Best Practices for video production: Audience, channels and format

July 25, 2018

By Jason Margolis, with David Brigden, Hans Goksoyr and Evan Petka    


Before embarking on a video production, it is important to ask yourself and provide answers to the following four questions.

  1. Why do you want to make this video?
  2. Who is the audience for the video?
  3. Where will your audience find the video?
  4. What kind of video is it?

In our last post, we dived into the first question by examining how videos should be planned around specific goals and objectives. In this post, we will look at the other vital questions that must be addressed prior to making a video. 

The audience for our annual holiday video is current students, staff, faculty, alumni and prospective students, and the goal is to inspire school pride and a sense of engagement.

Who is the audience for the video?

Who do you want to see the video? Who do you want to influence? Most importantly, what measurable action do you want your audience to take once they’ve watched it?

The video is meant to illicit a response from your audience. It’s meant to inform or inspire, to engage, entertain or enlighten. Perhaps all of these things.

Your video should have a specific target audience, with a clearly defined call to action. A single generic video rarely has an effective impact on anyone.

Our April Fool's Day videos are designed to be sharable online, and adher to the specific format requirements of our different social media channels.

Where will your audience find the video?

How will your audience connect with the video? What channels will you use to distribute it to them? Will it play on your website? Will it play on your social media channels? Will you send it out in a newsletter or screen it at an event?

The different channels that you use to watch and share your video will help shape its format, such as its duration, the size of any text or graphics, and even the framing of the images.

Not all videos work on all channels, and in some cases, you may want to make different versions of the video for different channels. For example, some social media channels work best with very short videos, so you could produce a shorter “teaser” of your final video to share on these channels.

In the same way as trying to appeal to a broad audience makes the video less effective, so does trying to make a “one size fits all” version of your video.

The SFU News video on SIAT’s research connecting long-distance couples attracted attention from around the world because it was short, sharable and timely.

What kind of video is it?

Is it a recruitment video, a news piece about research, coverage of a major event, or a “how to” video?

The video’s purpose, intended audience and distribution channels will inform the choices for style and tone.

A sharable online video should be under two minutes, but under a minute is optimal. Next time you see a video on your Facebook feed and hover your mouse over it, check the running time of the video and see if that influences whether you will keep watching.

Think of how much you can say in a minute. The average person can say around 125 words in a minute. That’s around ten to twelve sentences. That means a one-minute video can give three people about four sentences each. If you want the video to have more impact, it will need some breathing room for pacing.

In all cases, you want to follow the practice of “show, don’t tell.” The more you can reveal to your audience through images and actions, the better. Audiences prefer to watch videos, rather than read or listen to them.


Finally, the juicy, creative stuff

What is this video going to look like? What is its genre? Is it a documentary, narrative, promotional or a trailer? Is it upbeat and exciting, or poignant and heartfelt? There are so many ways to go, but knowing who it’s for, where they will watch it and what you want them to do after will help you make these important creative choices.