The mark of a professional-looking video is consistent technical quality. If a pro can’t get the lighting right, they’re fired. Pros train to get the technical stuff right, then they go on to learn the art of visual story-telling. The viewer gets absorbed in the story and the professional gets another paycheck.
Beyond technical expertise, developing your skills as a master visual story-teller will make your videos viewer-friendly and engaging to watch.
Developing your talents as a visual story teller is fun. Just discover the joys of thinking visually. It’s sort of like dreaming all the time, even when you’re awake. Learning how can be broken it down into two steps.
Step one in Becoming a Master Visual Storyteller:
Well, what I’m talking about is a little harder than lying there like a zombied-out vegetable. You must lie there like an alert, thinking spud!
Start watching TV with a critical eye. Learn to think of yourself as the one behind the camera. How is the camera being used to capture the action? Where is the camera in relation to the people you see appearing on camera? Is it far away or close?
Pass the chips, it’s Video Production class time!
- How often does the shot change?
- Does the camera move? In what manner?
- How are the characters dressed?
- How is the setting arranged?
- Does the lighting look natural?
- What kind of audio is used?
- Is there music or natural sound mixed in with the narration or dialogue? Do sound effects enhance the story?
- Are any graphics used? Do they move?
Notice the pacing. Are you bored or entertained? You’re probably a typical viewer so when making decisions for your videos about how long to keep a shot up or what color graphics to use, think back onto what you saw on TV and how you responded to it.
When does the music swell or fade? Does it drown out other audio? Usually music should be in the background, but a good dramatic effect might be to have the music drown everything else out.
Does it matter to the overall understanding of the show’s message and the emotional impact upon the viewer?
Are the sound effects canned or were they recorded naturally?
Does the narration add to the story or is the writing bad enough to actually confuse things? (Call me picky, but I see this ALL the time with locally produced news.)
Personally, I love to watch TV and think about all the work I didn’t have to do to produe the segment I just watched.
Yup, I’m sprawled out in my recliner imagining what the camera guy, the audio guy, the lighting guy and all the rest of the crew are doing to produce my relaxing moment.
In addition to such lazy fantasizing, think about what the original assignment was for whatever you are watching. Let’s say it’s a commercial for a truck. If you were told to produce a commercial for a truck, would you come up with anything like what you just saw?
I actually applaud some commercials; commercials have more work put into them that the shows they sponsor in many cases. Commercials are often brilliant story-telling and you can learn a lot by analyzing them as you channel surf.
Remember that close-ups are your single most important shot, yet they are often ignored by the novice. Practice boiling life down into wide, medium and close ups.
Once you discover the joys of looking at the world through a lens and an editing machine, you’ll never be the same! 🙂
The more you observe the techniques and styles you want to emulate, the easier it will be to produce it yourself. Most viewers pay little or no attention to production techniques because they’re too absorbed in the story. That’s great, you always want your audience fully engaged, but learning to see beyond that and analyzing the style and techniques of the show you’re lazily watching not only enhances the viewing experience, it also trains you to intuitively know how to tell a story visually yourself.
The people I knew who were the best makers of TV were also the most attentive watchers. They studied the masters of film making, like Alfred Hitchcock or Francis Ford Coppola, even though we weren’t producing stuff anywhere near that level ourselves. It’s all the same basics, just more or less involved and sophisticated.
Step Two in Becoming a Visual Story-Teller
Take time to observe your world. That’ might not be a luxury you allow yourself in our rush-about society but doing so is more than just relaxing. Producing video often boils down to the process of recreating how things look and sound in real life onto a TV monitor. In order to do that, it’s critical to know how things actually look and sound.
What’s the lighting like in your room right now? Bright or dim? Directional or diffused? How much stuff is on the wall? The floor? What interesting details surround you that would translate into good close-ups? Perhaps that brand new computer means your business is growing, or maybe it means you have a rich aunt who just died. Maybe an ECU of an overdue credit card bill for $12,459.78 lying on top of the computer would give the audience a hint.
Anytime you walk, sit, or drive down the street, observe the world as it really looks and sounds. You’ll discover that the most beautiful lighting comes at sunset or dawn and the closer the sun gets to the horizon the more extreme the shadows.
Irritating sounds like traffic are often cleverly ignored by our brains and whether a person sees a thorn bush with roses or a rose bush with thorns says a lot about their personality.
As you observe your surroundings, think about how to capture or recreate that feeling, mood or environment. Capturing what you want on tape without staging it yourself is always easiest and cheapest but often video production boils down to recreating and staging a particular look. That can be a lot of work, but it’s about as fun as work can get.
Go about your day giving some thought to how often your brain and eyes work together to “zoom in” on an object or person of interest. As a video maker, you act as the viewer’s brain and do the zooming and focusing for them. A close-up forces your viewer to concentrate on whatever you want them to.
Visual story-telling is an all-encompassing way to influence a viewer. They more you engage them with quality story-telling, the more influence you will have. This can translate into anything from more money for your internet business to your baby winning the cutest home movie contest.
I hope this information helps you make the best videos ever!
Lorraine Grula, Internet Video Gal