For sure, a video provides us with images. But in order for videos to engage, they need to tell a story.
It’s the series of images that matters. The pictures need to move forward in a way that is coherent and meaningful. They need to make us want to know what comes next. And to leave us with a sense of closure at the end.
The better way to think about video, therefore, is as a narrative medium, one that just happens to use imagery as part of its language.
In all too many video projects this is forgotten. Too little attention is paid to scripting and editing, and too much is focused on imagery and style.
What results is something that might be beautiful but is ultimately boring.
I’ve noticed this in the work of some highly skilled still photographers who have recently moved into video production. Each image in their video may be gorgeous. Isolate one frame, view it as a still, and you’ll be moved. This static image tells (or at the very least implies) a story.
But when the images are strung together at 24 frames-per-second, and we cut between different images, the piece falls flat.
Conversely, I’ve seen videos that are quite low in production values which nonetheless engaged me completely on account of the great story that was being told.
Which goes to show that we expect something more than beautiful imagery when watching a video. As a medium that flows through time, we expect something to happen. We want a sense of direction and purpose. A beginning, middle and an end.
So next time you’re creating a video, think of it as a story first. Invest time in your script before you start shooting or designing. Even if your video consists entirely of images, think of yourself as silent-movie era scenarist and craft a focused, simple storyline.
When it comes time to shoot, and afterwards when you cut, make all of your creative decisions based on whether or not they support the story. Edit out anything and everything that interrupts the flow or takes the story off-track, even shots or lines of dialogue or graphics that you love.
Remember: you’re not a videographer. You’re a storyteller, and video is just the language in which you’re telling your tale.
See samples of brand storytelling videos at Smarter Storytelling.