1) Have fun with vibrant colour schemes
Visually it’s hard to think of a more obvious way to make a video pop than to take advantage of eye-catching colour schemes. To pick a colour style you can’t go wrong with, opt for something aesthetically pleasing like a complementary colour scheme (choosing opposite colours on Newton’s colour wheel) or try to experiment with a brighter motif (eg. choosing a loose theme like ‘pastels’, ‘neon’, or ‘primary colours’ as a guide to inform the feel of the video). Juxtapose bright colours to give your explainer a feeling of playfulness, vitality and youth – an image sought after in this video spot by animation station Cartoon Network: (https://vimeo.com/67577762)
2) Make one colour the star of the film
Another interesting use of colour is the use of monochromatic schemes to make certain parts of your explainer stand out for a conceptual effect. Use a strong colour choice on certain characters, objects and motifs in a meaningful way to make your theme apparent, leaving other details in a more subdued colour range.
Famous examples of this technique include Schindler’s List, where the otherwise black and white film is starkly broken by a little girl’s red coat, signifying the protagonist’s mental departure from a black and white way of thinking, and Sin City, where individual colours are used against black and white to highlight metaphorical features of characters, such as yellow coming to represent villainy, disgust and danger.
3) Experiment with animation styles
Making your explainer pop out of the box can be tricky when your video looks just like everyone else’s. Curb the overused visual trends by researching growing or lesser used animation styles. Combine styles and take inspiration from several different artists to get an especially fresh visual flavour.
This might branch out to the way the characters are designed, the programs used, the style of movement, the line style, line thickness, effects, digital vs traditional – the ways to mix and match visual styles goes on. Have a little fun researching videos with unusual styles and you might come across something much fresher than what you first thought you wanted.
4) Try an unexpected musical style
The wonderful thing about film is that we’re not just limited to visuals to grab and keep an audience’s attention. Music is an important mood setter and is a choice which can make or break how well your message is conveyed. A safe route is to choose music which directly matches the mood you’re conveying: like opting for bright, happy major chords for a comedic explainer, spacey electronic vibes for a technology update, or soft strings for a heartfelt community message. But to really make your video pop, consider how a contrasting musical style might complement your message in a fresh way.
The comedy show It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is always my go-to example of this technique – using Heinz Kiessling’s classy, fun, orchestral soundtrack to comedically accompany visuals of morally bankrupt characters doing morally bankrupt things. The mismatching soundtrack draws more attention to the absurdity of the characters’ actions than usual, making the series ‘pop’ where it otherwise might be seen as another edgy multi-cam sitcom.
5) Subvert genre expectations to create a ‘twist’ ending
As most of us have grown up in screen-heavy environments, we’ve naturally become savvy to the ins and outs of genre expectations. The protagonist ends up with the friend who’s always been there for them in a teen romantic comedy. The couple who sneaks off to make out always dies first in a horror. The great thing about these genre expectations is that they can be set up and then be turned on their head to create unexpected twists which help stick in the viewer’s mind. And due to their predictability, genre expectations need only a few seconds to set up when handled properly, leaving a one to two-minute explainer video more than enough time to set up a story before turning the tables.
6) Use silence to grab the non-viewers
It might seem counterintuitive to consider silence an attention grabber, but think about it – when you’re playing a Youtube video in the background, nothing makes your attention turn fully to the screen faster than the sound stopping. Sometimes actions speak louder than words, and silence for dramatic effect can be particularly powerful if you have a strong social cause to get across, as there’s less risk of the audience feeling as though they’re being told how to feel.
7) …And use animated text to grab the non-listeners
In the ancient days of yore, if one wanted to be entertained through screen media one had to seek out a static glowing box inside the quiet comfort of a house or a movie theatre. The only time you’d struggle to hear your beloved video content was if you were watching a TV in a waiting room or a bar. But with the rise of these goshdarn newfangled super mega smartphones, one can watch videos just about anywhere one pleases – on busy street corners, on noisy trains, in the middle of Mardi Gras – so the struggle for media creators to be heard becomes greater and greater.
Thankfully it’s possible to still make your video pop even without being heard by using attention-grabbing text art. Animated text can help emphasise keywords and deliver a message even to those viewers on-the-go. Be sure to keep your message brief and summarise the key ideas to keep those eyeballs interested until the end.
8) Give the audience a hook to leave with
One way to make your video pop in a viewer’s mind long after they’ve watched it is to leave them with a memorable hook. What exactly defines a hook? At it’s most broad definition it’s “a thing designed to grab people’s attention”. More specifically, a hook must be catchy and memorable enough to engage our subconscious minds. We can try and force a hook by repeating an idea or motif over and over in a short amount of time, but this risks coming off as annoying as a back-and-forth radio ad. A better approach comes from having the creative skill to craft a genuinely likeable mantra (in the case of dialogue), earworm (in the case of music or jingles) or call to action (in the case of stylised advertising).
Written by Maree Railton.