3 video storytelling choices that work for creative advertising

Ok, let me first start by addressing the title of the blog.

There are many creative techniques used when it comes to video storytelling and there isn’t a one shoe fits all approach. The brand, the audience, marketing channels and touchpoints all have a say on whether a creative concept will leave its mark. We need to first understand these things before we can conceptualise ideas that will resonate with a target audience. However, there are notable trends which I believe make a video advertising campaign memorable – At least to me.

Now, I’m a sucker for a good story. (Thank you, Netflix!) It’s one of the reasons I run a video storytelling agency. Great storytelling is powerful, it can have impact and it’s an incredibly rewarding process if done correctly. With so much video content out there these days, it’s really got to make me feel something if I’m going to remember it. And that’s one of the key points we need to ask ourselves when we’re creating short-form video content for advertising – Is our idea memorable? Other questions we might consider; Is the idea easy to get? Will the target audience relate?

Recently, I’ve seen a batch of new adverts on TV, the cinema and online. All of these adverts had plenty in common. The production values were high, they looked like TV or Film and they all had a length of between 30 and 60 seconds. However, the adverts that resonated with me the most all seemed to fall into three styles and genre choices. These genre choices were;

#1 – Comedy / Humour

It goes without saying – you can’t bore someone into buying something. Humour is a great way to engage an audience and make your advert stand out.

uSwitch “Coach” Broadband Comparison TV Advert

This advert from uSwitch was actually released in 2017, but I only recently discovered it. The memorable character and the silly humour had me giggling. What’s great is that this format is easily replicated with new scenarios and characters as long as the main character is present and the humour remains consistent.

#2 – The Quirky Drama

AO “Delivering Tomorrow” Advert

Anyone else think AO have lucked out with the fact that there is a mainstream song with their business name in the Lyrics? Regardless their new TV and Cinema ad is excellent. It’s got an interesting story – the sun begins to flicker and eventually goes out, plunging the world into darkness. Turns out the sun is a giant bulb and it’s up to the AO team to deliver and fit the new sun to bring light back to the world. My favourite moment is the sun being wheeled out of a giant box which reads “SUN 174 QUADRILLION WATTS” on the side.

#3 – The “Pull on the Heart Strings” Drama

Remember those beautiful John Lewis adverts? The one’s with the lovely stories, haunting acoustic music and high-end visuals to match. Yep – style three is the pull on the heart strings drama. There’s two more adverts which I love that both fall into this category. The cinematography in these both these 60 second adverts is excellent and the music choice really heightens the drama on-screen.

Lloyds Bank, The Running of the Horses:

Dogs Trust TV Ad #Specialsomeone:

Why Sound is the Hardest Medium to Conquer

On February  9th, 6.5 million people tuned to watch the hotly anticipated season 2 premiere of Happy Valley, the award winning BBC drama. Despite the gripping narrative, the opening episode of the series was hard to follow. The reason for this? Sound.

Happy Valley

Programme Name: Happy Valley – TX: n/a – Episode: n/a (No. 1) – Picture Shows: Catherine (SARAH LANCASHIRE) – (C) Red Productions – Photographer: Ben Blackall

 

Overnight complaints grew among frustrated fans of the crime drama who took to Twitter to express their views. While the majority hailed the first episode of the latest series, comments like ‘sort the sound levels out please…’ were common. Another viewer wrote: ‘Again a good show spoilt by the sound, too much whispering and mumbling.’ The sound was poor with many lines being mumbled. Overall the dialogue was incredibly  hard to hear unless the television was turned up to at least half volume.

Other Complaints

Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn

 

It is not the first time the BBC has received complaints about sound on their programmes. Costume drama Jamaica Inn, aired in 2014, had almost 2,200 complaints about mumbled dialogue from the first episode. Audience figures dropped by 2 million from the first to the third and final episode. Even the Screenwriter for the show said that it was like listening through mud.’ The BBC was forced to apologise saying the sound levels would be adjusted before the remaining two episodes were aired.

The BBC did not learn from their mistakes and a few weeks later in May 2014 saw them receive complaints about sound on their crime drama Quirke. This was a year after Director-General of the BBC, Tony Hall, said that the BBC will look into how to prevent actors from ‘muttering’ in its dramas.

Quirke

 

The writer of Quirke admitted that he and his wife were also forced to watch the show with the aid of subtitles. Andrew Davies explained that he could hear because he knew what the words were. His wife did not however and asked for the subtitles to be turned on.

Why is Sound the Most Complained About Issue Among TV Shows?

Sound is just as, if not more, important as visuals in the media industry. Dialogue is often the most important method of telling the narrative of the programme. Without clear sound, people will quickly lose interest in what they are watching because they are struggling to follow the narrative. Sound enhances the viewer’s experience and enables them to suspend their disbelief and lose themselves in fiction.

Solution

To help prevent sound issues it is vital that just as much planning and consideration goes into sound design as to how the production will look.

