Video Production: Talking Head vs Graphics

Video Equipment

I’ve been part of discussions around the approach organizations take to online video. There’s been a push in some places to move away from the talking head style and over to more motion graphics driven video. While I appreciate the value of motion graphics in video, the idea that the talking head as a video format is dead disturbs me a lot. Similarly there are times when despite the cleverness and “coolness” of a motion graphic it’s just not the best way to transmit information to the viewer.

There are times when a talking head is actually a very valuable form of video. When you’re trying to establish the bona fides of a subject, or allow a viewer to associate a face and a voice with a name, you really do want to get that person on camera. Obviously you can do a voice over on top of motion graphics and get some of the benefits, but you lose that critical opportunity to introduce your viewers directly to your subject. More importantly, there’s a strength in body language and facial expressions that can really make a difference in how viewers respond.

You also don’t have to turn out a pure talking head video – the staring into the camera approach of a nightly news desk is actually boring, and I understand the desire to get away from that. This is where some very basic creativity can change the dynamic of your talking head. Multiple camera angles can change the pace up; a stand-up presentation can add some dynamism as well. Developing a combination approach – some talking head, some motion graphics can break up the static shots of the individual speaking. There’s plenty of ways to improve the presentation without losing the chance to show your viewers the person behind the information.

Similarly, motion graphics videos should be thought out carefully – practically speaking the production is more labor intensive from start to finish. These videos need to be storyboarded, scripted and produced by specialists that may have other demands that could interfere with your production schedule. More importantly, many motion graphics videos I’ve seen have been glorified infographics made much busier by the addition of motion. There’s plenty of room for that sort of thing, but in today’s ADD video world I’ve often felt that very little useful information is imparted or retained by the use of very busy motion graphic videos. Motion videos in an enterprise setting should make sure the user walks away knowing something they didn’t know before, and ideally lead to additional business opportunities.

In the end, the choice of video should not be limited to any one type. Much like back-end technology, the key is to use the right tool for the right situation. Don’t toss out the idea of a talking head video if that will provide the best method of communicating your messages to your audience and lead to the best result. Use motion graphics in places where the users will learn the most from the video in that format. Taking an absolutist position of presentation means you box yourself into a corner without the flexibility you need to get your point across.