The Rebirth of Silent Movies – Online

A few months ago, I started thinking about the fact that I consume virtually all my online video with the sound off. Whether I’m in the back of a taxi, on a plane waiting to take off, or amusing myself while waiting in line at the coffee shop, I have become incredibly adept at figuring out what a video is about using only pictures (90% of the time, on my phone).

Turns out that I’m not alone. A recent DigiDay article, surveying multiple online publishers, indicates that up to 85% of video consumed on Facebook is watched without sound (and Facebook itself is now offering free captioning for paid video placements). So what does that mean for anyone who ever needs to produce content (ie: all businesses, everywhere)? It means a new/old form of storytelling – one that marries visuals with subtitles and graphics. And when it’s done well, this can turn a 30-second clip into an unparalleled tool for getting your message across.

Unlike silent films, in which actors typically used over-the-top gestures to convey drama, sadness, etc., static in-between “intertitles” (yes, I had to Google that) gave broader context or assisted with transitions between one scene and the next. This is not that. Online video is infinitely richer. With animations, super-cuts, subtitles, graphics and a bag of other tricks, visual storytelling today is more dynamic and evocative than it has ever been. And publishers (that’s brands like SAP, too) who don’t start thinking about what their content looks like with the sound off are missing what their audiences want – silent movies.

Courtesy Tom Margie, Flickr

Theda Bara. Courtesy Tom Margie, Flickr