Explainer videos are short online films help inform the public about big and often complex subjects—like astronomy, pregnancy, or DNA—in an interesting and accessible way. They are different from more poetic ‘brand identity films’ that exist to encourage emotional connection—they need to impart a much higher degree of factual information, but in a way that is sophisticated and relevant to the subject.
The BBC is now producing Explainer videos and one of the producers they've used, After the Flood, made a ‘how to’ video and a production guide for BBC-partners making Explainer films. The importance of narrative structure and scripting is emphasized as much as visual direction and graphics.
With a running time of just three minutes, an Explainer video needs to get its point across very efficiently. It’s impossible to cover all the ground in a particular area, so you need to focus on a story ‘hook’ that is fundamental, understandable and repeatable.
Although each video will deal with one specific topic only, they are also intended to spark interest in other, related areas. We want to inform as to certain subjects, but we also want people to discover new ones. Your explainer will need to contain ‘jumping-off-points’ to related content.
Your story idea will have to accommodate three distinct layers of information, and it’s worth identifying these at an early stage:
- Primary info: the core material in question (e.g. the human circulatory system)
- Secondary info: required for explanation (e.g. the role of oxygen in the blood)
- Tertiary info: signposts that lead to related topics (e.g. exercise and cardiovascular health)
Read the full article to find out more about the elements of an Explainer video, including scripting, storyboarding, and production.