Kickstarter campaigns can go one of two ways: financial success or miserable funding flop.
From the viewer’s perspective, it’s not hard to tell the difference. Boring pitches for boring products aren’t fooling anybody, where more pioneering presentations will turn heads and open wallets with seemingly little effort. But what’s happening behind the scenes in video production that might set one creative endeavor apart from the rest?
Here we’ll be busting open the director’s notes, with a load of smart production tips to help your Kickstarter video get off the ground.
Let’s start with a little tech talk…
The bare gear necessities
Here’s what you’ll either need for yourself or have to hire someone to provide and operate:
- An HD camera. This could be a DSLR, professional camcorder or potentially even a smartphone based on your budget and capabilities. Ideally you want your image quality to be as crisp and clean as possible, so shooting with a camera that lends you complete control over the settings is in your best interest.
- Lighting. Light gives life to your scenes, and without it you’d have nothing but a black frame. Professional LED arrays, softbox setups and bounced window light are all worthy options (among many other creative alternatives).
- Audio. A huge part of telling a story with video is the sound, so creating high quality audio should be a priority. Something better than an on-camera microphone is encouraged: auxiliary shotgun mics, lavaliers and field recorders are all affordable options.
- Stability and movement. Depending on whether you’re looking for static tripod shots, wide sliding scenes or quick run-and-gun action, you’ll need different forms of stability for the camera. Handheld shots just won’t make the cut for a professional-quality production that’s supposed to impress viewers.
If you’re already pinching pennies trying to bring your project to life, chances are you’ll either be filming DIY or hiring with a modest budget in mind.
A sample setup that’ll get the job done without breaking the bank might include a consumer level DSLR (such as the Canon Rebel t3i or Nikon D5300), a hotshoe-mountable shotgun microphone (such as the Senal CS-88 or Sennheiser MKE400), a reflector or bounce board with clamps to channel natural light, and a tripod for basic stability.
You can, of course, get fancier or more bare-bones from here. But this selection is a solid middle-ground to base your gear choices on going forward. Now comes the fun part.
Crafting a concept
In many ways, your video concept is the foundation of your Kickstarter campaign’s success. The website boasts that roughly 80% of its campaigns include a video, and the chances of reaching funding goals are much higher when a video is utilized. So to stand out from the mediocrity and get noticed, you’ll need a creative approach that trumps the rest.
Brilliant visuals should be the basis of your production. Remember: you’re asking people to give you their money, so you really have to impress them. And the best way to do so is with a rich visual experience.
If you’re trying to market a creation that’s not intrinsically photogenic, you need to devise a way to make it “pop” on camera. Exhibiting your indestructible phone case? Run it over with an excavator or fire a gun at it. Need to demonstrate the efficiency of your double-wide camp stove? Toss a 20 pound slab of meat on and make it sizzle.
Once they’re seeing your product at work, show them how you got there and what they can do with it. Pinpoint the big advantages and best uses for your creation: this is the meat and potatoes of your proposal.
Back up all your big claims with hard numbers and quantifiable data to gain your viewers’ trust. How many meals can that camp stove get through in one tank of propane? How many pounds per square inch of pressure will that aforementioned phone case resist before it snaps in two? These are the sort of facts you should vocalize, because they’re questions your would-be investors are likely asking as they watch.
Needless to say, this should all be tied together with compelling storytelling, ending off with your smart intentions for raised funds and the future of your dream.
Whew! That’s a lot to take in and remember, right? Now take your scattered notes and sew your concept together using a storyboard. This is a simple tool to keep your production organized, and all you really need is a pencil and paper.
Sketch out your scenes shot-by-shot, including any dialogue, camera movement and production notes as you deem it necessary. Consider how long each shot should last based on the amount of time it takes to speak/read the dialogue/text, as well as the final video length you’re aiming for.
Once you have that storyboard all planned out, it’s time to make your video come to life.
Shooting your video
Your unique creative approach will make shooting the video an open-ended endeavor with few boundaries. There will always be 1000 different ways to execute the same concept (depending on your stylistic preferences and individual vision), so I won’t attempt to shove subjective predilections down your throat.
