Mood Boards 101: Crafting Your Video's Style

Video is a visual medium— we all know that. But before you can make your video, typically you will need a script— not so visual. So what better way to communicate and plan for a visual piece than accompanying those words on a page than with, well, visuals? Strong writing can surely communicate imagery, but a mood board is one way to be sure that everyone envisions the video the same way before you set out to produce it.

A mood board is typically an arrangement of images and other sources of inspiration to evoke a concept or style, and there are a few essential aspects to keep in mind when creating one for video. Let's explore them:

Overall Look

On the spectrum between pure realism and highly stylized, decide where your video should land based on its content and audience. Think about what kind of aesthetic decisions need to be made to suit your subject, from composition to content, and even live action vs. motion graphics. Perhaps your video is meant to be precise straightforward and educational. Or maybe it’s something highly emotional, subjective, meant to excite or intrigue. Consider what these categories “look” like for your specific set of needs, and the rest will follow.

 Director Wong Kar-Wai has a distinct visual style. 

Director Wong Kar-Wai has a distinct visual style. 

 

Location

If you already have a location scouted, now’s your chance to show pictures of it so everyone knows just what to expect. If not, this is the opportunity to lay out things to look for, establishing what settings and aspects will really drive the piece home.

 On location of Xavier Dolan's film  "Mommy."

On location of Xavier Dolan's film "Mommy."

 

Lighting

Lighting is a powerful force in crafting an aesthetic. With high-key lighting, scenes are well lit with low contrast, bringing out whites and minimizing blacks to create a bright and polished look. With fewer shadows, it lends to showcasing people or products at their best, and creates an inviting look with an upbeat mood. Low-key lighting, on the other hand, utilizes darkness to create a high contrast ratio. Shadows bring out a more dramatic look and feel.

You’ll also want to take quality of light into account. Soft lighting is a flattering, diffused light that can give a dreamier, optimistic look, whereas hard light can create defined edges with powerful depth.

 Film noirs like  The Big Combo  are known for their dramatic high-contrast ratios and low-key lighting. 

Film noirs like The Big Combo are known for their dramatic high-contrast ratios and low-key lighting. 

Inspiration

You’re not just limited to obtaining visual references from videos similar to your own. In fact, if your concept is unique, it will be quite hard to find any one pre-existing video that represents the look and feel of yours fully and accurately. Rather, seek out inspiration in aspects from a variety of pieces, and look at the unexpected. Perhaps that genre film from the 80s you like has a moment where the lighting strikes a chord just right, or maybe there’s a photographer that brings a certain flair to the types of locations you’ll shoot in. Maybe there's even an artist that evokes a mood through colours and concepts that your piece has a connection with. Find those subtleties that can be developed into your video's defining features.

 David Lynch is known to take find visual inspiration in paintings. 

David Lynch is known to take find visual inspiration in paintings. 

Characters

Ideally, your script will already have distinct descriptions for the people who are to appear in the video- everything from demographic, physical appearance and body language. Still, adding photos of people who fit these roles will tie the presentation of visuals together, making a comprehensive mood board. And that brings us to...

Presentation

Now to put all your visual references together in a presentable format that complements the aesthetic. Google slides makes it easy to present these in an organized fashion with a range of themes to choose from and the ability to craft your own. Other popular favourites among creatives include Go Mood Board, Milanote, Mural and Canva.

There’s many ways to get creative when using visuals to develop ideas. Where have you found unexpected inspiration?