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Visual grammar: how to "write" better images into your video.

Do you consider yourself primarily a word communicator or a visual communicator? In both cases, you have the same goal: to engage an audience and convey information. And both methods are very effective for documenting facts and describing activities. Writers understand sentence structure and the nuances of composition. They know how to combine nouns, verbs and other parts of speech to tell a compelling story. For visual communicators, these same writing skills can and should be used to create imagery that is effective and memorable.

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan coined the famous phrase "The medium is the message," meaning that the delivery format and the content of a message are intrinsically linked, and that it's the medium, separate and apart from the actual information, that has the greater influence over how an audience perceives the message. Further, the quality of the medium can affect the decision to receive the data at all. Audiences today are becoming hyper-attuned to the production quality of corporate video simply because they now have a choice--correction, they have practically unlimited choices. And just like a poorly written article will make your audience stop reading, bad or boring video will have your audience looking elsewhere.

Studies show that most people prefer the medium of video over words as a means of receiving content. According to a recent Forbes article, YouTube is now the No. 2 search engine worldwide, yet another demonstration that online video is vital to modern marketing strategy.

Convert writing techniques to visual techniques

If your background is in writing, it can be challenging to create photos and videos that will emphasize key messages while keeping the audience engaged. Overcome that challenge by applying a few tried-and-true writing techniques. Start with:

* Who. This is the focal point and main character in the shot (that is, the noun/subject).

* What. This is the product (noun) or activity (verb).

* When. Use a particular lighting style to show the time of day (modifier).

* Where. The background should establish the location (prepositional phrase--for example: in the office, at the plant).

* How. This is the action (verb).

Begin by composing a scene that thoughtfully includes all of the elements of your story. This will ensure effective messaging with all the important points highlighted. To bring the story to life, go beyond the basic facts and create interesting image modifiers using colors that add subliminal meaning and lighting techniques that add mood. These are the adjectives and adverbs of visual communication.

The final step in visual communication is the same as in writing, and equally as important: editing. Before you click the shutter or push the record button, take a critical look at everything in the scene. Are there objects in the frame that don't actively support your story or maybe even detract from your message? Ask yourself, "Would I include a description of that in a written version of this story?" If the answer is no, then crop it out or reframe to include a more meaningful background.

by Suzanne scardino salvo, iabc fellow

Suzanne Scardino Salvo, IABC Fellow, feeds her twin passions for travel and imagery with assignments for global clients (in 72 countries and counting), and by conducting action-packed workshops at conferences worldwide. She provides in-house consultation on visual communication strategy, content and management, and also offers hands-on training to clients wishing to create their own stories through visually dynamic images and videos. An IABC World Conference All-Star presenter, recipient of the 2007 Chairman's Award and winner of multiple Gold Quill Awards, she lives, works and laughs alongside her husband, Chris Salvo. Visit a gallery of their award-winning images and video at
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Title Annotation:visually speaking
Author:Salvo, Suzanne Scardino
Publication:Communication World
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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