How to grab the attention of viewers and keep them engaged is the ever-evolving challenge.
While social trends and perceptions change, expectation and demand evolve, we can look toward a few basic constants in production to create a solid foundation for any project.
Thirty-seconds is a very short time to get anything more than a simple message across. That message should be simple, direct, and very clear.
01: The Message
Ask yourself a few questions before you start.
With the support of strong visuals and graphics, detail and depth can offer added layers to advance or simply support your message.
To maximize the impact of limited time to convey your message, consider the following 10 ways to influence your final production.
Production quality is secondary to having an authentic message, style, or compelling content. Video shot with a GoPro, an old iPhone, or basic consumer camcorder can be used, and people still watch if there’s reason to be engaged. Professional quality content created in a high-end studio or edited by a team of professionals can offer quality eye candy, but without authenticity, no one will find it interesting.
Part of being authentic is avoiding undue influence when it may compromise your brand or message. Don't overthink and don't pretend to be someone else because the truth will out in the end. Find the voice of your brand, be honest and offer value.
03: Real Knowledge
Finding success in business or career requires focus and commitment to specific areas of expertise. Through education and experience we build a personal wealth of knowledge, and that wealth continues to grow through efforts to improve. Instinct influences a drive to protect that wealth, leverage it for advancement. In spite of this, consider the value of sharing that knowledge and experience.
Offering experienced insight freely without expectation or gain, represents a form of giving, a sense of confidence and compassion, while positioning yourself as leader.
When presenting yourself as an expert, remember to remain authentic and stick with what you know. Attempting to inflate a reputation into areas unknown will cause exponential harm in the long run.
04: Video Length
The optimal target length for video in our fast-paced, mobile based, social media soundbite, consumable commercial culture is 30 to 60-seconds. Researched analytics can place that length anywhere from 10-seconds to 2-minute mark, depending upon subject matter and distribution path. That’s quite a range, especially when investing time and money to create a quality production, while expecting a return on investment.
The best place to start is following this simple guide:
Also consider your filming location. Natural sounds like wind or traffic, the buzz of equipment, or noise of a crowd, can all distract the viewer and make your key sound more difficult to understand.
It’s possible to clean up or remove such distractions but requires expensive software and the talent to apply it.
05: Audio Quality
One aspect of production most overlooked by beginners is capturing high-quality, clear audio. With so many devices available to access content, consider how your final production may be viewed and heard.
When on-camera, speaking with well-paced natural tones, and clear enunciation will help. Proper placement of the microphone is also essential. Simply using the built-in microphone of a camera or cell phone can provide audio, but rarely offers the clarity of using a higher quality external microphone.
Your audio should sound clear on everything from a smartphone to home theater system. Even if your project applies a music video style without narration or on-camera sound, having clean, clear, undistorted audio is essential.
06: Quality Lighting
Perhaps the second most overlooked aspect of production when beginning, amateur video tends to include dark faces in shadow or overexposed backgrounds. Allowing the viewer to enjoy the visual is important as quality audio. Both must be clear, clean and evenly balanced. Knowing how too light a subject can become a key differentiator between amateur and professional production.
To highlight the importance and complexity of lighting in professional production, consider what equipment is transported to an on-location shoot. For major productions, the number of trucks containing all the camera and support gear will typically equal the number of trucks dedicated to lighting equipment\. The options and tools to shape, manipulate and cast light for any given scene or shot can be endless.
Painting with Light
Understanding the nuances and mastering the artistry of lighting can be a career discipline all its own. Knowledge and experience with manipulating all the variables to attain complimentary lighting is a true artform. Like an artist utilizing various brushes, strokes and technique to apply color hues and shades, lighting brings a scene to life.
Similar to painting a masterpiece, quality lighting will highlight the focus of a scene without drawing attention to the effort. Mastering this skill can take years. Even so, having a basic understanding of three-point lighting and color temperature will help elevate a production beyond standard amateur efforts.
You may have heard this one before; “we’ll fix it in post” or “that can be fixed in the edit.” While true, it’s a production path of least resistance. The magic of post-production editing can fix many issues, but it’s no silver bullet. It’s a magic limited by the tools available and experience of the editor.
Editing is the creative backend balance of production, utilizing artistic insight as much as technical acumen. For example, applying over-the-top special effects, graphics, music, or crazy edit pacing, can throw a project from viewable to total garbage.
With a script offering a clear beginning, middle and end, finding the right pace and weaving all the elements together can create a project worth viewing. When all elements harmonize, in the hands of a talented editor, the sum becomes much more than the parts.
One aspect to consider, each production is only as good as its weakest link. That holds true from concept to scripting, shooting to editing… even down to the type of camera, microphone, or lighting used.
08: Call to Action Placement
When distributing video on social media, no matter the platform, it’s essential to understand how important the first seconds of your video become.
Unless your video offers information viewers specifically searched for, it’s time to consider attention grabbing ideas tailored to your project and target audience.
When potential viewers are scrolling through hundreds of posts, those first three-seconds must capture their attention and get them to sample your video. Once they start watching, if they become disinterested within the first ten-seconds, they’ll move on.
For television commercials, the approach isn’t much different. When you only have 30-seconds, and sometimes 15-seconds, there’s only time to effectively pitch one clear message. The first part of your production should include a call to action providing motivation. Why should someone be interested in your message? The last part of your video should offer the resolution or action you hope the viewer till take, with direct contact info like a website or phone number.
For example, when selling a mattress, the motivation would be: “Are you looking for a full night of blissful sleep?”
The resolution to that message would be:
“Try our mattress for 100 nights. If you don’t love it, we’ll pick it up for free and refund 100% of your purchase price.”
09: Engaging Visuals
As we’re in the “Second Golden Age of Television” with on-demand streaming services offering cinema quality production, viewer perception defining quality production has increased. Creating a project with Hollywood level production value isn’t essential for success, but it will help grab attention and elevate your brand.
Enhancing the visual isn’t only about production value with a camera. Adding modern, stunning, and colorful graphics or animations can help grab attention. Understanding the psychology of color, how it relates to your brand and audience, will add a hidden layer of communication and promotion.
Production Style Should be Motivated
One of the most prolific ways to capture engaging visuals currently is with drone footage. Everyone wants drone footage. It’s new, exciting, and offers a tool to elevate a production beyond what the viewer typically expects. The pitfall of any new creative tool is potential overuse. While exciting now, as more productions apply the technique, the less interesting it becomes.
Another production style threatened with overuse abuse, is movement. It’s an easy approach to convey energy and excitement. Since it’s a stylistic choice, there’s much debate in the industry about how and when to apply it. We’ve seen the production when the camera is all over the place, to the point of causing motion sickness.
The best rule of thumb when considering drone use, camera motion, or any creative style; is there motivation for the movement or style? Does it support the message or brand? Or will it distract by overwhelming the viewer?
10: Closed Captions
If you plan on distributing your video on any social media platform, adding closed captions should be a serious consideration. Since many platforms start playing videos silently as you scroll, adding captions will draw attention while offering your introductory call to action as words on the screen.
While offering clear accessibility for viewers with hearing disabilities, captions also help improve engagement and allow viewers to watch with or without sound, depending upon their location at the time.
The legality of requiring closed captioning for your video content depends on many variables. To understand when captioning is required, click to: The National Association for the Deaf