I spend a lot of time watching and reviewing videos. I’ve probably seen more than I care to count — and so have you. Recently I read that viewers watch, on average, between 18 and 21 hours of video a month online alone. Video has become our modern method of storytelling and communication. With every one I watch, I seem to either love it or hate it. I began to explore this polarizing effect and realized it comes down to approach. Many do not associate video with design, falling prey to overused and dated techniques.
Traditionally, video producers are not trained in design. A sad fact, really, given that so many elements of design can and should be directly translated to video. Design refers not only to appearance, but also emotion — how does someone not only perceive the work, but how does it make them feel?
So, if you make videos, buy videos or just watch them — pay attention to the attributes of good design:
Balance & Space
Balance refers to the placement of elements within a design. Space refers to the negative space around each component. Every aspect of a video should have its place, both within the frame and also within the context of the video as a whole. For instance, although title safe and action safe may matter less online than they do it television, they can still be used as a general guide for placement of objects within a frame. A frame of video is a canvas that should be properly laid out.
Text has always played a major part in video production. Typography is the study and correct use of text and type. It is also perhaps one of the most disregarded elements of design in video. We should all take time to understand strong fonts and utilize them appropriately. If an audience can’t read it, why is it there? What makes Helvetica, Gotham and Futura so loved? Why should Zapfino and Papyrus never be used in video (I’m looking at you, Avatar. The poster, okay, but the subtitles, really?)
Rhythm & Movement
Often, we do not consider traditional design as rhythmic; but think of a graph — a mental examination of each measurement in some sort of sequence. There is such movement and rhythm in virtually every piece of design. The same holds true for video, only that it unfolds in real-time instead of solely in the path of our eyes. The pacing, timing and motion of a video all matter for retention, engagement and interest.
Contrast in video not only refers to being able to read text on screen or see a character in a dark room. It also considers the classic battle between good and evil, the story. Contrast is like conflict, there needs to remain a clear separation between characters in a plot. Every video needs a story and in good story lines, contrast plays a significant role.
Emphasis & Focus
This is one of the most critical elements of design. We’ve all seen ads that have 800 words on one poster. We all ask the same thing: what am I supposed to focus on? Video begs the same question; a story should lead to a focal point or a climax, letting viewers know what is being emphasized. This is the opportunity to convey the key message. What is the big idea to learn or remember?
The key to design is purpose. Frame by frame and story by story. It is this attention to detail that separates mere video from video that has been designed. That is what creation is all about.