6 easy ways IBM makes videos compelling

The push for video is on in every organization. What distinguishes the winners from the unwatchable? Here are some ways Big Blue grabs viewers.

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 compelling.

“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 two minutes 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 says.

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.”


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