Your Viewers Look for Patterns
As with any form of branding, whether it is your company brand or your personal brand, having a consistent visual identity will help make your content memorable and easily identifiable to your target audience.
People look for patterns to help them assign meaning to what they see. They also respond emotionally to what they see. In this instance, understanding and controlling the visual elements in your video becomes an important part of your planning and creation process.
Marketers know that consistency is key if they want their brand to mean anything to their customers. They know you need to see their logo and brand messages, see their colors, see their spokespeople, and be exposed to all the archetypal elements of their brand many, many times in order for it to be “sticky” and memorable.
However, a brand is not just your company logo and tagline. It’s about incorporating all of the elements that infuse your brand with meaning into your video presentation.
It’s in the Details
With any on-camera work, everything within the frame takes on greater visual meaning, importance, and significance for your viewer (often on an unconscious level). It impacts how they see, hear, absorb, relate, and understand you.
Setting the scene and paying attention to the small details will stop you from missing out on “visual” opportunities that could be more persuasive to your intended audience. It can mean the difference between giving a professional presentation or missing the mark.
Attention to detail, supported by intentional, creative thought and planning can make your videos feel “put-together” and more professional. This reassures your viewer they have come to the right place.
Develop a Cohesive Vision and Experience of your Brand on video
When you take the time to create a cohesive look and feel for your video presentations that resonate with your target audience, it can help your viewer identify with and emotionally tune into your brand over others in your space.
This can be achieved with the consistent use of production elements like;
- Background settings, set design, color, lighting
- Props or objects,
- Music, audio, editing, graphics/text
- Wardrobe, makeup, hair
- An overall style that establishes a unified visual appearance and best supports your message, your strategy, and objectives.
Set the Scene. Invite your Viewer into Your Space
Imagine you are watching a film, we follow the camera as it tracks into the living room in a stately mansion. It is a warmly lit room with dark mahogany paneling. Heavy drapes cover the windows. A large bookcase covers one side of the room, housing old vintage bound books. Plush red velvet and leather furnishings decorate the room. A blazing fire flickers away in a magnificent open fireplace. Above it hangs a 6-foot gold framed mirror, flanked by a display of antique rifles and mounted animal trophy heads.
Without a word spoken, we (the viewer) have consciously or unconsciously formed or made an assumption about the type of person who lives here. We have also developed feelings, attitudes, and beliefs about this person and this room.
What Sort of “ROOM” are you Inviting your Viewers into?
- How do you want your viewer to feel? What mood or feeling do you want them to associate with you?
- How can you visually highlight the key themes in your video’s message to help them connect on a deeper level?
- What kind of memorable or unique visuals could you incorporate to appeal to your target audience?
- What creative choices will align with your overall brand identity?
- What look, feel, tone, personality, values, or archetypes could you creatively use to influence and persuade your viewer?
- e.g. What visual elements could you include if you wanted to appear conservative? Playful? Positive? Authoritative? etc
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Avoid Undermining Yourself – Think “Audience-First”
People short-change themselves by giving little to zero thought in managing their first impressions on video. Just like in life, first impressions, and credibility matter. More so than ever in the online space.
The common error I see is thought leaders promoting their services and expertise, or giving interviews via their computer webcam or device, without thinking through their filming set-up and background setting.
It’s a missed opportunity to incorporate powerful visual persuasion elements. Without realizing it, their background setting may be completely off-brand, e.g. cramped office space, living room, or worse a bedroom!
Random things that have nothing to do with the video topic appear in the background. This draws the focus and attention away from you and your message. Visual distractions reduce the effectiveness of your message.
Visually, You Lose your Authority Before you get to HELLO
Using a haphazard approach can visually undermine your authority and negatively impact the first impression you make on the audience.
For example, a kitchen setting may work well for a food expert speaking casually about food topics.
But would you seriously hire me as your video presentation coach in the setting depicted in the images below?
Without even opening my mouth I have already confused and distracted my viewer with elements that have nothing to do with my message.
Note also how my kitchen fit-out is upstaging me in all its light-reflecting glory. Yes, I’m looking at YOU refrigerator!
Think About your Viewer and their Experience of You
Make the time to think about the viewer’s needs and how they will perceive you. Make it easy for them to understand you and your brand.
When you do take the time to thoughtfully set up your filming situation, it visually conveys that you care about how your message will be perceived. You only show the visual elements within the camera frame that support and reinforce your message.
