Making the most of online video

Making the most of online video

Online video is a powerful tool to attract website users and to engage their interest. In order for this to happen, though, the video must be of good quality, with a combination of elements, and must provide an informative and entertaining user experience at the same time.

 

Now that videos can be played almost anywhere and on almost any device (even in 2G connections), there are no longer the same limitations to use as there were in the past and video is one of the fastest growing website elements.
 
Well-made videos can offer an immersive experience, encouraging people to spend more time on a page, to lean back and enjoy more content and whether it’s full-screen, in modal (pop-up) windows, embedded from social networks or YouTube… video content has become essential to the modern website.
 

Hero (header) videos

On corporate websites, one of the most popular formats for video is full screen, in “hero” type headers. This is the kind of video we frequently see when we land on a website: it occupies the entire width of the screen and often has text overprinted as a slogan or call to action. Such videos may even include some type of navigation elements.
 
These video headers usually fall into one of a small number of types:
 
1. Loop. A single video played on repeat as a background, acting strictly as a visual element, without audio or other integration with the website beyond the visual.
 
2. Montage. A series of videos combined together and played in a loop as background. This is also a strictly visual element of the site.
 
3. Short film. Here the video is a little more “cinematic”, with sound, and some kind of structure or script, like the trailers used to promote movies.
 
4. Interactive. These are the type of videos that offer really engaging experiences. The viewer follows a story and performs actions or makes decisions by clicking (or tapping the screen) to continue towards the final outcome.
 
5. The “almost-video”. At first glance these look like a fixed image, but in fact there is some subtle movement of one or more elements. These are usually used as backgrounds, and frequently reflect a natural environment of some sort, such as a slight movement of the leaves of a tree.
 

Quality matters

Essentially, the rules for recording video are not so very different from those of photography. If you take into account the basic principles of colour theory, typography, framing and contrast, it’s possible to produce an acceptable video, even if it won’t be of professional standard. But while this kind of “home-made” video may work well for ephemeral uses such as blog posts and social media, it’s vital to recognise the importance of using high-quality videos to represent your business.
 
As well as the quality of the captured images, the framing and editing, high definition, good production, and clear rendering at high resolution all contribute to conveying a professional impression. In addition, a professional videographer may use two cameras and cut between views and perspectives, providing a far more engaging experience for the viewer.
 
Although a good video offers an excellent first impression on your website, the quality of the video itself is not the only thing to consider: there are other factors that must be taken into account.
 

Contrast

Any text or graphic elements superimposed on the video need to be easy to read, so it’s essential to establish a clear contrast between them and the moving image. Because of the motion of the image, this can be a challenge, but the problems can be overcome by choosing clips with minimum variation between light and dark – so that subtitles, for example, can be added either in dark or light text accordingly – or by using a colour overlay – perhaps just on a part of the screen – to provide contrast.
 

Variety

Although video is engaging, once seen it can soon lose its appeal and users will appreciate seeing something new when they visit your website. You can create contrast and interest by using multiple videos that play at different times.
 

Fixed and moving images

Because video is motion, other elements that share the user interface should be – and should appear to be ­– still. Users need to be able to see and read any text and find any call-to-action button easily, while they continue to watch the video. In general, you should choose a typeface without too much slope or implicit movement, and create simple buttons and elements that don’t need much animation as this can distract from the video.
 

Voice-over

If your video is an interview with someone, viewers will clearly expect to hear the actual voice of the person on screen. The result will be more natural if they are not trying to remember an exact script, and using cutaways between concepts can give your interviewee the chance to review the next point in their discourse. But if you are making an explainer video or a corporate video with a collage of clips of your offices, staff, client meetings etc., the chances are that a professional voice over will add polish and make the finished video stand out from the crowd.
 

Sound

Automatic playback sound is intrusive and can be very annoying for some users. When it comes to video and sound, the golden rule has always been to “turn off” the sound until the user chooses to activate it.
There are many (too many) websites that risk using sound for their self-playing videos. Such sites run a huge risk of alienating users, although auto-play sound can be appropriate when it is an essential part of the content.
 
A recent Facebook report shows that an incredible 85% of users watch videos without sound. It is easy then to infer that they see other videos in the same way, no matter what website they are on, so it’s worth exploring the use of subtitles or on-screen captions if the visual message is not enough for your purposes.
 

Interactive adventures

While the use of video has been growing steadily, the emerging trend is interactive storytelling: increasingly, websites are beginning to mix video and user controls to create a story. Combining video, animation and a lot of skill with Javascript and CSS, the result becomes a playful journey that involves and engages users, keeping them on your website much longer as they explore your content.
 
A great example of this is the gamified experience designed by Raptmedia “Will You Fit Into Deloitte”, which takes us through several situations of etiquette and moral dilemmas in a fun and engaging way. In the end, not only will the user have a better understanding of what it takes to integrate into the Deloitte staff, but they will also have spent time exploring the company values and enjoying the experience, which in turn creates memory.
 

What about mobile filming?

If you don’t have a budget for professional video and you want to try it for yourself using your mobile, these five simple points can make a huge difference:
 
1. Hold your phone horizontally not vertically.
 
2. Keep the phone still. Grip it with both hands, as close to the body as possible, not at arm’s length, where you are much more likely to shake. You can also use a table or wall to lean against for stability. Of course, the ideal solution is to buy a cheap tripod.
 
3. Film where there is lots of light to illuminates your subject; don’t sit them in a dark room with their back to a window. Mobiles have little exposure and dynamic range and don’t respond well to filming in low light conditions. Also remember that the darker it is, the steadier the camera needs to be.
 
4. If someone is speaking on the video, make sure there is as little external noise as possible. As with the tripod, a cheap lapel mike will make a huge difference to the results.
 
5. Don’t forget to look at the framing and composition. Your subject doesn’t need to be smack in the centre of the screen: check out the rule of thirds used by photographers.
 
A little editing, a good intro and outro, some background music and transitions, and your video will be fit to go.

If you’d like to liven up your website with affordable professional video, or maybe create some engaging video case studies to show just what you do, we can help. We offer a full video service including scripting, pre-production, filming, voice-over, edition and post-production. Let’s have a chat!