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Video Production

Proven Tips for Making a Kickstarter Pitch Video That Converts

Video is an often overlooked element of many crowdfunding campaigns, but it’s actually one of the most important factors in whether potential backers actually make a pledge after landing on your campaign page. Research from IndieGoGo shows that campaigns with videos are 4x more likely to get funded than those without.

With everything that you’re already doing to get your campaign ready to launch, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, so the idea of trying to plan and coordinate a video shoot can feel incredibly daunting.

Firstly, there’s the cost – while the cost of video has come down a huge amount in the last decade, thanks to big advances in technology, it’s still easy for costs to spiral upwards. For example, this excellent promo for the startup Knock cost at least $50k. (source) If your campaign goal is in the $10k – $50k range, then you’re obviously going to have to find a less costly option.

Also, the whole process of planning, shooting, and editing video can be a hugely time consuming process. You’re going to want to avoid the common mistakes that can end up wasting hours of time.

I’m going to give you a peek behind the curtain of the process we used to plan, execute and deliver a pitch video for a campaign that raised 7x their original goal.

Here’s the finished video:

We were also able to create a large number of billboard quality stills, and a second cut down version of the video for FB ads and social, all without adding significant additional time to the shoot.

Start with who

Who is your ideal customer? Hopefully by this point in developing your product and designing your campaign, you’ll have a very good idea of who they are. If not, start with this short but full of wisdom post by Seth Godin.

When you’re writing your pitch script (yes you should be on camera, we’ll get to this later), think of it as if you’re talking directly to your ideal customer. In our video for the Arcido bag, a rough outline of the ideal customer is a 25-30 year old male, who frequently travels for work and leisure. Will, the founder of Arcido, looks straight into the camera and talks conversationally whilst still getting quickly to the point.

You’re going to want to avoid using any language in your pitch that is different from how your target customer speaks. For instance, we knew that words like ‘smarter’, ‘freedom’ and ‘organized’ were all words that we’d heard or seen the target customer using to describe similar products.

Build a narrative 

The word ‘storytelling’ is thrown around a lot in articles about video, and the advice that ‘you need to tell a story’ is definitely overused. The simple truth is that people engage more with content that has some kind of narrative. It doesn’t have to be a hollywood level festival of tears and laughter. Having just a simple story, to put the benefits and features of your product in context will make viewers stick around longer, and more likely to take action after watching.

For the Arcido bag, we chose to incorporate two narrative elements. Visually we decided to create the loose story of young professional leaving work for the weekend in London, then heading off for an adventurous short break somewhere sunny. This allowed us to showcase most of the benefits of owning the bag much more organically than in an isolated studio setting, simply by highlighting the moments they naturally happened.

The second narrative happening in our video is the founding story. In his pitch, Arcido founder Will takes us through his own frustrations travelling, and what lead him to create the product. Letting potential backers know why you set out on the journey to create your product, in a way they can relate to their own problems, helps get them on board.

Show the product in use 

Following on from the previous point, the whole purpose of video is to show, not tell. That doesn’t mean that you can’t tell your story as the founder of the company, or give extra explanation for features, but the focus should always be on finding ways to show your audience what your product can do to solve their problems and improve their lives.

We concentrated on finding ways to naturally show the bag’s features as part of Frank (our model)’s journey. I tested this approach to its limits in London, when I attempted to sneakily film the bag going through the x-ray machine, showing off the removeable laptop harness feature. I ended up being ordered to delete the footage by airport security! So I certainly don’t recommend doing anything that could potentially get you detained at the airport. However I do think it’s important to show real world usage of your product.

There is a time and place for using more staged shots. In the Arcido video, we created a tabletop setup to show how easy it is to pack the bag. While most people probably don’t pack their bags on a perfect white backdrop, we decided it was the most effective way to show off features like the clear washbag, and re-sizeable laptop compartment, without having too many visual distractions in the frame.

Show your face

As an entrepreneur or product designer, getting in front of the camera isn’t your number one skill. It might actually seem quite intimidating, knowing that your face is going to be seen and judged alongside your product, by thousands or even millions of people.

The main reason that it’s important for potential backers to see your face is very simple. Trust. The crowdfunding industry is full of stories of people not delivering on promises, or even running away with backer’s money. It may sound obvious, but showing your face on camera is an extremely effective way to build trust with your audience.

Yes, being on camera is hard, and a little scary. However, top performers learn to do things in spite of their fear. Pushing the limits of your comfort zone is essential for success in anything, and success on Kickstarter is no different.

Don’t take this to mean that your entire video should be filled with a static shot of you looking down the lens. In fact, we only need to see your face for a short while. Any more than 30 – 45 seconds (in a 3 minute video) is probably going to get boring for people watching.

The key is to establish who you are, then allow your voice to flow through the rest of the video, adding context and explaining features where necessary. For the Arcido video, we shot Will’s pitch on location close to where we filmed the other travel shots, to make sure the look was consistent. This also saved on costs compared to spending an extra day filming in a studio or traveling to the Arcido office in Edinburgh.

Plan, plan, plan: All mistakes happen in pre-production

It’s a common saying in video production that all mistakes happen in pre-production. We’ve also all heard the phrase ‘failure to plan is planning to fail’. But how do we actually apply this to creating a pitch video?