For instance, the choice of location has a huge influence on sound. Filming indoors pose the issues of room noise commonly formed from electrical appliances such as air-conditioning units, lights, and radiators. As well as noise, the sound engineer will also have to adapt depending on the size of the room. Large venues often result in sounds bouncing off walls to generate echoes.

Outdoor sound recording is often trickier with background noise, or ambience such as traffic, people, and wind. It is important to have the ambience noise recorded to make the production realistic. On the other hand, you have to be careful that the background noise does not drown out the important dialogue. The volume levels can be edited in post-production but it is better if it can be effectively caught at source.

Therefore, for each location a decision has to be made on which microphone to use.

Ultra-directional microphones are excellent for capturing dialogue in outdoor locations thanks to its selectivity at picking up sounds that are directly in front of it. From this you will be able to attach an ultra-directional shotgun microphone onto a boom pole with a wind shield, or dead cat, shielding the microphone from wind noise.

Audio Technica BP4073

Audio Technica BP4073

In order to prevent unwanted noise being recorded, it is always useful if the microphone can be positioned as close to the actor’s mouth as possible. The actor’s voice will be louder with the dialogue being crisp and clear. The microphone should ideally be positioned overhead, pointing downwards towards the actor’s mouth. Alternatively a lapel microphone, a small mic that can be attached to the actor, can be used as long as it is hidden from view and is not rubbing against the clothing.

Ambient sound should be recorded separately so that the levels can be adjusted in Post Production and so that it does not overpower the dialogue. It can also help shot transitions to introduce the next scene.

 

The audience may forgive an error on camerawork but they will never accept poor sound. The dialogue is not only the most effective way of telling the story, but it also informs and creates emotions that the audience will be able to share with the characters. Careful consideration and planning is crucial for clear, legible audio.

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5 Lessons We Learnt Making a Documentary Film in 48 Hours

In 2014 we were absolutely thrilled to walk away with best film at the 48 Hour Documentary Film Challenge. It was our first effort at Documentary filmmaking. The competition was part of the 5th annual Leicester DocFilm Festival and Documentary Media Month which took place between 1st-30th November 2014.  The process was intense and challenging and we learnt a few lessons along the way. I’d like to share a few of these things with you…

1. Collaboration & Creativity

I believe the biggest lesson I have learnt over time, is the importance of collaboration in filmmaking. Working with a team of people that you trust and respect both personally and professionally allows the process of making films to be quiet organic. Every filmmaker has a creative ego, but it’s how you manage those ego’s that go a long way to helping achieve a smooth and pleasant working environment whilst on set. We had two Creative Director’s working together, each of whom regularly shoots and directs their own work. We quickly established that I would lead they way on the Directing front and my filmmaking partner Joe would mainly work camera and editing. It’s important, especially during an intense 48 hour turn around time, that the team you pick compliments your own skill set. You must have trust in and respect for everyone’s ability.

2. Find a Great Story

When the theme “Heritage” came out at 5.30pm on the Friday night we set to work on identifying a story that we wanted to tell. We quickly established that we were interested in exploring stories that investigated the human condition and after looking up synonyms of the theme we highlighted the word hereditary as a different angle to look at. We were always confident we could make our film look nice in terms of production value as it’s what we both do to earn the bread, but finding the story was always going to be the difficult part. Luckily for us, Joe had remembered seeing a post on his Facebook wall about a young boxer (Michael Williams a.ka. “Duck Boy”). He had recently discovered that he had a Great Uncle who was a Welsh area champion in the 1930’s. As soon as I saw this I immediately got excited but our initial chat with Michael left us feeling deflated after he said he couldn’t film on Saturday morning. But with a little charm and persuasion Michael agreed to change his plans. We found a great story and the rest all just fell into place.

3. Research is Key

We can’t thank boxing historian Miles Templeton enough for giving us his time and for sending us the old documents that really gave our film historical context and helped shape the drama. We spoke to Michael about Miles and got his contact details and gave him a call early on Saturday morning. He gave us so much valuable information that we were able to use in our film and there was so much more we would of loved to do if we were not restrained to 48 hours! We found out where Griff Williams lived in Wales all those years ago and we would have loved to take Michael down to the house and really delve into his family heritage further.

4. Quick Turn-Around Forces You to Make Decisions

There is a real tendency with film editing to go over and over trying to re-edit and refine. With such a quick turnaround time there really isn’t much time to be too precious. We had lots of other ideas for the film. These included using several famous boxing quotes to contextual the piece further and set up each act of the film. But as it turns out we didn’t need these and the documentary film worked really well without it. We only really spent around six or seven hours on Post-Production all in all. This meant we had to be quiet efficient when building the narrative. Massive kudos goes out to Joe for the speed of editing!

5. It’s Infectious!

The process of making a documentary film was incredibly infectious! It has really made both myself and Joe want to produce more documentary films. There is a real sense of cultural importance in producing this kind of film. The stories you tell are personal and delve into people’s real lives. We were really excited to share the historical documents with Michael. To be part of that moment in his life when he read them for the first time was special.

If you haven’t seen our documentary film please do take a look below. If you have any thoughts and comments please do share them with us.