Recently, Vidyard quietly launched our new website. We didn’t want a lot of fanfare, but we knew it was time to deliver our customers something new and valuable.The previous site had been fairly stagnant for a while, and our product and story had evolved so much that it was time to revisit, readjust, and put our best foot forward so we could deliver to our customers what they deserved: something exceptional.
Being who we are, and believing so strongly in the power of video, we knew that video would have to be front and center in how we told our story and explained our product to our website visitors. We created a homepage video, of course, but that wasn’t enough. Our previous website had included a series of videos that we refer to as our “Product Tour”. Analytics proved that the videos were quite successful, so we were all game to replicate the approach. We needed to create a video tour that could help website visitors quickly and easily understand our newly reimagined, complex product: The Video Intelligence Platform.
Here’s a taste of what the tour videos are like:
You can check out the rest of them here!
So how did we create this product video tour? Let’s walk through what went into pre-production, production, and post-production to really get a look at what was involved.
First things first, a video needs a message. It needs a story. Yes, even a product video (or videos). We could say, “Well, our platform has this feature, and it has this button and this button, and if you click over here, this happens.” But what does that really mean to the end user?
In our case, a major factor in the message of our product video was that there wasn’t just one user of our product. Where at one point in our history (fairly recently, actually), we were focused solely on helping marketers achieve their goals, now our audience had expanded to what we call “three lenses”: marketing, sales, and internal communications. These lenses would all use our product in different ways, so how could we talk about the product without confusing one audience group, or excluding another?
We did it by focusing not just on the “features” of our product, but on the “benefits” of the Video Intelligence Platform. We knew that no matter which audience group or “lens” a viewer belonged to, they all shared similar goals: chronologically speaking, they needed to:
- “Manage” their video assets so audiences can experience it (including sharing them on websites and social media),
- “Optimize” the video content to move audiences through a journey (with options like A/B split testing, calls to action and email gates),
- “Analyze” its performance to find out what content is working and what individual viewers are interested in (with detailed analytics on both videos and viewers), and finally,
- “Act” on all this data to get strong business results (by integrating it with the tools they already use).
All of the features of our platform could fit into one of these four benefit quadrants, which helped shape and solidify our message: one video per quadrant, plus an introductory video to, well, introduce our three lenses to the Video Intelligence Platform. Five videos in all would make up our new product video series.
A homepage video may be a great opportunity to bring your company’s brand to life, and get creative with how you tell your story and really wow your audiences. A product video, however, needs to be direct, and packed full of the necessary ‘meat’ to help your audience easily understand your product (all while being concise enough to hold today’s short attention spans). That’s how they’ll walk away knowing if they’re interested, if you can give them what they need (or want), or if they should look elsewhere.
So we knew we didn’t want complicated scenes props, shots, lines…we wanted a clean, modern experience so nothing would overpower or take away from the message that we needed audiences to absorb. Being a software company, we don’t have a tangible product to admire the look and touch of, and we didn’t want to sit an actor at an office desk in front of a monitor either.
It didn’t take long to settle on our the final look and feel of our videos. There would be one actor (per video) on a white ‘cyclorama’ stage (a curved white backdrop that gives the visual impression of no walls or floor – essentially a minimalistic, floating white space), accompanied by minimal props. The user interface (UI) of our product would be shown either on a laptop screen, or ‘floating’ in midair (the two UI options would offer visual interest throughout the video series).
We had the message and concept down; next we needed the scripts. Video scripts are, of course, different from other communication mediums. They can’t be written the same way a webpage or brochure or other marketing collateral is done. Why? Because hearing someone say something is very different from reading it on page.
in line with our brand personality, the tone had to be intelligent, yet conversational and friendly. Scripts should be even more conversational and colloquial than other mediums, and sentences shorter, so the viewer feels a sense of personality from the person on screen, like they’re chatting in real life.
Ever sat in a university lecture hall and tried to absorb and remember everything you hear without writing it down? Video is perfect for conveying complex ideas because your viewers can see and hear you. We knew that the scripts shouldn’t be all buzz words, with our actors saying things like, “If you click here and then scroll down you’ll see this…” We could keep the actors’ dialogue direct and simple, and use the UI on screen to display the complex details of our product.
In one video, for example, we talk about our analytics, and what kind of information the viewer gets out of it. We could have made this too complicated and detailed to remember, but instead, the dialogue and UI balanced each other out perfectly:
“You’ll get incredible insights on what each viewer really thinks about you. Think of it as digital body language.”
Now here, instead of talking about engagement graphs and color-coding and all the other details, our actor simply said, in everyday language that viewers will understand and remember:
“You’ll know if they’re kinda interested, leaning way in, or turning away. You’ll get their true, honest reaction.”
On screen, the UI depicted the engagement graphs and indicated different levels of each viewer’s interest. The actor’s language gave a human element to the product, helping viewers understand the benefit of the engagement graphs in terms they could relate to.
