Abstract or Realistic – Which Video Style is Right for Your Project?

Howdy, everyone! 👋 Today I want to bring you behind the thinking process of starting a video and introduce you to a question that I ask every time we start making a video – abstract, vs realistic style.

As a videographer and motion designer, my job is to produce lots of videos – corporate ones, commercials, explanatory videos… and at the beginning of every video project, we face the question of whether we should go for a more abstract video or literal video.

What are abstract videos?

In an abstract video, you won’t really show the product and all of its features. Abstract videos look more like a commercial. They communicate a feeling, vision, and mission. Abstract videos are full of metaphors. Quite often it’s rich in motion and sound, and the main purpose is to evoke emotion.

What are realistic videos?

In a video like that, you would show the product in action — as it is. These videos have a more educational purpose. Captions or narration walk you through the product as if you would use it, while the mood is more calm and relaxed. Features of the product can be exposed, and the level of detail is higher.

Obviously, the two different video styles have different usage, and target audiences, and are quite often distributed differently.

There is no right or wrong answer, but there is an ultimate solution — have both. Let’s look at a real example… PS I was able to find 2 examples that are from the same product, so you can clearly see the difference.

Example 1: Abstract videos

Let’s take a look at a video from Sketch called “Sketch in 2021” — a 1-minute abstract piece of art that talks about the new features and vision.

This is a perfect example of an abstract video that creates emotion and communicates the vision and brand identity of Sketch, rather than focusing too much on the details.

Key features:
👉 Using metaphors
👉 Talks about emotions
👉 Illustrations and motion design

Sketch in 2021: A platform for the entire collaborative design process

Example 2: Realistic videos

At the same time published a video that goes more into the new features, as well as hands-on “what you see is what you get” highlights from the new product they’ve been working on. Same product as the video before, but different video.

Key features:
👉 Show the product in use
👉 Talks about the features
👉 More UIs, screen recordings

This video is more for the people who know their business and need to see what is in Sketch’s offerings: a more detailed look.

Why is it important to set the style in the beginning?

When drawing storyboards, collecting inspiration, and writing the script, you will have to have an idea in mind – that idea can be vague, but what I found really helpful is to clear the abstract vs realistic question out of the air, so you can focus on the tone and the act of the video.

Get behind the scenes with Sketch

And finally, Inside Sketch wrote this amazing article, taking us behind-the-scenes of how their team evolves a simple idea into a beautiful animation, as well as showing some concepts that didn't make the cut.

🔗 Behind the scenes: How we made the Sketch 2021 video

“I had about a day to come up with some of the early routes for our voiceover script” says Freddie Harrison, Head of Copy and Content.

“To start, I used a series of shape layers to produce the constantly moving white lines which form the shapes,” says Emma. “Then I added masking to create the seamless flow of color gradients behind these shapes.”

Conclusion

When you’re deciding on the type of video you want to make – think about what you want to achieve, and who is your target audience. Do you want to be more emotional, poetic, and fictive (actor shots, abstract illustrations, cinematic feeling)? Or do you want to be more incisive, showcasing what’s in stock for your users (real UIs, product in use, interviews from customers)?

Full disclaimer — this is not something that I learned in film school or any other guide — it is entirely my own philosophy of approaching things, and I don’t even know if such theory exists anywhere else.

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🎬 Director, videographer, editor of things.

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Drago @ The Video Camp

Drago @ The Video Camp

🎬 Director, videographer, editor of things.

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