Do you ever wonder what makes some videos stand out compared to others? It sometimes can be hard to put your finger on, but certain videos simply feel like they’re doing something… more. But what is that feeling? And what is that specific technique?

Today we’re going to talk about video overlays and explore how you can incorporate them into your edits. Now, there’s a few different types of video overlays:

  • Overlays used as an effect to make your videos pop
  • Overlays that add interactive elements to make videos stickier and more engaging

Let’s explore both of these types of overlays and really break down how you can master these helpful editing techniques.

What is a video overlay? 

So, let’s start with some basic definitions.

A video overlay is simply a term for any time that you have a video and you add another video layer on top of your original video.

The goal of this extra layer is not to replace or cover your original video, but rather add an extra element or give footage a texture or feeling.

You see video overlays all the time with examples ranging from TV news productions to some of your favorite cinematic films. Any time an extra element is added to your video whether that be for context or effect, you’re working with video overlays.

Here’s an example of what video overlays look like and how they can be used to make a video more interactive.

These videos are much more than just having a single person talking into a camera. These extra elements (aka video overlays) provide a great deal of context and pose a call-to-action with hotspots for viewers to click on.

What software can I use to add overlays to my video? 

Now let’s go over how to actually add overlays to your videos. However, before you start picking out elements or uploading textures, you’ll need to decide on the best video editing software for your needs. 

Depending on your level of experience you can go with a more advanced NLE like Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro. Or, if you’re looking for a quick plug-and-play option you can use an app like Flixier or even use a template-based app like Vimeo Create.

There’s no wrong choice of software to use as long as you’re comfortable with the level of sophistication for creating versus uploading your assets, as well as deciding on how much control you want in terms of opacity and blending different elements and textures into your video. 

Wait, what exactly is interactive video?

We break it all down in this handy dandy guide to interactive vids.

How to put overlays on your video

So, how do you actually put overlays into your video? Let’s go over some basic steps for adding overlays to a video in video editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro (although you can duplicate these steps in most other softwares as well).

  1. Create a new project and sequence.
  2. Edit together a base video on your timeline.
  3. Add in your overlay elements onto the channel above your base video.
  4. Make adjustments to your overlay layer (position, size, opacity, etc…)
  5. Click to render and preview the overall composition.
  6. Save and export.

I’d generally recommend doing as much editing to your base video as possible before adding in extra elements like overlays as it can get quite tricky to edit both at once.

What are the different types of video overlay effects? 

As mentioned before, there’s really two different types of overlays which you might want to use for your video projects. 

1. Overlays for interactivity

The first type of overlays are the shoppable interactive hotspots which we saw in those example videos above. These types of overlays are what you might see on news programs or sports on TV where there are smaller boxes or other elements like graphics or text. These are great overlays to add to videos for your Vimeo (or YouTube) channel as a way to encourage click-through from your video to another video, a product page, etc.

2. Overlays for oomph

The other types of overlays which are often used, but not quite as noticeable, are the overlays which add subtle texture to a video. Examples of these might include film grain, VHS glitches, or other layers of smoke, dust or particles which are used to give videos a more cinematic, real and muddled look. You can either create these overlays yourself or purchase packs online with different options to blend into your videos to give them that more cinematic style.

Putting a bow on video overlays

Hopefully these definitions and examples have given you a solid understanding of what overlays are and how to use them in your videos. Remember, overlays are really meant to be used as an added bonus to your original content. If you really want your videos to be successful you should focus first on the fundamentals of filmmaking by creating solid content which viewers can engage with on its own.

From there, adding these overlays — whether they be interactive elements or cinematic textures — should really just be the icing… not the whole cake.

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