In the last post, we discussed telling a compelling Kickstarter Story. Now it’s time to put that story into video form.
Kickstarter videos can make or break a Kickstarter campaign. Although some projects do find success without videos, a well-made video will greatly increase your odds of reaching your funding goal. There are two components of a Kickstarter video to consider—content and presentation. Your video should provide a simple overview of your project and rewards while allowing potential backers to see who you are and what you stand for. The challenge is to do all of this in less than five minutes since attention spans these days are pretty short. I won’t talk about video content much in this post, but you can check out my story post for ideas on what to include in the video. I also break down my video flow at the end of this post. Instead, we’re going to focus on producing an effective Kickstarter video without a lot of fancy equipment. Let’s face it—we’re not trying to create the next Lord of the Rings, but with a little ingenuity and effort, it’s possible to produce a decent video that you won’t be embarrassed to watch later. Here’s my first Kickstarter video. It’s not the best, but it got the job done.
Fun Fact #1 - The original framing made my crotch the focal point. I had to crop all the clips to fix this (super easy to do in iMovie).
The Basic Tools
Ok—video and editing equipment can be insanely expensive, and odds are they’re more expensive than your entire project goal, especially if you’re self-publishing your first book. Good news—you don’t need fancy equipment to make a solid video, and you already possess most of the tools needed. If you have a relatively new smartphone, your camera should be good enough in most cases. Almost all modern phone cameras shoot in 1080p, and most higher end phones shoot in 4k. 1080p is fine. If you don’t understand the previous two sentences, don’t worry. Odds are your phone is still perfectly adequate
If you’re on a strict budget, all you’ll need are a few lamps, your smart phone, and a phone tripod like this one. That’s it—everything you need, and it only costs $15 or so. Oh, and be sure to set you phone up horizontally to record—this isn’t a Snapchat video.
If you’re shooting a video indoors, you’ll want to think about lighting your video shot. Lighting is a relatively simple concept that can make a huge difference in how your video looks. Dim/poor lighting can make videos appear grainy and amateurish. Techsmith has an easy-to-understand article that explains the basics. Essentially, you’ll want a light source on your left, right, and center, to reduce shadows and improve video quality.
By the way, don’t be intimidated by any of this. I made the interview portion of my video with the setup below. The lighting was still pretty bad, but it worked well enough and cost almost nothing. I have three lamps in the shot—left, middle, and right. Super fancy right?
Fun Fact #2 - That’s a dog blanket securing the lamp on the couch. The dog wasn’t happy about it.
You could set your phone on a tripod on the other side of the room and record sound along with video, but the sound quality will probably be terrible. One way to deal with this is to clean up the audio in a program like GarageBand, but editing crappy audio can only help so much. I recommend buying an inexpensive microphone to place up close to you to record better sound. You can still clean up the audio after the fact, but the results will be much higher quality. Personally, I use the Blue Yeti, but there are also less expensive options out there, and many will yield the same quality. Just be aware that many microphones are designed to be used up close, and a microphone in your face while recording your video might not look very professional. I like the Yeti because it has multiple modes that work for ambient recording and closeup voiceovers. Be sure that the microphone doesn’t appear in your video frame! If you’re not up to buying a dedicated mic, iMovie also has basic audio cleanup that can improve sound quality tremendously.
Fun Fact #3 - I didn’t realize it at the time, but my AC kicked on and off during recording, resulting in an inconsistent hum in all my audio. I had to clean this up after the fact. Turn off your heat or AC and save yourself the heartache!
Unless you’re a composer or a musician, you’re probably going to need a subtle soundtrack for your video. It’s tempting to grab a song from the internet and throw it in, but you’ll need the artist’s permission to use it legally. This is where services like Pond5 come in. I spent $20 on a royalty free song for my first Kickstarter video, and it was well worth the price.
