Videos, like any other form of communication, consists of two elemental properties – content and form. It behooves us to understand their relationship.

The content of a video communication is the story or big idea that we wish to communicate. It may be something like ‘my company is wonderful’ or ‘my life sucks’ or of course anything at all. This central idea is the heart of the content. As we develop our story, we’re still mostly thinking in terms of content.

Form is vehicle for delivering our content. There are innumerable ways to tell your story, and the decisions we make about the form will have a huge impact on how well your story is received. Content and form are the two sides of the video production coin.

I want to focus here on the how content and form are inter-connected, and how changes to either one can impact the other, along with the overall effectiveness of what you’re trying to do.

Let’s assume a scene of high drama where a character is facing ruin or death. That’s our content. But what forms will we use to communicate that content? Will we used dramatic music and sound effects, anguished facial expressions, harsh, ‘spooky’ lighting, severe angles? These decisions, all effective and hence well worn, are a director’s ‘form toolkit’.

The point here is that the form has to ‘honor’ the content, for your production to be effective. When the form doesn’t honor the content, we get bad tv. The loud, wildly dressed car salesperson believes that being more animated means selling more cars – and there’s some truth to it, as there are sadly a lot of suckers out there who believe most anything they see.

But if you’re selling a service or a more product, it’s easy to see how the form must honor the content to be effective. Indeed, among the more artistic they see content and form as being inseparable. I ‘honor’ that position, but as a video designer we have to start somewhere, and that is with the story – the content.

The lesson here is that appreciating which aspect is more in play for a given video or scene, the better equipped we are to make that scene or vid as memorable as possible.