This all had to happen quickly, as well. These types of videos are best if kept around the two-minute mark so they’re easily digestible and memorable. It’s why we created a video series – not only does it divide the content into manageable, related chunks, it makes sure people don’t feel they have to sit through an hour-long sales pitch, and if they want, they can even skip to the videos they want to re-watch.
Scripts provide the words, but what are the actions? That’s what storyboarding is for. Once the scripts went through a number of rounds between the Director of Product Marketing, the CMO, and the Brand and Creative Manager, the scripts were passed to the Creative Director and Video Production Manager, both of whom are experts in bringing a video script to life.
How do you bring a video to life that you’ve already made the choice will have a blank, clean set, minimal props, one actor, and some UI? How do you make it visually interesting? “Talking-head” style videos, with a person’s head being the sole focus of a video, is considered outdated and completely unengaging. So our two video wizards drew up what every single shot would look like for all five videos: where each person would stand or sit, if there would be any movement, and even what posture they would have to provide the best composition.
The director reviewing the script and storyboard on set. Notice the bare feet – shoes weren’t worn on the white cyclorama set to avoid any dirt and scuffs.
It had to be determined at the storyboarding stage where UI would appear on screen. Not just at which parts of the dialogue, but literally where on screen. If the user interface that was being talked about was more detailed and complex, it would likely need to take up the whole screen so viewers could see and understand it clearly. If the UI could be pared down to be understood at a minimal glance, it could share the screen with our actors.
With placement of UI covered, how would it animate on screen? The style of the videos were clean and modern, while providing detailed information so it was important to keep the effects clean, as well. No flashes and booms and screens dancing their way onto the screen and off again. Even these details aren’t too small to plan, because every aspect of a video can help make or break attention span, engagement, and retention.
Casting can be a fun part, because it’s the first stage where the video feels like it’s beginning to jump off paper or screen and become human and relatable. Our product tour videos featured not paid actors, but Vidyardians. Why? Two reasons: first, it was important from a brand and culture perspective that our own employees, who understand and love the company and our product, were included in the videos. Secondly, and candidly, we knew using our own actors would keep the budget lower than if we had hired professional actors for five videos.
But we didn’t just pick at random. A few things we considered: of course we wanted diversity in our casting. Both men and women play an equally vital role in our company’s success, so it was only right that both were featured prominently in our videos. Our cast members included both senior and junior, veteran Vidyardians and new, from different teams, so each person would bring their own personality and love of Vidyard into their video.
When casting non-actors, especially for videos like our product tour which would be hosted on the website long-term, we decided to hold on-camera auditions. Someone may be hilarious in person, or tell great stories, or have great posture, but something magical happens when a camera is turned on inexperienced actors: it turns the most charming, eloquent people into bumbling, stuttering messes. The auditioners were given chunks of script to memorize and speak to the camera, and let’s just say there are quite a few interesting outtakes on our Vidyard cameras and hard drives. But five great performances stood out from the crowd, and their faces and personalities are now helping to bring Vidyard’s product to life.
Vidyard’s office includes our very own in-house studio. However, it’s fairly basic, and we knew for this project, our studio wouldn’t cut it. We needed something bigger, so the video experts could move around lights and cameras to zoom out far enough to get actors and UI on screen. We wanted the clean white ‘cyclorama’ environment as well. So after some research into location, availability, and budget, we booked a studio in Toronto for three days of shooting that would offer everything we need. It was a very large stage with bright overhead lights and a cyclorama that was painted freshly off-white at our request so we wouldn’t have to do too much editing or use any green screen techniques. Fun fact: these studios are tons of fun – standing in the ‘corner’ of the rounded cyclorama makes you feel like you’re floating with no sense of wall, floor, or ceiling.
Timbits, purchased for snacking during the drive to the studio, look as though they’re sitting in space.
Props and wardrobe
There were a few things needed on set that we brought ourselves with a small moving truck: the few props we used, including a bench, small table and some chairs, and a couple little items for visual interest. We included different furniture and small props in each video to add personality and uniqueness to each. It was also important to us that each video didn’t feel like it was just a regular old office; our brand is unique, fun, and creative, and we think our customers are too, so these interesting furniture choices would help our videos feel more relatable and engaging.
We contemplated having our employee actors dress in their own clothes, or keep them in our official green Vidyard t-shirts with our newly redesigned logo emblazoned on them. Did we want them to express their own unique personalities, or did we want them to create a unified picture of Vidyard and the brand traits that go along with that? After many enthusiastic rounds of Rock-Paper-Scissors (kidding!), we decided on both: the actors would wear Vidyard t-shirts to represent us, our brand, and V-Bot our trusty mascot/logo, but they would all wear individualized pieces with the t-shirts, whether a sweater, plaid shirt, jacket, or even statement necklace. That way, all the videos feel unified yet offer a sense of fun individuality – after all, our customers are all unique, and we wanted to speak to them on a human, relatable level.
