What is a mixed media video?

In this post we’ll talk about what are mixed videos and how can you use them in your digital marketing strategy!

Marketing Team
Content Marketing What is a mixed media video?

Table of Contents

What does a mixed media video look like?

A mixed media video is the result of the interaction between animation, live action video, photographic material, and illustrations. It can be composed of a variety of materials, depending on the effects and emotional impact you want to produce: from 2D character animation and 3D infographics to animated overlays (which we will return to in a moment).

A mixed media video that is both entertaining and informative uses elements created with different tools and techniques. It does this either by moving from footage to infographics to animation through smooth transitions, or with a combination (or, rather, juxtaposition) of animated graphics and footage within the same frame. Text and typographic elements offer many opportunities to create a connection between these two expressive planes.

To make a mixed media video, animators use a wide variety of techniques applied from scripts and storyboards prepared for them by illustrators and authors. A team effort where all professionals are aligned is more likely to result in a coherent and successful video. 

A mixed media video, if successful, precisely because of this hybrid and composite nature, has a distinctive aesthetic compared to other forms of media. 

The components that can be used to create mixed media video have increased considerably with the advance of digital transformation, but we can still group them into three broad categories.

  1. Live action. According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, live-action involves “real people or animals, not models, or images that are drawn, or produced by computer.” It’s a form of cinematography or videography that uses photography and not animation, although there is the possibility of combining the two visual forms within the same work (in films, video games or other similar visual media). 
  2. Animation. The method by which still figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on sheets of transparent celluloid and then photographed and displayed on film. Today, most animation is done with computer-generated imagery (CGI). Computer animation can be in highly detailed if not hyper-realistic 3D or in 2D (and has the appearance of traditional animation), depending on specific stylistic reasons or technical requirements, such as reduced bandwidth or longer rendering times. Other animation methods involve the application of stop-motion techniques for two- and three-dimensional objects, such as paper cutouts, puppets, or clay figures.  Cartoons, instead, are true animated films.
  3. Animated overlays. They consist of animations that are created specifically as an overlay on live action video. It’s a great technique for applying your logo to live videos, adding additional explanations, or directing the audience’s attention to specific points in the frame. Animated content from animated overlays can bring a person’s words to life just as they are speaking them.

As with any other expression of creativity that has manifested itself in the history of human communication, in the case of mixed media videos we are not dealing with inventions that came out of nowhere but rather as the result of a long evolutionary path. 

Brief history of mixed media technique: from Picasso to MTV

“Mixed media” is an expression that originated in the arts and is used to describe works of art that are composed of a combination of different media or materials. 

  • The “mixed media” technique began to be used in the 1910s, with the collages and cubist constructions of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, and spread as artists experimented more freely with different expressive substances in a single work. Picasso’s “Still Life with Chair Caning” (May 1912) is traditionally considered the first modern collage, although in reality the mix of oil paint, canvas, glued paper, and rope transforms it into a kind of three-dimensional bas-relief. 
  • Also in 1912, Braque used wood grain wallpaper in a series of charcoal drawings. 
  • In the 1920s, in line with the reflections of the Dadaist movement to which he belonged, German artist Kurt Schwitters inserted papers and ordinary materials of all kinds on canvas, paper, and cardboard supports, giving them a new and considerably more lasting life.
  • In 1947, Henri Matisse published a collection of twenty color plates containing some cut-out paper silhouettes (made in the 1930s), small preparatory drawings for works to be made using other media. Also during those years, Joseph Cornell’s work initiated research on collage as an art form by the Abstract Expressionists, among others like Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Jean Dubuffet, and Ellsworth Kelly, which would continue into the 1960s and set the stage for some of the most remarkable scenic installations and works of the 1980s and 1990s.

This look at its evolution helps us understand how mixed media videos have their roots in an extremely vital artistic field. What separates them from the works we have named is not the creative quality so much as the techniques and technological tools involved. 

The birth of motion graphics: the origins of mixed media videos

Dating back to the 1800s, the first animation devices, such as flip books, produced the sensation of motion by flipping pages quickly and thus scrolling through a series of drawings, sequentially. However, true animation actually began with the advent of cinematography. Although it is not possible to attribute the invention of animated graphics to any particular person, works by Marcel Duchamp, Walter Ruttmann, and Fernand Léger all experimented in mixing techniques and media for film. Later, artists and designers of the caliber of Saul Bass, Pablo Ferro, and John Whitney, to name but a few, helped give animated graphics dignity as an accomplished art form. 

