Effective videos tell a story and feel a bit like an amusement park ride. No matter what shape and size your video is, there should be enough variation. Otherwise the viewer may not like the ride at all.
But having those variations is one thing. Handling them in a proper way is another. That’s where a good grasp of video pacing comes in.
It’s a shame then how little attention the topic of pacing gets in the video marketing community. As if it’s reserved solely for professional directors and motion film makers.
Many video makers have a misconception that consistent pacing means having the same pacing throughout your story. Or that in good video pacing, everything should happen fast or the viewer will get bored.
In reality, your pacing should adjust based on the dynamics of each scene in your video. Take Quentin Tarantino for example. The pacing of scenes in his films is as close to perfect as it can get.
Remember the basement bar scene in Inglourious Basterds? If you haven’t seen the film, go watch it right now. In the scene, a bunch of British and American soldiers pretend to be German in a bar. A German character identifies one of the British men and the mission fails.
This scene is a masterpiece with regard to pacing, yet you’ll notice that the pace is slow. The long pauses don’t feel like a slot but heighten the intensity. Even when the viewer knows what’s going to happen, he relishes on the anticipation.
That’s why it is said that pacing of a particular scene is only for that scene. How fast or slow a scene should be depends on the content.
Because video pacing is situational, there are no concrete rules for getting it right. Only best practice guidelines. No video can have an entirely slow or an entirely fast pacing. If it does, it certainly won’t hold onto the viewer’s attention.
Ensure Strong Pacing
As I mentioned above, instead of concerning ourselves with whether our video is too fast or too slow, we should be asking whether certain scenes are too fast or slow.
Once you understand the variables involved in building a strong pace, you can implement them in your video right from the start, reducing the need to fix later. To better understand pacing, let’s take a common storytelling structure.
Stage #1: The Hook – The video begins with introducing the main character, struggling with a flaw, conflict or problem. The problem is something the viewers can relate with, so they identify with the character and begin to root for his win.
Stage #2 The Trigger – Somewhere near the beginning of the video, a major event occurs that heightens the problem even further and forces the main character to come face to face with the flaw or act against the source of conflict.
Stage #3: The Middle – The problem almost overpowers him and the character is thrown off physically and emotionally. A major setback pushes him to change his approach and fight the problem with renewed energy and confidence.
Stage #4: The Climax – Near the end of the video, we reach the crucial moment where the fate of this whole struggle is going to be decided. For a long video, it’s a series of events that determine the main outcome.
Stage #5: The Resolution – Towards the end of the video, necessary details are explained, loose threads are tied up. It shows how the main character has now solved the problem for good, and how he and his life as changed as a result.
These 5 stages are common to so many video advertisements, movies and short films that something often seems off when they are not there. By handling each of these parts with appropriate video pacing, you can lay the groundwork for a strongly paced video.
Following such a proven structure in your video alone will solve many of your pacing problems. For others, what you need to keep in mind is the balance between cause and effect, aka action and reaction, aka conflict and impact. This balance is maintained with the pacing cycle.
The Pacing Cycle
From one stage of the story to another, the character will take an action against a problem or conflict. This action should then be followed by the following 3 reactions for the pacing to be correct.
Reaction #1: Address Physical Consequences – Are their any physical consequences of avoiding or going against the problem? The main character should be shown dealing with these consequences, like attending to a wound.
Reaction #2: Address Internal Consequences – How does the character feel about the source of conflict now? What emotions is he going through? Here you will also show the emotional issues he or she needs to address or suppress.
Reaction #3: Accept The New Reality – Now that the character has dealt with both physical and emotional consequences, he has a new, correct worldview and he determines to solve the problem in a different way.
If your character is properly going through this cycle at each instance of conflict, that means you’re properly addressing each moment of conflict and impact, and your video pacing is right.
The bigger the moment or conflict, the more time you should give addressing the physical consequence, the emotional impact and the new reality.
However, if you come across a moment in your video script where you feel it could benefit from more or less action than dictated by the pacing cycle, don’t be afraid adjust accordingly. The pacing cycle is meant to help you, but not hold you back.