Location shooting can add a bit of variety to your video. No one wants to watch someone talk for five minutes, so break it up with story-relevant imagery. Since I came up with the plot of my first novel on a walk, I created a recreation of sorts, including footage of the neighborhood and a re-enactment of my walk. New iPhones and Android phones include fantastic video stabilization, so it’s easy to capture motion shots, as long as you hold the camera relatively steady. For the scenes of me walking, I simply parked my car and set the camera on the hood. People probably thought I was nuts, but it was a good lesson in overcoming fear of embarrassment—a fear that can be fatal in the self-publishing world. If this type of fear is paralyzing for you—as it is for me—check out Noah Kagan’s coffee challenge.
Since there are so many variables in capturing sound on location, I recorded a separate voiceover for this portion of the video.
A lazy way of dealing with on location footage is to use stock video (and don’t take ‘lazy’ as an insult—the lazy way may be the best way for you). Stock video can be expensive, and you’ll want to make sure that it’s relevant to your story Too much disparate stock footage can make you Kickstarter video feel more like an infomercial. Check out Pixabay if you’re looking for royalty-free video.
Another Word on Licensing
Repeat after me—“I will not pirate video or audio.” Stealing audio or video content and using it, even for things like Kickstarter videos, is a huge no no. I should stress that I’m not an expert, so take this info accordingly, but here are several terms that you should pay attention to when seeking out stock footage or audio.
Royalty Free - This typically means that you can use the media for free, once you’ve paid the initial price to purchase it. If you’re using media for a Kickstarter video, this will probably be the case, but be sure to check the license details. An example of a category that typically isn’t royalty free is merchandise. Using an image in a video that can be viewed for free is one thing—printing an image on a coffee mug and selling it is a completely different beast.
Attribution - This refers to the process of crediting the creators. No attribution means that you are not required to credit the creators in your final work. If a song requires attribution—for example—you’ll need to list the creator in the credits for the video. I do this in my video.
Be sure to read the licensing requirements carefully before using stock footage, photos, or music!
See the dog bed in the photo? Yeah, don’t do that. Make sure your pets are cordoned off while you’re shooting, unless you’re prepared for an unexpected cameo.
If you’re planning on speaking directly to the camera, make sure that you move as little as possible. I planted myself in the yellow chair and shot most of my video in one long take, instead of starting and stopping. It’s much less jarring to stitch video together if you’re sitting in a stationary position and aren’t moving the camera. Try not to talk with your hands too much either.
The sunlight hitting the chair caused some issues, so be aware of outside light sources. I shot the video in late afternoon, so the light shifted significantly and changed the room lighting. I fixed this in iMovie later, but again, it was a pain.
Script out your story and put it on your laptop screen in large print. This will serve as a TelePrompTer of sorts, but be sure not to read directly from the screen—it’s not a good look.
Kickstarter allows you to choose an image that will serve as your video thumbnail. I recommend an adapted version of your book cover. This will entice potential backers to click the thumbnail.
Be sure to close caption your video. Kickstarter provides a great built-in tool to do this, and it’ll ensure your video is accessible to those with hearing impairments.
If you do record audio and video separately, clap before you start to speak. This will make it easier to line up video and audio later. The clap will appear as a big spike in the sound file, and all you have to do is align this with the clap in the video.
Now that we have equipment, it’s time to make the video. What should we include? The Kickstarter video should contain a condensed version of your project story. If you’re not sure what this is, take a look at my story post for the deets. I recommend taking a look at a few videos of successfully funded book projects on Kickstarter, especially projects of a similar genre to yours. Remember, the goal of a video is to get potential backers to care about you and your project while clearly explaining what your project’s all about.
Here’s he flow of my 5-minute video, which you can find at the top of this post:
0:00-1:24 - Who I am and how the project came to be.
1:24-2:25 - Book Synopsis
2:25-3:00 - Inspiration for the book
3:00-3:20 - Project goal and cost breakdown
3:20-4:15 - Book sample and rewards explanation
4:15-4:28 - Thanks
This wraps up the Kickstarter creation process, but the work is just beginning. Our project is staged, but now it’s time to launch! In the next post, I’ll cover the basics of my product launch process.