The Elemental Nature of 'purpose'

Making videos is our love, but telling stories is our passion. Lately, we have spent a lot of time talking about purpose and what it means to us when we sit down with clients and start planning out the narrative that they want to tell onscreen. Last week on the blog, we talked about capital ‘P’ Purpose, and lowercase ‘p’ purpose. Purpose is the client’s intent in commissioning a video, whether it be for advertising, employee engagement, or anything else. Lowercase ‘p’ purpose is every minute detail and production decision that goes into making a video for our clients. (If you missed our video explanation of purpose, look below and take a peek!)

Today we want to focus on the purpose our videos are made with and not the Purpose of the videos (although we believe that those two things go hand in hand). The production details and decisions included in our lowercase ‘p’ definition of purpose can range from lighting to camera angles, and beyond. This post is meant to be both: a pro-tip full explanation of how structuring a video set looks; and a behind the scenes look at how we take every single, miniscule detail into account when we are planning and on set at a video shoot.


If you stop and think about how your day went yesterday, one of the key elements to the timbre of your day was probably the weather. If it was a bright, sunny, warm day, chances are that your mood was slightly lifted. If it was dark, rainy, and dreary, chances are you felt a little more sluggish. Now, we’re not creating weather on our video sets, we do intentionally set the mood and tone for a shoot with lighting. Here are some examples:


This photo is bright and airy, with a high key light. This image is meant to convey a feeling of brightness, and to highlight the fun, easy-going nature of the speaker.


Now, this photo is the opposite. For this shoot, we toned the key lighting down, which lends itself to a darker, tenser feeling for the viewer. By making a simple change in lighting, the entire mood of the video shifts. By communicating with your audience via lighting, you are deepening the Purpose of your video by more accurately emotionally connecting with your viewer.

Lens Choices and Framing:

We have all heard some variation of the phrase, “to see something from a different lens.” While metaphorically, the idea that viewing something from a different perspective can change your opinion on a matter, it is also practically true. The lens that a character is filmed through, plus the way they are framed on screen can communicate multitudes to your audience. If we shoot with a lens that allows for a shallow depth of field, meaning the background is out of focus, it gives the viewer a clear directive as to what’s important in the frame. A viewer’s attention is automatically drawn to areas of an image that are the sharpest and have the most contrast.  Using this information, we can compose a frame that draws the viewer’s eye to exactly what we want to hold their attention.  Another option is to use a wide lens which allows the viewer to take in the entire frame and make their own decisions about the details.

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Framing is another important element to consider. By putting the subject in the above photo to one side of the frame, the character has the ability to look around the frame, making the viewing experience comfortable and relatable. This combined with the soft focus of the background provided by the lens communicates that the most important thing that they should be paying attention to is the woman on the screen. Now, for another example that uses the same lens, but a different framing technique, see below. 

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This frame is an example of short-sided composition. As she looks away to the short-side of the frame, there is a sense of distance and distress. The viewer's eyes are led immediately out of the frame, and the composition feels off-balance.  The audience immediately feels her sadness. Just by framing the character in a different way while using the same lens the audience is led to feeling a different emotion.  


In the above photo two elements are different. While the subject is in hard focus, you are still able to see bits and pieces of the background behind him. This communicates to the audience that the character should be their main point of focus, but that it’s also okay if their eye explores the rest of the scene. It can serve to draw the watcher deeper into the viewing experience. The character is also centered in the frame, giving our character the ability to deliver his dialog with authority and instill confidence in the audience.  

Camera Movements

The last topic we want to mention today is camera movements. But, bear in mind, these are only a handful of the myriad decisions that we process through when shooting a video for you as our client. Each one serves a smaller purpose that helps better communicate the big Purpose of the story for you, and to help form a stronger connection with your audience.   

Camera movements are extremely important to the viewer’s experience. Since the viewer’s vantage point into the story is the way the camera moves, there are several ways to manipulate that experience.

  • Tripod - If you lock a camera to a tripod, you are communicating a very stable experience to the viewer. Camera angles and lenses become very crucial if this is the method we choose to use for filming, because there will be no camera movement. The audience still needs to see and interesting picture, even if it’s standing still.

