Information Overload In Video

Eavesdrop anywhere in the world of video production and you are likely to hear a producer steering a client towards accepting that 5 minutes’ worth of messaging won’t fit into the 2 minute video they’ve commissioned. This may seem an obvious point and it may even seem patronising for us to be pointing it out, but it’s one of the most recurring themes in pre-production discussions.

Information Overload

All around us there is an epidemic of information overload and, as elsewhere, video production is not immune to it. The problem is that information overload in video can seriously diminish the effectiveness of your video campaign.

Just like computers, brains have limited processing power and you will fatigue and shut down your audience if you give them too much to think about at once. If you want to know more about the psychological research on this, we recommend Daniel Levitin’s book The Organized Mind – Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload.

Why Information Overload Is So Tempting

Despite the fact that most of us have probably worked this out already, there are a number of reasons why over stuffing a video with messaging is very tempting, but these reasons often rest on a number of unspoken myths.

Myth 1: More Messaging Equals More Value

We are all under pressure to get value for money, so it’s easy to have the deep down feeling that more messaging in your video is bound to equal more value for money.

Well – no is the answer. Numerous studies suggest that your audience is only going to remember a handful of points in your video. This means the best strategy is to decide a few messaging priorities and focus on getting these across as powerfully as possible. Far better to communicate 5 points memorably than 10 that will be forgotten.

Emotional Engagement is Key

Emotional engagement is the key to inspiring, persuading and motivating your audience. Even though people are reluctant to admit it, time and time again, research shows us it is emotional impact that truly sways our decision making.

To create emotional impact, a video requires some ‘breathing room’ – a few seconds here and there for the viewer to take in the music, imagery and tone of voice. These elements are vital components in engaging the viewer’s emotional interest.

If your video is crammed from end-to-end with spoken or written messaging, your audience will be so busy trying to keep up with the information, their emotional responses won’t get a look in and they won’t care about what you are saying.

This doesn’t mean that your video can’t be fast paced, if that’s right for your audience. Fast paced music and imagery can sustain an energetic video, even when there are pauses in the explicit spoken or textual messaging. A break from the stream of language will give people time to process what is being said.

A Rule of Thumb

Typically, it’s worth remembering, that to ensure emotional engagement and avoid information fatigue, you should allow around 20 – 30 seconds breathing room in a 2 minute speech or text led video.

Myth 2: Written Messaging and Video Messaging – There’s Not Much Difference

Many communications professionals are more experienced in dealing with messaging in text than in the time bound medium of video. They have a good instinct for what can be said in 300 words of copy, but quite a vague idea as to what might be conveyed in a minute of video.

This means that content producers who mainly work with copy, assume that what can be read in 60 seconds, can be conveyed in video in 60 seconds.

Of course, a well written outline of explicit messages is essential for a voice-led video, but it’s worth knowing, that the average silent reading speed is around 200 words per minute, whereas the average speaking speed is around 150 words a minute. This explains why you are probably going to need at least a 120 seconds to communicate what looked – on paper – to be 90 seconds worth of messaging.

Add to this, the ‘breathing room’ for music and imagery to work its magic on your audience, then what seemed like 60 seconds on paper – may need up to 120 seconds to be presented with impact in video.

This is particularly the case where you want a spoken voice to have authority and elicit trust in your audience – and of course, slower speakers are perceived as more authoritative and trustworthy than rapid speakers.

Myth 3: We Can Squeeze In More With Motion Graphics Text

In the last few years, there has been a rash of video littered with motion graphics text. This is partly owing to the arrival of software that allows editors to create motion graphics more quickly than in the past.

Undoubtedly, done well, motion graphics text can be effective, but at its worst it’s just a clumsy attempt to cram in more messaging. Well, why not, you might ask? Why not use graphical text, along with spoken and visual messaging? Surely, we can cover more ground that way?

As Dr Daniel Levitin’s book explains, the brain isn’t designed to multi-task and even when you think you’re multi-tasking in parallel you’re really just switching quickly back and forth from one thing to another. This is a demanding task for the brain to do.

So when it comes to video, asking your audience to take in moving text, speech, imagery and music at a brisk pace for any length of time will result in much of the content being missed by your audience.

Yes. Your video will contain more content, but a lot of your production efforts will be wasted as much won’t even be noticed, let alone remembered.

Myth 4: If I Understand The Video Then My Audience Will Too

Video commissioners are usually very familiar with their subject.  Chapter and verse, they know all the features and benefits of their product or the elaborate arguments as to why a viewer should support there cause.

The passion and expertise that a commissioner brings to the project is often a vital factor in the success of a video.

But there’s a catch…

It can be hard for us to remember what it’s like to come to a topic with little or no knowledge, but this is often the position of at least a significant segment of your audience.

But when a client reviews a video, they will tend to handle a lot more information than someone fresh to the subject.

As with the best teachers, the best video producers never lose the ability to imagine how things might appear to a newcomer. They know that succinct messaging is always the best way to reach a new audience.

The Art of Pacing

In the end, this all boils down to the art of pacing. It can make all the difference between a successful video and one that misses its mark.

An experienced and skilful video production company should be masters of this art. They will help you strike the perfect balance between information and pace, ensuring your video is understood, appreciated and remembered.

Blue Sky Film & Media – Video Production

If you would like to explore ideas and possibilities for your own video production project, please contact us via our Bristol or Cheltenham office at either –

Blue Sky Film & Media
5th Floor, 1 Temple Quay,
Temple Back East,

Phone 0117 4227360

Blue Sky Film & Media
Cheltenham Film Studios,
Hatherley Lane,
GL51 6PN

Phone 01242 506422