Keep your video’s audience tuned in

In what area does a goldfish beat out the average human (aside from being able to breathe underwater)? Attention span. Yes, a goldfish pays attention to things for longer than you do.

Feeling a bit small, are we? Well, don’t. Look at it this way: The average amount of time you spend focusing on a task or object of interest is eight seconds, and the goldfish’s attention span is just a second longer. So you’re not losing by much. And, you can always spin it by saying that you don’t need to fixate on any one thing for more than eight seconds, because you don’t need any longer to figure things out.

Are we there yet? Keeping your video focused keeps your audience tuned in

Are we there yet? Keeping your video focused keeps your audience tuned in

Yeah, rationalization is always a losing battle. But seriously, it’s not just you. Everyone is paying less attention to things these days, in terms of length of focus. Why? We’ve been trained to process information faster thanks to new trends in… wait for it….wait… VIDEO!  Take a look at advertisements. Shorter ads dominate all forms of media, from television to tablets and smart phones. This is by design, and not just from ad agencies trying to save a dime here and there. It’s also what average people want. Mobile users especially say ads need to be short, and in one study they even listed ad length as much more important than the content’s relevancy.

This is a good news/bad news scenario when you want to create a video. On the one hand, the final video can be shorter and still be effective. On the other, that means you have to focus, focus, focus. There’s no room for fat. Get in, get out, make sure the job gets done in between. Like a ninja. Or a pit crew. And just like a pit crew, you need to make sure every screw is in place and secure before you let that car roar back onto the track. Otherwise the whole thing can fly to pieces with no warning.

Steps to focusing your video

Focusing your video, pinpointing the message and honing it to a razor’s edge, is not a one-step process. It actually takes place in three of the main phases of a video shoot: Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production.These are all opportunities to make sure your message is fine-tuned to perfection.

The work starts during the storyboarding and scripting process, essential steps in pre-production. Storyboarding gives you a rough idea of what’s happening in every moment of the video. Because you’re taking a nebulous idea and making it concrete in the form of sketches and brief snippets of text, this is your first opportunity to find spots that can be tightened up or omitted altogether. Take a good look at every shot laid out in the storyboard, because frequently you can find places to omit one or two shots. It may not seem like much at first, but if you soldier on you’ll see that you’ve eliminated quite a bit of excess stuff. All of that extra time adds up, helping you keep your video tight.

Be wary, though. You already have at least a basic idea of what the final video should look like. So, it’s easy to elide over gaps in continuity or other inconsistencies that will leave a first-time viewer wondering what they missed. Don’t leave your audience saying :”Gee, if only I was a goldfish, I would have been able to pay attention long enough to get that joke!” (What, you didn’t get the goldfish reference? SEE? We told you attention spans are getting shorter!) Just as storyboarding gives you an idea of what’s happening from shot to shot, scripting bridges those gaps so that you can smoothly and logically transition from one shot to the next.

Production is the next opportunity to tighten up your video’s content. We have a strong caveat here: Things NEVER seem to take as long in the final video as they do during the shoot. You will do take after take after take of one scene because your on-air talent keeps saying spitting instead of spittoon. (We might suggest taking any reference to a spittoon out of any video you shoot, because really, it’s just gross. There! Saved you 5 seconds already!) By the time take 30 rolls around, it will seem to you that this one scene is just E-N-D-L-E-S-S. But, when you get the final, perfect take and see it in the context of the whole video, it will go by like a breeze. So don’t be hasty to dump a scene altogether just because it’s taking forever to get it right. It doesn’t mean your initial vision of how that scene fits into the final product was flawed.

Make sure you have copies of your script on hand during shooting, so you can see exactly how the script will sound and feel if you decide to eliminate a line here and there. Remember, when in doubt during the shoot, go ahead and do the scene. You can always cut it during editing, but you will have a much harder time going back to redo a scene if you decide you should have kept in the on-camera dialogue about Aunt Edna’s snickerdoodles. The time, and effort to get all of those people together again to shoot an extra scene or two can be a scheduling nightmare. And then there’s the cost.  It may only take you  an hour to shoot those deleted scenes, but many crew members such as grip, lighting, and directors of photography don’t charge by the hour. They charge by the day, or in a best-case scenario by the half day. We’ve all scene films and television shows where the jump from one scene to another seems disjointed. That’s often due to one of two factors. Someone either wasn’t paying attention to continuity, or they cut out a scene that was really needed to make the whole sequence mesh together seamlessly.

Your last chance to keep your video engaging

That can happen during the third phase of creating a video: Post-production. This is where those scenes, which most likely were filmed at least somewhat out of order, will be put together in order by the editor. This is another chance (in fact, your last chance) to cut out anything that muddies the waters or slows down the pacing. The benefit of making cuts during the editing phase is that you can immediately see how things will play out when you delete something. All the editor has to do is make the cut, piece together the scenes that bookended the deleted material, and press play. As we mentioned above, it’s usually better to go ahead and film scenes that may or may not make it into the final piece, because it’s much more efficient to do the cutting during the edit process.

The real test comes towards the end of this phase, when you watch the final piece from start to finish. It’s usually a good idea to bring in trusted people to watch the piece with fresh eyes. Again, since you’re very familiar with the project by this point, there may be details you miss that a first-time viewer will spot right away.

One of our areas of expertise at Hencar is helping you tell your story in the clearest way possible. We’ve spent years explaining complex stories to national audiences, and that gives us a balanced perspective and objective eyes when it comes to your project. We’ll help you keep it tight, right to the point, and above al, engaging enough to ensure your viewers stay tuned well past those first few seconds.