Each project is going to be different, but these are some key things you should be planning with your video team:

  • Shot list/storyboard: This doesn’t have to be a fancy artist pencil sketch for every frame, but you do need to have a clear idea of what exactly you’re going to be shooting. You should also make a version of this that’s organised in the order and location you’ll be filming it in.
  • Schedule: You should have a guide of what you’ll be filming, when, where, and who will need to be there. This was especially important when we filmed the Arcido video, as we only had a few days on location in Ibiza to get everything we needed before flying back to London.
  • Locations: Make sure you thoroughly research any locations you’ll be using beforehand. Check if you need permission from the owner, or what the local rules are about filming. Sometimes you do need to go ‘guerilla’ and just do it without permission, but it’s still helpful to research beforehand so you know the risks associated with doing this.
  • Travel and accommodation: Obviously if you’re shooting everything in your design studio, office, or in your hometown then this doesn’t apply. But booking flights and accommodation well ahead of time can save you a significant amount of money compared to booking last minute.
  • Insurance: Any professional video production team is already going to have insurance to cover things like public liability, but it’s also worth looking into cover for things like travel.
  • Post-production: It might seem a long way off, but it’s important to communicate with your video team early on and set expectations for how you’re going to work together in post production. How long will you have to wait to see the first ‘rough cut’ for instance? How many changes are they going to be able to make before you start having to pay additional fees?

We used a variety of tools for collaborating with the team at Arcido, both during the planning stages, and then after the shoot going into the edit. Two of them which I’d personally recommend trying out are:

  • Fancy Hands: This is a fantastic service offering a team of virtual assistants on a per-task basis. The lowest cost plan is $29.99 a month, for which you get 5 ‘requests’. Each request is a task that takes up to 20 minutes to complete. We used Fancy Hands to research a huge list of possible locations all around Europe, factoring cost of travel there, finding scenic landscape images taken there, etc.
  • Asana: This is a project management tool, essentially a fancy todo list, which can be shared across a team. We were able to share the workload of planning between myself, the team at Arcido, and my producer and Fancy Hands assistants.

We planned out every last bit of the production, even accounting for weird details, like calculating the perfect angle, place and time to shoot our sunset footage at. This didn’t mean that we had no room for improvisation. In fact we took time to explore the island in our rental car, on the lookout for interesting spots to film.

Our detailed plans made sure that we got the essentials first, meaning that we had all the material to put together a ‘good enough’ video in the first day of filming. This approach gave us the freedom to later spend time freely exploring and experimenting with improvised ideas for shots.

Above left: A page from our pre-production document, showing how to get to the Ibiza rock volcano. Above right: Behind the scenes, filming shots with the sun setting over the volcano.

Don’t repeat yourself

While video has a huge role in the success of any crowdfunding campaign, stills photography is also important. Potential backers of the Arcido campaign wanted to see details of the product, such as the texture of the fabric, that aren’t as easy to see in a short, fast-cutting video. Arcido also used social media to drive traffic to the campaign landing page, with a big focus on their Instagram account which they grew to 15k+ followers. For both of these uses they needed lots of high quality images.

On a tight budget, we decided that the most cost effective way to go forward would be to shoot stills and video simultaneously. To do this we picked one of the many modern cameras capable of capturing high quality stills as well as video.

Because only minor adjustments were required to switch between shooting stills and video, we only added 10 – 20% additional time to the shoot days, while still keeping the crew and equipment to a minimum. Compared to having a dedicated stills photography team and shoot day(s), this represented a huge cost savings in the production budget.

That’s not to say that a separate stills photography team can’t be a worthwhile investment for your campaign (in fact Arcido did have some studio product shots made before shooting the video), but finding a video team who can incorporate some stills photography into their workflow can be a big cost savings when budget is tight.

Shoot for the edit 

In planning your video, you’ll have created a detailed shot list or storyboard that details exactly what the finished video is going to look like.

However, as a fast moving startup, you’ll be learning through the process of producing this video. It’s quite possible that your ideas about what makes a great video will change slightly from the initial planning stage to when you get the edit.

‘Shooting for the edit’ means being aware of how the editing process works when you’re planning and shooting. Your video team will know about how this applies in terms of the technical details, like adding ‘handles’ to shots (when the camera person lets the camera record for a bit extra, before and after the action, so the editor has more to work with).

One other element of shooting for the edit that you should think about, is how much you’ll be filming versus how much is planned. Video people call this your ‘shooting ratio’, but I don’t want you to get tied up in all these technical terms – it’s the simple, fundamental concepts that are important. The key takeaway is that you should aim to film a bit more than is planned in the storyboard.

It might seem counter-intuitive when you’re trying to save money to shoot more than you need, but it’s actually very worthwhile, and can get you out of some sticky (expensive) situations when you come to edit the video.

With the Arcido video, we shot quite a lot of the streets around Ibiza, and of our model exploring the city. We also captured a lot more of the bag in London than what made it into the finished video. This allowed us the flexibility in the edit to mask mistakes or slightly change the messaging from what was originally planned in the storyboard. Obviously if we’d had to re-shoot anything it would have been a huge expense, so it ended up being the right decision.

Collaborating on video can be challenging, especially if you’re working with a video team in a different part of town to you. In our case, I was working mostly from my home office in London, while the Arcido team was based in Edinburgh. One tool that made this whole process much smoother was wipster.io, which lets the whole team see the latest edit, and suggest revisions. Each member of the team can click specific times in the video, as well as specific points (like where I’d accidentally reversed the product logo in a draft cut). This takes away from the pain of trying to explain everything over email.

Above: the Wipster interface, showing where members of the Arcido team had commented on specific parts of the video that needed some work.

How to craft these elements into a compelling pitch video 

Ultimately all I can tell you is what I’ve done, and what worked well for us. In the end the campaign turned out to be a success, raising 7x its original goal. I also received this message from Will shortly before the campaign ended:

Hopefully these tips help you get further along the process of making a pitch video for your campaign, that helps you beat your pledge goal.

I’m curious – what was your biggest surprise, insight, or takeaway from this? What are you struggling with or finding challenging when planning your pitch video?