Managing your first impressions enhances your professionalism and boosts your production value. It’ll give you the quality edge over others competing in your space.
Leave Nothing to Chance
In movie filmmaking, everything that appears on screen has been carefully selected and placed to visually communicate the scene to the audience. Nothing is left to chance. Everything serves a purpose. In fact, a lot of the creative choices are subtle, many are deployed below the conscious register of the viewer – as you’ll discover in the below filmmaking example.
For your business and professional brand, I urge you to take advantage of this key filmmaking principle and apply it to your own video presentations. Everything that appears on the screen must reinforce your brand. Everything the viewer sees and hears must reinforce how you want your brand to be perceived and remembered.
A creative (but carefully considered) way to do this is with props, set dressing (how you set up the shot), and your clothing choices.
Visual Persuasion at its Best
A real-world filmmaking example: is the film The Counselor. Here I break down and interpret some of the unconscious meanings behind the visual elements featured in these pivotal scenes.
In the final scene of the crime thriller The Counselor (directed by Ridley Scott), the character Malkina (played by Cameron Diaz) appears wearing a grey hooded garment. Her actions have recently caused the deaths of two of the main characters.
It could be suggested that Malkina’s clothing style is a visual metaphor for an Angel of Death or perhaps the Grim Reaper. Her styling choice reinforces her character’s dialogue in the scene, and it visually suggests to the audience that death cloaks all that come into contact with her.
Another example from the same film
The character Westray (played by Brad Pitt) is sitting on a couch speaking with the Counselor (played by Michael Fassbender). Directly above Westray is a large painting that shows a finger pointing toward the exit, that is stopped by a hand (the hand of greed). The bottom of the painting stays in the frame throughout the whole scene, and surrounds Westray’s (Pitts) head, shoulders, and back).
The skulls of animal heads decorate the walls (signaling death, decapitation, but also the possibility of a trophy kill or a big win) and to the right of the frame, a red and yellow neon sign displays a Revolver, with the words bang-bang (suggests a visual warning of the impending violence that is about to occur for the Counselor).
Below the sign, a statue of a tribal Chief also implies the presence of powerful third-party involvement.
A large “eye” in the painting (above Pitts head) breaks the 4th wall and looks out knowingly towards the camera (us), letting us in on the secret that walls have eyes, and there is nowhere to hide when you deal with the Cartel.
All of these (visual elements) occupy the character’s headspace. The pointing finger and the revolver both point horizontally towards the characters and the exit. Consciously or unconsciously we the viewers see this and perhaps already sense the fate of this situation.
It’s a turning point in the film where the Counselor (Fassbender) needs to confirm whether or not he is going to participate in financing a drug deal with the Mexican cartel. Not only is he being warned by Westray (Pitt) that there is no turning back once he decides to proceed, but the large visual metaphor of a finger pointing toward the exit is also a powerful subconscious signal to the audience that the Counselor should heed the warning and walk away.
Everything you see or hear in film and TV has been meticulously and deliberately placed there to create the desired effect, and to influence the audience into thinking, feeling, or responding in a certain way, whether the audience is consciously aware of it or not.
Behind the Scenes
In my Film and TV experience (20+ years) in front of and behind the camera, I’ve seen production crews scout high and low for a key visual element to enhance the shot.
I’ve sat in heated debates over color and room furnishing schemes.
I’ve been styled in different looks and fashions to reinforce a TV advertising message or to appeal to a certain type of female demographic. And I’ve had directors argue with the people in the “prop and set design” over the spikes of plant vs fern. The list goes on.
Remember, everything you see or hear in movies or on TV has been meticulously and deliberately placed there to create the desired effect and influence the audience into thinking, feeling, or responding in a certain way, whether the audience is consciously aware of it or not.
Well, that’s just a brief sample of this (draft) chapter. I hope it got you thinking in creative ways for your next video presentation shoot.
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Established in 2006 Bianca Te Rito, founder of STEBIAN.com provides an exclusive, consulting service helping business thought leaders, speakers, award-winning authors & VIPs productize their thought leadership and present themselves, their products, services, or brand message to their target audience in the most effective way possible on video. Get the tailored expertise from a real-world operator with over 20 years of TV/Film industry experience working in front of and behind the camera. Learn more about our custom offers here.