August 30th, 2011 by Brian Baumley
Some Tips For Making Your Talking Head Video Sing
Businesses keep finding new and interesting uses for video. While communication using the medium is expanding, a popular format that continues to prevail largely relies on “talking heads.” These videos generally consist of a company exec shot up close, delivering a message in the way of a prepared script or interview. The challenge with this format is that it is much too easy for content to quickly become boring and unwatchable. It is not necessary to call any company out with an example of a bad talking head video. We’ve all seen them before – or maybe even have had the cringe-inducing displeasure of starring in one. Done poorly, these videos are long, dry, static and disengaging. Done right, they are pleasing to watch, keep the viewer’s attention and effectively communicate a message.
With this in mind, here are some tips to help you elevate the quality of your next talking head video:
Avoid cuts to dry content. Even the most basic of today’s video editing tools allow for professional-looking text overlays to emphasize information like executive title or displaying a key quote over video content that is running. This technique works better than cutting away to static slides with information because it doesn’t break momentum and divert the viewer’s attention. Also experiment with different backdrops or supporting onscreen content via green screen.
Don’t let scripts sound like scripts. What’s the best way to get viewers genuinely excited? Sound genuinely excited yourself. It’s not always easy for an executive without a lot of onscreen experience to feel comfortable surrounded by a crew, bright lights and expensive equipment while his or her peers look on. Often when this happens, the talent is just struggling to get through the script without making a lot of mistakes or giving their nerves too much leeway. So how to overcome this challenge? Work on the script far in advance and have it finalized weeks – not days or hours – before a shoot. Encourage your talent to become familiar with the script and practice it with inflection and emotion to overcome the monotone delivery that often accompanies lack of preparation.
Change angles often. One shot left alone for five minutes will quickly become boring for the viewer – unless they happen to be REALLY interested in the content. Change camera angles and shot composition throughout the video to keep the content fresh. Think about how evening news anchors will turn to different cameras throughout a broadcast, for example. Here are some samples of different styles of video that use varied angles and zooms in different ways. All of them are effective.
The first is a video created by Jason Jenkins of Flowmotion Media and recently shared in the Creative Cow forums. It’s a great example of the typical kind of video that businesses need to produce, and done very well.
The next example is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum and comes from MTV, which can always be counted on (or blamed, depending on how you look at it) for breakthroughs and introduction of new trends in shooting style. This video is from MTV’s Punk’d. Pay particular attention to the various shots of @aplusk in the opening segment – some of which appear at the same time.
The MTV way of doing things might not be appropriate for a lot of businesses. But consider that it might, depending on your audience. Always think about the style that will appeal most to your viewers.
Keep it short and simple. There is sometimes a tendency to over-communicate in corporate video. Maybe this is a function of too many departments or marketers being involved in a script, causing it to become too cumbersome. Whatever the reason, it’s important to remember that video can be just one of several tools used to tell a story. Video can be what the viewer sees first and complemented by brochures, case studies, more lengthy podcasts or other web content. Here’s a short and simple example from the masters – the pharmaceutical industry.
Consider the amount of information that is communicated here in just under a minute: identifying an audience, a need, a solution, proof of the solution’s success. And, of course, calls to action in the way of encouragement to check out a more detailed magazine ad, web address, 800 number and suggestion to consult with a doctor. This video does a lot of other things right too, from interesting camera angles to a tight script. Is it a traditional talking head video? Perhaps not. But it does feature a main spokesperson that just so happens to be out of the studio and on location. Maybe this is the right idea for your business too (e.g. Sell outdoors equipment? Then get out of the studio!)
As noted throughout this post, not every style of video is for every company or audience. But no matter what your goals, there are ways to improve how you tackle the talking head video in your organization or for your clients. Hopefully some of the above tips will help. Know that this is not an exhaustive list. What are some ways that you’ve successfully executed on creation of a talking head video? Let us know in the comments!