Visual communication is demoting online, text-based platforms more and more to the lower ranks. This comes as no surprise to science. As early as 1967, Shepard was able to prove that images impress themselves better into human consciousness than spoken language. Today, this effect is known all over the world as the Picture Superiority Effect. There are six trends audiovisual storytelling in 2016.
Moving image communications combine the swiftly increasing amount of information with relevance and emotions like no other medium. As a result of this, the significance of film and video on digital channels, mobile devices and tablets will continue to increase dramatically. This means that six different topics will become more important.
Technology driven trends
The latest generation of virtual headsets (Gear VR, Oculus VR Headset) will not signify a breakthrough for the technology in 2016. However, early adopters in marketing and communication will not pass up the opportunity to be the first to try out these new possibilities.
1. Virtual Reality (VR)
For storytelling, virtual reality is much more than just gaming. As the producer of ‘Project Syria’, the World Economic Forum (WEF) introduced its managerial staff to the new technology back in 2014. Thanks to the virtual technology, the managers were transported to Aleppo and ‘experienced’ a rocket exploding at a lively market before seeing a refugee camp through the eyes of one of the inhabitants. The project was commissioned by WEF Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab. Immersive journalism means the viewer becomes part of the film and is taken straight to the action via the virtual reality smart glasses. In 2016, virtual reality will certainly become a new, visceral platform for telling unusual stories, even for consumers.
2. Wearable Computing
Google will be releasing an updated version of its smart glasses in 2016. Google Glass users aren’t just information consumers, they are also content producers. In 2015, journalists in the USA wearing Google Glass recorded and published cases of police brutality and arrests. The first interview series and web formats using only Google Glass were also published online. It has never been easier to document one’s own perspective for the general public, and as the glasses give the wearer maximum mobility and allow them to pursue other activities whilst wearing them, this format is set to grow quickly on all channels in 2016.
Smart glasses such as Google Glass don’t just generate content; they can also play it directly onto the semi-transparent, high-tech glasses, which gives storytelling a completely new dimension. In the future, content will be presented to users of wearable technology as a mixture of self-experienced reality (their own view through the glasses) combined with external content (played in sync onto the glasses). Convergent, interactive and in real time. This trend demonstrates the success of real-time streaming apps for mobile devices such as Meerkat and Periscope. The amount of people using these apps has exploded since 2015.
3. Video formats for mobile devices
According to Cisco , more than two thirds of online consumer data traffic will consist of video content by 2017, and according to a study by Forrester Research, by the end of 2016, 4.8 billion people around the world will use mobile phones; that’s 46% of the global population. Over the past few years, technology has focused on making videos available on mobile devices and smart phones. However, up to now content producers have not pointed out that the effect of the video depends on the size of the available screen. Moving image content is per definition image driven, which is why in 2016 we will witness the beginning of a development in video content that took place in a similar way a few years ago with web pages.
Before the arrival of responsive layouts, users were automatically redirected to a mobile-friendly version of a web page if they were accessing it on a mobile phone. In the future, video content will also work like this and will be tailored to the relevant distribution channel in regard to both technology and content. The content producer will also be able to provide the distributor with different versions of the video. Communication and marketing measures that limit the impact of a video to one channel because they address a specific target group will, however, not be affected by these developments. The same applies if the video is distributed via an app – another mega-trend to look out for in the coming years.
Content driven trends
The importance of interactive stories that know how to combine text, photos, interactive graphics, maps and animations will increase significantly in 2016.
1. Dynamic Storytelling
Not least because dynamic storytelling can now build on a series of successful cases and establish its track record based on the achievements of previous years. The unique thing about dynamic, interactive storytelling is that the viewer can independently select the amount of information they personally require to understand the story as well as individual plot lines and narrative depth. Although dynamic stories require more effort in the planning and creation phases than linear formats, their market sustainability and their success in gaining attention is far superior than the effect of classic stories. At the same time, manufacturing costs and production times are reduced thanks to technical innovations, and the aspiration towards convergence remains at the forefront of moving image communications in 2016. Dynamic storytelling therefore is part of the trends audiovisual storytelling in 2016.
2. The return of the genre
Driven by the demands of convergence, technical developments and not least by the increasing cost pressures of the market, since 2008, commissioned film has had to move away from the context of long-established film genres. Videos served many masters. As image films, advertising films, product films and interactive web videos effort and expense were to be optimised and effects maximised. Big data drew a big red line through this development. Now users or viewers are individually segmented and targeted and the one-size-fits-all, media-mishmash approach has seriously lost its effect.
At the same time, the desire for orientation and guidance has grown with target groups through the ubiquity of the internet. Therefore, genres as we know them – the similarities within a narrative form – are now being used more and more in storytelling once again. No matter whether genre guidelines are precisely followed or if they are consciously experimented with, dealing with genre will be a necessary issue to address for successful storytelling in 2016.
Interestingly feature films also seem to be making a return to genre. With The Revenant and The Hateful Eight, two superb Westerns are currently gaining attention in the cinemas and in the hype surrounding the Oscar nominations.
3. Focus and authenticity
There is an unspoken promise between the sender and the recipient of a message; if this promise is not kept, there will be no effect. The promise is to fulfil the expectations of the recipient that have been created by the message. Keeping this promise means being honest to the recipient. Part of this honesty is to know what the viewer expects from your video. Only then, can the expectations be fulfilled or even exceeded. Emotional needs can only be morally fulfilled if the sender focusses on the recipient instead of themselves, meets them on an equal footing and still remains true to themselves. Trends audiovisual storytelling must be aware of this.
Communicators who can successfully satisfy these requirements will be able to go one step further in 2016 and further strengthen the link with the viewer via interactive components in storytelling. The viewer will have the feeling of being able to determine the outcome of the story.
However, this only works if the sender allows their own story a certain amount of independence and recognises that without an audience, their story is nothing more than a concept. A clever communicator will therefore vie for the support of their audience. When the ‘I’ (the sender) of a story becomes a ‘we’ (the sender and recipient), it’s possible to take the viewer to your final destination and achieve the aim you set out to fulfil.
Trends Audiovisual Storytelling: Conclusion
Where technical innovations snowball, it’s important (not only for a film maker and a video maker) not only to know what is changing but also what will remain. We will remain. We will remain the focus and the purpose of marketing and communication measures, together with all our characteristics and shortcomings and driven by basic survival instincts. However, despite all advances, we must remember that the following still applies in 2016: “A fool with a tool is… still a fool.”