  • Mixed media video’s association with the large and small screen (and in more recent years, with digital) continues from the 1970s to the present day, often under the banner of nonconformity and a taste for the surreal. Think, for example, of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, a BBC comedy show that aired from 1969 to 1974, which included live-action sketches and animations (created by Terry Gilliam and used as linking devices).
  • In more recent years, as part of its Look Different campaign, MTV released “Gender Bent: The Questionable History of Gender Norms” (2016), a three-episode series celebrating diversity and revealing the wholly arbitrary nature of some of the most trite customs about gender. 

The two cases we have cited highlight how the particular linguistic register supported by mixed media video is extremely performant when it comes to rendering abstract and complex processes, imaginary and impossible to film situations, rhetorical figures such as hyperbole and metaphors, and physically unapproachable phenomena. For all of these reasons, a mixed media video represents a flexible and powerful resource within any persuasive communication, and it is therefore not surprising that it has been used in company narratives for decades now.

a short guide on explainer videos

Mixed media video: a resource at the service of corporate communication

The evolution of mixed media videos in advertising and in marketing and corporate communication  basically follows that of animated videos (or better yet, motion graphics videos). As to which is the first animated advertisement, there is still no fully agreed conclusion today. Probably the earliest one ever made is “Matches: An Appeal” by Arthur Melbourne-Cooper, a short stop-motion video made as part of a fundraising campaign promoted by a match company, Bryant & May, and intended to purchase and send matches to British Army troops fighting overseas. 

Created in 1899, while the Second Boer War was underway, the video was officially screened around 1914, during World War I.

Over the next two decades, “Matches: An Appeal”—which is perhaps the first example of a fully animated film, not just an advertisement—remains an almost isolated case. Animation at that time in history was expensive and complicated to create, and at least until the early 1930s, advertisements consisted mainly of live broadcasts where an actor advises people to buy a given product. Instead, animation is mostly reserved for comic strips or short skits in Nickelodeon movie theaters.

It was not until the 1940s that the language of animation also began to be introduced into advertising discourse. Since then, motion graphics, and mixed media video with it, have become increasingly popular: from the Flintstones promoting a famous brand of cigarettes in the 1950s, to the cartoon character “La linea” invented in 1969 by cartoonist and Italian director Osvaldo Cavandoli for the cookware company Lagostina, through Nick Park‘s Creature Comforts, which starred in television commercials for the “Heat Electric” institutional campaign in the 1990s, to the delightful OREO commercials that cross the entire spectrum of mixed media video techniques, from the overlay of illustrations on live action footage (OREO bedtime) to computer graphics that perfectly mimic the filming of three-dimensional textural objects (Play with OREO). 

Animation in advertising emerges as one of the most effective forms of visually translating a concept. It allows one to stage the world where companies want to see their product in action, all the more so if that world is entirely (or partly) fictional. Mixed media video follows the same fate as animated graphics, and after the advent of the internet, it became one of the pillars of digital marketing strategies.

For digital marketing strategy: interactive and personalized mixed media video

Faced with an attention span that has been reduced to just a few seconds, marketers have to fight a daily challenge: to establish contact with the customer (potential or acquired) and to keep them interested by offering content that is relevant, meaningful, and engaging. A marketing plan cannot disregard the design of a content strategy, and the content strategy must include video, and in particular mixed media video.

In today’s intensely digitized reality, organizations need to develop their communications using solutions that provide better value for money that can stand out in a crowded and competitive environment, in the endless sea of available online content. Technologies that offer a range of capabilities for the creation and distribution of mixed media video which, for the reasons we have seen, are now indispensable: extraordinarily effective in refining messages, they boost views, ensure visual and stylistic uniformity, and help maintain a narrative thread to ensure brand consistency and recognition. 

What are these technologies?

Decisive for any video marketing strategy, video automation platforms now enable agencies, publishers, content marketers, and professionals to automate mixed video media creation with a scalable, data-driven approach.

Interactive mixed video media, created in a web format that allows clickable calls to actions directly into the sequences, provide a simple, fluid, and effective way to connect with users.

Personalized mixed video media present personal information and prove extremely powerful in conveying a precise message to each individual customer, helping to build stronger relationships with each of them.

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