Looking For The Strong, Silent Type

We all love to watch an action film with the strong, silent type. Think Brad Pitt, or George Clooney.

No words needed. All they have to do is give the bad guy that “Glance”, and the fight is over before it begins. And the good guy always wins.

There is another “Strong, Silent Type” that is taking over the video world. I call it the “Eight Second Silent Film”. It’s not a short film starring Charlie Chaplin. It is the first eight seconds of a video. In the world of Internet video consumption, the viewer decides within the first eight seconds (sometimes less than that) whether they are going to continue to watch the video. In many cases, there is no sound during that time.

Think about the latest feature on Facebook, Auto Play. As soon as the video is in line with the mouse arrow, it starts to play, but the audio is muted. The old system showed the video on pause. It was up to the viewer to decide whether to watch based on the frame showing. By bringing the video to life, it gives the viewer a “sneak preview”, which increases the likelihood of the video being watched, rather than scrolled past. Since many of the video are paid placement for an ad, the company increases their chances of their ad being viewed. But, since the audio is on mute, the visuals in the first eight seconds must be very compelling.

That is what I call the Strong, Silent Type. The visual message must be strong enough to get the viewer’s attention, since the video is still silent. If the message is compelling enough, the viewer will activate the audio.

The same concept holds true for many applications. Think about a YouTube video. Even though they don’t use Auto Play, when a viewer opens a video and starts to watch, they will decide very quickly whether they want to continue. But it’s the visuals which catches the attention of the viewer.

Another application that depends on the Strong, Silent Type is an ecommerce video tutorial. If a potential customer is scrolling through a product description, and there is a video attached, they may click on if they are really interested in the product. In this case, the producer of the video must assume that there will not be any sound on the video, because of the nature of on-line shopping. So the video must have a strong visual in order to keep the attention of the customer, and make it’s point. In the world of ecommerce, time is of the essence. The average view of a video is less than half a minute, and :90 seconds is the absolute maximum. Remember that in ecommerce, if it takes more than three clicks to get to the cart, the purchase is usually lost. It all moves very quickly.

Now, the king of all Strong, Silent Type videos is Digital Signage. Because the vast majority of Digital Signage is in public places, there is no audio allowed. Sound is just not practical in a public setting, for many reasons. And in the world of Digital Signage, the decision to watch a video is made by the viewer in a split second. And the length of view is less than ten seconds, with no sound. The challenge is how to get the message across in a silent film in less than ten seconds. Also remember that the video is in constant play, so the viewer may view it at anytime, not just the beginning.

In our classes, we teach our students how to push the buttons and pull the levers of video production. And the story telling is usually geared for long form, where there is time to develop a story line. But in the commercial world, where your students will be making a living, there is an increasing demand for storytellers to write and produce short, silent videos, with a strong, silent opening.

This is a specialty that needs to be recognized and developed by the schools. As much as the long form techniques are required as part of the educational process, most students will have a better chance of finding a job if they have the skills to produce that eight second film. Even the long form videos should start with strong visuals.

So, as instructors, you should take the time to develop curriculum focused on silent films. Corporate America needs skilled storytellers that understand the demands of today’s audience. Specializing in short form ecommerce videos can be very lucrative.

Make your videos a Matinee Idol. Think Strong and Silent.


PerryHeadshot-175Perry Goldstein is a veteran of the electronics industry, with both consumer and Pro A/V electronics experience. He is also a professional speaker, and writer for the electronics industry. He has won numerous awards for product design. Perry is currently the Director of New Digital Technologies for Marshall Electronics and MXL pro audio division, as well as an instructor of digital marketing at the higher education level.