April 6, 2011

Four Common Video Mistakes to Avoid

Chris Savage

Founder, CEO

All too often, creative and interesting people make boring videos. How does this happen? We’ve identified four common hazards of video making that are difficult to avoid. To see what we mean, take a look at this product demo video:

Color is a brand new company that just raised $41 Million in venture capital. Their product is a mobile photo sharing app. This remarkable fundraising has left people asking questions. How did they raise so much money? What are they doing differently? How will I use Color? These are all logical questions that could be answered easily with a good video. Like so many other videos, the Color video unfortunately stumbled into the common snares of video making. Let’s take a look at some frequent mistakes that can turn a great idea into a bad video:

1. Thinking inside the frame

Maybe when you watched the Color video you said to yourself “Yeah, that video is kind of boring, but it’s a product demo. What do you expect?” Well, we believe that product demos don’t have to be boring. In fact, they don’t have to consist of someone literally demonstrating a product.

Instead of a single-frame view of a phone going through Color’s features, the people behind the Color video could have filmed a fake gameshow about the product, a catchy jingle about its features, a little skit on how they used Color to go from being nerds to being cool, or any sort of interesting narrative centered around how people can actually use it (more on this later).

If you make a video, no matter what type of video it is, try to move away from the norms of its genre. If you stretch your creative legs a little, your video will be more interesting and memorable. Only by somehow defying what’s usually done can your video rise above the average.

2. Not matching the style of the video to the content

The main function of Color is to have lots of friends in the same place and time taking photos and automatically organizing all of their photos together. Then each of them can look at all of the photos later. However, the video seems to portray a solitary and introverted activity, as if you would use Color when you’re by yourself and feeling antisocial. Because the style of the video doesn’t match the app it’s trying to explain, it’s easy to get confused about what Color actually does.

The lesson here? If you’re making a video about a fun social app, make sure your video is somehow fun and social - it should probably include several people doing an enjoyable activity together. It’s better to use a somber tone and a solitary voice-over when you make a video about more serious and individualistic content. If you match the style of the video to your content, your audience can understand how you want them to feel about the subject matter. In Color’s case, they want the audience to be excited about the app, so the video should have a more upbeat tone.

3. Assuming your audience cares

When you make a video, since you, your friends, your coworkers and your parents are intensely interested in what you create, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that your audience will be equally fascinated. Don’t assume that your audience is interested. They will only care about your video if it is useful to them or if it entertains them.

Color’s video is a good example of this problem. Even though it runs through Color’s features, it doesn’t take the time to show viewers how those features could help them. Even more importantly, the video is bland, so it doesn’t get people’s attention, rope them in, or get them excited about the product. Since the video isn’t entertaining, unless someone was already interested in Color, they wouldn’t want to watch it. To avoid getting stuck in this situation, you should take a walk in your audience’s shoes. You should ask yourself: Is this video interesting to someone who’s not already invested in the subject matter?

4. Not using examples or stories

Not only do examples and stories make videos more interesting, they make the content easier to understand. Take a look at a quote from the TechCrunch blog about Color: “It’s difficult to explain what Color does with a bullet list of features, so I’ll try painting an example that hopefully demonstrates how it works.” This quote comes after the embedded video. TechCrunch shouldn’t have had to give a scenario explaining Color; that’s what the video should have done.

One of the best things about video is that it gives people the chance to tell stories about their products or ideas without losing any of the information that they want to get across. Check out this post from two weeks ago if you don’t believe us. So, if you make a video, keep in mind that the best way to explain something is to tell a story about it. Or, if that’s too much to ask, try to at least illuminate your content with examples.

Why these mistakes are fatal

Video offers amazing opportunities to catch people’s interest while making something creative, educational, and even artistic. Making a great introductory video can ensure that the audience’s first exposure to your product or idea is a memorable and positive experience. But, if the video falls into one of the deadly traps, it can have the opposite effect. Viewers can get bored or confused and turn it off, effectively turning off their interest in your product or your ideas. So, avoid making the common mistakes by getting creative and putting on a show to entertain your audience. After all, that’s what videos are for.

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