How to create an amazing startup explainer video

Creating a video is hard work, so we've assembled a few tips and resources to get you on your way.

Published May 2021Tagged under Startups

A great explainer video can do wonders for your startup. It's a chance to explain what you do in the most engaging and interesting way possible, which helps people understand why they should care about it.

It can help customers or clients better understand how to use your product or service, too - but there are common principles that you need to consider when creating an explainer video.

Figure out your goal

The first thing you need to decide is what your goal for the video is. Are you trying to inform people about a new service? Or are you just looking for some unique content that would be good on social media? Once you have decided on your goal, then it becomes much easier to write copy and make decisions about mediums, type of video (promotional or informative), tone, style and constraints.

Here are some examples of what your goal might look like:

  • Dive into the product and giving a medium to low-level overview of how it works and the different features
  • Generate hype and get people to sign up
  • Reach a general audience who will never use the product but are curious about it
  • Create a video that is informative and doesn’t try to convince people of anything, or entertain them in some way.
  • Figure out your goal for this explainer video before you create one because all these decisions will stem from what you want most. From here, think about how will you measure the success of these goals? Is it views, impressions, clicks (link under video)?

Figure out the specifics of the video

Next up are the specifics of the video, how long it is, where it will be posted. When we work on a new video at Jellypepper, we usually come prepared with these questions:

  • Call to Action: What are we encouraging the viewer to do?
  • Audience: Who is this video for?
  • Mediums: Where will this video be shown?
  • Type: Is it promotional or informative?
  • Copy: Are we using voiceover, or just text?
  • Duration: How long will this video be? We recommend a maximum of 90 seconds.
  • Tone: How should the video feel?
  • Style: Do you have a brand styleguide? Other videos you like?
  • Constraints: Do you have a budget and/or deadline in mind?

The Process

When we create a video, we typically break it down into 3 key pieces:

The Script

The script defines what’s happening at each scene in the video. It’s not what’s being shown or being said, but rather the point that we’re trying to get across. The script can be as short or long as you’d like, but we recommend spending the time to get this right.

The Storyboard

A rough sketch of the video. It’s a visual representation of what we want to do in each scene, and it really helps us see where our shots are going to go. The storyboard is the visual layer of the script, wireframes and sketches that show what each scene might look like and what it may involve.

The Copy (voiceover or text)

Copy is used as subtitles on the video or voiceover if that’s your preferred method. The copy describes exactly what is going to be said, verbally or visually. This is how you explain your product, sell it, tell people about it—whatever needs doing! The script should contain all this information at some point too if not throughout. We always write out scripts before shooting because there’s no budget for re-shoots on videos with voiceovers which means that everything has to be perfect from the start.

Choose a type of video

You have a few options when creating a product explainer video:

  • Footage (for live-action): awesome and super relatable, but it can be hard / expensive to get original footage. Stock footage usually sucks, so be careful.
  • Animation: awesome and also relatable, but you should choose a style that matches your brand. They’re usually cheaper to produce than live-action footage because they don’t require actors or location permits. But still be careful about stock footage.
  • Whiteboard Explainer: pretty old school, but can be really good for explaining complex concepts quickly without much effort. All you need here is a decent video camera and a whiteboard artist.
  • Screen Recording: great for showing product features in-detail, but can get pretty stale. We're seeing these a lot more in early-stage product startups and they can be super effective.

Choose your audio

The soundtrack or audio effects you select can make or break the video. It’s important to choose a style that complements your voiceover and visuals, but also adds emotion and meaning.

There's a few elements to consider here:

  • Music: perfect when you want to create an energetic mood—think of it as background music for your explainer video. Music can really add emotion or highlight certain messages.
  • Sound Effects: great if you're trying to emphasise certain messages—but be careful not to overuse them
  • Voices: this is a great option if you want your explainer video to feel personal and engaging. Do remember that there's more than one woman in the world, so unless it's specifically aimed at women try using different voices for variety.

There's heaps of sources for good audio, some of them even free! Here's a handful that we regularly use:

Putting the video together

Lastly, you'll need to put everything together! If you're doing it yourself, you might consider apps like Clipchamp which make it super easy to create your own videos online. If you have a budget, you might consider hiring a motion designer, compositor or even a team to film content.

If you're doing it yourself, here's some things to consider:

  • Transitions between scenes: If your explainer video is going to be longer, think carefully about what makes sense as transitional moments. For example in some videos there are cuts from scene A to B and then from B to C and then back to A. This might be a good idea if you have an important point that needs repeating in both of those scenes.
  • Colour grading: when you're exporting your video, think about the colours and how they make you feel. You might want to play around with different presets in apps like Filmora or even use a website called ColourLovers which has colour pairing suggestions for various themes.
  • Different screen sizes: depending on where you plan to post this video, you might want to make it more vertical or horizontal in order for the text and video play well. If you have a phone, tablet, desktop computer or TV screen - think about how your explainer video will look on those different sizes too.