3 Weeks. 1 Product Video. No problem.

How to create a product video in 20 steps

Diana Thai
Oct 27, 2016 · 8 min read

Our team was given the task to create the product video of Build, which is a SAP HANA Cloud Platform that provides tools for non-designers to create business applications. Okay cool, pretty straight forward, so what’s the problem?

Well, the video needed to be done by Build’s launch date, September 12th, which meant we had 3 weeks to complete it, and we did!

So now we wanted to share our process with you. Here are the 20 steps on how to create a product video in 3 weeks.

Week One: The Storyboard

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…type type type type type type…

1. Figure out what you want to say

Start with why you need the product video, what the problem is, who the audience will be, and where the video will live. You need to figure out how you want to tell your product story.

Then start writing!

In our case, this product video would live on Build’s homepage, and would provide a quick overview on what Build can offer for business analysts.

2. Throw that garbage away

Sometimes, you need to toss that 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd version of your script into the trash. It’s okay!

We completely scrapped our script about 3 times because it simply wasn’t an interesting enough story.

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Iterations on iterations

3. You need a hook!

If the idea doesn’t excite you, chances are, it’s not compelling.

We wrote about 4 fully fleshed out scripts, but they all felt lifeless and lacked emotion. We decided to approach it from a completely new angle and it all started with a question, Suhaib, our interaction designer, asked.

“Have you been pretending to know and understand what user experience means?”

Eventually, the question Suhaib brought up sparked the first line of our script, “User Experience… You’ve probably heard the term (pause) A LOT.”

4. Stare at it until it submits

Once you have your killer idea, make sure to carry the momentum you just created. Things usually don’t go your way, but stick to it, you’ll win in the end.

We finally had our spark, and we had the perseverance to push and continually writing what would be our final script.

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How to properly stare at your script

5. Record yourself reciting the script to check duration

This gives you an estimate of the length of your video. Get a stopwatch and recite the script OUT LOUD — brownie points for those who act it out!

When we first recited our script, the timer clocked in at 3 minutes, when our initial goal was to have it at 2 minutes. We were surprised how much time a few lines of text could take up.

6. Rethink, refine, reduce…

Rethink wording to make sure it conveys the right message, refine the tone to portray the right mood, and reduce your script by cutting out the unnecessary.

We were constantly word-smithing our script to be as short as possible, and adamant about keeping the compelling parts.

7. Draw it out

When your script is finalized, start on a storyboard to illustrate each scene. You need to be able to show others what you have floating in your mind.

Now for visuals. During script writing, we already started thinking about what could happen in scenes, but in order to get transitions down, going through each frame is essential.

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Our early rough sketches

8. Make sure those sketches are clear and high quality

Think of every aspect of your video while storyboarding. This includes video transitions from scene to scene, sound effects, and music. Draw clearly thought-out images to make the script come alive.

I (Diana here) drew out the entire storyboard — consistency makes a big difference. They’re not perfect, but what mattered was ensuring they were clearly drawn so anyone can understand what we were envisioning. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but it definitely helps with the next step.

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Sketches from scene 4 to 12

9. Get the stamp of approval

Present your script and storyboard to the people in charge to seal the deal. This is very important. Make sure everyone is on the same page.

We were worried about getting our storyboard approved. But all it took were a few discussions and a thumbs up — don’t sweat it too much. We only had a couple weeks left, so we had to get all parties on board ASAP!

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10. Organize yo’self and others

Once approved, come up with a list of needed assets/illustrations and delegate tasks among your team. Teamwork makes a dream work!

We created an assets list of illustrations we needed and organized them by their respective scenes on a Google spreadsheet.

We then assigned illustrations to those who were able to help. Much thanks to Wenjing (our fashionable interaction designer), Memie (our rockstar interaction intern), Olga (our hardworking visual designer), and Cara (our fearless leader) for lending a hand!

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So satisfying 😍

Week Two: Execution is Key

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werk. werk. werk. werk.

11. Werk them assets

Creating assets is the next big step. Be efficient and quick on what you need to make for each scene.

Once we knew who would be working on what, we just needed to power through all our assignments. We had a lot of pieces to keep track of so having our spreadsheet to organize the asset creation process was clutch.

12. Switch to motion

When a good portion of the assets are finished and ready for production, have someone sneak away to start on the motion.

With our time crunch, I (Michael here) realized I had to start on the video and leave the illustrations for the rest of the team to finish up. Division of labor is always more efficient ;)

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Those curves~~~
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Our Frankie UI

13. Collect them all

With video production moving along, start searching and purchasing music tracks and sound effects to enhance your video. (Pro-tip: this makes all the difference between an average video and an awesome video)

We searched through Premium Beat, Pond5, and other miscellaneous sites for sound effects and music tracks. We had to keep our budget in mind, as well as the mood we had to convey with the sounds we chose.

Week Three: Add those Finishing Touches

14. Record an angelic voice

Find a voice that suits the mood of your product video and record.

Thankfully we have our multi-talented UX Researcher, Michelle, to help us with our voiceovers.

15. Again, and again, and again…

Sound quality is important. Make sure the voice is clean and clear. Have them repeat certain words or sentences in different tones so you have choices. You may need to record more than once to get the perfect version.

We had Michelle do the voiceover on 3 separate occasions, throughout 2 weeks, recording a total of 15 different versions (thanks girl~). We made sure to get it right!

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First Version
Final Version

16. Massage everything

Keep animations and transitions simple to get the timing right. Once you have a first draft, continue massaging illustrations, motion, transitions, and sound.

After completing the first few versions with music, voiceover, and sound effects, we had a much better understanding of how we were communicating our message. We continuously took note of things we could polish up on in the future.

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We wish it were this relaxing

17. Grind it out before the deadline

Be aware of the days, hours, or minutes you have left until the deadline. Prioritize changes to pull through, and remember to buy time where you can.

We punched, scratched, and crawled our way to the deadline. We fully used those three weeks to really push ourselves and learned greatly from it.

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Just made it!

18. Once finished, get as many eyes on it as you can

Feedback is needed to know what to improve. Research on how effective your video is to your audience. Also show it to your team and consider all opinions.

We had our team give us valuable feedback on what we could refine and also had Memie run research sessions with various participants. We found that everyone had a general understanding of what Build could do (which was prototyping business applications).

Though this was good news, we realized that we could definitely work on highlighting other aspects of Build.

19. Now, pop them bottles!

Congrats! Celebrate with bottles of champagne and go home to get some sleep. You’ve made it on time.

We really did celebrate with champagne 🍾🍾🍾

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20. Lastly, keep improving!

Your work is never done, always push for improvements.

We believe our projects can always be better — design never stops!

Moral of the story?

Three weeks is just a bit too tight of a time span to create a video, but we got it done! Understand what you can do with the time you’re given and use it wisely. Start earlier if you can ;)

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Article written by and video created by Michael and Diana

Thanks for reading ❤

Shout out to our team members who helped out on this project:
Cara, Suhaib, Wenjing, Memie, Michelle, and Olga


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