Never underestimate the power of great storytelling: Online Video Tips and Tricks from the Pros

Online video is a competitive environment. You must hook the viewer from the start and keep them hooked all the way through. If you’ve read my other posts on this you’ll know you only have 10 seconds to get them hooked before 80% of your viewers will stop watching. In the world of online video, there is no later.

We’ve already talked about shooting tips, now for the storytelling. Storytelling is crucial to creating a clip that people will watch. The good news is that this technique works every time single time regardless of the story. These are lessons I learned in the video production bootcamp I went to recently. It was done by the same company that created the Travel Channel Academy.

1. What is the opening shot? It must be a killer shot. Then, let the story go where it wants to go. You have to anticipate the audience’s questions. Compelling video is a dialog with the viewer, the conversation goes back and forth.

2. Look around your location. What is the story? Who/what is the character? A central character is crucial for a compelling story. As the storyteller you need to cast the film. The story should be driven by the personality of the character.

3. Use the #1 compelling shot as your first shot. This is normally a close up/extreme close up.

4. The killer shot should put a question in the viewer’s mind. Your job is to answer the question in the most compelling way possible. This is a universal experience, no matter what language or culture, the mind always asks the same question.

5. Movement comes from keeping the camera still. Shots should show the subject moving in and out of frame. This is how to communicate movement.

6. While shooting, anticipate what is going to happen next and plan to be there. Know where they’re going.

7. The best edits are the ones you don’t feel. Make sure you shoot in sequences. For a 1 minute clip you will need 20 min of footage. Shoot 7 sequences to make up the 20 minutes. They should be perfectly lined up when you push record. Do not move the camera while shooting.

8. You are a surrogate for the viewer. They must feel like they’re there. The camera is an extension of your senses.

9. Do not let soundbites narrate the clip. You are the storyteller. Soundbites should only support the clip and answer questions that beg to be asked.

10. When recording your voiceover be yourself. Be as natural as possible and make it conversational. The story must grab them in the first few seconds.

11. THIS IS A BIG ONE: Get releases signed by anyone that appears on camera if you plan to sell the clip or if you are working on behalf of a client. This indemnifies you and the client. Even if you are not planning to sell the clip, remember, you have no control over the footage once it goes online. The same goes for releases for products and logos, music licensing and locations.

Here is the roadmap for telling a story. This technique works every time single time regardless of the story:

A. Killer shot + Declarative line: “Fluffy the dog got hit by a car and may die” (it’s the “OMG, you’ll never believe what happened” moment)
B. Answer the question (and “Dr X is the only person who can save his life”. The audience wants to know if he will survive). Raising doubt or a question is a great way to ensure the audience stays hooked. This happens all the time in reality shows, dramas etc.
C. Raise another question
D. Answer the question (you can include factoids about the character here) (this can keep repeating and is how you can keep people watching longer)
E. Conclusion

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One Comment on “Never underestimate the power of great storytelling: Online Video Tips and Tricks from the Pros”

  1. Hudson November 3, 2010 at 10:21 pm #

    Shooting video will be harder, than I had thought, but worth it. Any info or updates on the Travel Channel Bootcamp? I look forward to seeing it from you.
    I’m working on a video now with the attempt to win a contest for travel sponsorship.

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