Make a 60 Sec Video Pitch in 500 Photos, $2 and 1 Day

Often the hardest part of building a product is explaining it to people. If it seems complicated, most people just move along. A popular way to grab people’s attention is with a short video. They come in a bunch of flavors but the popular ones include 2D & 3D animations, screencasts and live action.

If you have the budget, getting one of these videos made is easy. Just plunk down about $5k, create a script or storyboard and out comes a video. But the rest of us have to come up with something on our own. Here’s how I created this 60 second video explaining Zippr in about 6 hours with a laptop, markers, paper, $2.00 and the Tron Legacy Reconfigured album.

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Ingredients

  • Markers: Simple Crayola will do.
  • Paper: 8.5” x 11”. The thicker the better. Loose leaf.
  • MacBook with iSight: Photo Booth is about to become your friend.
  • iMovie
  • Patience: Can be replaced with a great 3 hour playlist
  • External monitor, keyboard, & mouse: Optional but highly recommended for your sanity
  • Tape

Directions

Before you dive into the video production:

  1. Write a script: You don’t have time to get into detail, so keep it short and sweet. Make sure you answer these questions for your customers: what’s in it for me, how does it work and what do I do next? Time yourself reading it outloud.
  2. Create a storyboard: Divide a 8.5’ x 11’ piece of paper into 9 quadrants and sketch each “scene.” Get a rough idea of how long each scene will take to narrate. Each scene will end up what you draw on one piece of paper.

Now the fun part:

  1. Set up your computer so the webcam is about 10 inches from a plain white wall. Plugin an external monitor and hook up a mouse and keyboard do you can see what’s going on while your computer is in timeout.
  2. Adjust the angle and position of the webcam such that when you hold a piece of paper against the wall it fills up the entire shot. Mark the wall at the corners of the paper with a pencil.
  3. Ideally, you’re in a well lit room. Set up lamps around your computer to provide a nice bright shot. More importantly don’t change the lighting once you start.
  4. Start drawing. You’re going to draw a little bit (2-3 lines) then tape the picture up against the wall where you marked it earlier.
  5. Take a picture.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 ~300 times. It sounds tedious because it is. Jamming out to a good playlist helps. This should take about 3 hours and I’d recommend doing it in one shot because ambient lighting can change. Verify your work after each scene to make sure you’re on track. Remember, you can’t go back and redo a scene without redrawing the entire page so take more pictures than you need.
  7. Dump the photos into iMovie. Set all the clips to be ~0.1s. You should find that you have way more photos then you need.
  8. Edit to your heart’s content. Delete clips, make certain clips longer, etc. Get it down to roughly the timeframe you set for your script.
  9. Record the narrative. You can do this right from iMovie.
  10. Spice it up with some music. My friend Darby pointed me towards Friendly Music. I searched for “whistle” and listened to about 20 songs before finding the Quirky by Benny Hawes. $2 later, I dragged the song into iMovie.

Nutritional Information

That’s basically it. You can export from iMovie to whatever file format you’d like. Then upload it to YouTube, Vimeo, or whatever.

Remember, your product will likely change (especially if you don’t have a budget for a “real” video). Stick to sketches and drawings instead of screenshots. Talk about benefits instead of features because features change. This way in 3 months when you’re doing something different, you don’t have to go create a whole new video.

Thanks for reading! I'm Avand.

I am a full-stack software engineer, product designer, and teacher. I’ve been working on the web for over a decade and am passionate about building great products.

I currently work at Airbnb, where I help internal product teams stay abreast with customer feedback. Before that, I was at Mystery Science, transforming how elementary school teachers teach science. And since 2013, I’ve worked on-and-off with General Assembly, teaching aspiring developers what I know about front-end web development.

I was born in Boston, grew up in Salt Lake City, and spent many years living in Chicago. Now, I call San Francisco my home.

I’m an aspiring rock climber. I have a love affair with music and cars, especially vintage BMWs and Volkswagens. One day, I’ll buy a van and transform it into an offroad-capable camping rig.

But that’s enough about me. How can I help you?

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