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Elements of a Successful Video - Part One

Amidst all the talk about online video, the matter of quality is often confused. A video can communicate a message, sell a product or get views for all kinds of reasons. It can be cute, hilarious, shocking, informative and insightful but unless it adheres to some basic rules it always falls short of its potential to connect with audiences.

So where does quality come in and why does it matter?

One way to think about video quality the way we think about language. We know we accomplish more when we use language well. And while some people achieve their ends by being brash, loud, forceful, charming, charismatic or funny, the ability to use language with nuance and intelligence is the more assured avenue to success.

This is true for video, but video also possesses a sublime power to transport your audience then replicate that experience a million times over. So why aren’t we all tapping into its incredible potential.

We are trained from an early age to know the rules of language, yet few of us understand the basics for video. With that in mind, we’ve outlined three of six elements that are inherent to the success of great videos from the best-produced commercials to many of the home grown videos that catch fire on YouTube. We'll be presenting the remaining three in Part Two of this series.

Watchability.  We all possess an ability to know if a video works and lightning quick reflexes to kill it in its tracks if it doesn’t. Being able to go from there to an understanding of why it works is the best way to avoid death by a thousand mouse clicks. A recent spoof video we produced for our client Perforce’s 2013 User Conference begins with a series of quick cuts and music that get the viewer smiling. Those first 10 seconds are all the time we get to let the viewer know this a video they want to watch, and also to establish the rules for the rest of the video.

Information. A great video draws you in with a continuous stream of new information and does not waste a single frame on anything that does not add to that. We recently created a video to premiere at our client BIA’s 20th Century Gala. The video uses every spec of information – visuals, sound, titles, graphics, background color, the words being spoken, and even the expressions on people’s faces – to weave four separate client anecdotes around the founders’ story in the course of three-minutes. It succeeds by setting us up to want to know more and then rewarding us for it. A mediocre or bad video breaks that trust by including information that’s either redundant, boring or irrelevant, thereby wasting our time.


Narrative. The magic of video and source of its power lies in its ability to not just tell a story but to unfold countless mini narratives that keep us engaged and delighted. Live action footage works best when we feel like it “actually happened” and embodies a holistic awareness that everything from the direction someone is looking to the story being told is plausible and compelling. In a recent video we produced as a fundraising tool our a client, we struggled to find the right B-roll to visualize a point being made about family. The only shot we could find that seemed to do that was an out-of-focus shot of a man in a Raiders jersey picking his kids up from school. We put it in as a placeholder, hoping to find something better later, then we noticed by chance that the same man was walking behind the interviewee in the next shot. Although initially unintended, the coincidence added a subtle narrative component to deepen our connection to the subject matter and the feeling that this was all happening in real time. Similarly, music, titles, graphics, animation all need to be selected or created with an awareness of how they sync up with and support the overall narrative, each with its own distinctive arc.

Integrated Educational Video Media