The making of a 1-minute Dropbox video
One minute. That’s less than the time it takes to brew a cup of tea or even wait at a red light. But one minute is all we had to talk about a bunch of new product updates at Dropbox.
You see, earlier this year, we were getting ready to launch a series of new features focused on collaboration and productivity. As part of this launch, our Brand Design team wanted to make a short video showing how all these features worked together.
One minute. Can’t be that hard, right? In this article, we’ll show you what it took to actually make that video.
Getting our stars aligned
We started with a creative brief. With Product, Marketing, Design, and Leadership involved, we needed to make sure everyone was aligned on what we were doing.
Our creative brief addressed these questions:
- Why are we doing this project?
- Who’s our target audience?
- What does success look like?
- What are our non-goals?
- What problems are we trying to solve?
- What’s the main message we want to tell?
- What are our supporting messages?
- What are 3 adjectives to describe our final work?
- What are the deliverables and specs?
- What’s our timeline?
- What metrics do we want to track?
The brief became our north star and was the shared foundation that we built from. When there were misalignments on creative direction or strategy, we referred back to the brief to get back on track.
For this project, we collaborated with Instrument, an incredibly talented creative agency based in Portland.
We kicked off our partnership in person and established timelines, milestones, responsibilities, and goals. Often details like this can get lost over email and chat. By having these conversations upfront and in person, we quickly gained alignment between our teams.
The kickoff meeting spanned two days. It was a working session where everyone got involved. We brainstormed. We scribbled. We whiteboarded. We noted hundreds of ideas, knowing that only a few would survive.
In the spirit of collaboration, we met with Instrument a lot — twice a day, to be exact. Our morning meetings were spent setting up daily goals and expectations. In the evenings, we reviewed progress and provided real-time feedback. Because of the short timeline, it was crucial to keep the feedback loops tight.
Here’s an example of what we reviewed in those meetings:
- Production details (devices and avatars)
- Visual direction (colors, lighting, scenery)
- Music options
- Voiceover options
- Rough cuts
Setting the visual direction
Our goal was to tell the story of collaboration and productivity in a way that was refreshingly new for Dropbox. So we decided to do something we rarely do — use real people instead of illustrations. Using people would help humanize the new features, but we needed to do it in a way that stayed true to the Dropbox visual aesthetic.
We started with a simple mandate: create a through line by using color deliberately, keep focus on the action being performed, and maintain a healthy amount of negative space in the composition.
We selected a handful of colors and made sure to only use those colors in every touchpoint in the video. You’ll see this reflected in the avatars, surfaces, and objects throughout.
Finding the right music
Music plays a huge role in defining the mood, energy, and emotion in any video. So obviously selecting the right track was a crucial decision. The campaign needed to communicate forward momentum and progress, so we decided the track should be energetic, upbeat, and driving. We also wanted the track to be rhythmically driven to help reinforce the concepts of productivity and efficiency.
The track needed sparse and simple instrumentation to leave ample room for the voiceover. We also wanted to avoid the clichéd tech convention of using overly cute or childish instrumentation.
Below are some of the options we received from the music house.
We initially liked how unexpected this first track was. The pacing and tone felt like an interesting way to underline the ideas of productivity and getting work done easily. But, ultimately, it felt a bit too silly — especially with the galloping woodblock or clave part. It just didn’t feel modern and progressive enough.
For our next option, we liked the idea of having a drum-led track, but it needed to have a more consistent and simple rhythmic through line. We felt like this helped speak to the idea of sustained productivity. The improvisational approach of the jazz drummer felt a little unpredictable, and the syncopated parts would be too distracting when paired with a voiceover.
The third track had everything we were looking for. It felt modern, had an understated rhythmic through line, and had a musical arc that mapped well to our script. The quirky playfulness and minimalism at the beginning slowly gains momentum and eventually settles into a nice groove. The melodic guitar line at the end really helps drive things home. We found our winner.
Finding the right voice
Similar to describing the music track, we also needed to consider the kind of person we wanted to narrate the video.
After much debate, here’s what we decided to look for:
- Age: 25–35
- Gender: Female
- Ethnicity: Open
- Sound/tone: Smart, confident, warm, straightforward, punchy (think Rashida Jones), relatable. Not sassy. And not too polished. She should sound like a smart friend who wants to share ways to make your life better.
These were our top two options for the voiceover:
Both options were strong, but we went with option 2. It best matched the tone we were aiming for.
Shooting the video
After the director, script, storyboards, location, talent, and props were selected, we locked in on a day to shoot. It was a big undertaking to get to this point of the video production process, and there’s always pressure to have a successful day of shooting.
There were lots of people involved — around 50 total — and the schedule was tight. Fortunately, we were able to prep, set up, stage, and light for 15 different shots in a single day.
After the shoot day, there were still post-production to finish before we could actually call the project a wrap. This included editing, voiceover recording, color correction, motion graphics animations, and final sound/music mixing.
After the shoot, it took a day to encode and transfer the footage to the editors. The editors then compiled and organized the footage. Footage selections were made and then scratch voiceovers and music were dropped in to give us a first pass at the edit.
Our first rough cut:
We also explored an alternate version where we called out each of the key features we were promoting. We added phrases like “doc scan,” “annotations,” and “version history” right before each feature gets shown. However, after seeing this approach in the rough cut, we felt it looked a bit awkward, so we decided to not go in that direction.
The video we launched
From the rough cut, we iterated through post-production and sweated the details to get each piece just right. Here’s the version we published:
And that’s a wrap
This video became the cornerstone for a much larger campaign — a guiding light for all the pieces that followed (emails, social, press kit, landing page). And in the end, everything came together to tell a unified story.