Here’s how you can make a startup video:
I'm sure you already understand the tremendous value in making a clear and effective video to help tell your startup's story... but getting your message to come across clearly in a video it isn't always easy.
My hope is the following tips will make it a bit easier for you to tell your story. Follow these simple tips and save yourself a bunch of time and guess work. 👍
Prep and planning
- Write out a list of concepts and story points you want to make in your video.
- Decide who the characters are going to be and what their purpose in the story is. Remember: characters don't have to be humans.
- Use the concept list and character list to construct a rough story outline that will explain your message in a clear and concise way.
- Use this rough story outline to come up with a list of locations to shoot at that will work well with the story. Go scout locations to see with your own eyes what will or won't work for your rough story.
- You should now be at the point where you can create a final story that is both compelling and concise.
- If you're going to bring on a pro to help you, this is the time to do that. They'll also be able to help you finalize your story and suggest shooting locations. Having a well thought through story already prepared will help immensely when communicating what you want to the pro.
- After you've planned out your story you'll need to construct a shot list. This is simply a list of shots that you'll be filming during your shoot.
- Never show up on set without a plan. You'll waste time and money, and the story will suffer. Having a shot list prepared means you know exactly how you'll be shooting, what you'll be shooting and when you've got all the footage you need.
- Figure out how you want to shoot your story in the specific locations you've chosen. You can story board your shots or go take still photos to help you decide how you'll frame each shot.
- Get a rough idea of camera angles and lenses you'll need to get the shots you want. This will inform you on which gear to buy or rent.
- Make a final list of the shots you want to capture each of the days you'll be shooting.
Make a schedule
- This will be used to send to the crew, talent and anyone else involved. It will get everyone on the same page and clearly set expectations for the day. Email this out to everyone days in advance.
- It should have the dates and times listed for the different shoots you'll be doing and the names of the people that need to be present for each one.
- Plan in big time buffers between shots. Not only do things often take longer than you plan, but you want freedom to shoot new ideas that come to you on set.
- Conduct a pre-interview with your interviewee. This is usually a phone call a few days or week before your actual scheduled interview. This is very helpful in many ways. It keeps everyone in sync with what the story is about. It helps you understand the person's perspective before the actual shoot day. It gives you time to use their input to help create your final story, and will ensure you don't have any missed opportunities.
- For the actual interview, have a goal in mind or a message in mind that you'd like to extract from each interview you conduct. Be sure you don't just let the interview go any which way it goes... be purposeful and get the sound bites and story you need while you're shooting.
- Make the interviewee feel comfortable by asking some warm up questions. These are questions you ask that are easy to answer and usually not related to your interview content. Questions like: "Tell me where you grew up?" or "How did you end up at your current job?" etc.
- Another way to help your interviewee feel comfortable is to give them example answers and possible directions for their answers. This will give them some direction if they're having trouble answering your questions.
- Ask very specific questions to make sure you cover all your story points. Also include a number of broad questions, your interviewees will likely surprise you with some great unexpected sound bites.
- Remember: If their answers aren't quite what you were looking for, ask the question again and phrase it differently. Don't end the interview unless you are positive you got the sound bites you wanted.
- Make sure you have multiple audio sources in case something goes wrong. Use a lapel microphone on the inside of interviewees shirt. Put a boom pole above the interview with a shotgun microphone on it. Capture the on board camera microphone too. You'll want to grab a separate audio recording device to store all this audio.
- Should you rent or buy your gear? I suggest you don't buy your gear unless you're going to make video an on-going thing at your company. You'll save a ton of money by just renting the gear. There are tons of great local places to rent gear as well as some fantastic online shops like Lens Rentals.
- When it comes to cameras there is high-end and there is low-end. On the high end we have the Sony FS7 and RED Weapon. These cameras might be way too complex (and expensive) if you're doing this yourself. Instead grab a Sony A7S instead. They are fantastic 4k, full frame cameras that will get you some really great looking footage.
