, but don’t do a laundry list, only the one or two that are most prestigious. Pulling quotes from respected websites, curators or fellow filmmakers can be a smart addition as well.

Remember on the web, even 5 minutes can tax someone’s attention past breaking. At Vimeo you have great tools to display your work, and access to an amazing community of viewers, but you still have to convince them to take the leap and press play. So put your best foot forward and give effort and care into your thumbnails and descriptions. The thousands of potential viewers whom may discover and subsequently love your work will be thankful that you did!



very helpful. thanks


Nice article! ;-)
I agree thumbnails are important. That's why I was very sad to loose the Vimoe function which whom I could choose a particular video = thumbnail for the cover of group albums in the group I moderate. Maybe you could give this function back to me ;-)

WorldCycle Videos

Loupe Films

I had wondered how you chose your staff picks and now I know. Thanks! This might be totally against the creative vibe of Vimeo but you know the ol' saying - don't know if you don't ask - so I thought I'd share the link to a short film I've just finished on the survivor of an underworld hit. Hope you like it. Thanks for your insights.

Brent Clouse Plus

The pick-your-thumbnail option was a game changer. Thanks, Vimz!


Gracias por guiar a la gente nueva en el mundo de los videos. Buen consejo

Joey Shanks

Good stuff Jason, this kind of stuff is always helpful and a good refresher for the Vimeo Veterans!!!

Diamond View Business

Great article!! Just wanted to share this precious moment with you guys of the visuals surrounding the birth of my first son. Shot on the FS-700 in 240 frames per second. Enjoy!

Antonio Pantoja PRO

Thank you so much!!!

My goal this year: Become one of the coveted Vimeo Staff Picks!! It's SO on!

Richard Anthony Morris

Good to know, I'm gonna keep working to get that coveted Staff Pick badge on my videos.

rochelle foles

thanks so much,m for a novice like me this is super! helpful! PRO

It seems that some of the thumbnails I upload really gets JPG compressed so much it really hurts - and some don´t. What are the tech-specs for the uploaded thumbnails? Size? Do you have an algorithm that compresses the images? Maybe you could ease it up a little? Check out this which is REALLY compressed: - compared to his which is really fine:

Why the big differences?

Please advise :-)

Thanx - Jacob

Ross Crawford

I have been on here for 10 months....I don't even have a like....I don't get it..I have a lot of followers on soundcloud and a decent following on youtube and Nothing has happened here...My content is good...I have spent alot of time and money to deliver a good product and i have have yet to receive a comment or thumb....I don't think my videos are that aweful to where i don't even get a response...I think my Vimeo is broken...Anyway here is the last video I

Chezney Plus

Is there a criteria for content? What if quite a few Staff members like your work, but you are not chosen...I see that happen a lot. Does this mean that the content in the film was "inappropriate" for a Staff Pick, or that the content did not meet certain criteria? Thanks so much.

Kirill Neiezhmakov Plus

I also interested in criteria of choose "Staff Picks" videos. How to understand the logic of choice?

Tal Mor Plus

Dear Jason, thanks for the information. Can you please let us know, apart from the thumbnail and description, is there any specific place to apply for staff picks ? Should I post my video somewhere? Perhaps into the Staff Picks Shout Box ? Or do I just upload and hope that someone sees my video ? Thanks !

Building Dreams PRO

I'd love it if you'd check out this music video I directed for Charlie Clark. It's a Bonnie and Clyde sort of Western. A beautiful song with a fun yet soulful video.

Tatiana Groff

Please, I need watch some films from the European Independent Film Festival, and it is not working to show it, I need a very urgent help cause I have to see those films today very soon (actually I had to see couple of hours ago)

Sergio Di Bitetto Plus

Hi everyone, here's my latest production link. The Graduation classical animation short film I made as completion of the program: "Plugin". I don't know if the thumbnail I choose or the description I made for it are worth your interest. But what I do know is that it means a lot to me to share this video and try to spread it through internet as a message of peace and love. I believe that artists can change this world, or at very least are demanded to try.. so here's my film. I hope you will like it:

E. James Wright

Really Helpful tips thank you Jason.

I have updated the video and its feature here hope it gleans your favour and makes your mouth water in Luscious excitement.


and is top of the page.

Thanks again for the tips and will start updating all other clips with this framework.



Brendan Young Plus

Very helpful, thanks a ton.
Hope you get a chance to see my film Barkley 100 a short doc about one of the most difficult and bizarre sporting events in the world:

Thomas R. Wood Plus

About that "billion percent," hyperbole? Meanwhile, I'm trying to decide between the natural thumbnail, a lovely landscape that is already the first shot of my film, or using a well composed, random shot of a pretty girl. Faces and pretty girls are always better attention getters, but I wonder if it isn't a bit of a detraction from the truth of the video. Thoughts?

Clothesline Media PRO

Thanks for the advice, really appreciate it.

As a boy growing up in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, I would stand beside my mom, handing her wet shirts, towels, dishcloths as she hung our laundry to dry. Humming absentmindedly, she’d smile as our neighbour emerged, laundry basket in hand, to do the same. “Morning,” mom would say as the women began chatting, linked by their friendship and shared experiences.

It was storytelling at its most authentic.

My Clothesline
The place where my story begins

Frank Perrotto Plus

Please check out the trailer for my sci-fi/horror short 'The Last Abduction', playing Zed Fest in North Hollywood and the Williamsburg Independent film festival in November! Hopefully many more screenings to come!

Dolcevita Wedding Cinema Plus

My latest works are in a panoramic 2.75:1, is it possible to show a preview in this size in place of the standard 16:9?

Mouse Filmwork

Hi , I wonder with the new staff pick page lay out where the shout box is?
The tab where you could drop a vimeo link under the staff picks and hoped for a miracle to happen but at least some people where checking.


He promocionado mis videos en FACEBOOK, hay uno en especial que me informa FACEBOOK que ha tenido 5023 clicks directos en el enlace para reproducir el video en VIMEO; no obstante, VIMEO, sólo informa 840 reproducciones. No entiendo. Al margen que he promocionado mis videos en más redes sociales.


I have promoted my videos on FACEBOOK, there is one in particular that informs me FACEBOOK 5023 has had direct clicks on the link to play the video in VIMEO; however, VIMEO, reports only 840 copies. I do not understand. I pulled apart my videos on more social networks.

Guram Gulikashvili

Thanks..!! that paid attention and time , I think I can learn a lot from you.

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