One of our newest Vidyardians wearing just a t-shirt to show off the Vidyard logo, and jazzed up with a necklace and glasses.
One of our veteran Vidyardians, showing off a hint of V-Bot underneath this own (still brand-appropriate) shirts.
The phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” can definitely apply when creating videos, so we kept the crew on set small: our Creative Director and Video Production Manager handled the equipment and directed the videos, while the Brand and Creative Manager (me!) acted as script supervisor on set to help the actors with line delivery and accuracy.
Going over lines with one of our actors while his microphone is being set up.
Since we were shooting these videos ourselves without help of an agency, we had to have the right tech to do the job, including camera, audio, and lighting. Equipment that is more capable helps production go more easily and smoothly, and and makes editing easier afterwards.
Previously, we had been using Digital SLR cameras, which produced an image at a maximum of 1920×1080 (1080p) resolution. They didn’t create the most “data-rich” encoded files, which complicates editing, especially colour correcting and grading – for example, think about it this way: a rainbow of only red, yellow, and blue won’t give you the visual richness of one that also includes the mixed shades or orange, green, and purple. We needed a camera that would allow us to control and pull out what we needed. So we purchased a camera that gives us a 4K video resolution, and richer “8 bit 4-2-0” encoding. Bonus? With this new camera we could still use the fairly inexpensive SD cards for storage to save on some of the investment costs. It’s always important to have an idea of what you want your end product to look like so you know what your tech limitations or opportunities are.
We also had a fairly new set of three Ikan brand LED lights that gave us the flexibility to adjust colour temperature and brightness by using dials. These lights are lightweight for travel and easy setup, and function well on most small-medium scale productions. When picking a studio, we selected a space that had pre-hung lights for the white cyclorama backdrop so when we came into the studio all we had to do was work out our actors’ exposure in comparison to the preset background lighting to achieve a nice bright white scene.
For our audio equipment, we had to keep in mind the studio and the crew. We used a hidden Sennheiser G3 lavalier microphone over our Rode NTG-3 shotgun microphone since we didn’t have an assistant to hold a mic boom, and, just as importantly, we didn’t want to scuff up the white floor of the cyclorama set with a stand. It’s good to keep in mind all aspects of a shoot when selecting your tech, because each facet of a shoot can impact others.
After shooting wrapped, the video team focused on polishing up the video footage into our new, snazzy video tour. Full productions can be great because they remove a lot of the guesswork that can happen for a live or unplanned video. Since everything was planned out beforehand, the video experts just needed to follow the script, and place on the storyboard ‘timeline’ the best takes for each scene.
To get a completely polished and clean look, the videos needed to be color corrected because the default doesn’t offer a visually rich experience. The color representation had to be accurate and not too creative because our actors were were wearing t-shirts in our branded Vidyard green. The white background was cleaned up to remove any scuffs from shooting (we kept our shoes off during the three shoot days, but scuffs and dirt still happen!). And, as simple as it sounds to achieve a white background, there are various “flavors” of white you can aim for. Some people shoot videos that have their white tones lean towards a yellow-ish tinge, but we chose blue-ish white as it’s typically perceived to give a more crisp, clean, and professional appearance.
Even default audio isn’t quite good enough for a rich sound. We levelling our actors’ voices to the music, and added some mild bass and resonance to create a more “full” tone. Proper audio levels are an often overlooked piece of the editing puzzle, especially if someone is new to producing video content. It is just as important to have great sound as it is to have a great image to look at. Otherwise, an actor’s voice mixing too much with the background music can inadvertently cause viewers to tune out and not retain information.
When selecting music, our video experts looked at multiple music sources to find an appropriate song for a fair price. What else went into music selection? The song needed to fit with our brand – friendly, engaging, modern, fun but not too wacky, professional and intelligent. It needed to not overpower our actors’ voices, but offer a good pace – too slow can bore viewers, and too fast can make viewers feel almost anxious. A song that’s well-paced with script can help entice people to want to know more and keep listening.
User interface shots needed to be designed for each video. Many UI images aren’t a direct screen grab from our product because often, a product shot includes a lot of content, and, while important for function, can feel too visually cluttered when you’re looking at it quickly for the first time. So the graphic designers worked to polish up the images, minimize clutter, and display only the pertinent information that was talked about. If UI would be shown on a laptop the way a Vidyard user would experience it, the right image was carefully curated and shown in all its detailed glory to give the impression that Vidyard itself is rich in detail and information (because the more information our users get, the better and more informed their decisions will be!). The final effect is a crisp, modern design that keeps visual interest while informing viewers.
There you have it! As you can see, a fair bit goes into creating a product video series, but it’s all worth it! With detailed planning, creativity, technique, and a lot of willingness to have fun, you can produce a great product video (or 5) that will wow your audience and turn them into customers.
The crew on route to set, getting hyped up for a long shoot day.
Check out our product tour yourself and let us know what you think!
Originally posted 2016-08-22 08:00:54.