  • Stabilizers and Steadicams -  If you put a camera on a track or a slide, you can give slow, deliberate movement to the what your audience sees. This makes the viewer feel like they are moving with the story, but in a deliberate way. It’s adds a high production value to a video.

  • Handheld and Go-Pro Cameras - Oftentimes, when we work with medical facilities, we want to show the day to day life of the hospital staff without intruding on sensitive medical procedures or information. By giving the staff Go-Pros to wear, we can often capture high energy footage that puts the watcher very in the moment. The same can be said for handheld camera shots. They are often shaky and unpredictable. They communicate to the watcher a sense of excitement and chaos. If it does incorrectly, it can feel like low production value to the viewer.

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All of these filmmaking decisions add up to support the big Purpose of our client’s goals, and harness the power of intentional storytelling and drive emotional decision-making.  Shooting with purpose is just one of the elements that will make a difference between a story that will create powerful connections and drive your audience into action, and a story that will fall flat and never make it off the ground.  At Rooted Content, we take the purpose of video production and intentional storytelling seriously to provide our clients with a process to emotionally connect with their audience.  Contact us today to see what Rooted Content can do to help further your company’s Purpose.

Purpose in Storytelling- It's Different Than You Think

This week, we’re wrapping up our series on specific story elements. If you’ve been reading along with us for the past three weeks, you’ll know that we have talked about people, emotions, and location. Each of these topics has pertained to the science of storytelling in a specific way, and is unique to the process of building a meaningful experience for your viewer or customer. By combining characters, emotions, and location, you can round out the importance of a story’s Purpose, but also make your story serve a purpose. Those two things may sounds similar, but they are not the same.

Purpose vs. Purpose: One Word, Multiple Applications

We would like to submit that there are two different applications for the ‘purpose’ of a commissioned video for your business. We have split them up into the ‘P’urpose and the ‘p’urpose.

. Purpose- to reduce the idea of capital ‘P’ purpose down to its most basic parts, you could say that the overarching Purpose of commissioning a video for your business is advertising and brand recognition. Truthfully, though, the Purpose of a branded video (whether it be for internal or external purposes) is to lead your viewers or clients to a decision that you want them to make. For example, if you want to increase employee engagement, you may make a video that highlights how happy people are to work for your company and then show it to prospective staff so they can decide that you have a great work environment. While we like to think of ourselves as rational, well thought out people, much of our human decision making is based on emotions. By using the power of storytelling, we can tap into those emotions to show your intended audience what need your product service can fulfill for them.

. purpose- the lowercase ‘p’ purpose is a little bit more conceptual than the capital ‘P’ Purpose. When we talk about purpose in a video spot, we are talking about all the microscopic and macroscopic decisions that go into making a truly compelling video. These decisions include choosing to combine the elements of character, emotions, and location. It also includes lighting choices, camera choices, angles, and all the other elements of filmmaking that give a specific video purpose.

The Purpose of Character Development

If you take a look at our vimeo page, you’ll see that we often choose a specific character to focus on when telling a company’s story. Take the story of Dave Marlin, a flight nurse for Carolinas Healthcare. We shot a series of spots for Carolinas Healthcare that were all meant to increase employee retention and hospital loyalty. Through the course of the video we shot with him, you feel like you know Dave. You feel the excitement and uncertainty of his job, as he goes into work not knowing which patient he will be carrying in his medical helicopter that day. The Purpose of the video is to show other Carolinas Healthcare employees how meaningful their work is and how enjoyable it can be. By putting Dave front and center in the video, you offer the viewer an avatar into the life saving measures he himself goes to everyday of his job. This creates a deep sense of Purpose in the viewer. That if they choose to work for Carolinas, they could have as much satisfaction in their jobs as Dave does. The empathy this creates between the viewer and the company is personal and deliberate. By Dave being the main focus of the video, it creates a clear purpose. You feel that Carolinas Healthcare’s purpose is to take care of their employees. And that is a powerful thing.

