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Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from Sarunas Daugirdas, a Chicago-based videographer, writer, and producer. You can follow him on Twitter @SarunasDaug.
This is unfortunate, considering how crucial the video is to establishing a positive first impression on a campaign page. It’s also surprising, because making a watchable video is entirely feasible, even for an amateur. The following post will equip you with the basic concepts you’ll need to make a crowdfunding video that your viewers will actually want watch all the way through.
First, we’ll explore the elements of an actual Kickstarter video that was successful in the past. Then, we’ll transition into the video-making process itself and go over the equipment you’ll need, talk about what to film, and then wrap up with tips for editing the footage into a quality piece of promotional art. Ready? Come along, then.
When setting out to make a video of any kind, your first step should be to study good videos of the same genre that have come before you. By viewing them through a critical lens, you’ll acquire insight into how they were made and what made them so successful. Let’s try it.
You can do this exercise with any crowdfunding video you find engaging. For the sake of this discussion, I’m providing you with an example right here in the post. Below is the Kickstarter video I filmed for “DropCatch,” which had 22,000+ views during the 30-day campaign. More significantly, 62% of viewers watched the whole thing from beginning to end. Press play.
Were you interested? Bored? Did you watch the entire video? A good crowdfunding video will grab viewers and, like a river current, carry them forward until the very end.
Another element of good video is proper layering. If you’re up to it, I suggest you watch the video above two more times. Watch it once on mute to isolate the visuals; this will help you focus on what’s happening in each shot and understand how all of the shots work together. Then, watch it again with your eyes closed to isolate the audio and take note of the various sound sources you hear. In either of these passes, I bet you’ll notice a few subtleties that you didn’t catch the first time around. An engaging video will have many layers that, when combined, work together seamlessly and give the whole production a feel of being “full” and “complete.” This, of course, is not easy to do, but keep it in mind as the ideal as we move forward.
Let’s move on and talk about the tools you’ll need to make your crowdfunding video.
To make a video, crowdfunding or otherwise, you can get away with just the following equipment: a video recording device, a tripod, and a computer with video editing software. Here are the basic requirements of each one.
Video recording device: to capture footage. A smartphone, camcorder, or DSLR camera on movie mode will work. The device you use is less important than how you use it. If it turns on, focuses correctly, and records both video and audio in a digital format, you’re set.
Tripod: to stabilize your shots. A table or a stool might work, but I’d recommend an actual tripod that lets you make height adjustments. For lightweight, versatile, and cost-effective stabilization options, check out GorillaPod.
Computer with video editing software: to bring your shots together into a final product. I’d recommend using a high-performance computer that can run graphics-intensive programs. For the editing software itself, iMovie (Mac—$15) and Pinnacle Studio 16 (PC—$60) are solid low-end options. For more advanced editing capabilities, check out Final Cut Pro (Mac—$299) or Adobe Premiere Pro CC (Mac/PC—$20/month). The higher resolution (e.g. 1920 x 1080 pixels) your footage, the more computing power you’ll need to process it. If you’re planning to shoot in HD, run a test clip through your editing program to make sure your computer can handle that quality of footage before you go out and film everything.
Finally, while it’s not technically “equipment”, the last thing you’ll need to make a good video is a friend. Even if you’ve decided to produce the video yourself, don’t try to film your own speaking parts. Grab a friend to set up the camera, focus correctly, and start/stop the recording when needed. You’re the talent, and should concentrate on your lines and delivering an authentic performance. This gets difficult to do when you’re fiddling with the camera at the same time.
Now that you’re set on equipment, let’s talk production.
The next section draws from fundamental video theory to answer the always puzzling question of “what should I shoot?” After looking at the theory, we’ll discuss how you can apply its principles to your advantage.
One of the simpler aspects of making a good video is shooting raw footage that’s interesting in itself. In his book How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck, author and director Steve Stockman says that a good shot will tell a complete story. This means it should include both a subject and an action, just like a sentence should include a noun and a corresponding verb (p. 46). To use Stockman’s example, “a dog walks past the house” is a complete shot, while “a dog” is not (p. 47). It’s pretty simple.
You should apply the above principle consistently when shooting both “A roll” and “B roll” for your video. In media production, “A roll” refers to your primary footage and “B roll” to your supplementary footage. As an example, in the DropCatch video, the interview shots were “A” and the woodworking shots were “B”. Whether primary or secondary, it’s important that each shot depict a clear subject engaged a corresponding action. Here are some example “sentences” from the DropCatch video:
You get the idea. For yours, filming the “A roll” should be straightforward; “you” are the subject and “talking” is the action. Filming the “B roll” will be harder, though, and will require more imagination. The best tip I can give is this: brainstorm a list of subject-action pairs directly relevant to your project and film the ones that you think will be the most interesting. If you’re making a video about a product that doesn’t move, you’ll get more dynamic footage if you let the product become the direct object instead of the subject. For example, “the spatula flips the sausage” will be more engaging than “the sausage sizzles.”
So these are tips on what to shoot. We won’t go into shooting technique, since that’s a complicated topic beyond the scope of this article. However, if you want to brush up on your technical skills, I can recommend the following two video tutorials:
Both are short, to the point, and offer practical advice on how to shoot effective video—view them at your leisure. For now, let’s keep moving forward and talk about the editing process.
The video editing stage is where the fabric you collected in the filming stage gets woven together into a final product. As an editor, your aim should be to create a seamless experience that will immediately engage your viewers and keep them hooked until the very end. This is the hardest part. While there’s no substitute for hours of practice, here are a few things you can do during the editing process to avoid a clumsy, disjointed look:
Remember, the goal is a seamless final product. How will you stitch your “A roll” together with your “B roll?” How loud is the music in relation to the dialogue? Does anything stick out or seem out of place? Do you need to add an extra layer anywhere? Be prepared to make plenty of revisions and tiny adjustments.
As soon as you have a rough cut of your video ready, show it to a handful of friends whose honest criticism you can trust. Ask them to watch it and tell you what grabbed their attention and what didn’t. Then, go back into your editing program and fix the parts that weren’t engaging. If you can’t fix it, cut it out; your viewers won’t miss it. Finally, keep in mind that your whole video shouldn’t be more than 2:00 minutes long. The longer your video, the higher the risk of potential donors losing interest. Keep it concise and your viewers will shower you with virtual thanks. And maybe some donations, too.
So that’s it! At this point, you should have a solid understanding of what makes a good crowdfunding video and the fundamentals of how to go about creating one yourself. To learn more about the crucial role the welcome video will play on your campaign page, check out 5 Tips for Designing the Ultimate Crowdfunding Campaign Page Experience. If you have any video-related questions or comments, leave a note down below and we’ll open up the discussion!
For reference, examples of other good crowdfunding videos:
Sarunas Daugirdas (@SarunasDaug) is a writer, videographer, and producer based in Chicago, IL. He works with his brother, Kc Daugirdas (@symbiotic_sound), a musician and film composer based in Los Angeles, CA. Together, they operate www.elevantproductions.com, a crowdfunding and Kickstarter video production service. Sarunas enjoys meeting strangers, eating bagel sandwiches, and making you look good on camera.