The Power is yours.
Video, film, moving images along with sound is a formidable way to communicate, and actually more powerful than most people think. Consider this: For at least a hundred thousand years our human brains have learned to trust our eyes and ears to inform us of what was real and important to know.
The author at work early in life.
– And later…
– to today.
Perspective on the Media itself:
We found food, avoided danger and learned about the world around us first through our eyes and ears, then through touch, smell and taste. Researchers think say we developed language about forty thousand years ago and the written word some ten thousand years ago. For over three thousand generations our brains have trusted that what our eyes reported was solid intel of what was real in the physical universe.
Then, about 70 years ago someone invented the movies. The first audiences bolted out their chairs when it looked like a train (in black and white and with no sound) was coming towards them. Since then we may have learned to sit sit still in a movie theater, but we still go there to experience emotions – meaning parts of our brains still take the incoming images serious.
This special lure of film and video will probably fade over time, but for now it seems that many people believe that what is happening on a screen more important than anything else. We model ourselves, copy lifestyles, opinions and ideas from people we’ve never met, like news anchors, politicians and entertainers – and put our trust in them as if they were our personal friends.
But while we humans may be easy prey for those with hidden agendas, the same power is also available to those who wish to celebrate, soothe, inspire, connect and heal the world, using the power and reach of this electronic media.
For over 30 years yours truly has worked with, and studied video and music. I started with 16mm film and sprocket tape, then video VHS, Beta, Hi8, SVHS, DV, linear and then non-linear editing platforms, but through all the innovations, now Flash-cards and Hi-Def animation and special effects, the basics of how humans communicate is still the same. I’d be glad to talk about how to use this amazing media to your advantage.
Let us assume you have something to communicate that matters to you – and you are reaching out to someone who has a least some interest in the subject. What is the first thing you must do? Showing something new is not enough, you must first create a bridge to your intended viewer, so what is that?
To build a bridge to someone who does not know you, the best tactic is to demonstrate you know something about them – or about a problem they are having, a dream they long for or something they already believe, but hadn’t though of. In the beginning of a video you only have a short time to say or show something your viewer can relate to.
The step after that will be to establish your own credibility.
After catching someone’s attention you have to give them reason to trust you. A bit of science facts, or an on-camera person with impressive credentials can be useful. Establishing shots of offices or factories can help convince viewers that you are for-real. Once the threshold of scepticism has been crossed you can zero in on your message.
Another way to convey trust is to show command of the elements. The quality of the picture, sound, music, editing, titles and special effects all adds up to a viewer’s sense that you are doing everything you can to reach them and not waste their time.
To Eye-Candy or Not
Special effects, transitions, snappy titles are often overused to compensate for poor content. Use according to style, but don’t let the editing overshaddow a scene with good content to begin with. You want the focus to be on the message, not the messenger. Also, if you are making a fund-raising appeal for a dog-park you don’t want it to look like you had a budget for a Coca-Cola commercial.
The Strenght and Limitations of Video
Be aware that video is not a great medium for delivering complex information. Books, articles and graphs and are often better for detail-dense comprehension, where the learner can stop, make notes, go back, read slowly, reflect before going on and such. Video is best at creating curiosity, giving a sense of something, or getting to know somebody. There is nothing more convincing than a person meaning what they say and speaking from their heart (more on this later). A well rehearsed spokesperson is deadly to the viewer, while an authentic off-the-cuff remark could be the best thing you can start or finish with. Using a mixture of science, imagination, music, humor, candid interviews, with editing that keep things moving along at a pace that matches the viewer’s ability to comprehend – is an art. The camera should always be inquisitive, and the editor should always have no mercy, meaning some scenes may have taken a long time to get, but it does not matter if they don’t strike the tone.
The cameras and editing platforms today can deliver stunning visual and audio quality, but even if your audience “believes it when they see it” they still have to “feel it to sign up“.