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The Haircut Principle: The Power of the Extreme

When you change your hair style, you walk around all day waiting for someone to notice.  But nobody does.  What seems like a huge thing to you doesn’t register with anyone else.

The only way to get people to notice your hair is to push your change to the extreme.  Shave it off or dye it neon pink, and people will start to see it. (And even then, no guarantees.  I’ve shaved my beard and had people look at me quizzically and ask “Have you lost weight?”)

Thus the “Haircut Principle” for video– small changes don’t get noticed.  Move just a little closer and your shot looks the same.  But go from a huge wide shot to putting your lens right up against a character’s nose and the viewer may…just may… be aware of a tiny change in meaning. (Which makes sense if you think about.  You’ve been planning and analyzing.  The audience just clicked in to see if anything good was on.)

The things that feel big to us may not even register with the audience. To be sure they do, make them bigger.  Anything worth doing is worth doing in the extreme. For example:

In this music video, director Andre Chocron and his team could have used a shot or two of high speed photography to create a lovely slow-motion effect.  But you wouldn’t have noticed because lots of people do that.  So they went extreme.  They shot the whole video in one single 18 second take at 300 frames per second.  When they slowed the footage down, it was 3:34– the length of their entire song.  And it created a look you’re a lot more likely to notice than a friend’s haircut.

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About The Author

Steve Stockman

Steve Stockman, president of LA-based Custom Productions, Inc., is a prolific producer, writer, and director, known for over 200 diverse media projects. He is also the author of the best-selling book "How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck," taught globally from middle school to graduate level, and available in 9 languages.

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