How watching Breakfast at Tiffany's today may be a good indicator you need to change your approach - The Vibons Blog

How watching Breakfast at Tiffany's today may be a good indicator you need to change your approach

By Tugrul Turkkan, CEO   |    4 min read

How watching Breakfast at Tiffany's today may be a good indicator you need to change your approach

By Tugrul Turkkan, CEO
 4 min read

It’s all about keeping the viewer engaged

Only 20% of you will read this article until its last word, and that fact, as insignificant as it may sound, points out a huge problem in the future of learning. Why? Because we find it harder and harder to pay attention, even for things that matter.

According to a Microsoft study, thanks to smartphones, our attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2015.

Since we are not even close to quitting our phones, the only thing left is to adapt. And believe it or not, Hollywood filmmakers have, for years now, known the solution.

How Hollywood adapted to the decreasing human attention span

We’re thrown into the dark canvas of space. Tiny stars sparkle in the distance, embedded in the exotic surrounding. As the camera gradually leans down, our eyes lie on the blue horizon of a gigantic planet. For a short second, the orchestra music in the background becomes nearly inaudible. It’s a peaceful shot. A small spaceship, loudly perused by the sound of laser fire penetrates the serenity of the moment. What next unfolds is a massive, grey battleship - the Imperial Star Destroyer - chasing the nice little ship into the darkness of the galaxy.

The Star Wars opening shot mesmerized millions of people. Back in 1977, the shot “was such a great way to start a film, and it caught the audience off-guard,” said the artist Joe Johnston, in a 2012 interview for Star Wars Insider.

But while opening shots capture the viewers’ attention at the beginning of the movie, the real question is, what keeps them engaged until the end?

Average Shot Length (ASL) in Film Industry

A 2011 studyconducted by James Cutting, a Cornell University psychologist reveals that the evolution of film expresses an explicit goal of the filmmaker, to increase the control over viewers’ attention, and increase engagement. In the paper, he argued that the duration and pattern of shots have evolved over the years, changes made “to hold our attention better.”

Consequently, Cutting reveals that the average shot length in English language films has been declining. In 1930, movies had an average shot length (ASL) of about 12 seconds, while today, the ASL is approximately 2.5 seconds. The research team measured 160 English-language films released from 1935 to 2010, and among other things, they discovered that contemporary films have more motion and movement and a shorter shot length than earlier films.

Let’s take a look at the evolution of the Average Shot Length (ASL) in some well-known movies:

His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940) – ASL of 15 seconds.

The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960) – ASL of 16.3 seconds.

Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993) – ASL of 6.2 seconds.

Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010) - ASL of 3.1 seconds.

Lessons from filmmakers: How can the digital learning industry convey effective learning strategies?

When Gloria Mark, professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, and her colleagues, shadowed 36 managers, financial analysts, software developers, engineers, and project leaders for three days, they made some significant discoveries. Namely, each employee got interrupted after only 11 minutes of work, with a demand unrelated to the task at hand. What’s even more interesting is that on average, the employee needed 25 minutes to return to the task after the distraction occurred. Which means, in a 60-minute long video study session, the employee can expect at least five interruptions. Counting the time it needs to get back to the video, a one-hour long video could take over three hours to digest.

But that is not the only problem. Even if the employee doesn’t get interrupted, research shows that the average adult can sustain their attention for approximately 20 minutes (Dukette and Cornish, 2009). To keep the audience interested, the video should not only be shorter, but made up of different shots averaging around eight seconds each.

A report published by Tubemogul in 2008 indicates that when viewing online videos, nearly half the audience is gone by the 60-second mark. The report shows that most of the time, getting to the bottom of the problem through a short, 90 second story is more efficient than through a dull, long video.

Adding to that, only 37% of people finish a 3-4 minute online video, which leads to the conclusion that “shorter videos are better for getting people to watch the whole thing. “ (see infographic).

Case Study: Vibons Video for Hitachi

To adjust to its employees’ short attention span and busy schedules, Hitachi assigned Vibons to create an animated micro-learning to train its employees about open enrollment. The outcome:

Length of video– Using the Twitter approach, Vibons removed repetitive information, fillers, and irrelevant data to fit valuable lessons about open enrolment in a 5-minute animated video. Vibons produced the video in only ten days, achieving a 74% completion rate after a month of training.

Average shot length – In the video, Vibons never exceeded the attention span rule, stimulating the viewer every eight seconds by using storytelling, motion effects, infographics, and animated visual metaphors.

Short, but problem-solving – “When employees are stuck, they need the answer quickly. It doesn’t help them to sign up for a class that will happen three weeks from now and sit through a four-hour session to get the answer they need this minute,” says Britt Andreatta, Ph.D. Consultant, Speaker, and Top LinkedIn Learning Author.

Storytelling – In training videos, Vibons focuses on only one strong character, highlighting one area at once. Click here to read more on how to use digital storytelling to enhance workplace learning.

Microlearning is the new approach to corporate training. According to the 2017 LinkedIn Workplace Learning report, seven out of ten organizations are starting to incorporate video-based online training into their learning cultures. Are you one of the seven?

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