How to create a startup video for under £50

Here’s what normally happens when something needs to be done on our startup that I’ve never done before and don’t know how to do. (By the way, that’s usually everything, always).

I read the whole of the internet on the topic, hoping that it will somehow make me an expert by osmosis. I then get into a “too many tabs open” situation and have a mini meltdown.

I hunt down companies that could do it for me, then remember I can’t afford to pay them and feed myself. And that I’m quite partial to food. So I let that idea go.

I try to get out of doing the thing, cause a fight with Nick and buy myself a few more days of time whilst we get over our fight.

Then I accept defeat and cobble something together using a couple of toilet roll tubes and some sticky-backed plastic.

So, in true Blue Peter style, here is how to put together a startuup video for under £50.

  1. Create a video narrative (the story)

You need a narrative for your video. You really do. And you need to make this step 1. Do not pass go until you have a narrative. In fact, stop reading now and don’t come back till you’ve got one.

Basically, your choices are:

A. Standard explainer video

  • Present the problem –  “isn’t it awful how you can never remember how much milk you have left in the house?
  • Present the solution – “now with Milk Monitor, you need never worry about running out of milk again”
  • Demonstrate the product – “Milk Monitor is a tracking device that fits around your milk carton and accurately measures how much milk you have left.”
  • Talk about the features/benefits – “set the minimum amount of milk that you always want to have in the house and Milk Monitor will alert you if you get within 100 ml of this limit, so you can restock.”
  • Wrap up with your call-to-action – “to order your Milk Monitor today, visit http://www.milkmonitor.com”

B.  Something funny/more abstract

Sometimes you might just want to present the problem in a more general way, to get across a particular message, or to appeal to a particular audience.

Think of it as the difference between advertising and marketing. Marketing (like the above explainer video) tends to sell you on product features/benefits. Advertising sells you on concept.

This format is best if you’re trying to establish a brand voice or identity. Or if your product isn’t quite ready to demo!

There’s no standard blueprint for these types of videos, so take a look at some examples to help you come up with your own concepts.

Our concept was “Every Life has a Story…”

2. Create a storyboard

Get a whiteboard or some plain paper and write key phrases or draw stick pictures to show the story you’re telling.

Don’t skip this step, otherwise what you create will be a pile of crap. I  learnt this the hard way. Now, I draw scenes on a stack of paper and lay them all out in order. Then I get other people to see if they can follow the story.

This helps me figure out what type and quantity of images/ product demo clips and narration I’ll need. It also helps to weed out any unnecessary scenes.

Once you’re happy with the story, then you can move on to…

3. Create a script

Three words. Keep it tight. You basically want as few words as possible. So write out your script. Then time yourself saying it out loud.

If it’s longer than 60 seconds, you need to edit it. Look back at your storyboard and try to work out which sentences fit which scenes. Be ruthless in getting rid of unnecessary words. Viewers respond far more to images than words, so keep your script short, clear and simple. You don’t need to fill every second of time with narration, so build in some pauses and get the rhythm right.

Ok, so you’ve got your narrative, your storyboards and your script. Time to make your masterpiece.

5. Use free video editing software

I just about got away with using Windows Movie Maker for our video. It’s pretty basic, but it does the job. Things it can’t do are cropping, zooming in for close-ups (it can do basic zoom and pan, but that’s all), adding multiple captions (so creating any sort of text effects is a challenge).

It can also only cope with layering one audio track at a time. So, if you’re using music and narration, then you will need to save a version of the video with either music or narration, and then add the other file to that version.

Other free editing software is reviewed here.

6. Use free / cheap stock video footage

There are tons of sites for free/cheap video footage. My faves are pond5.com and dissolve.com. You can search clips by keyword and then filter by cost. Dissolve also has 3 free clips that it gives away every month and some of these are really great quality. VideoBlocks gives you a free 7 day trial of their website where you can download 20 clips a day for free (just don’t forget to cancel your subscription before the end of the trial period).

Put your video clips together first, before you add any narration or music. You need to get a sense of how the video flows and the timing you’ll need for audio.

Use the trim function on your video editor to cut your clips, so you get exactly the scenes you want. Spend time on screen transitions – fading through white or black is usually the most professional look.

7. Record your product demo

If you want to include clips where you demo your product, then the best free software I found is Apowersoft Screen Recorder. You can either use the online version (as I did) or download a desktop version. It captures your screen, so you can do a walk-through showing how to use your product.

If you’re using Windows 8, then be aware that you might need to download a Java applet in order to use the recorder, but that’s easily signposted from the website.

When you come to add your product demo to your video, you’ll probably want to speed it up by 1.5x or 2x.

8. Use free music

Vimeo has the best selection of free music clips. It has a great search function and you can then filter by commercial use to find those that are free to use on a creative commons licence for businesses. You will need to credit the author.

Choose your music once you’ve put the bare bones of your video together. You’ll roughly know the final length of your video, plus the sections where you want to add some audio impact.

9. Narrate it yourself or pay a professional

If you have a nice voice, then download RecForge II Pro (Android – £2.59) or Recorder Plus (iPhone – free) and use your phone as the recording device. You do not have to hold it really near your mouth! You’ll sound like Darth Vadar. Keep it about 30cm away and speak at a normal volume.

For the first few goes, record your narration whilst watching your video on playback. If you can match the narration to the scenes, it saves you editing it afterwards.

Get rid of background noise and make it sound more professional by using Audacity. Don’t freak out about how difficult it looks to use – it’s dead simple. Just do what this guy says and that should be enough to get your audio up to scratch.

If you have a horrible voice, then pay a professional. Fiverr has a big selection of voiceover artists. Red Horrocks is great, charges $5 for up to 125 words, can do both a British and an American accent and will usually deliver within 2 days.

10. (Optional) Add After Effects

If, after all that, you still feel that your video needs a little more pimpin’ (and you know how to use photoshop) then take a free 30 day trial of Adobe After Effects. There are tons of YouTube video tutorials that can show you how to create animations and animated typography, like the ones in this lovely video.

You can see our finished video for LIFETISE here. The total cost was $59 for the video clips and £2.59 for the voice recorder, so around £45.

Good luck with your creations and please feel free to share your videos in the comments section.

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