Storytelling with video

Here’s another excerpt, from BBN’s newsletter Buzz where we explore how marketers can use video as a creative storytelling tool.

I’m pretty sure my team hates it when I say “back in MY day …” since they know they’re going to have to listen to me wax poetic about having to load actual film into motion picture cameras or some classic montage editing technique or some other archaic bit of nonsense. I try to present it as if I’m sharing little insights and pearls of wisdom from my way too many years in film and video production. Which I truly am. But I also love the medium. I mean, I REALLY love the medium.

Since the first time I grabbed my dad’s old Super 8 film camera and pulled that trigger, I was hooked. I felt empowered. I felt like I had captured a little moment of time and froze it forever. I felt like a superhero. But if you noticed, I said I love the medium, not the media. It was the ability to capture and tell stories that had me hooked. Whether it was a Maysles brothers documentary, a major Hollywood blockbuster or a photo collection like Dorothea Lange’s epic journey across America in the Depression, it was the characters and stories that held me. It didn’t matter if it was shot in IMAX, Super 8 or a Polaroid Land Camera. The media didn’t matter. It was the medium that allowed us to enter that world and, if done right, experience what they experienced and feel what they felt.

But in the early days, the creation, delivery and sharing of those stories was always the problem. For even for the most inspired creator, the technology was expensive and complicated, which was a huge hurdle to overcome that most people couldn’t. And if you could overcome that, the issue of sharing your masterpiece was just as daunting.

Darkened theaters brought many of these tales to light. Many stories were left untold. Technology responded in kind, and soon video tape would allow us to connect directly with viewers in the comfort of their own homes. In step with these advancements came a host of more accessible ways to capture and create these stories. Higher-quality, less expensive video cameras and editing systems that would fit in a small office fueled the fire in the young and old alike. Media creation swelled. Interactive CD-ROMs integrated with full-motion video (gasp!!!) became the standard for wowing customers, and the desire for and production of video swelled. The internet. The first use of postage-stamp-sized, 15-frame-per-second video blew everyone’s mind. All the while, the technology to capture video moved forward with leaps and bounds.

Then the magic moment happened. YouTube. I don’t have to tell you what happened. Case studies and thesis papers and entire conferences have been built around that revolution. Again, technology responded to the demand for more and more content, and soon came higher-quality camera phones, drones, 4K cameras, micro action cameras, bigger and more complicated 6K cameras, simple VR rigs, complicated VR rigs. Again, content creation leapt forward, now becoming an integral part of our everyday lives. Heck, who could make it through a day without an afternoon cat video pick-me-up?

Video is ubiquitous. To me, that doesn’t really properly express it. Video isn’t just ubiquitous, it’s table stakes to play in today’s modern game of communications.

To stand out, we now create more and more content, desperately hoping to raise our voices above the crowd. We reach out to the newest, latest, greatest tech to set ourselves apart. We shoot a VR video because our client’s competitors haven’t. We throw drones willy-nilly into the air and capture buildings and campuses and harvesters cutting swaths of golden grain and, heck, anything we can slap a logo over. And we, ourselves, become part of the problem. We become part of the noise we are so desperately trying to rise above.

And here is where Old Man Baade stands up and screams “back in MY day …” and everyone in the room groans. We have to remember that technology (be it what we use to capture our content or deliver our content) is merely a tool. And it will come and go and ebb and flow. But when the sun sets on the day, as communicators, we must communicate. We must connect with our audiences, and we do that through stories. We do that by understanding that our audiences are getting smarter and more savvy and can smell self-indulgent bullshit a mile away. We have to go back to the basics and remember that stories connect people, and through those stories we, and our clients, will stand out and truly connect. And ultimately, that’s what moves someone to action, right? Isn’t that what we’re ultimately trying to do? Well … that and watch some cat videos as an afternoon pick-me-up.


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