Reach into your pocket. Chances are you have a video camera in there built into the smartphone you use every day. This freedom means just about anyone can create and publish videos these days. So then why do some videos seem to work really well while others fall flat? What’s the difference between that YouTube superstar and the 10 million other wannabes that never make it past a handful of views? Maybe it’s luck, maybe it’s a paid media budget focused entirely on pushing forth the content. But there is something even more fundamental that will make or break your video content: it has to deliver an engaging story.
“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” — Robert McKee
A video, like a book or a magazine, is a medium for something more valuable. I read articles all the time that talk about how video is the future of marketing. Experts say you have to have this many videos and publish this often (as though video is some kind of commodity that can exist in a silo.) But in reality, if your video doesn’t tell a story that engages your customers and influences their decisions, well then it doesn’t matter what else you’ve done. No one will care, no one will watch and no one will buy.
Just because it’s an experience, doesn’t mean it’s an experience.
A former colleague of mine tried to start a 360° video company in 2012. He called it “an absolute disaster.” Why? He was too early. The technology wasn’t ready yet. Production required a clunky setup; shooting a big expensive camera into this crazy-looking half-mirror ball, and then digitally unwrapping the image in buggy beta software. It was a nightmare. Its viewers had to install special software to actually consume the content. Google Cardboard or Gear VR hadn’t yet come onto the scene and Facebook and YouTube had no 360° support. It was an experience, for sure. A terrible experience both for the company and the consumer.
Five years later and everything has changed. Every day I see 360° videos popping up on my Facebook feed. There is more than one VR headset sitting in my desk drawer. Cameras costing less than $300 can fit in the palm of your hand and shoot decent 360° video that can be uploaded to YouTube and viewed on any smartphone. The question is no longer “can it be done?” It has become “what do we do with it?” Here’s the thing: 360° videos are fun novelties, but only strong content creators will find innovative uses for this technology that will break ground in consumer engagement.
Even with market acceptance, and the availability of tools to create content, no one has found the killer use for 360°. We’ve spent the last century developing a “film language” based on two-dimensional images on a rectangular screen, cuts, fades, transitions, and reaction shots. None of this applies to 360° video.
We’re in the beginning stages of developing a new “VR/360° film language.” While it’s still a work in progress, a whole new channel of storytelling and consumer engagement is among us. Will you take advantage of it?