August 10

Making an Incredible Video: Where to Start?

watching tv clip artNo matter what type of video you’re making, the first step is ALWAYS to consider your audience.

WHO is the video intended for, and WHAT do you want them to get out of it? The answers to those two questions will determine most everything else.

If you’re producing a home movie of your two-year-old’s birthday party for relatives, chances are you’ll need to do things much differently than if you’re producing a demonstration video for investors of your multi-million dollar experimental hybrid car.

All videos should be planned and created with the audience in mind. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What does the audience want/need to see?
  • What do they expect to see?
  • What information do you want them to learn?
  • What information are they likely to already have?
  • What emotions do you want them to feel?
  • What style appeals to your audience?
  • What action do you wish them to take because of watching your video?

woman using video camera

When you’re producing a video, you are largely in control of what your audience will get out of it, both intellectually and emotionally. Granted, you can’t control any individual’s reaction, but as the video’s creator, you have the ability to tell them what you want them to know and present it in such a way that they are likely to feel the way you want them to feel. Powerful stuff!

A good video producer always considers the expectations and needs of the audience, because that helps ensure the finished video will be watchable and fun for audiences.  You can’t get your message across if nobody is willing to watch your video.  So give audiences what they want!

How do you actually do that?

By telling a story.

All videos tell a story, even if it’s nothing more complex than the story of how to knit a blanket. (Some stories are inherently more exciting than others.) Even the most hum-drum topics can be made interesting by adding appropriate story-telling elements and playing on the audience’s emotions.

There is a saying in television production that there are no boring stories, only boring story-tellers. This is true. Take the how-to-knit-a-blanket example.

baby on blanket
These precious baby pictures by Josh Bennett.



  • Take an extreme wide-shot of a blanket. The camera is so far away that the viewer has to hunt for the blanket amid all the other stuff unrelated to the blanket that’s showing on the screen.
  • The shot is shaky, grainy and poorly-lit. The narration is full of static.
  • The person reading the narration mumbles inaudibly and, occasionally, sniffs deeply.
  • The script is long, rambling, and uses lots of ten-dollar words.
  • The narrator drones on in excruciating detail, describing how to make the zillions of tiny stitches. However, the audience never actually sees the tiny stitches the narrator is talking about because the video remains on the one wide-shot of the finished blanket for the entire thirty minutes.


  • Begin with a fast-paced montage of brightly lit shots of an adorable baby snoozing peacefully while snuggled in a blanket.
  • Include lots of close-ups of the blanket’s details, plus close-ups of the baby, which are guaranteed to make the audience say, “Awwwwwww.” (Any time you can make an audience say, awwwwwwwwww, go for it!)
  • Upbeat, cheerful music accompanies the articulate narrator, who speaks clearly, with enthusiasm.
  • The script is conversational, using common, everyday language.
  • The details of how to make the stitches are shown visually, with close-ups, repeated in slow motion.
  • The entire video lasts only ten minutes.

See the difference?

Also by Josh

Even though the first video actually contains more information, no one will ever absorb that information because who would sit through such torture?

Not even the producer’s mother!

Simple story-telling techniques make the difference between a video that people will tune out and one they’ll watch and absorb. Never assume that you can’t tell a story because your subject is too dry. In fact, the more tedious your subject the more you need to tell a story and there’s always a way.

Another precious baby picture by Josh Bennett

Telling a story doesn’t necessarily mean you need complex characters and a compelling plot. (However, you’d be amazed by how detailed a story you can pack into a 30-second spot.) Characters, plot and action always enhance a video, but sometimes it’s best to be more straight forward with your information and a character will just get in the way. If that’s the case, story-telling can mean nothing more than adding some emotional elements like mood music and close-ups of smiling people the viewer can relate to.

In the blanket story example, the script doesn’t even mention the baby, merely having the cute video shots does the trick.

That is the very essence of “visual” storytelling.

People relate to other people, and smiling faces increase your video’s watchability exponentially. Cute visuals tell a story and pack a powerful emotional punch merely by being cute.  Watched any kitty cat videos lately?

It’s been proven repeatedly in market research, the most memorable and compelling experiences for viewers are ones that affect their emotions. Telling a good story is the key to touching a viewer’s emotions, which makes it more likely they will remember and respond to your message.

Anytime you can hit an emotional button, you greatly increase the chances of your video’s success.

The easiest way to do this when making videos is with compelling visuals. Babies, people crying, people laughing, explosions, it sound cheesy but it’s guaranteed to work every time.

Music is an essential mood enhancer and is also extremely easy to add.

There are many different ways to enhance your story with visual storytelling.  That’s part of the fun.  🙂

television news

The level of emotionalism you want in your video depends on your audience’s needs and your subject. One of the criticisms leveled at the television news industry is that too many news stories are told with emotions and not facts. I believe this is a valid criticism; TV news is the one area of video production where emotionalism should be kept in check. However, newscasters add a bit of emotionalism in order to keep their newscast from being deadly dull.

How many news directors did I hear lecture, “If your story is so boring no one watches it, than what good is it?” So every story we did HAD to be done based on people, not just facts and figures.

If the story was about tax increases, we weren’t allowed to just give a laundry list of the numbers, we had to go find a family that was going to be affected by the increases and ask them how they felt about it. No doubt the news director hoped emotionalism would run high due to the family we chose being an extreme case. Then, the facts were woven into the story of this family.

Doing a story on colon cancer? How do you take video of colon cancer?  Find someone who suffered with it and tell their story.  You can use video of them doing anything at all.

storytellingTrying to educate your audience about an amazing product you’re selling? Find someone who benefited from it and tell their story. The reasons why they liked it will probably be fairly universal.

Want to educate the masses on flower gardening? Videotape people who love gardening and tell their stories.

We can argue all day long about the ethical aspects of purposely squeezing the emotional jugular, but in the end, the reality is that few people care about information, they care about people. So regardless of your subject, you need to inject emotions into your video, and traditionally this is done by telling stories about people and their experiences.

It’s guaranteed that your audience will relate to the subject of your story more than they would just a recitation of the facts.

I hope this article helps you make better videos!

Lorraine Grula

I give thanks to Josh Bennett for the adorable baby pictures.  Josh is a former student of mine and now a professional photographer in the Nashville, Tennessee area.   He does an amazing job with wedding videos

AI generated image


  • Why is it a good idea to think of your audience when first planning a video?
  • Define the characteristics of a good story.  You can base your answer on your own opinions of your own experiences with stories.
  • Why do you think pictures of cute babies or animals are generally popular with audiences?  (This can help you understand how visuals can evoke emotion.)




film making story telling, how to tell a story using video, video making story telling, video storytelling, visual storytelling

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