The days when you could shovel dull video onto the internet are long gone.
The possibilities for diversion on the internet are endless, and your
directorial efforts will go unnoticed if you can’t make your videos
“Be dynamic in what you share,” says Amy Loomis, director of IBM Think
Academy. “Just because it’s video doesn’t mean it’s brilliant. It’s not
like the medium’s going to cover up a bad message.”
Luckily, even beginners can learn techniques that grab viewers and liven up
videos. Here are a few tips:
1. Tell a speedy story.
IBM used fast-motion to show how easy it is to put together a mainframe
computer. Though the work took an hour, the fast-forward version was only a
minute long, Loomis says.
“Those kind of start-to-finish narratives where the motion and the visual
narrative in and of itself tells the story—those are very effective,” she
2. Rightsize your video.
Videos should run not more than four minutes, nor fewer than 15 seconds,
says Loomis. The goal of the video and the experience of the end user
should determine the length.
A 15-second video might be something crafted to capture viewers’ interest
in a specific message, such as an IBM for Business animation about the
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo:
A longer piece could be something instructional, or might deal with an
innovation, such as this IBM Think Academy piece on quantum computing:
It also matters where the viewer watches the video. Are they commuting and
on their phone? Are they at work or at home?
People have a very low tolerance for talking-heads videos that last longer
than two minutes, Loomis notes.
3. Walk and talk.
You know those pharmaceutical commercials where the doctor and patient
stroll across a hospital campus during a consultation? It’s not that most
people get their cholesterol diagnosis while roaming the halls. It’s just a
more dynamic way to avoid talking head videos.
“People need to use the walk and talk much more than they do,” Loomis says
Be careful of the acoustics, Loomis cautions, but a walk through the office
is more dynamic than sitting at a desk. Your subject can be in a park
(watch for wind) or a manufacturing setting (ditto for background noise).
Loomis has recorded video subjects on the top of buildings, where they can
walk around and talk about what’s in the background.
4. Make stills dynamic.
We’re talking motion pictures here, but sometimes you have to rely on a
still image, whether it’s a historical photograph or a picture captured by
an employee. One way to do that is through the use of apparent motion:
Track the camera across the photo, or zoom in or out, in the style of
documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.
If you do that, mixing it with b-roll, sometimes you can fool the viewer
into thinking it’s a motion-picture shot, not a still. “Oftentimes, people
don’t even notice you’re doing it,” Loomis says.
5. Sound matters.
Communicators often neglect the audio, because they’re so focused on the
visuals. Without a microphone, an iPhone set up at a distance records sound
that’s fuzzy or echoing.
“Don’t ever underestimate how much damage or benefit the music can bring to
what you’re doing,” Loomis says.
That said, remember: A little sound goes a long way. Don’t overdo the
clanging gongs or Wagner opera in the background.
6. Select the right on-camera personality.
When you are shooting somebody who has deep expertise, an interview format
can be compelling. In such cases, moderators matter. Luckily, journalism
backgrounds, along with basic curiosity and people skills, are commonplace
in the communications industry. Find a good interviewer who can bring out
the best in your subject, Loomis says.
“There are some people who just shouldn’t be on video,” Loomis says. “Don’t
be afraid to tell them no.”