In a short attention span, “I’m not listening”, world – communicators need to ensure that their visuals carry the story on their own when needed.
To address the “mute” button and multi-screen society, some of the best broadcast commercials have told moving stories without spoken words for years. Check out the Budweiser #bestbuds series with the sound off – still moving, emotional, universal, and effective.
Social media and streaming services now offer a preview of rich media in one’s social posts, but until your click to view, without sound. This is further changing how people engage with video and rich media, forcing creators to look for ways to capture attention and tell the story with visuals only; or in the best case scenario, solicit a click to view the content with sound.
Fortunately, there are lessons to learn from Silent Movies. The golden age of Silent Movies was the result of new technology (moving pictures) and the lack of technology (no real way to capture and sync sound as well). Stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Mildred Davis all rose in their craft by telling stories that captured the imaginations of the audience through their acting, visual techniques, and intertitles. An audio soundtrack was in some cases provided by an organ or piano in the theater, and added to, rather than carrying on its own, the storyline.
Adding simple subtitles and captioning can make the difference between a video that’s “silent ready” and one that isn’t. The BBC has a series called BBC Trending that does a nice job of using subtitles graphically and selectively. In contrast, KOMO News in the Seattle area posts “QuickCasts” on Facebook without captioning. Adding captions would immediately change the value and view-ability of these otherwise concise and relevant local news.
Using techniques from broadcast, commercials, and silent movie era – and lessons from live presentations such as graphics, charts, and animations to carry the story – the new era of silent movies has arrived. These tactics also benefit in reaching diverse audiences by allowing those with hearing disabilities to receive the message, and by using multiple languages, reaching a broader audience.
Some organizations are leading the new ear of silent movies. Robert Reich’s Big Picture series on MoveOn.org,
are good examples where silent movie techniques allow the message and information to be told with the sound off, or understood more when the audio is on. Unlike the mini-stories of broadcast commercials, both of these examples have specific details, information and actions, and both are part of series which is also not lost on the viewers.
So if you want to know just how “silent-ready” your rich media is, turn off the sound and see if your message is being communicated.