So many corporate videos are created in the documentary style - with people filmed as they look off-camera and answer questions. While this style works for many projects, there are times when an intentional approach will give you a much more effective video. But what, exactly, does ‘intentional’ mean? And when is intentional filming desirable? Let’s explore, so you can add intentional to your vocabulary - and your toolbox.
The purpose of the documentary filming style is to create a film that feels authentic. The heart of the documentary style is the interview, which means asking questions to encourage people to talk about something in their own words. They are filmed as they talk to the interviewer, and they look at the interviewer. They do not ever look at the camera.
Planning a documentary-style video requires scripting the questions that will be asked during the interviews, to give the interview subjects the opportunity to talk about the video's topic.
The goal is to film people speaking conversationally. Asking questions lets people take their time as they answer, and answer in as many words as they need. While their answers will be pared down during the edit process, letting them use their own words leads to material that has a natural, authentic, honest feeling.
When it comes to b-roll, scenes are filmed as they occur. Sometimes minimal direction can be given (Can you please look at the screen as you type?) but mostly, b-roll is filmed as it’s happening in real life.
What does corporate video filmed in a documentary style look like?
If you put together documentary-style interviews with spontaneous b-roll, you get videos like this one, created for our client TD Bank:
For this video, documentary style works quite well. Letting participants tell the story in their own words creates a feeling of authenticity. Getting every single word exactly correct isn't a factor, because there is no single right way to tell this story.
However, there are times when it IS important to get every single word exactly correct. If that's the case, then an intentional style is probably a better choice.
Intentional styleGenerally, intentional means something is done on purpose. When it comes to filming, intentional means two things:
First, intentional filming requires that words are spoken exactly as they’re written. The words are rehearsed until delivery is perfect, just like lines in a play. The person speaking may or may not be looking directly at the camera, but always, their words are a scripted, rehearsed performance.
Second, intentional filming requires scripted b-roll shots. This means lighting and movement are carefully planned and carefully executed. Each scene takes time to set up, and each scene can require several ‘takes’ until it’s perfect. Because perfection, not real life, is the goal.
What does a video filmed intentionally look like?
Here’s an example of an intentional film we created for Lasell College, one of our Boston video production clients. Notice how perfect the words are, and how beautiful each and every b-roll shot is – with smooth camera motion, great lighting, and perfect framing.
How do you choose the right style for your video?
As you saw, the feel of documentary and intentional videos is very different. One feels like real life, while the other presents an idealized vision.
You might know what style best suits the story you want to tell. But if you aren't sure, there are several things to think about:
How tightly do you need to control your message? Will a conversational style work? Can people using their own words to talk about your subject? Or do you need people to stay very tightly on script, with no deviation?
What feeling are you going for? Spontaneous filming will give you the real-life, down to earth, reality-based, authentic feeling that works so well for many corporate video projects. But sometimes you need a bigger emotional impact. That’s where an intentional style can really perform.
What do you need your b-roll to look like? Spontaneously-filmed b-roll looks like real life. It will have excellent color and contrast, and you can use some other techniques to make it look great – but it will still look like real life. If you’re looking for an idealized version of real life, then intentional is a better choice.
How much time do you have for filming? Intentional shots can be more beautiful, but they take more time to set up and execute. Because a typical video will have many b-roll shots, setting up and executing each shot, sometimes for multiple takes, will significantly extend the time you need to budget for b-roll filming.
Can you combine elements of both styles?
Absolutely. It’s always possible to have the best of both worlds – to use elements from both styles to create the perfect video.
One reason to do this is when you want the b-roll to look authentic, but you need absolute fidelity to your message.
This approach also works if the person who needs to appear in your video is nervous, and tends to ramble, or may not understand exactly what it is you're trying to get them to say. Providing them with the lines you need, and helping them understand how to say those lines, can save your project and make them look great.Take a look at the video we created for Babson College. Some of the spoken words have been filmed intentionally, for absolute fidelity to message, while some were filmed during interviews.
What I love about this piece is that you can’t tell which is which – yet the message is so beautifully integrated across all spoken words.
- Corporate videos don’t have to always be created in the documentary style. There are times when a more intentional style will give better results.
- Intentional elements can also be added to a documentary-style video, to provide the benefits of both styles.
You can see more examples of our work by visiting our portfolio pages: