This article originally appeared on Jaco.
There comes a time at every startup life, where you need to create a promotional product video – To some of you, creating a good promotional video showcasing their product for the first time might be intimidating. We’re here to share our journey, and how we managed to do this in 4 days, in-house.
When doing research before creating our video, we found these were the most popular questions startups ask:
– Should you do it in-house? or should we outsource?
– Should we get a copywriter?
– Is it expensive? Do we have the budget for it?
– What tools should we use?
– Etc. etc.
We’ve recently created and published our first video, so we successfully tackled a lot of these questions ourselves. The video, from start to finish, has taken us under 4 days and only a few tens of dollars to make.
Check it out:
In this post, I’m going to share with you exactly how we did it on each day – Including key decision and prioritisation we made, tools we used and processes we went through – we will also give you some tips we learned from the process and list the tools we used to create the video, to save you some time on research.
Before going into the production process
Product videos are a lot like weddings. You can plan a beautiful one for a year and spend $250,000 producing it, but you can also plan it in a month with a modest budget and still make it look amazingly beautiful.
It’s all about the budget and time constraints you’re committed to when starting the planning process.
When we decided to do a product video, we have set these rules:
- It has to be great and we should be proud of the result
- It shouldn’t become a huge waste of money.
- It shouldn’t waste too much time and energy of our team. (4 work days was the goal)
These were the limitations we set for creating our product video.
This is how we created our product video in 4 days:
Step 1: Brainstorming
To make this project work in 4 days and produce it under a reasonable budget, we had to plan ahead and be laser focused on what the video will be about, key messages and structure.
The goal for the brainstorm was:
- Understand the one main message we want to deliver in the video (You can only have one).
- Define the video structure.
Choosing your message:
When you go on to choose a message for your product video you have to remember one thing – it’s not really about you. It’s about conveying to your customers that you are the right solution for them. Meaning, how can you answer their needs.
The first step was to ask ourselves what Jaco does.
We have narrowed it down to “Jaco allows you to see every user interaction and response for your application” –
That’s what we do, but this message has no story to it yet because it’s based on features rather than how our users benefit from the features.
To convert what we do into a real benefit, we first needed to decide who’s our target audience and what they need from our product.
We created four personas based on our main audience (Product managers, Support teams, customer success, and developers), analyzed what each of them needs and what do we need to show them to convince them about the product’s strengths.
Our conclusion was that their main problem is that they don’t have a good enough tool that shows them what their users are going through. This led us to understand the video structure we needed.
- Overview and problem – The problem of old analytics vs understanding our users.
- The solution – What is Jaco, how it solves the problem and how to use it
- Conclusion – the user experience after Jaco
With the right message and video structure in place, it was time for step 2.
Step 2: Turning your messages into a storyboard
Maayan, our designer, turned the main messages for each segment of the movie into a story and then translated it to the storyboard. When illustrating the storyboard we had to make one of the most important decisions in this movie that will affect time and budget massively.
At this point, we needed to choose the illustrative style for the video.
Jaco currently has two main design styles – One that is shown on our homepage and through the website, and one that was developed for our first Ebook.
The style we have in our Ebook is loose and sketchy, meaning using them will make the video much more time and resource consuming. The style we had on our website is flat vector which is a lot easier to animate and will save us a lot of time.
Since we love both our styles, the decision was about ROI. Taking the smallest step that will give us the best value. Turning the minimum to the maximum.
Choosing the animation we already have means we can stick to our timeframe, while illustrations mean we will miss our own deadline. we made a point of re-using assets as much as possible: we had already done a lot of animations for our website and other assets, and we wanted to use them as much as possible.
We chose to go with the website style, making the video simpler to create, although it means less illustrations and unique characteristics, we still prefer to finalize the video on time.
Step 3: Translating the storyboard into scenes.
In order to make sure we’re on schedule, our goal was the finish a scene daily, no matter how “ready” it is, and then review what we have. By the end of day one – we should already have something to show for our time and effort.
After the storyboard, it was time to translate the boards into the scenes.
In order to save time, we immediately eliminated any visuals that won’t promote the product story – for example, we decided that we wouldn’t do splash cuts between scenes. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but this decision saved us a whole lot of time – which would have resulted in us missing the deadline.
The next thing who had to think about was – how do we show the product in a way that will keep the video valuable over time.
One of the problems product videos have – is that the product keeps developing over time, the movie doesn’t. So how do you create a video that will still be relevant two months / six months from now?
Maayan decided that the right way to approach this issue would be to show our product in a way that looks similar enough, but also minimize the details to not make the design details too eye-catching – which is where most changes happen within a product in its design cycles.
At this point, the goal for the day was to create the animatic that will tell the video’s story (a draft version of the movie made from the frames on the storyboard plus sound effects, music and voice overs).
Day 1 summary:
- Brainstorming on the video’s content.
- Sketching the idea
- Creating the storyboard
- Creating the animatic.
At the end of the day, we exported the video we had and shared it with a few people to get early feedback and quickly iterate on the 2nd day.
For feedback – we kept the number of “consultants” to a minimum. The early version of the video was not even shared company wide. Only with our product manager.
Note: When you’re working on a tight schedule, you should collect some feedback, but you also want to make sure you’re not overflowing yourself with opinions and noise.
The focus on day two was on translating all previous work into video materials – from creating the frames to sound.
The first thing we did on day 2 was to refine and improve text and images from day 1.
Even when time is tight, it’s always good to go back to your work after a few hours (or a day) and retrospect on it – you will find a ton of insights and different issues that you missed the day before. A break can go a long way when it comes to design work.
In terms of the visuals, on day 2 the focus was on creating the scenes, translating the animatic into the full-length video while improving upon the ideas from day 1.
Music and voice (more on the voicing later on this post) were actually the most time-consuming parts of creating the video (apart from the actual animation). It’s literally about going through tens, if not hundreds of music samples to find the right one.
Music has a big part in determining the feeling and pace of your product video and you shouldn’t take it lightly. Make it too happy and fun – and your product might be seen as a joke. Make it too serious and your viewers will lose interest quickly. Even though they wouldn’t know that their decisions had anything to do with the music, they will just stay with that aftertaste of “I didn’t like it, I’m not sure why”.
Sometimes you don’t find the right audio. That’s what happened to us.
Eventually, we found a sound loop that was close enough to what we were looking for – but still needed to be edited.
Days 3-4 are dedicated to fine tuning and finishing touches. Improving the visuals, changing and refining some of the text.
The big challenge of the fourth day was getting the right voice over.
As a draft, our designer recorded the voiceover just to help direct the timing of the scenes in the video. Now, it was time to get the official voicing for the video.
For the voiceover, we used a service called voice123.
Voice123 is a website where you can browse different voiceover sample and narrators to find the right voice for your video. The cool thing about this site is that you can audition voices. You can send them a sentence you want to hear them say to see if they fit your need.
After a few auditions, we found our guy. And no, though some of you have suggested that it’s Ryan Reynolds – It’s not.
Next step is to add some sound effects and mix them with the music and voice over. Finding the right balance is a challenge. You want to make sure the music is heard and felt but doesn’t overshadow the vocals. On the other hand, you want to make sure the vocals don’t sound detached or isolated.
After finalizing the mix and making sure everything sounds great, we exported that version and shared it with 8 different people for feedback. Our goal was to make the video fun and friendly but avoid making it too tacky, and to make it project the atmosphere of Jaco as we see it. We asked people if they feel like we have succeeded in doing so, and used their feedback to iterate and optimize the video until the video was finished. Once we finished making the small changes we got in the last feedback round, that was it! That’s when we had our final video.
4 Key lessons:
- Simplify the message and story – The problem with most product videos is that there are many different goals – the creators try to squeeze in as many features and possibilities of the product, making their video either very long or very confusing. Focus your video on the key benefit of your product. A video needs to reel people into your product, not replace your Features page.
- Target emotion, not interfaces – People want to solve problems and pains they have. Eventually, they will be using your product, it’s interface and features, but that’s not what you should focus on to make them understand what you’re about – Focus on their emotions, make them relate to you and make sure they know you relate to them and understand their needs.
- Constantly ask for feedback and do quick iterations – You want to make the best possible video without spending too much time and money on it, and to do so, you have to get feedback from people close to you, quickly optimize and then ask again. Get as much feedback as you can without hurting your schedule – make sure you don’t wait for feedback, just get it from whoever is available to make sure you iterate quickly and don’t waste time.
- Using the right tools and making sure you stay on track, trying to accomplish the best results while being realistic, understanding that you need to compromise and create something good enough while making sure you don’t waste a ton of time on a video is key to feeling happy about the results. Don’t overdo it – it’s a video of your product, use your time to make the best product possible.
Tools we used:
These are the tools we used to create our video:
- Boords – amazing tool for storyboarding
- Flash / After Effects / Adobe Premier – For the animations and video creation
- Inkflow – a great iPad app for sketching (use the paid version, the free one doesn’t cut it).
- voice123.com – Great voice over service. If you want our guy, we used Daniel Gonzales’ services.
- PremiumBeat – we bought the music for the video here.