- Get stabilizers, you'll need them! Tripods are constantly needed when you're in a controlled environment and trying to keep your shots stable. If you're mobile or in an uncontrolled environment an Easyrig (I call them the 'scorpion') is a life saver. If your shooting with a smaller camera (like the Sony A7S) get a shoulder rig or a gimbal (like the DJI Ronin) to stabilize your shots.
- Bags, backpacks and trunk cases: rent em.
How to shoot with a camera
- Shoot with prime lenses (meaning: not zoom lenses). Their image quality is leaps above zoom lenses.
- Zoom lenses are great if you're going to buy your gear (as long as they are quality lenses). But since renting is so cheap, it's better to get specific prime lenses for your shoot.
- Manual focus your shots.
- Cinema primes look great, but good photo primes look extremely close to the same. Photo primes are also easier to work with because of their small size. You likely don't need a cinema prime (especially if you're shooting this yourself).
- You probably want your video to have cinematic feel, so get lenses that are 2.8 (focal length) and lower. This will enable you to get the really shallow depth of field that is a staple to the cinematic look. These are easy lenses to come by when you're shooting with primes (another benefit of primes). Lenses with that large of apertures also have really great performance in low light situations. Getting a lens with a smaller aperture (higher F, like 4.0) is fine for wide or landscape shots when you want a lot of stuff in focus.
Light and depth
- A well and appropriately lit set is crucial to making your video look beautiful and professional. For indoor shoots, 98% of the time you'll need to light your set. It adds SO much production value (when done correctly).
- If you need to communicate a specific emotion, make sure your lighting reflects that by either: picking the right location (when shooting outdoors) or controlling the lighting manually.
- There are bunch of lighting kits you can grab on Amazon for around $100. They are great. Just remember that you'll need to pay attention to the color temperature the bulbs put out. If you're set has natural light, you'll want to make sure your blubs match that temperature. If you're using an LED light, you can adjust the temperature to match the natural light.
- Depth, meaning literally many layers of distance between the camera and the background, is what creates beautiful shots. Get as much depth a you can. Literally move things into the foreground if need be. Do whatever it takes to get depth.
- Use both depth and light to focus the viewers attention on the subject. Use them to more clearly communicate your message and tell your story.
Day of the shoot
- Arrive two hours before your shoot to prep and set up. The earlier the better here. If you're shooting outdoors, you might find the weather isn't what you expected and you may need to quickly test out alternative shots.
- You should have all of your rented gear with you and hopefully some crew to help set it all up.
- Bring power cords (do it) in case access to electricity is a bit harder than you anticipated.
- Shoot with a purpose and be open to capturing new shots that aren't on the list if time allows.
Story, story, story
- The entire reason you are making a video is to tell a story. Remember that, and don't lose sight of your story.
- Give your story a beginning, middle and end. Stick to that.
- Make sure your story has a purpose and communicates your message crystal clearly.
- If the story is not clear: remove shots, remove characters, cut, cut and cut. You'll end up with something clear and concise.
- If you ever get the feeling you need to extend the length of your video to help tell the story, you're lying to yourself. Some of our videos are three minutes long, but we also have a sixty second version for each of those. You should be able to communicate your message in 60 seconds.
- Brevity is king. If you're final video is going to be an interview with a customer or business partner, don't let it go over 3 minutes. If you're shooting a promotional piece, make sure it stays that way and doesn't become a documentary (keep it short).
- Use professional editing tools like FinalCut or Adobe Premiere. If someone takes over editing in the future it will be good to have a standard tool that most everyone is familiar with.
There is a lot that goes into making a video. A shoot for a video can take anywhere from an hour (if only one location and a no talking), all the way up to 2-3 days. Editing the video adds even more time. So make sure you give yourself enough time to make your video the best it can be!
If you need help and want to hire a pro, hit up the superbly excellent Zyon Films.
Now go have some fun telling your story! 🤙