Show and Tell: What Video Cameras Do Best


We’ve come a long way from 19th century cameras like this one. In the 1830’s, photography required an exposure that sometimes lasted 15 minutes or longer. In order for the portrait images to be clear, subjects had to remain still for the duration. It’s no wonder my great grandfather and great grandmother were not smiling!

Now “flash” forward to today where photography is no longer a luxury, but so common that it has become ubiquitous. Today average citizens find themselves holding high-end camera capability in the palms of their hands. Unlike 19th century photography, a professional photographer is no longer required. Video, too, has become accessible and affordable through mobile devices and tablets, and no longer require professionals to operate them.

What’s interesting about human patterns with new technologies is that one pattern remains very consistent. As human beings, we tend to carry paradigms from the old mediums to the new medium, regardless of whether or not it remains relevant. For example, early television began by mimicking what radio did; i.e., placing reporters at a table in front of a microphone. It wasn’t until later that we realized television had many more affordances that could be explored, and we began experimenting with several camera angles, movement, and multiple sets. Additionally, when e-books first entered the literary world, many traditional print books were simply converted to PDFs and placed online. Yet the online medium offers many more multimedia platform capabilities which the traditional “book” cannot.

Similarly, the traditional paradigm of face-to-face instruction or presentations is being transferred directly to video. What we need to remember is that video is a completely different medium, and with new mediums, the rules change and opportunities emerge. For example, in on-camera presentations, video can also support audio effects, visual illustrations to clarify content at the right moment, cut-away shots to referenced content, expert interviews, music, and many other innovative supports. Naturally, the goals and purpose of the video must guide thoughtful design.

Essentially, video is a show and tell medium. Picture book authors know that the text to their stories only tell part of the story, as the partner storyteller is the illustrations. Together, they share the journey of “show and tell” together. So, also, it is with video. Video provides us with many options. Video can capture dynamic movement (visual and audio)–unlike its cousin, photography–and video can also convey subtle, affective and interpersonal elements which can impact how a message is received. For example, in on-camera presentations, video can also convey interpersonal elements related to personality, passion, intimacy and attitudes, and these elements can either effect the viewer positively or negatively. We’ll cover this area in greater depth in a future blog post. One tip to consider is to be careful not to rely solely on your video script to describe places, people, and events, but rather, cut away to images of referenced people or places to share in telling the story. When content requires greater clarity for your viewer, reference supporting visuals as well in your video.

Thankfully, we no longer need to remain “still” for 15 minutes in today’s world of photography or videography. Yet it would serve us well to remember that what video does best is capture dynamic movement and affective, interpersonal speaker elements which influence the message. When you create videos to teach, market, or inform, design your video content to show and tell, and most importantly, remember to wear that “new paradigm lens.”

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