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Ideas Instructional Design

Cinematic Tricks In Your Next Custom eLearning Course

Take a cue from movie trailers to add some life to your training.

Movie trailers are the best. A well-made trailer is a perfectly curated blast of cinema, a proven formula designed to both clearly communicate what kind of movie it is and leave you motivated to see more. Not many media formats are able to pull off as much in such a short amount of time.

You get a sense of the genre, the style of acting, the production value, the tone, and just the right notes of plot to allow you to make an informed judgment. They are expertly scored, edited, and paced to function as a standalone piece of entertainment while hyping the feature film. A great trailer reveals narrative, characters, and plot to you at just the right moment to tell the film’s story with the most impact.

Trailers hit their mark with impressive accuracy. A good horror movie trailer will scare you in the middle of the day in a well-lit and populated office. A good superhero movie trailer will make you legit worried about humanity’s plight for a few moments. A good comedy movie trailer will make you snort some soup and send your oyster crackers scattering. Good movie trailers can do all of this without spoiling the actual movie.

Which also happens. Some trailers are too good for their own good. A trailer can easily be better than the movie itself, creating a false sense of excitement in a movie that turns out to be rather plodding in its full length. What seems like compelling character depth in the quick take of a trailer can be pretty slight or boring in the context of the full narrative arc. Or the worst offense, a trailer that dutifully takes you through the key plot points in order, even presenting baffling selections from the third act, climax, or resolution of the movie. Get out of here with those.

Either way, the promise of the format is appealing every time for me. Show me some title cards crosscut with a striking tableau I can’t quite make out. Is that Ryan Reyn…oh wait that’s Ryan Gosling! Different Ryan. No problem, still in. Is he flecked in…blood…ah, it’s just paint! It’s a tale about an artist. I think. What’s else? Oh, hell no, now it’s blood! Man! You got me, trailer. You got me. I want to watch any trailer, even for movies I know I don’t want to see simply because it’s a quick hit of free entertainment.

Trailers show you something great and offer the promise of better

It’s something to think about when you’re creating training. Even if it feels like a stretch, a little bit of flair can still improve the mood significantly. Here are some ideas on how to add some cinematic tricks to your eLearning.

  • An elegant, atmospheric hook to make a compelling case for a new compliance policy.
  • A high-octane montage to lay out the benefits of a critical new procedure.
  • Add music to give the presentation more polish and production value.
  • Try telling the story in audio and bold visuals, using text sparingly or formatted as stylized title cards. If your training uses characters, consider using their dialogue to draw the viewer in, rather than a traditional narrator.
  • Reveal the premise with classic narrative structures that build intrigue: exposition, rising action, and a climax.
  • Add a nod to marketing techniques with a call to action at the end.

Sure, not every aspect of a learning experience needs to be a glamorous, high-fidelity spectacle. But maybe some key moments would benefit from some of those techniques. Maybe your learners will even reach for some popcorn?  Eh come on, it’s possible!

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