A majorly important aspect of any video production is it’s duration. How do you decide how long your video should be? How can you ensure that whatever you’re trying to communicate is done with sufficient clarity and depth without losing impact, energy or, ultimately, your audience?
In our experience, the single most common issue in this area is videos that are too long, particularly web videos. If you’re anything like me, you’ve had many experiences where a minute or two after you start watching a video on a website, you feel a compulsion to check how long is left to play, only to find you’re merely a fraction of the way through. Inevitably, you decide not to persevere with it. So maybe the question isn’t really how long your video should be, but how short it can be.
At the same time, you need to ensure that your video says enough to justify being there in the first place. We’ve also seen videos where you click to play, someone appears on screen and says ‘I heartily recommend this product’ and then it ends. You, the viewer, are unlikely to be swayed by this overly concise endorsement.
Clearly the decision about video duration needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. There are a number of factors you need to consider:
Your audience – If your video is targeting a general audience who have no direct interest in the subject matter, you need to keep things very short and to the point. People will decide within the first 30 seconds whether to continue watching or not, and anything more than a couple minutes in length risks premature termination. If the video has a more specific audience in mind that already has a keen interest in the content, there’s more scope to make things longer.
Message – Think about what you’re trying to say in your video – if it’s just trying to make one simple point, that’s all it should do – there’s no need to repeat things so much that the key message is diluted and viewers start to lose interest. If you have a larger and more complex story to tell, then of course you need to ensure all the information needed to communicate that is present and you’re not too light on detail.
Content – Video is a medium that combines visual and sonic elements to provide an immersive, multisensory experience. You may have interview footage, event footage, or no footage at all. It’s important to evaluate how far you can stretch the content you have. Have you ever watched a video with an hour of someone talking in a dark room, filmed from one camera angle with no supporting footage? Boring.
Where the video will be shown – for a web video, your video usually needs to be short – around 2-3 minutes is probably best – and it needs to have immediate impact. If you’re showing it in a presentation or a conference, you may have a captive audience and therefore can make a longer video, but then there’s the added potential danger of audience members visibly falling asleep while your video plays. We’ve seen this happen (but not with our own videos of course).
The majority of videos we have produced of late have been for web broadcast and have been mainly for promotional purposes. Resist the temptation to make these videos too long – aim for no more than 3 minutes at most – and not only will more people watch it to the end, but they’re more likely to click on the video in the first place and to watch again later. You’ll also end up with a video that has greater impact and makes the most of the material you have without stretching it too thin.
Always remember that the key purpose of any video is to communicate something to the viewer, whether that’s a story, a product, a mood, information, or something else. When deciding how long to make your video, it’s imperative to consider things from the viewpoint of your audience and how long they’ll realistically watch for. Get this right and you’ll reap the benefits!