Tristan Gardner

Video Education Content Should Mirror Advertisers’ Expertise in Grabbing Our Attention

February 5, 2024

Video content in education must be as engaging as the compelling media we consume daily.

This isn't just a lofty aspiration; it's a necessary evolution to meet the modern learner where they are. The outcome of every Suora video course is underlain by a focus on captivating viewers as deeply as their favorite shows and viral videos do.

Our vision for digital learning is inspired by the immersive, narrative-driven content seen in platforms like MasterClass, where every frame serves a purpose. In the competitive landscape of digital content, where attention spans are fiercely contested, I ask: why is corporate learning void of some of the same qualities that make a successful TV commercial or documentary so engaging? The answer is … it shouldn't.

Our ethos is anchored in three learning-focused goals that found our creative process:

1. Encouraging Learner Buy-In through Experience-Focused Cinematics: Our first goal is to impact the status quo of "just good enough" in digital learning. We believe that every learning opportunity should be an engaging experience, not a mundane task. From the onset, creative decisions are carefully aligned with learning objectives and executed with a high attention to detail. What does that mean? Keep reading.

2. Employing Film Techniques to Secure Viewer Engagement: Our commitment to engagement goes beyond content creation; it's about employing the same high-caliber film techniques “reserved” for entertainment media. Everything starts with production. All of its parts fit together to give the viewer their first impression of the level of content they're watching within the first 10 seconds of the video. Every creative, technical and strategic decision made in the time following that is guided by learning objectives which are secured through continuously engaging scenes and animations to arrive at learner comprehension.

We execute custom film sets, like we would for a film, that make even the simplest of courses feel like a Masterclass-level video. We prep sets for clean audio recording and mastering along with lighting that make every production cinematic, regardless of subject matter. To help execute, we hire professionals who’ve specialized in a single role on film sets for 20+ years. They are experts at their craft, and we’ve developed relationships with them all across the globe. On a typical set, we’ll have a set designer, prop assistant, sound recordist, a lighting gaffer, a director and producer, experienced film camera operators and a director of photography that ensures we achieve a premium look. The outcome this produces is what a viewer’s eye expects, even though they don’t know why.

Instead of shooting a lecturer on a plain backdrop, we’ll fly in a subject matter expert and place them in the middle of a large white cyclorama with a few set dressings to elevate the visual environment. We’ll use 3 cameras instead of one, giving the viewer more to see across extended video lectures where a speaker’s main front-facing camera is making up the majority of the visual.

A moving camera has a huge impact in drawing viewers in, contributing to continuous learner engagement. Moving shots are much harder to execute because we have to ensure the motion is smooth at every second of the clip and that the subject stays in focus. There is a larger set of equipment involved in stabilizing the camera which sometimes requires 2 cam ops to execute safely. Even though it’s simpler to shoot on a locked-off tripod, the payoff of immersing viewers makes moving video worth it. It is also crucial for giving a realistic view of subjects because humans are not stationary when they are out experiencing the world.

Cinematic lighting is often overlooked in corporate training content because it’s expensive, hard to do, and requires many people on set. It is perhaps the single-most important quality in differentiating between a cheap or a premium production. It is also harder to light shots with moving cameras because the lighting has to look cinematic on all sides of the set and/or subject as the camera moves around them. When combined with a mix of wide and tight angles, a custom set with depth and splashes of light in the background give viewers something more tp experience. Boredom leads to daydreaming, both of which precede the rewind button and, worse, the loss of information.

3. Contributing to Longer-Term Comprehension: The ultimate aim of our video learning strategy is to foster actionable learning. By captivating learners through deeper and deeper representations of concepts, we aid information retention. This goes beyond the immediate impact of a well-produced video; it's about leaving a lasting impression that contributes to long-term understanding and application of ‘learned’ concepts.

An aspect we deem crucial for (1) engaging the learner continuously and (2) driving understanding to comprehension is on-screen graphics with animated learning structures. We use these at two-levels, distinguished by the depth of comprehension to which they contribute.

The first is Tier 1 graphics: these are simple definition, callout, lists and other graphics that have quick snazzy animations and are used many times throughout a video lesson to reiterate key snippets of broader learning objectives. This is about quantity and repetition of key information. It’s  our way of holding the learner’s hand (or in our case, their eyes) throughout every minute.

The second level of graphics is Tier 2: these break down custom concepts through custom animation, driving a deeper understanding that roots a future long-term memory. We can portray a spectrum of skills relating to communication styles, frameworks for innovation and management, organizational structures, machining and tooling, CAD design, mathematics, and others. For example, imagine an instructor drawing an equation on a lightboard as she explains its use. In post, we’d pop a digital version of the exercise out from the lightboard into a full-screen graphic where we’d animate its parts. In live-action BRoll of training courses, we can take a schematic of a machine shown in BRoll and break down its components into steps of operation, for example. We also pin graphics onto that machine inside the video clip to further signal to the viewer which part to look at, and to maximize their comprehension of the instruction.

Although graphics are not something we film in live-action production, they must be blueprinted during pre-production so that we can direct the framing and movement of certain shots on set. This provides adequate space for motion graphics in post so that the viewer’s visual center isn’t overloaded with a crowded frame. We also direct the instructor on set to complete foundational scripts consecutively as much as possible. In doing so, we avoid having too many cuts in the final video which is jarring for learners, especially when a graphic animation animates into frame next to the speaker.

There are many talented instructional designers and thoughtful artists in education, so why do we encounter visually-basic learning media? First, education hosts a wide array of challenges to consider. Period. After that, it’s two reasons: cost and market complacency. On the latter: we don’t accept what the market supports if mis-aligned with our mission to impact human learning. The video process is difficult to understand, and thus, hard for corporate customers to benchmark; we choose to explain it in blogs rather than capitalize on what’s easy.

That leaves us with cost. We can’t just make digital learning cinematic and charge Hollywood prices. That would oppose making learning accessible; not to mention that video is just one key component of committing learning to memory for modern viewers. Individualized learning pathways, unique instructional design, more accurate and streamlined tracking of learning outcomes, making content localized in different languages, and increasing the searchability of learning content libraries are also crucial to advancing online education.

Suora’s biggest priority in developing capabilities during and between projects is engineering our end-to-end process to keep costs affordable while advancing the quality of video education in parallel. For example, we developed a quality-control process along with a network of global content production instead of focusing on how many Suora members we can fly and dine on the client’s budget. We strive to streamline costs on less creative and time-intensive tasks like drawing reference frames and removing green-screens so we can spend more valuable time on enhancing the creative expertise that fuels engagement. You can see how we use AI and custom programming to affordably provide film-level results in pre-production and post-production in the articles I’ve written below.

Premium Green-Screen Keying at Scale: What Tt Takes

Precise Pre-Visualization: AI Image Gen in Commercial Video Workflows

The essence of our mission is clear: to impact training programs by making their video components realistically engaging, unconsciously immersive, and impact-fully actionable. I preach these points at the risk of an overzealous image - but we have to lead with a vision. By infusing the principles of high-level film production throughout our educational motion-pictures, we aim to elevate the watchability of learning videos in a digital landscape where content is king.

Check out a featured project case study below.

Message sent! Thank you. We will contact us as soon as possible.

An error has occurred somewhere and it is not possible to submit the form. Please try again later or contact us via email.

Have a project you want to work with us on? Drop your info and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

We partner with select brands and top-tier institutions to create impact and drive measurable growth


Right upwards arrow icon
white wall
sullivan rauzi standing by camera as director