5 Ways to Create an Emotionally Impactful Explainer Video


An explainer video, usually a simple animated video with voice-over, can be a really great way to explain an idea or process to a broad audience. But just like any other medium, it’s always better to show an audience what you’re talking about and make them feel an emotion, rather than just telling them about an idea.

We recently completed an explainer video for the City of Vancouver around earthquake preparedness, and realized that if viewers were ever going to take this serious topic seriously, we had to be as dark and alarming as possible when portraying the quake-stricken city. The potential for a strong emotional impact was something that we felt could truly get people thinking realistically about the outcome of an earthquake, and what their role would be within it.

When it came time to create this world, we came up with several simple techniques to enhance the evocative nature of this piece. Though subtle, these tricks can greatly enhance a scene’s visual impact and the overall effectiveness of the explainer video.

1. Desaturate your explainer video

Explainer video before desaturation
Before desaturation
Explainer video after desaturation
After desaturation

Nothing quite says “joylessness” like a bleak and colourless view of the world. We applied de-saturation to both enhance the moodiness, but also to simplify overall colour palettes. By contrast, we were able to re-introduce more colour in later scenes when the tone shifts towards optimism.

2. High Contrast

Explainer video before contrast
Before contrast
Explainer video after contrast
After contrast

The whites should be white and the blacks should be black. Strong contrast in an image is not only pleasing to the eye, but if taken a step further it can also begin to create an almost dreamlike quality that we wanted for this project: a major earthquake is no doubt akin to a nightmare.

3. Depth

Explainer video before adding depth
Before adding depth
Explainer video after adding depth
After adding depth

Flat scenes leave us flat. Compositionally, it’s a great thing when we can enhance large distances as well as close up foregrounds. By pushing the depth of a shot, everything starts to feel as though its occurring on a grander and more profound scale, especially when.

4. Vignetting and Dodging

Explainer video before vignetting and dodging
Before vignetting and dodging
Explainer video after vignetting and dodging
After vignetting and dodging

Holdovers from traditional photography, one can easily use vignettes and dodging to enhance an image. A vignette will ensure we stay focused on the centre of the frame, granting a strange taste of realism. Dodging, which is the selective highlighting of areas, can further direct our focus and add an eerie illumination to the content.

5. Atmosphere

Before atmospheric effects
Before atmospheric effects
After atmospheric effects
After atmospheric effects

As a finishing touch, we added simple stock video of particles or light leaks, as well as translucent, misty swaths of colour. By intersecting these elements within the 3D photo elements, it further enhances the sense of scale that we achieve by initially adding compositional depth. Additionally, subtle movements in atmospherics can make the world come alive.

original composition
original composition
All 5 effects applied
all effects combined

And of course, the final video!

[youtube id=Bq1VHnq0Yvk]