When should you use on-screen text in your video?

18th March 2017 | Posted in Resources

Very often weʼll work with clients who want to include on-screen text within their videos to show off statistics, product features and other information while the video is being watched. But how much is too much?

Like this video? Check out our video blog on using motion graphics in your video.

Can’t watch the video? Here’s a quick summary.

Very often weʼll work with clients who want to include on-screen text within their videos to show off statistics, product features and other information while the video is being watched.

Text-based graphics can be a great way of emphasising key points, especially if your video is set to a voice-over or includes a talking-head interview. If the text is relevant to what is being said, on-screen text can help those parts of the video stand out for the viewer.

However, all too often weʼre asked to include on-screen text that is completely different to whatʼs being said in the voice-over. My argument against this is quite simply that itʼs distracting. If youʼre bullet pointing a whole bunch of product features that have little relevance to what is being said in your voice- over, your viewers will be spending their time trying to read the text instead of listening to what the voice-over is saying, making the voice-over completely redundant. Quite simply, if your viewers have enough attention spare to read your on-screen text youʼve lost them with the video. A good video should engage your viewers well enough that they donʼt need that distraction.

Itʼs the video equivalent of ‘Death by Powerpointʼ. The best Powerpoint presentations will have one relevant line on-screen and the keynote speaker will talk around that, rather than asking their audience to read paragraph after paragraph.

All of this is not to say that you shouldnʼt use on-screen text at all in your videos. In fact, using on-screen text is becoming increasingly more essential for videos that are shared on social media, especially since those videos play automatically without sound; on-screen text is essential for capturing those views. But, I would argue that youʼre better off making a separate cut of your video that focuses on using text for the narrative, rather than trying to fit an audio narrative in with a text one.

So those are our thoughts here at Southpoint Films. On-screen text is great when used thoughtfully, either as a compliment to the audio narrative or as the only narrative to your video, but you should try to avoid running two different narratives on your video with both audio and text.

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