What is A Video Montage?

A montage is a technique of video editing, where you bring together different images or shots in one fast sequence to achieve a certain objective.

More specifically, a video montage refers to short video segments interlaced together to form one complete, fast-paced scene or sequence. In other words, a video montage combines a series of short separate videos to either pass a message or tell a story quickly, among other goals.

Like many fancy film terms, the montage was inspired by French culture. It is adapted from the word monte which roughly translates to mounted. In the early days of filmmaking, French producers would use the term to describe the process of assembling scenes to make one coherent flow.

The video montage is a popular concept in film, advertisement, and professional video blogging, among other areas. But why does anyone use a montage in the first place? It’s because of its ability to tell or show so much in so little time. Beyond that, there are many other reasons a montage can prove appealing as you’ll find out below. 

Why use a video montage 

For succinct exposition in film   

A video montage is one of the most important tools in a filmmaker’s arsenal. If film followed a linear path from start to finish, hitting every stop along the way, we’d have films that lasted days.

Think about watching a film on-screen that goes on for 10 hours straight. You’d probably be exhausted after two hours, and it wouldn’t matter what happened after that.

A video montage offers a way for filmmakers to take a shortcut in storytelling, or to perform narrative sprints. You don’t miss anything crucial but you still get there faster.

It’s one of the many editing tactics available to a producer to speed the story, especially large portions of exposition. The audience still gets the vital information it needs, but without stretching out runtime with really long scenes.

A great example of an expository montage is the opening scene in Disney’s UP. The video montage takes us through a couples’ entire life together to explain why an old widower lives in bitterness and loneliness. 

The training montages in Rocky are excellent examples too. 

To achieve a creative goal in film or television 

Beyond narrative fast-forwarding, a video montage is commonly used for comedic purposes. It can be used to deliver a punchline or to take us through a series of light-hearted moments in film.

In Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, a montage of the detective searching for the ring in every possible place is quite hilarious. From checking a mailman’s ring from within a mailbox to sprinting alongside athletes to check their fingers, the video montage offers comic relief for about three minutes.

Alternatively, a montage can also show two contrasting elements quickly to achieve the Kuleshov effect. This is where one shot offers multiple meanings depending on the shot that follows it. For example, say we have one shot of an elderly man staring at an unseen object. If the shot that follows is an attractive woman or the coffin of a loved one, we derive different feelings from either scenario. In the first case, the old man is lustful but in the second case, he is sad.  

A video montage may also be used to contrast two opposite storylines for dramatic effect. For example, parallel showing of evening routines of a humble farmer and a king to illustrate how they are worlds apart.

Another reason filmmakers use the montage is to depict a character’s state of mind during moments of stress, injury, or intoxication. The video montage offers filmmakers many opportunities to be creative and achieve their vision for various scenes.

For better performing YouTube videos  

Many YouTubers now are making use of video montages to condense content and promotions, thereby reducing duration and increasing appeal to the platform’s algorithms.

If you’ve used YouTube lately, you might notice that you’re getting shorter video recommendations than in the past.

Traditionally, it was common to get 5-minute-long videos filling up your home page. However, YouTube realized consumers today prefer shorter videos because of the shifting trends in technology and habits.

The increased need to consume content on the go, with viewers sneaking a couple of minutes at work or school, has fueled the trend. Videos less than one minute long are generating better engagement as a result. That’s why uploaders are using video montages to filter down a ton of content into one small, powerful package. 

To improve concentration and virality in ads 

A video montage offers brands the opportunity to get creative with their marketing in short and powerful bits, and also to increase the chances of an ad going viral.

Take this Tide ad, for example. It aired during the 2018 Superbowl, and its video montage mocks commercial ads that overuse the same advertisement format again and again. It breaks the fourth wall, to regularly emphasize why what we’re seeing on screen is a Tide Ad and not another generic brand ad. The result is a fun and memorable video with excellent rewatchability, an important metric for YouTube’s video-suggesting algorithms.

It’s quite memorable because of the montage edits, which further come in handy when it comes to holding viewers’ attention. The average attention span of the modern-day video consumer falls somewhere around the 1-minute mark, with the first ten seconds especially decisive. Moreover, only 3 in 10 people will watch videos past two minutes of content.

A montage enables advertisers to fit electric product or service marketing into this dwindling attention span, by compressing huge content into a much smaller package. But there’s also a third purpose why video montages are becoming appealing formats for advertisers and that’s shareability.

First, because people are actually watching them, so they’d be more inclined to share the ad if it’s a good one. Shorter videos tend to be more appealing when shared because longer videos tend to be off-putting so most people just skip right past them.

TikTok, a social media platform with a penchant for 15 seconds or fewer montages, grew its user base in the US by over 85% in 2020 alone. Its immense rise over the past few years has demonstrated why brands are tapping into the power of video montages or short videos.

Examples of Video montages in Movies

Video montages are not just for YouTube and getting cool on TikTok. They are also quite common in movies – thanks to the Soviets and filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick. 

