January 23, 2017 Jon Fobes

Setting the Tone

How do you set the tone in your video to strengthen your message?

Think back to some of your favorite movie scenes. Chances are, they evoke emotion. But why? What elements in the filming of that scene are used to strengthen the desired message? And more importantly, how do you set the tone in your video to strengthen your message?

Here are just a few of the tried and true methods that are easy to follow and help to set the proper tone in your production. Think of your image in three parts that all need to work together; color, composition, and contrast.

The first: color.

This refers to… you guessed it, the color of the image. Everything from black and white to vibrate primary colors will help to set the tone. Think of Sesame Street, those bold primary colors help to tell the viewer that the program is fun and lighthearted. Now, think of a crime drama. The color palette is probably no where near that of Elmo and the gang. The two images below, without any reference immediately tell the viewer two very different stories.

Once you have set a color palette for you video, you can then focus on the composition of the image. Where in the frame should your subject be and how they relate to the other elements around them will continue to drive the tone of your work. A white background with a single product in the middle (thank you Apple) says simplicity without having to spell it out. An interview of a craftsman in their work shop gives context to the image and immediately tells the viewer the interviewee is directly involved with the elements surrounding him.

Finally, contrast, which could also refer to the lighting, will quickly indicate the tone you are trying to convey. Similar to color, bright lighting will often set a happy tone where a dramatic contrast in lighting can convey a much more serious tone. We see this in interviews all the time. For example, in informative interviews the interviewee is normally lit with only a slight contrast on either side of the face, but when an interview has to do with a tragic story, often the contrast in lighting from one side of the face to the other is dramatically different.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are many other ways to set the tone in your video, and for every good rule, there’s a good reason to break it. That being said, color, composition, and contrast act as a starting place to help convey your message through video. By keeping these three concepts in mind while planning your shoot, you will ensure that the end result will ultimately be a stronger message delivered.

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