Some more thoughts on social video

Today, we’ll be talking about explainers and micro docs. Both types of videos are commonly used in journalism and advertising/public relations. You group must make an explainer or micro doc by next Monday (October 30).

Image licensed under creative commons via Flickr

The goal of an explainer video is to answer a question for your audience. The question needs to be both (1) important and (2) novel. If you pick a question your audience doesn’t care about — even if it is a really neat question — they are not going to watch it. Additionally, if your audience already knows the answer to the question you are covering, they aren’t going to watch it.

Finally, explainer videos need to be well planned and well produced. This is doubly important for explainer videos, because you are more directly asking the viewer to trust you to be the arbiter of facts.

Here’s the BBC explaining explainers:

So how do you make an explainer video? Well, there are a number of ways. BBC uses a lot of animation, but animation is not a requirement.

An explainer can be as simple as a social video with text over video or photos, like we talked about the other day. This type of video could work for a process-style explainer video, especially in a case where the steps are easily visualized. If you think about it, this is all the wildly-popular Tasty videos are:

An explainer could also be interview-based. Do you know an expert that can accurately and concisely answer your question? If so, that might be all you need. Use the interview as the base and add some b-roll or photos. Here’s a quick social video I did at last year’s World Food Championship:

Finally, you can also go the animation route. This takes a lot more planning than one would think, but it is doable. Most animated explainers — especially in the journalism world — generally use fairly simple animation:

But they can also be composed of very complex, beautiful animations:

Complex animations — like the dinosaur video — are beyond the scope of this class, but you could do explainers with simple animation. Here are some ways your could it:

  1. You could get simple icons from the Noun Project — an amazing resource of creative commons licensed icons — and take the icons into Premiere.
  2. You could use a tool that streamlines the process, like Moovly Studio. Moovly has a lot of simple icons and animations built in to the dashboard, so it is a hair easily than Premiere. It also give you more control than some completely automated options.
  3. Additionally, you could go back to Adobe Spark. When you’re in the video maker, you choose to add an icon. Then on the right side of the screen you can search through a bunch of creative commons licensed icons.

Another popular type of video for social media is the micro doc. You have seen some of these already, since we are creating them for our Land Grant Micros series. But we are definitely not the only game in town. Both CNN and NBC News have put big money in to developing micro docs.

Great Big Story is CNN’s micro doc unit. They are huge on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. You can read a Q&A with one of their heads here. But in short, they produce simple stories — in a cinematic style — that introduce you to a person, place or thing (although sometimes they stray into the explainer territory).

Although this video has high production values, the story is not beyond something that you could do for you group. As a matter of fact, I would say it is similar to the video Switch the Mindset produced about UT student Dylan Roberts.

Just like the Great Big Story video, Switch the Mindset found an interesting character and let them tell their story.

The most important part of this type of storytelling is finding an interesting and unique story. No matter what person or organization you are highlighting, make sure you are telling a story and not writing a wikipedia entry.

Associate Professor of Journalism and Director of Land Grant Films (@LandGrantFilms) at the University of Tennessee.