We’ve all been there: you’ve unboxed a new phone and don’t know how to take a screenshot; you can’t figure out how to put down your shiny new engineered wood flooring; you’re trying to Photoshop your face onto everyone’s face in a group photo because it’s Thursday at 9pm and you’ve had a few pints. Yes, all of us have been there. You have no idea how to do it… so you search on the internet.
In situations like this, you opt for one of two options without fail: a picture-heavy article, or a video. Let’s be honest, it’s the second one that most people will choose – not only because the picture assets can be incorporated into said video, but because the voiceover is much easier to pay attention to than an often long-winded description of the steps.
However, a few things really undermine best-laid plans when making an explainer video. Here are four truly important factors that must be considered by even the most amateur producers.
If it’s too long, people will look elsewhere.
The common enemy of YouTube is very simple indeed: the time length display, just to the right of the all-important play button. If you have a video explaining how to apply anti-aliasing effects to the edge of a harsh cut-out image on Photoshop, you won’t sit through even three minutes of video, because people know that it can be done in half that time, even with explanation. Keep it simple and keep it short, unless you’re trying to explain the US intervention in Iran or something similarly hard to communicate (FYI, that’s ten minutes long, and I don’t think it could be shorter).
Write a basic script, at the very least.
Videos that have a voiceover with more umms and ahhs than Eddie Izzard’s first recorded stand-up tour can really turn people off – not only because it affects the sharpness of the video, but because it totally undermines the belief that the viewer has in the advice provided by the speaker. Get a basic script – even just bullet points that break down the core issues into an easy-to-follow structure. A couple of pauses or slip-ups are fine, though – you’re still human.
The voiceover needs to be trusted by your audience.
There are three ways this has been done badly in the past, if you’re a Brit, for the sake of an argument:
- Any video that overdubs a clearly European advert with English voices. Look, I know people on the continent have to deal with that on blockbuster movies, but it’s different when you’re making a targeted short film. Just pay for a new video. I’m looking at you, Petits Filous.
- US voiceovers promoting a product to a British audience. This happens way too much to even give an example, and it can be detrimental to brands.
- US voiceovers being dubbed into British voiceovers, even when the speaker in question is an extremely well-recognised US actress, such as Samira Wiley from Orange is the New Black. Pardon the quality of that one, though I’m glad it was never uploaded to the internet – it’s as embarrassing as it is short-sighted of PayPal, mainly just because it makes people think “Hang on, is she English?” In fact, even PayPal recognised this mistake, and changed it back to her real voice after a few weeks.
Seriously, though – put the effort in. Get the right person to deliver your message, especially when it’s an explainer video, when trust is paramount to success.
Misjudging video quality can truly ruin your message.
Do you go lo-fi, or do you keep it sharp? If you’re a company, it’s usually the latter by default, and for good reason. You’ll never fall off with 1080p sharpness, unless you’re truly terrible with a camera – but explainer videos usually need so much more than that, specifically screengrabs, graphics or finer details that may not even show up on a 480p recording.
Just remember that lo-fi approaches can work with high-definition cameras. If you’re doing an unboxing, or a quick tour of your offices, why not do it with a camera held in your hand, with every footstep measures by the bobbing of the lens? That’s how everyone else sees it. They also, by and large, have sharp eyesight – and that should generally be replicated by the camera, too. Remember that quality isn’t as important in the approach – just the hardware.