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Best Practices

Why video? Before beginning a motion project, be sure that video is an appropriate format for the communications message. Have a clear creative goal. If dealing with a particularly complex topic, another communication tool may be more effective.

  • A good use of video is a student dance recital.
  • A more challenging subject is administrative policy.

It may seem obvious, but videos need a strong visual element. A rule to live by is “show, don’t tell.” Keep your message simple and concise.

Before you begin

  • Define your objective
  • Articulate your message (succinctly)
  • Identify your intended audience
  • Select the channel/s that will best reach this audience.
    • If you don’t own the appropriate channel, consider partnering with another campus account.

Terminology to understand

  • A-roll: The interview, voice-over (VO), or narration.
  • B-roll: Secondary footage that adds meaning to a sequence or disguises the elimination of unwanted content. Anything other than the interview. Because the audio is separate from the video, the speaker’s voice is heard as a voice-over while B-roll footage is shown.
  • Lower third: Also called a super. Text that flashes across the screen with key information. Most commonly used for name and title or location.
  • Nat sound: Natural sound. the camera’s microphone picks up the ambient sound in the room or background noise.  Example: If you have a picture of a train, you include the sound of the train.

Basic Framework

  • Shorter is better. Data shows that viewers often don’t reach the end of videos. It depends on platform, but 1-3 minutes is a good starting point.
  • Grab viewer attention at the start of the video. This may be done with eye catching video or an engaging quote. Do this before diving into details.
  • Look for visual glue that binds the messaging together. Match B-roll to A-roll.
  • Try to show the interview when it furthers narrative or emotion is present.
  • Have a beginning, middle and end. Finish the video on a strong note.
  • Videos featuring only interviews have become a popular communication tool. This may involve little to no b-roll and rely on the speaker’s emotion and message. The interview and message becomes much more important in this format.

Platform considerations

  • Consider platform restrictions and audience. Refer to general social media guidelines.
  • Platforms are constantly evolving—both the users that use them and the algorithms the companies employ.
  • Although Facebook and YouTube do not have time limits, continue to keep videos short and engaging (1-3 mins).
  • Twitter videos must be 2 minutes and 20 seconds or less. Twitter viewers tend to watch for an even shorter amount of time. Consider highlights of 30 seconds or less.
  • Instagram has a 1-minute video limit although it can be longer on IGTV. Square video performs better than standard 1920×1080.
  • If using IGTV, keep the most important information included in the first minute as much of the audience does not continue to watch after transitioning from Instagram to IGTV.
  • Instagram Stories is currently a very popular, heavily viewed platform. Videos are broken into 15-second cuts. If planning to publish to IS, shoot vertical (1080×1920). Although not ideal, it is also possible to crop horizonal video.

Video accessibility

Stanford University is committed to providing an online environment that is accessible to everyone, including individuals with disabilities. Closed captions are required on all Stanford videos. Stanford video producers must use an .srt closed caption file. Videos will remain private/unlisted until this has been completed.

If you the video producer and are uploading a file to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube, using an .srt closed caption file is your resposibility.

Learn about online accessibility for video captioning on the Stanford Online Digital Accessibility program (SODA) website.

For more general information about online accessibility, please see the Stanford Online Accessibility Policy and visit the SODA website.

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