What I will do is introduce you to a number of useful techniques and aesthetic choices, so you may better create a video that’s all your own.
Several fundamental types of camera movement you may wish to incorporate:
- Panning and tilting: This consists of shifting the camera back and forth horizontally (panning), or up and down vertically (tilting). Use a tripod or monopod to achieve these types of shots.
- The dolly shot: Follow a subject or capture panoramic experiences with dolly shots. This technique consists of a moving camera that travels sideways, forward or backward along a track or wheels.
- The zoom shot: Zoom shots can be used alongside other types of camera movement, and may be executed gradually or with a sudden jolt.
- The crane shot: This is another great one for depicting wide, environmental changes or happenings. Raising and panning with the camera on a monopod or crane arm can give you the desired effect, depending on what’s at your disposal.
Some creative shots you could pursue:
- Timelapse: By either letting a camera record for an extended period of time, or by taking an extended sequence of images as a scene unfolds, you can compile a timelapse to include in your video. This is most effective for products with long-lasting or slow-acting applications.
- Point of view: Mount the camera straight to your subject for a unique perspective. Small, manageable cameras are ideal (such as the GoPro).
- Bird’s eye view/shot from below: By placing the camera straight above or below a subject, you’ll capture a dynamic perspective that viewers aren’t expecting.
Suggestions to keep in mind for the cleanest shots:
- Keep a consistent white balance throughout your video, and adjust where necessary if shots take place under varying lighting conditions.
- Keep your shots leveled, unless they’re supposed to be angled a certain way. Slightly tilted views can be distracting.
- Ensure your audio is leveled, so it’s loud enough to pick up your subject’s voice (or the desired sounds in the room) but not peaking past a useable level.
- Expose properly the first time and have plentiful light available. Shots that are overexposed or underexposed can be difficult to remedy in post, so getting them right in-camera will save you a headache later on.
Producing your video
Post-production can play varying roles in your video, from minimal editing to heavy effects. For the most part, Kickstarter videos tend to be light on the editing with more of a focus on in-camera shots of the material creation, with head-and-shoulders style interviews from the creator. But that doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from the norm.
Below are some common production elements and how you might incorporate them into a Kickstarter video.
Titles include introductory text sequences, “chapter” headings, concluding credits and other text additions throughout a video (think on-screen statistics, subtitles, etc).Titles themselves can be left simple, or become major animated features within the production.
Transitions are the visual effects that connect shots together. Scenes can cut between one another in gradual cross-fades, quick flashes, lively animations or proceed without any added effect. Consider creating themed transitions that complement the product you’re promoting. In any case, the transitions you choose should correspond with the tempo, mood and general flow of your video and the sound beneath.
Animations are an attractive option for product demonstrations, but be aware they can become time consuming (and costly if you’ve hired a professional to animate). To this end, they may not be a realistic option for most start-up initiatives working on a limited production budget. But if the money and/or ability is there, an animated sequence can be an impressive touch for your video.
Generally speaking, animations used in a Kickstarter video should be realistic and drawn to scale if you’re exhibiting a product. On the other hand, entertainment or humor-based campaigns may use them to drum up abstract realizations.
Effects can transform the look and feel of what you’ve already filmed. Additions such as dark edge vignettes, blurs, crops and tone shifts are all possible.
Alternatively, effects can fix botched color and exposure in post. They can be used to rotate a clip and straighten the frame, to get rid of dust spots and to correct audio aberrations. Making your Kickstarter video clean and professional is paramount, and post production effects will help you achieve this when something isn’t quite up to par.
The biggest thing to keep in mind during post-production is the length of your video. Since you’ll be speaking to busy potential investors, you need to keep it short enough to hold their attention and long enough to thoroughly explain your product and its benefits. I’d suggest striving for a final duration between 2:30 and 5 minutes – anything longer than this can likely be condensed or simplified, since longer watch times will turn viewers off.
Have any questions about all that insight? Don’t be a stranger – leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter to talk. And for the next step in your creative process, here are some stellar ideas for fresh video production.