The “plan montage,” Shaun of The Dead 

Comedy and horror are usually a tough combination to blend, but Edgar Wright does it effortlessly in his acclaimed 2004 sci-fi, Shaun of the Dead. The title character is disillusioned with his life as an electronic salesman in London. He finds his passion once more while trying to survive a zombie apocalypse and rekindling an old flame.

The montage comes when Shaun is taking us through his plan about how they’ll maneuver a dangerous world, and rescue his mum.

In essence, we get three quick montages. They work to visualize three alternative possibilities of how Shaun and his friend Ed could execute the plan. They discuss ideas and each time the subsequent montage is a lot faster than the previous one to rush us through proceedings. You can’t help but think that the plan feels a little too easy, and that the actual turn of events will be a lot harder.

The hilarious back and forth in between as the pair argue over which option is best also sets up some nice, light-hearted moments. Shaun and Ed’s priorities, like having a drink and killing Philip, never change each time and that also sets up comedy.

From the sequence, we are able to deduce several other things as well. The montage establishes Shaun’s feelings for an ex, named Liz. “Getting Liz” is one of the objectives of the blueprint, and he envisions a happy ending with her.

Secondly, the montage creates the picture of a safe haven in The Winchester pub. As expected, things don’t go according to plan, and the montage ends up being funnier with the outcome in mind. 

The Phonics Song with Two Words montage on YouTube 

The Phonics Song with Two Words is one of YouTube’s most-watched videos with over 4 billion views and counting. Songs generally do well on the platform, which again is proof of how short videos and montages are ruling the online sphere.

The montage is a nursery rhyme that spices the alphabet up by visually associating letters with animated examples, including boats, birds, apples, etc. It’s an educational montage that stimulates memory and cognitive functions in young minds by offering visual triggers for various learning centers of the brain.

You’ll agree a still image montage wouldn’t have been as captivating, and that establishes how a video montage has the potential to increase retainability by increasing attention spans.

Montages are finding a home on YouTube channels. Content uploaders are using quick and short video compilations in all sorts of ways. Gamers are imploring video montages to capture highlight reels showcasing moments of expert skill, rare discoveries, and very fortunate occurrences.

Meanwhile, cooking channels are using the montage to simmer down extensive recipes into minutes and even seconds. Additionally, fitness trainers are imploring video montages to seamlessly blend different workout sessions into one insightful video.

Your imagination is the only limit to how you can make a video montage work for you on YouTube. These are especially valuable on a video-hosting platform where the lion’s share of the top 20 most viewed videos are music videos. And songs are essentially mostly montages. 

Taco Bell commercial, The Web of Fries 

Taco Bell has always turned heads with its ubiquitous ad campaigns. In 2018, it reached right into the mystery-thriller genre, to create a montage that has found a place among the most famous ads of all time.

One of the most successful product launches, Taco Bell left a huge mark on the internet with its movie-trailer ad dubbed, The Web of Fries.

A company spokesperson said that they wanted an ad that would make them stand out in an industry where options were abundant. Additionally, they wanted an ad that would be hard to skip over, and had excellent rewatchability.

It’s safe to say now that it was more than effective. In a little over a month, the fast-food giant had dispatched orders totaling over 53,000,000.

The video montage commercial follows a family man played by famous actor Josh Duhamel, as he uncovers a huge conspiracy. Taco Bell has been selling fries under the radar, and the nameless protagonist has found himself in possession of this dangerous information. This “chilling” discovery threatens to break his family apart and puts his life in danger.

Without wasting too much time on a comprehensive plot, the montage offered Taco Bell the opportunity to breeze through interesting concepts and plot points. All without having to spend millions of dollars for a much longer shoot.

Humor is also always key to a video going viral, and Taco’s Bell serious tones centered around fries is as laughable as it gets. Which is another reason why this impressive montage does as well it does. 

“Everyone’s waiting” montage in Six Feet Under 

It’s been close to 16 years since HBO’s thrilling drama Six Feet Under bid us farewell, however, it remains one of the most memorable shows to have graced television.

The finale montage gave us comforting closure about the Fishers, a dysfunctional family whose lives fans had shared for the better part of five years. Death after death, we’d been with the Fishers for seemingly eternity as they struggled with running a family-owned funeral home and issues of mortality. We felt part of the family, and the montage does us justice.

It kicks in when Claire begins her road trip as she’s leaving for a new job, saying goodbye to everything she has ever known and loved. A mixtape, gifted to her by the boyfriend she is leaving behind, fills the scene with Sia’s emotional “Breathe Me.”

For over 7 minutes, the montage concludes with the series finale of the show, dubbed “everyone’s waiting.” It takes time to flashforward to how the lives of the remaining characters turn out.

It closes out a long journey in an incredibly moving fashion, detailing how each character would eventually bow out when their time came. It remains one of the most satisfying endings on television because it answers all the important questions about how the characters’ lives turned out.

This is an example of an expository montage that takes on plot questions that would remain unanswered had the series ended without it. It ties up loose ends brilliantly and remains one of the most iconic video montages in TV history.

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