Talking-Head Video How Does Eyetracking Affect Yours?
As broadband speeds have increased websites have increased their use of video in their marketing strategies.. Unfortunately, many have been recorded by professionals more atune to production for broadcast.
In 1997, a book called Analysis of TV vs. Computers revealed that broadcast TV is a medium we use for relaxation, where we the viewer sit back and become immersed in whatever the producers want to throw at us. Why? Because we just don't care. Our brain has become attuned to that style of presentation and just starts to drift in and out of thought as the pictures stream by. In fact TV users are usually called "viewers," emphasizing their passive mode of engagement. In contrast, computer users sit forward and drive their own experience through a continuous set of choices and clicks.
Because this fundamental difference sets apart the relaxed TV viewer from the online viewer, video broadcasts can feel extremely boring on the Web. Our brain signals "There's nothing to do, no choices, no user control".
Eyetracking Study of Web Video
Many studies have been conducted showing users looking at a variety of Web pages. Although no detailed results provide conclusive data, early signs indicate users behave quite differently while watching video clips that are produced for TV and posted on websites and those "personal messages" delivered by the talking head. Actually if you care to do your own experiments using self observation in connection with observing others, you may see some surprising results.
The following picture shows areas where the online viewers eyes bounce back and forth simply due to the nature of "surfing the web". Although we can say "hey I chose to watch and listen to this video", conduct your own "honest" appraisal next time you visit CNN, which is more attuned to broadcast and see if you feel like your sitting on the couch at home. See if you don't start reading the story and all of a sudden think "what did he just say, I missed that bit, let me rewind it".
Distribution of eye fixations while a user watched 24 seconds of a video clip on cnn.com.
In this example a video that was four minutes long contained other camera angles, a split-screen layout providing viewers with a simultaneous view of the anchor man and the interviewee. In this 24-second segment, the interviewee's face also attracted much attention. That's not surprising: we've long known that faces are attractors. Also expected were the eye fixations over the caption, which shows the man's name and affiliation.
It's interesting to note how much attention was given to the road sign behind the interviewee. Even the trash can began to get peoples attention as they became more relaxed and slumped deeper into their chair. Much of the attention went outside the video itself where the video controls and headlines feature prominently on the web page.
The data seemed to clearly show that just 24 seconds of a talking head video can lose the viewers attention. On the Web, 24 seconds is a long time — too long for users to keep their attention on something monotonous.
This research is still in the early phase and I enjoy writing on the topic of online video and the use of multimedia on web pages (see my earlier post on Kinetic Typography). While I'm sure there will be many more revelations, for now the main guideline for producing website video is to keep it short. Typically, Web videos should be less than a minute long.
A related guideline is to avoid using video if the content doesn't take advantage of the medium's dynamic nature. A good example is I would never have gained the impact of this article in a one minute video as opposed to the written version. This doesn't mean adding pans, zooms, and fades to add artificial movement. It does mean that it's better to use video for things that move or otherwise work better on film than they would as a combination of photos and text.
Web users are easily distracted. And I know I have said this before but examine your own habits closely because we are catering for the human content. We are not machines. Keep any distracting elements out of the frames in your shots. If there's any distraction on the page (good advice for bloggers) remove it or the viewer is likely to miss some of the main content. Put a picture of the opening frame on your page and link it to the video on a blank page. Have a call to action at the end telling viewers to hit the back button.
Since the Web's beginning, I've warned against repurposing. The initial problem was that companies simply put up advertising brochures as websites. I know many people speak of place like CopyBlogger for learning about Copy but these guidelines for writing for the Web go deep into different styles and techniques available. Now, as technology evolves, we're seeing the same phenomenon for yet another media type: you can't recycle video and expect to create a good online user experience.
This article was put together with help from information found via the above link. So I hope you haven't been too distracted by other elements on this page and that I have provided you with some useful information. If you have anything to add to the topic of Eyetracking and Video Production or Talking Head Video please leave a comment below.