The Purpose of Emotions

Let’s stick with Dave’s story since it is a video that uses both Purpose and purpose. Healthcare is by necessity an emotional thing. People’s lives hang in the balance of receiving the treatment they need in times of crisis. The feeling of suspense, anticipation, empathy, and gravity that is conveyed by showing Dave and his colleagues boarding their medical helicopter is tangible as you watch the video. Dave has a sense of urgency in rescuing people with his helicopter that is conveyed to the viewer in a very real way. The decisions to cut the video together in a certain way, to use Go Pro cameras, and use natural lighting all serve the purpose of making the story feel real and lifelike. Carolinas employees are meant to feel how important Dave’s job is, and how seriously he takes it. This forms a feeling of trust between Dave and the viewer. By emphasizing the emotional elements of the story, the viewer feels the Purpose of the video is not just to sell them on Carolinas Healthcare, but to show how serious the viewer’s employment could be to the company they see onscreen.

The Purpose of Location

The most important point about location in terms of making a video is transporting your viewer to a specific point in the story you want to tell. The more real and authentic a location feels to a viewer, the more they are able to put themselves into that space. In the case of Dave’s story, by seeing several shots of him in and around the helicopter, the viewer is transported into his daily life as a flight nurse. This puts the viewer literally inside the story (through something we like to call narrative transportation), and creates a sense of empathy for the place itself. In terms of purpose, by choosing to use locations intentionally as connection points for your viewer, you are communicating that the David’s location is important. If they are ever to work for Carolinas Healthcare, they will feel as if they’ve already been inside the space Dave occupies, which is the video’s Purpose.

At Rooted Content, we want our videos to both serve a purpose and to have Purpose. We believe that telling your brand’s story in an empathetic is the most important thing we can do for your business. By using the elements of character, emotions, and location we are able to convey your business’s story to the consumer. And that is a beautiful thing.

Finding A Story On and In Your Location

Imagine this: a friend comes up to you and asks if you’ve seen the latest summer blockbuster. Could you explain the movie to them without telling your friend where it was set? You could probably tell them a little bit about the plot and characters, but something would be missing from your explanation. A crucial part of storytelling is defining a sense of place and location for your viewer, listener, or reader. Take the latest Star Wars movie, for example. Outer space is just as much of a character as Chewy, Rey, and Kylo Ren are.  Now, unlike Star Wars, we don’t necessarily have the assets to pack our gear and go shoot in outer space… yet. But we do believe that shooting on location is important to the narratives we tell. If that sounds like home to you, read on.

Everyone comes from somewhere.

In previous posts, we have explained that stories are made up of different elements. They consist of plot lines, dialogue, images, and characters. All of these different elements are brought together to form a cohesive narrative that, if executed properly, can convey a message and evoke a series of emotions in a viewer. On our trip to Ethiopia to support Eleventh Candle Co., we were struck by how we could not convey Eleventh Candle Co.’s mission without firmly showing Ethiopia and it’s people. This way, when you see Amber Runyan on screen, you realize how revolutionary her work is. Onscreen characters act as avatars for your viewer. The more connected a watcher feels to the person they are seeing on screen, the more transported they are into the material that is being shown to them. This concept is called narrative transportation. By establishing a firm sense of narrative transportation, you are also establishing your viewer in a place, and inspiring them to keep watching.

Local Ethiopian woman at a popular tea and coffee shop.

Local Ethiopian woman at a popular tea and coffee shop.

Places have meaning.

When you visit the same places everyday, sometimes it is easy to forget that each place has a meaning. If you visit the same coffee shop every morning, that coffee shop becomes a part of your personal narrative. You attach a special sense of gravitas to each visit, even if it feels like the most mundane part of your daily routine. Businesses, in the same way, have a firm sense of place, even if you work from home. When you use on-location videos as marketing tools for your business, you are giving your consumer a behind the scenes look at the work you do everyday. This will make them feel like they have a relationship with your business and more of an interest in using or buying your product or service.

Behind the scenes image of our recent shoot at the Columbus School for Girls.

