The Conflicts in Video Storytelling

We listened to a very interesting podcast this week from Inside PR about The importance of conflict in video storytelling which really resonated with us. As we work on larger videos here at LEWIS with our in-house production team we certainly appreciate the importance of engaging with the audience. The messages discussed in the podcast are very true for all kinds of storytelling where you want to engage the viewer, be it a presentation, a campaign or in this case a video.

Cameraman on a mountain

Conflict is a word that often conjurs up images of fighting or negativity. Another way to look at it, however, is that it is just something to be overcome. Do you want to be known as a company that overcomes things? Especially when it comes to things that your customers care about? Most companies would say yes, but brands can sometimes be too conservative or even scared of the notion of conflict. If you find that your video content isn’t getting picked up then it could be because it was too vanilla or too ordinary. There was no conflict there to engage the user and make them feel invested.

The podcast discussed how conflict is one of the fundamental elements of storytelling along with hook, context, build and resolution. It’s a universal truth of life that we will have conflicts. Decisions to make. Adversity to overcome. Mike Edgell, Video Creative Director at 76BrandFilms had some tips for how brands can use conflict and stated that “there is a way to inject conflict into all kinds of content without damaging the brand.”

  1. Safe conflict – Find a challenge that the organisation can overcome. Avoid large controversial conflicts if you don’t think you will be able to overcome it or if the viewer might not like it.
  2. Empathy – Align with what your customers want to overcome. The recent Real Beauty Sketches video from Dove took an insecurity about beauty and turned that conflict into what the customer was thinking. “Don’t start with what the organization wants to talk about. Start with what the audience fears, wants and cares about.”
  3. Consequence – There has to be some risk involved. Even Disney films often deal with subjects related to death. The risk of death can be a very powerful way to get the audience invested but another way to look at that is the absence of life. Find out what your customers can’t live without and focus on that in a more fun way.

Some of the most shared videos of 2013 had some element of conflict. The Volvo trucks Van Damme splits video has the conflict of danger. Will he hurt himself? The Ram Trucks Farmer video has huge conflicts of emotion. A farmer who sits up all night with a new born colt and then watches it die. The universal truths and the highs and lows of life. The WestJet Christmas Miracle video solves the stresses of holiday travel and makes it enjoyable. And in the same video the WestJet employees are overcoming a race against time. Two conflicts in one video.

We certainly agree that conflict is very important. When coming up with a concept for a video you could consider the following steps.

1. Identify what challenges your customers may have
2. Find a conflict that can represent this with empathy for your customer
3. Choose your level of consequence. The conflict can be made safer or flipped (listen to the donut example on the podcast) depending on the amount of risk/impact you desire
4. Build a narrative around this conflict
5. Shoot your video

If we want to get our audience invested then we need to make them care. We can’t just sit on the fence. Not many people will want to watch that.

Why not go and listen to the original podcast here.

(this blog post originally appeared on the LEWIS 360 Blog)

8 ways to improve your corporate videos

If they say that a picture paints a thousand words then a video must paint over 25,000 words per second. Video is an incredibly powerful medium which is becoming more and more expected by users online. If you are producing your own video there are several things you can do to ensure that it is the highest quality you can make it.

Choose a style
Think about what you want to get from your video. Who is your audience? Do you want a slick corporate interview or a fun, engaging viral video? Can you make it hand-held or do you need a tripod? The style of your video sets the tone and depending on what style you choose it will affect how you handle some of the other points below. Know what you want, and then go for it.

Know your content
Part of your preparation is to know exactly what you want to film. It can be much more difficult to just go out with a camera not really knowing what shots you want. If you know from the start what you need to get then these shots will come out better. Draw up a storyboard. Print out your questions and know them well. If you’re interviewing someone and they address three of your questions in one answer you will want to be able to adapt on the move and adjust any further questions to fit.

Get your kit ready
Whether you are using a high-end Sony Z5 HD camera, a consumer level camcorder or your iPhone you need to know your kit. Make sure you know how to switch it on quickly and know of anything that can happen accidentally like a particular mode button that can be easily knocked. When you’re busy filming you don’t want to have to be messing about with the menus. Also double-check and triple-check that you have all the batteries charged, spare tapes/memory sticks etc before you leave the office. If your basic kit is 100% ready then that gives you more confidence and less things that can go wrong. Keep these things ready all the time in case you get called out in a rush.

Find a good location
Location, location, location. If you can get a good location then it puts you in control. You need as much control over the lighting and background noise as you can, plus you will want the background and scenery to look interesting whilst not distracting. If you’re filming at someone’s office then try to make sure they book you a room in advance which is big enough for your needs, has decent lighting and most importantly does not have background noise. There are ways to handle small rooms or bring your own lighting, but background noise is one thing that you cannot remove in post-production. Also make sure you arrive 30mins before the subject walks in the room so that you can get setup with camera angles and lighting before you have to manage with the subject.

Some people waste money on cameras or lenses which are superfluous to their needs. These are worth nothing unless you have good lighting. A good lighting setup will improve your picture tenfold. Soft lights are better than hard lights as they don’t produce as much shadow. Direct sunlight can be quite harsh and if you rely on using natural light from a window just be watchful for cloudy periods during filming as that can make your shot look hugely different when you’re editing it later. Ideally a 3 point lighting system is the way to go but even if you have only one light point you can be creative by having that light the subject from an angle, or bounce it off a wall to soften it even more.

Good audio is extremely important. Think about how you can happily watch an in-flight movie on a small screen a few rows ahead of you as long as you have the audio at a nice level in your headphones, but conversely when you’re watching TV on your brand new 42″ HDTV at home and the volume is too low it can be very uncomfortable. The one thing that makes the biggest difference in the quality of a final video is the quality of the audio. Bad audio screams ‘amateur’. Not only can you not remove any background noise in post-production, but editing audio quality is much harder than colour correcting poor visuals. Ideally use a boom mic, a radio lapel mic or even just get the camera’s internal mic as close as you can to the subject.

Put your subject at ease
Many people, even CEOS, melt in front of a camera. Be prepared for this. You may have to record segments several times and then edit the good takes together later. If they have to read text out try to make sure they are familiar with the text in advance. Attempting to tape a makeshift autocue underneath the camera lens doesn’t work as you can see their eyes move. If you are filming an interview on your own, try to get the camera all setup and recording and then leave it alone. If you are fidgeting with the camera during the interview you will break eye contact with the subject and also make them more aware of the camera being there.

Editing out the pauses
You’ll notice from any good video, TV show or movie that the editing is very tight. Try to minimise the awkward pauses at the beginning and end of takes. Tighter editing is better than loose editing. If you are having to cut between different takes of the same headshot, it’s handy to have shot some extra shots of the building, environment, and related activities that you can cut away to during the transition. This way the audio of the speaker continues in the background and you don’t notice the jump cut.

Below are a few examples of our videos, filmed using various techniques and in various situations. Feel free to contact us at if you would like to ask for any advice in video production.

Autoglass 2020
Autoglass April Fool
Boardroom Tweets
IBM Predictive Analytics at Marwell Wildlife

[via LEWIS PR]