Making a promotional video


making a promotional video

I wanted to make a short video - like a movie trailer - that would introduce the company and yet be lighter than most of the other content on the website.

I'd been reading about services worth paying for as a startup (which also raised discussion on Hacker News). One of the services mentioned was making a video and the recommendation was Animoto.

Now, I'm not convinced that making a video is such an essential service for a startup but then again I found it was so quick and easy to do that it isn't really worth a long debate. Some parts of doing a startup are just fun, and this ought to be one of them.

So, Animoto is a video creation platform that lets users create professional-quality videos from their own images and music. You can supply both the images and the music, one or the other, or work with their library. A simple way to start would be to save a Powerpoint presentation as individual images (e.g. Save As > Other Formats > JPEG File Interchange Format). You then upload all these images to the Animoto site.This is a low-res solution that is quick to upload, but if you want higher-res take the longer approach.

You can then either choose music from their library or upload an MP3 from your own collection. Obviously, it's not a good idea to violate copyright when you do that. There's a limit of 10MB on file size (or 10 minutes, but that is less likely to affect you).

It's possible to make short demos for free, but I decided quickly to sign up for the  All-Access Pass ($30/yr) so that I could make a longer sample. Needless to say, you can pay more for additional services.

I didn't much like the music on offer in their library. I wanted the video to be slow and measured, taking time over the key points. I like ambient music and listen to many net labels. One in particular is the Breathe label, and I was especially impressed with contributions from a musician called Dimitris Diavatis, whom I believe is based in Croatia these days. So, I emailed and asked if I could use one piece ("Toxic") - it was issued under a Creative Commons license with attribution, non-commercial and non-derivative terms and this website is commerical, so I needed permission. Very graciously, he said "yes".

Going back to the video, you need to think about your Powerpoint in a different way. The old rule about 2-3 mins per slide does not apply so you effectively need to see the slide deck as a cartoon flipbook - lots of repeat images, one simple message on each and definitely a 'billboard' approach to the messages on each image.

My All-Access pass gave me the option to make a 1/2 speed video (i.e. pause longer before transition to next image). This seemed to fit really well with the ambient music so that's the way I went. Animoto meshes the images with the music (so rock music would produce more jerky image transitions) and each 'take' is different. You have little control over it all (but do use the highlight option for key images) and you may need several takes before you find the one that works.

As I say, making a video isn't an essential to-do for a startup. But it falls into the same category of advice as refining your elevator pitch or re-working parts of your business plan. It brings your attention to the essentials of the business. Just like a movie trailer brings audiences to the movie.

Tags: Product Management

Paul Walsh

Written by Paul Walsh

Paul Walsh was one of the founders of Cognidox. After a period as an academic working in user experience (UX) research, Paul started a 25-year career in software development. He's worked for multinational telecom companies (Nortel), two $1B Cambridge companies (Ionica, Virata), and co-founded a couple of startup companies. His experience includes network management software, embedded software on silicon, enterprise software, and cloud computing.