Behind the scenes image of our recent shoot at the Columbus School for Girls.

You business, your home.

Much of the time we spend more of our waking hours at work than we do at home. It’s more likely than not that your general consumer feels the same way about their work as you do about your own. Even with the frustrating parts of ‘going to the office,’ everyday, people still take a lot of pride in what they do. By offering them an inside look at your business, you are showing your intended audience how relatable your business is. This can go a long way in building brand loyalty.

Shooting on location means showing respect.

We are often asked to shoot videos for hospitals, schools, and other businesses that deal with sensitive, personal information. When we work with these establishments, we do our best to treat them with the amount of respect they deserve. We feel that the best stories often come out of places that deal with daily human interactions on such a deep, relational level. Take a look at this story about Heather, a nurse at the Carolinas Healthcare network in Charlotte, North Carolina. As you watch her and her team go through their everyday hospital activities, you are offered a rare glimpse in what it’s like to work in the healthcare field. The viewer isn’t just watching a video about a nurse, they are literally transported into the halls of the hospital with their friend Heather. Which is a powerful thing.

Places are powerful and important. At Rooted Content, we want to convey the meaningful nature of the locations where we are so lucky to shoot. For more of our on-site work, click here.

The Narrative Impact of Emotions

Story. A little over a year ago, we filmed a few videos for a local Ohio-based healthcare company called Mercy Health. While working on the shoot, we were struck by something truly powerful that Melinda, a social worker who works in hospice care, said to us. She said, "There are other intimate moments throughout your life, but the two main significant ones are when you're born and when you die." It was the emotional delivery of this sentence that set the tone for the entire video. It allowed us to tell Melinda’s story from a place of depth and importance. Because what she does as a social worker for people in hospice care is important, and it is difficult.

Choices. There is an underrated science to telling a good story. And there is a good story to be found in just about everything. In order for a story to work, you have to have several key elements that all fit and work together. One of these is character. Every story has a protagonist or main character. This main character needs to be someone that your audience identifies with on an empathetic, emotional level. Another element is tone. To get your consumer emotionally involved with your story, it’s important to decide what tone to take. In our aforementioned story about Melinda, it would be easy to assume that we were telling a sad story. In reality, Melinda’s story was more inspiring and hopeful, because of her passion for her job and the difference she makes in her local community.

Truth. We are relentlessly marketed to on a day-to-day basis. Even as “marketers” ourselves, we feel the boredom and perpetual drudgery that is modern advertising. Companies so often seem to want to make us just buy things for the sake of buying things, and they will stop at nothing to increase their bottom line. As a consumer, it is easy to feel manipulated by advertisements. And it’s true: playing on your consumer’s or target audience’s emotions is a very compelling way to sell a product.


Suggestion. At Rooted Content, we strive to tell stories. One of the most important parts of telling a story is what emotions it evokes in you when read it, see it, or hear it. For example: think of your favorite movie or book. What makes it impactful to you? Does it move you? Make you cry? Laugh? Does it make you want to reach out to your mother or brother or best friend? Chances are, there is some kind of emotional attachment you feel to the story itself that makes you want to keep coming back for more. When we create visual aids for our clients we want to capture specific moments in time, but also specific emotions in time.

Connection. In storytelling, emotion is what creates a bridge between (in our case) the viewer and the content they are watching. By documenting real people using their own words, we are connecting the person on screen and the person watching the screen. As we mentioned before, when talking about choosing a main character, we do this by giving the person watching an inroad into your story by making the person on screen emotionally relatable. By using empathy, the viewer then feels connected to what they are seeing on a deeper level.

Summary. As a storyteller, it’s important to focus on all aspects of the story you are telling in order to find which emotion best fits your product, who you are trying to reach, and the message you want to convey to your viewers. This can be accomplished by drawing the proper emotions from your subject material and communicating them to your audience.

Action. At Rooted Content, we tell customized visual stories for your business, non-profit, or healthcare organization. We can help convey the emotional weight of your company’s message in a way that is unique to your business. Let us help you reach the people you want to reach today.