Whether you’re baking a cake or going on holiday, knowing what you need to include is of the utmost importance. The same is true for explainer videos. Not only from a functional point of view, but as a matter of consideration for engagement, style and success.
Keep it simple
Before any of the real ideation or construction can begin, you have to know what you’re going to say. We don’t mean the specific words or visual language – we’ll get back to that. No, we’re talking about a brief. Condensing all of your hopes, wants and theories about your product or service down to their core elements. And if we’re being honest, this is extremely difficult.
There’s a phrase we writers use: kill your darlings. It was originally said by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch who wrote “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.” And essentially it’s advice to edit your work and, even if you love how something looks or sounds, if it holds the story back, don’t include it. So no matter how many things you want to cram into your video, maintain focus. Because by sticking to a single message, you are better able to hold a viewer’s attention. If you can do this, and trust explainer video experts, you’ll excel every time.
Pen to paper
The scripting stage is where your attention will be so heavily focused. This is because you want to ensure the company writing your script understands what you’re offering. Not only the surface details, but the complexity and nuance that makes it so special. But it doesn’t need to be blunt. A good, thought provoking script will include all the beats you want to hit, without the viewer feeling overly sold to, or knocked upside the head with extensive terminology.
Language can be refined but you also want to pay careful consideration to the overall flow. The last thing you want is to spend a week getting to grips with how impressive and industry-changing your product or service is, only to end up with something that sounds like a shopping list or a jargon-heavy terms and conditions declaration. You want to emotionally inspire and entice your audience. So take them on a narrative journey that will feel relatable, exciting and motivate them to act.
Make it move
As stupidly obvious as this might sound, video is a visual medium. I know, shocking. But so many clients forget this simple fact. And having so intensely scrutinised the central focal point and the script itself, it’s easy to overlook one of video’s strongest benefits: the visuals can do the heavy lifting. Everything from the initial illustrated designs, to the motion and transitions – every facet of animation can convey so much more emotion, detail and concepts than words alone.
Yet knowing what to include at this stage, needs appropriate deliberation. For example, if a line of script states “Brands are always looking to innovate,” slapping up an image of a polar bear, while admittedly engaging, wouldn’t feel suitable. So you need to keep the audience hooked whilst staying relevant. What’s more, your viewer is taking in so much information, you want to avoid cognitive overload and ensure the animation is both serving and elevating the message you’ve worked so hard to instil.
Not every video requires voiceover. So before the scripting has even begun, an animation studio worth their salt will advise on whether a text-only or voiceover-led approach is best. Inflection, accent, dialect, tone, pacing; there are so many fundamentals to consider. Because this one voice actor is now the mouthpiece for your brand. It’s your words, your expertise but the audience hears it from this particular individual. Thankfully, there’s a whole host of talented artists out there and whatever you’re after, finding the right fit is often a pleasing and rewarding experience.
Should you choose not to include a human presence, sound design has to step up to fill the gap. Now, sound will always be there. It’s the bed of grass at the bottom of your feet, a comforting blanket. The sort of thing that you forget about until it’s not there and then something feels entirely amiss. The sound design has to compliment the animation, any voiceover used and also the emotionality. After all, there’s nothing like an ill-timed cartoony slide-whistle ruining the meaningful moment you’re trying to create.
And a-one and a-two
Knowing whether to include music or not is a tricky one. Have you ever watched a movie without a musical score? It has its place and can create a very realistic grounding effect. But it also puts a lot of pressure on the viewer to be emotionally attentive. As with both sound design and voiceover, picking music that enhances rather than distacts, is the name of the game. More than that, you want to select a track that can be easily edited where necessary. And one which stands out from the crowd. Because if you’ve spent countless hours creating something unique, why would you choose a melody which blandly sounds like every corporate video over the last decade?
The secret sauce
The last thing is one of the hardest to capture, but one which we inject into every stage of the process. That shareability factor. Each individual component can shine in its own way but working together in harmony is what triumph looks like. It’s the subtlety woven into the very fabric of the video that makes the viewer not only stick around until the end but encourages them to share it to others. That’s the difference between a competent video and a remarkable one. But if you include all the above, you’ll already know which one you’ve made.