Rapidly prototyping a how-this-works video in an afternoon

in My Process

I’m responsible for designing and maintaining our website at work (it’s not my primary duty but an important one nonetheless). One of the problems we’d been finding recently was that people still didn’t know how our company works; again and again, people showed up to our live chat service asking simple questions like, “So classes are online?” I decided that our diagram wasn’t doing the job and that a how-this-works video (a startup classic!) might be appropriate.

Having made a marketing video, my colleague and I knew we didn’t want to shoot another professional video – the production time involved was just too much to risk on my unproven hypothesis about our website. We both agreed we wanted to get the video done and up that afternoon. After all, we could always refine it later if it proved to be the critical element on our webpage.

For our video, we wavered between just recording the audio/video for a Photoshop drawing and using the ShowMe iPad app. We eventually went with the latter because we could draw directly on a touch screen, and because the app encourages quick, lo-fi takes. (ShowMe allows you to create Khan Academy-like videos on the fly on your iPad.)

My colleague suggested that we use the previous diagram as a starting point for our new video. Taking the photos from it, we hid in a quiet corner of our office and started recording! Starting from scratch, we managed to nail the script over multiple takes over the next half hour. For my last take, I almost had it down except for one segueway where I improvised over a blank screen. Fortunately, my colleague has quite a bit of video editing experience, so he managed to chop that segment out, and add in a light soundtrack.

It took me another hour or two to get it on the web (mostly to embed a local version that worked on browsers old and new). But all in all, it was an afternoon’s work and we didn’t have to pay anyone else for it. I’ve embedded the result below.

By Jason Li

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