1gettyFor Getty Images 2013 seems to be the year to get to the bottom of visual storytelling and the future of video. At the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June as well as recently at Spike Asia, the company showcased it’s joint efforts with media artists The Light Surgeons to create a playful, interactive experience that explores the question of what that future could look like with the help of their dynamic video wall which had its debut at Cannes Lions. Made up of synonymous screens, the wall allowed delegates to interact with Getty Images creative video content in a unique and playful way, intending to reveal the conceptual relationships between image and word through its meta-tagging and connections.

Getty Images’ experts, Rebecca Swift, Global Head of Creative Planning, iStockphoto and Elvira Lodewick, Director Marketing APAC, Getty Images, shared compelling insights with Asian eMarketing during a short meeting at Spike Asia.

Considering that visual storytelling has been actually around since the Stone Ages, when cavemen were drawing on the stone walls, it is even more exciting to take a look at the digital art of visual storytelling, as high tech equipment makes it so much more enthralling through dynamic sequencing of images. Creativity, engagement, and deep introspection into crafting a personal visual storytelling project is the ultimate art, explained Rebecca, challenging the producer to express and present content with a meaning, but without words. In fact, the mantra is to let the pictures tell the story, which is not an easy task. “The advice I always give is that you have to have a story to tell, of course, and you have to put passion and love into it and really believe in what you are doing”, she said.

What became very clear during our meeting is the fact that a visual storyteller has to be able to tell a story in just a few words – or even better none at all. As a test, videographers could, for instance, turn off the sound of their clips and ask themselves if the plot would be understood in silence, since we all know that unfortunately the words often lead the way, dragging pictures along behind them. Rebecca explained that there are a large number of useful tools available for visual storytellers to convey messages with images alone, like the type of shot, the editing style, the different cameras used, the decision which color palette you will stick to or in general the concepts within it, repeated motifs or things of this kind. “If you know exactly how someone is feeling, what they’re thinking, and what they’re going to do next - without words, just by showing – you are on the right track”, she said. „So actually a lot of our work is working with companies on building that visual graph and what those photographs are saying in each instance and how they all match together. That’s a truly, contemporary issue. That’s a problem that we are faced with right now and I don’t have any clear answers to that. There isn’t any magic formula”, she concluded. “Not to mention that a modern viewer doesn’t have a tolerance for 30 seconds clips, probably just for 5 seconds, which means it has to be super compelling for anybody to watch the last 25 seconds“, she added.

According to Rebecca, Getty Images is aware of the fact that they need more videos and different types of video content, but the number of videographers and content providers to actually get that content for them is still moderate. “You know, we have around 125,000 photographers and our videographers are probably less than 10% of that, and good user-generated video content is still hard to find”, she said. It is extremely challenging to communicate with a 6/7 seconds video nowadays, what used to be covered in 30 seconds in the past. She explained: “As a content producer you have to think in that small time frame to tell your story.” This sets Getty Images apart of YouTube, where the average length is much longer and can therefore not be used so easily for advertisement.

As the market leader in the video space, with more than 20,000 hours of clips, Getty Images is definitely convinced that video will play a pivotal role in the future of the creative industry. And the fact that YouTube has one billion unique visitors who spend 6 billion hours per month watching YouTube videos, just affirms that they are going into the right direction.

“Video consumption has experienced outstanding growth in recent years, especially via online and mobile platforms, as well as motion-enabled advertising like billboards and outdoor digital screens.  Demand for a trans-media experience is seeing advertising strategies shift from static to dynamic content, often co-created through audience participation, enabling consumers to interact with brand stories in unprecedented ways” Elvira added, confirming that the Getty Images team is excited to share its creative insight, trend discovery and vast video offering. And that’s probably one reason why Getty Images has been sponsoring and supporting the Young Spikes Competition for the second consecutive year or running iStockalypse in many cities around the world to mentor and guide the industry. Elvira explained: We sponsored the Young Spikes to tell them about Getty Images and encourage them to work closely with us and making them aware of the fact that we are constantly sourcing content and that there is maybe not only a financial opportunity for them but also a creative opportunity – it usually works really well.”

Another reason is definitely Getty Images’ constant search for conceptual values, as Rebecca, confirms: “the team I am working in, the creative team, is always looking for conceptual values in images, such as team-work or success or the type of concepts that many of our customers are looking for when they are promoting themselves. We do editing to some degrees, making sure that there is no copyright infringement, that it has the right releases and that it’s tasteful, but my role is guiding that content – and, if possible, even to interact with the photographers before they are doing the shoots to push them into the direction where we know our customers want the content to be. So we explain what it needs to look like.”

Thus, everybody can imagine that it is necessary to respect different rules in different countries, too. “What’s tasteful in Europe doesn’t mean to be tasteful in the US, Singapore or Arab countries”, Rebecca explained, “so, we solve this issue by having localized websites, but essentially we are trying to offer something for everybody”, she explained. Rebecca wrapped up the interview by saying: “We are always trawling the internet, looking for new areas, new collections we can add, new sites people are posting their content on and work with most major movie houses and news side to make sure that we provide good quality clips.”

By Daniela La Marca