Visualizing Road Salt: Where Does It Come From?

This video from National Geographic visualizes road salt. According to the video, chlorine comes from volcanoes at the bottom of the ocean and sodium washes off continents with rain water, which forms salt that is necessary to reduce ice on the roads. The video explains how salt is made, the history and geographical context, transportation of salt, and more minute details. The video also explains how a mineral so familiar to us, salt, is becoming sparse due to severe weather conditions and increased demand, and this is elaborated in the short paragraph that accompanies the video on I thought this video was an excellent way to teach consumers various aspects of road salt in about three minutes, and it was intriguing to watch. A combination of interviews, eye-catching footage, and natural sounds make a pretty dry topic more thought-provoking. I especially like how a full transcript of the video is attached, so viewers can follow along for clarification or in the case of hearing loss. Here are a few questions I have about this video:

  • Do you think this three-minute video is more powerful, effective than an in-depth news feature story? What are the pros and cons of producing a video versus writing a story?
  • What else could have been included in the video to make it a better visual story? Would different viewpoints help? Was clarification needed? What footage would you have liked to see?

About laurenlukens

University of Michigan

6 Responses to “Visualizing Road Salt: Where Does It Come From?”

  1. I think that this video is more effective than a news story. The visuals included make a potentially boring topic interesting for the viewer. I probably would not be interested in reading about salt mining, but the video made the process much more compelling. The visuals effectively demonstrated the enormity of the mining process by showing the huge piles of salt and the large number of people and tools involved. This enormity is more to difficult to convey in a written piece. They could be shown with an accompanying photo, but without the cinematography that drew me in.
    A written story may be able to better convey how the mining process works. The images were neat, but I still don’t feel like I understand the specifics of salt mining. An article can effectively convey this to an audience who is unfamiliar with it as it can describe the process in depth.
    I would have liked to see a greater connection between the salt mining process and how it connects to its use in our daily lives as road salt. For example, dozens of snow trucks filling up with salt from those huge piles in order to demonstrate how widespread its use is and how much it impacts our lives during the winter. I also would have been interested in hearing more viewpoints. I would like to hear from people from different steps of the salt mining and distribution process, especially from different locations.

  2. After watching the video and reflecting on it for a few minutes, I would say that given the nature of the topic a short video was absolutely more effective that an in-depth news feature story for several reasons. First, this topic does not seem to have any sort of attention getting headline that would have the capacity to attract a high volume of readers. The option to portray this story through video adds a novel element that you are physically seeing the process in which salt is mined as opposed to just reading about it. Additionally, a video takes much less time to convey a message that might take a lot longer to explain in a news article. With the average person having a smaller attention span, people may be more inclined to watch a short video that to read a lengthy article. In regards to any improvements that could have been made to the video, I personally think it might have been interesting to see some under water shots of the volcanoes in which the chlorine comes from. This could serve as juxtaposition to the city and street shots that we saw later in the video. I think this would also emphasize the entirety of the process of salt mining a bit more than what the video shows as it stands now.

  3. I think a video can be more effective than a news story due to the visual aspect and also being able to hear what is being said and not just reading it. I believe that this makes the story more interesting and keeps the audience’s attention better than an article would. I believe a video can also help for clarity in order to make sure that the audience knows exactly what is being referred to, especially if there is any complex terminology. However, it may be possible that a video can cause important aspects to be overlooked because they are just brought up briefly and there is not much emphasis on them. When concepts are in written text, it is likely that people will reread pieces that they do not understand, however, I believe it is a lot less likely that someone will rewind a video to watch a piece again or to listen to what is being said for a second time. I believe a video is made for entertainment purposes and that a article would have been more informative and educational, possibly more scientific. This takes away some important aspects of the story, however, the video may reach a wider audience so it is hard to tell which one would have been better.

    I do not know much about film and I don’t really spend anytime critiquing it and so the next set of questions seem very difficult. I think it is always important to have different viewpoints because it adds greatly to the clarity of what is being portrayed. I think the topic was very clear by the pictures of all of this salt and the words about where it came from and about mining. I believe it could have been even more descriptive, but for a short video it was a good introduction to the topic. I would have liked to see maybe some more about how all of this salt is transported and how much goes to which regions. I can speculate how this happens, but it might be interesting to add this information in addition to the mining process.

  4. I thought this was a very interesting article about a material that is ubiquitous in Michigan. I believe that typically a video is much more powerful than a written news story because while a news article may two or three pictures at most, a video has minutes full of footage. A video also takes a longer time to produce, because instead of just being able to write a story you have to have a story in addition to getting pertinent footage. Another pro of videos is music can be added to a video, which can add a lot of emotion to a story. In terms of this specific story, I think the story could have used a few more viewpoints and maybe some more specific details.

  5. I think this video was only marginally more intriguing than a written article. True, most people probably would not be interested in reading about salt mining, but nothing in the video itself was attention-grabbing either. I think the video could have been more effective if the shots coincided with the commentary. For example, when discussing the salt coming from oceans, show an ocean. If it takes 60 meters of water to evaporate for 1 meter of salt, show some sort of diagram if it’s not possible to film the process. There was a quick image of a dog in a truck, which was not only inessential to the topic, but it was distracting. This video may keep the audience viewing longer than an article, but are they really gaining any more information this way?

    Also, the description states that, “This year cities, states, and municipalities across the country are clamoring for more salt due to a particularly severe winter.” If this was mentioned in the beginning of the video, or in the headline, that would be much more likely to draw an audience.

  6. Thank you for posting this video! I love National Geographic, so I enjoyed watching it. I agree with you that the visual aspect of something like this can make a boring topic more interesting. I always like when videos come with transcripts as well because videos can come with their own issues, like poor internet connection resulting in buffering or lack of headphones in a crowded area. Also, it gives acknowledgment to people who are more visual learners or audio learners, which should be something to consider when writing about important topics.

    I definitely think a video can be a more powerful way of communicating versus a full news feature if it is done right. In this video, I think it could have gone either way. I actually thought some of the visual could have had better use in some kind of animation visualizing the processes involved in how the salt works. While the speaker was describing this, the video was just showing clips of people driving in a city and salt trucks spreading salt. It did not make a complicated process easier to understand at all, especially if someone is a visual learner. I think this important to consider when making a journalistic video instead of a written news feature.

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