Audio and visual stories – Part 3: How to make a (good) promotional film
September 22, 2017
This is Part 3 of the How To Make A (Good) Promotional Film. Missed Part 1 or Part 2? New instalments will be released every Friday. Click here to have them emailed straight to your inbox the moment they go live.
Telling two stories
A lot of corporate films forget this. Instead, they simply use the pictures as a direct back up to what the audio is saying. To me, this is basically a slideshow presentation.
Jack’s Innovations – being too literal
You remember Jack from Part 2? Let’s plan an outline for Jack’s film. The (boring) slideshow version goes a little like this.
Hi I’m Jack, I work at Jack’s Innovations Ltd
[We see Jack speak, and then we see an exterior of his company]
We make great innovations
[We see one of these innovations]
They can go really fast
[We see it going really fast]
And they are really cheap
[We cut to stock footage of some dollar bills falling from the sky (unfortunately stockfootageRUs.com didn’t have pound notes)]
We have a great team
[Cut to shot of all the team standing in a line smiling]
They all wear matching t-shirts
[Cut to close up of t-shirt, with someone pointing at the company logo]
So what’s wrong with it? Well, first of all, there’s no story. Let’s fix that first.
Improving the spoken story: Capturing CO2
I’ll use a real client example and leave poor Jack alone. Climeworks have produced a technology to directly suck CO2 out of the atmosphere. The below is (roughly) how the audio part of their film goes. Here’s how it would have looked if we followed the ‘show what you say’ model:
We need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere
[Stock footage of emissions coming out of a big chimney stack]
We have developed a technology to do this
[Static shot of the technology. Or maybe the beginning shot in reverse, to really hammer home the ‘removal’ message?]
It works by some clever science
[Cut to animation detailing exactly what’s being said]
CO2 can be used by the beverage industry, to make synthetic fuels, or stored underground
[Cut between shots highlighting each of these applications. Probably don’t have a footage of the second two so just use a static photo?]
We’ve built the first such plant in the world
[Cut to plant. Maybe animate a No. 1 badge over it to show it’s the first?]
The CO2 will be supplied to a greenhouse
[Show footage of greenhouse. But he also mentions CO2 and some figures so probably cut back to that chimney stack shot when he says CO2 to be super clear. And then we’ll animate the figures on the screen as he says each of them.]
This is a huge achievement, and brings us one step closer to our target of removing 1% of global CO2 emissions by 2020.
[Ok there’s a lot here. We’re going to need people looking happy and smiling at camera with a thumbs-up, a stock image of the globe, and then the numbers 1% and 2020…]
There’s a story there now. So what’s wrong with it? Well, a lot of production companies may say nothing.
Is there a story?
The audio is telling a story, but the visuals are not. This is basically a presentation – the visuals are acting almost like slides in a slideshow.
Some people think that viewers need this sort of spoon-feeding. Personally, I think viewers are smarter than that.
In addition, this sort of storytelling is missing a big opportunity. Because when you pair pictures with words, you get to tell not one, but TWO stories.
Telling two stories
The audio and visuals can’t be telling two unrelated stories, that would just be confusing. But they can tell two parts of the same story. And that means you can show twice as much.
Your audio story might tell us that:
- We were founded in 2010
- We store energy as heat
- We’re doing trials with 3 big companies
But at the same time your visual story might instead demonstrate:
- We have impressive facilities
- Our pilot plant is up and running
- We have a large multi-talented team
When you’ve only got three minutes, you don’t want to throw away half your opportunity to communicate with your viewer.
Two stories done well: Climeworks
Let’s return to our real client example. We know what the spoken story is (there is a need to remove CO2, we can do it, we’re launching the world’s first plant…) so how about the visual one?
Well, in this case we chose to follow the process building up to the launch: working in the lab, assembling the technology, shipping it on to site, putting it together with impressive big cranes, and then the two CEOs (who have been telling you the audio story) arrive on site to look around at what they’ve created.
At the end, the two stories come together in a satisfying resolution. Both streams were actually telling the same bigger story (we’re launching world-changing technology) but each of the visuals and the spoken elements focused on a different aspect of that story.
This way a viewer gets twice the amount of information. They’re also twice as likely to engage in the story, because effectively they’ve been told it twice.
Let’s see how that plays out in reality, in a film that’s been watched well over 100,000 times:
So now you know what your story is. You know how to integrate your messages into that story. You understand that both the audio and the visuals are an opportunity to tell that story. So how do you translate that into a shot list? Find out in Part 4.
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