Developing characters, creatively using light to set a mood, and utilizing sound design to add depth to your video are all some of the most basic, yet incredibly powerful ways to tell great stories. And when you tell great stories, the platform doesn’t matter; it’s about creating great content because you understand how to captivate viewers. Here are seven creative storytelling techniques you can use in your marketing videos, and beyond.
1. Build a Story Arc
The story or narrative arc is the plot or theme that runs through your video. A character or subject usually moves through the story arc and affects or is affected by the surrounding environment. When it comes to your marketing videos, put your subject or character in a situation that has a starting and ending point, because people enjoy watching something that has a storyline to it. Cooking videos have a story arc. Vlogs usually have a story arc. Whatever your video is, try to start somewhere and end somewhere else. The change is the interesting part. This fantastic video from Reebok tells a human story, and it’s told in reverse:
2. Character Development
Within a story or narrative arc, a character can have an arc of their own and develop over time. This is what happens to the subject throughout the story. Your goal should be to have the subject go through some sort of change or face some conflict, because that’s where all the intrigue is. In the above example, we see the woman get younger and younger, showing ust how long she’s loved to run. You can develop a character in one video, or over several video pieces posted at different times. Allowing viewers to see the change over time will help them to connect better to the story.
Brands are very good at using characters to sell us products. Why should we like Carhartt jeans? Well, because Jason Momoa tells us about how great they are. Airbnb has an entire video series devoted to telling stories to bolster their brand. And you should, too.
3. Composition and Lighting
Mise-en-scéne is a fancy way to talk about positioning subjects, characters, and objects in the frame. It’s also something of a lost art, but the best directors, artists, and cinematographers are very particular about how everything is placed in the frame. Sometimes the composition itself can even tell its own story. This goes the same for any visual medium, including marketing and social-media videos. Wes Anderson is a master at positioning his camera and characters exactly where they need to be, as you can see in this H&M commercial:
Be deliberate with how you frame and position your subjects, and if you’re using stock footage, be sure to pick clips that have the most dynamic framing. Usually, this will result in a more interesting and eye-catching final video that pulls in viewers.
Lighting can also dramatically alter how a video is perceived. Dark scenes convey a completely different mood and tone than scenes shot during the middle of the day, or around/during golden hour.
Using footage shot during magic hour always looks fantastic (there is so much great magic hour footage on Pond5) and using lights to get even, soft light on your subjects or basic three-point lighting in interviews will produce solid results. If you’re going to use natural light outside of magic hour, just make sure that it’s diffused or indirect to avoid harsh shadows and extreme contrast. This video about a pasta maker features a brilliant use of natural light:
4. Work With Color
Filmmakers use color to invoke a lot of meaning in their movies. Hue, saturation, and brightness can all be manipulated to convey any number of emotions, feelings, or even time periods. The green of The Matrix, the red of Her, the saturation of The Wizard of Oz, and the dark and gritty look of 300 are all great uses of these three aspects of color to relay meaning.
Your aim for your marketing videos should be to make your colors stand out. Whether that’s through vivid saturation and brightness, or through a washed-out, desaturated, or darker color scheme, you want your videos to pop so that people are intrigued by them. Even black-and-white or monochrome palettes will stand out.
When working with your brand (even if that brand is you), you should try and create a unique color palette that you use throughout your subjects, props, and on any logos, motion graphics, or visual effects in your video. It should reflect your personality, the tone of the piece, and any feelings you’re trying to impart on the viewer.
5. Sound Design
Sound design is one of the most important, yet often underestimated aspects of video production. A video with quality, engaging music and well-mixed sound effects adds enormous amounts of depth and layers to the viewing experience. This ASMR commercial is an example of an excellent use of sound.
That said, the vast majority of videos on social media are watched without sound. This doesn’t mean that you should ignore your sound or delete it entirely; it just means that you should really be mindful about how your sound can and should improve the video for people who end up turning on the sound. You don’t have to solely use whatever sounds you’ve captured, either, because using a sound-effects library for your sound design is an inexpensive and easy way to make your videos more engaging. Take a look at this video made just with sound effects available on Pond5:
The last thing to consider when it comes to audio is adding voiceovers and music. A simple narration or stock music track can add to the video’s overall quality and enhance the viewer’s connection to the story. And in the end, a video can actually be limited if there’s no audio component, so don’t discount it!
6. Creative Editing
Editing is the backbone of filmmaking, because it takes an entire project’s worth of footage and cuts it all down into the best and most interesting end result. There are a number of creative editing techniques that are standard in video production, and they can be used in all kinds of different ways for all kinds of different results.
You can stand out with your marketing videos by making more unique edits and pulling in viewers with something different. Invisible cuts, match cuts, and cuts made at a faster, more energetic pace can definitely be enjoyable to watch, so use all the transitions at your disposal for attracting eyes.
It doesn’t stop with the types of transitions, either. Footage can be speed-ramped or slowed down to fit with the video’s needs. In the video above, there’s a mix of real-time and slow-motion footage to add energy and make it artistic when appropriate. Top-down cooking videos are constantly changing clip speeds to move time-consuming steps forward, or slowing them down to put more emphasis on a finished recipe’s final shot.
Using these basic filmmaking and storytelling concepts in all of your videos is not only an easy way to increase your production value, but will also enable you to become much more versatile in your work. Regardless of the platform or goal, you’ll be able to make more videos that draw people in and separate your content from all the rest.
Explore all the Pond5 media used in our tutorial video in the collection below: