Kickstarter Lesson #166: Creating a Polished Project Video

4 October 2015 | 36 Comments

A few months ago I wrote to my advisory board about the project video for Scythe. I was on the fence about filming the project video the way I’ve always done it–on my iPad–or hiring a professional designer to do it.

Most of my advisers said that we’d probably be fine either way, but it might be worth trying out a more polished, professional video. So that’s what we did. I’d like to share with you how the various parts of the video came together to form the final game trailer, which we released on Thursday (it’s at the bottom of this post).

Selecting the Designer

I had previously connected with two video designers (editors? Producers? I’m not sure of the right term here) whose work I liked, so I reached out to both of them to get a quote. The two I contacted were:

These people are both very capable, professional, and communicative designers. In fact, they were so close that it was essentially a coin flip for me. I went with Josh, and I ended up contracting Bryce to create the GIF of Scythe’s extended board.

For privacy reasons (every video is different, so you should get a quote on what you want), I won’t divulge the exact cost of our video, but I’ll say that it was higher than $0 and lower than $2,500. It is most definitely an investment.

Storyboarding the Video

I used PowerPoint to create a series of slides for Josh to implement and animate into the video. Each slide had one or more of artist Jakub Rozalski’s images, as well as some text for narration and some director’s notes.

I sent this storyboard to my advisory board and got some great feedback about what was or wasn’t compelling to the audience. This is a really important step (getting early feedback), because it’s much more time-consuming and expensive to change the video after it’s been created.

The best advice I got was to read the narration out loud to determine the length of the video. My original storyboard had 20 slides, and it took over 3 minutes to read, which is twice as long as the 90-second sweet spot for a project video. So I trimmed it down quite a bit.

Finally I uploaded the storyboard, high-res art, and 3D files of the mechs and characters to Box.com for Josh to start working on the video.

Voiceover

I’m not a big fan of my narration voice, so I figured if we were making a professional video, we should have a professional do the voiceover. There are tons of options out there, but from personal experience, I’d recommend one of the following:

A.T. was one of the people who read for the audiobook version of my crowdfunding book. I didn’t think his voice was ideal for that book, but for an epic movie-trailer-style video, it was perfect. Eric is also very well known in the board game space, and he does great work.

Music Composition

There are lots of places to get free music–your designer will probably have some suggestions for you. I got a little lucky here, because a composer named Michał Woźniak had already taken an interest in Jakub Rozalski’s work and had composed some music for him. So I reached out to Michal and asked for a shorter version of his music, which he was very gracious to provide.

Final Steps

From there, it was just a matter of reviewing what Josh sent me. This was actually harder than I thought, because every time Josh sent me a clip, Jakub and I were so awestruck by it that we overlooked little details that needed fixing. So I literally had to step away from the computer for a few hours after watching each clip and then return with fresh, less biased eyes.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the video is that it doesn’t actually contain any video footage. These are all still images that Josh brought to life. Does it suffer from not having me talking to the camera? Maybe a little. But I tried to make up for it by appearing in the gameplay video, which is also on the project page.

The process took a few weeks, at the end of which Josh uploaded the final video to Box.

Kickstarter Implementation

I downloaded the video and the uploaded it to Kickstarter. This takes a while, but it’s not difficult.

Kickstarter now offers a pretty cool closed-captioning system that lets you type in the spoken words so people who are hard of hearing (or want to watch at work) can follow along. You have to be really focused and precise when you do it, but I think it’s worth the effort.

Worldwide Premiere

I decided to share the video on our October 1 e-newsletter rather than waiting for the Kickstarter launch. My thinking was that I wanted to share something cool that I hadn’t already shared in a previous e-newsletter, and I wanted to give the video the chance to be shared on YouTube, not just on the project page. Plus, there’s a lot to look at on the project page, so I figured some people can now skip the video and browse the other content instead (some will do this even if they haven’t seen the video).

Without further adieu, here is the video I’ve been talking about this whole time:

If you’re a project creator with a limited budget, you certainly do not need to pay for a nice video like this. But I think it has the potential to make a big difference to help capture peoples’ imaginations and give them a look at the key qualities of your product that you want to highlight.

What do you think? Worth it?

36 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #166: Creating a Polished Project Video

  1. In terms of your Kickstarter project’s success, I don’t think the investment is worth it. You would probably do just as well (and you ARE going to do very well) with a simple, much cheaper video. This of course is just my guess/opinion, as there is no way to prove this other than to run a split A/B campaign with the expensive video and without.

    However, a great video that you have invested a lot of work and money into may have a lasting positive effect on your game’s success long after the Kickstarter project ends. If it’s entertaining enough, and you keep it on YouTube, people will continue to share it. This could mean really good things for your game as a product and brand going forward.

    1. I also wonder how much an effect it will have on the project page; if people get more into it for the production value. Though I have seen the video the Scythe gameplay trailer shared and talked about in a lot of different channels since it was released. So it may helping to drum up people for the Kickstarter.

  2. Wow! That video is stunning! Without knowing price points it certainly looks worth it and definitely helps elevate the company even higher. Great work! Bravo to the production team!

  3. I agree, I could definitely see this playing in Dealer halls at conventions to entice people to to the game and draw them to the booth. It reminds me of the one I saw a few years ago for Eldritch Horror.

  4. Amazing. Such a great idea and pushes the game up a further notch than it already is. I’ve watched it a handful of times now and thought wow each time.

    Cannot believe you have done it, Fantasy Flight Level of video. This in my opinion will catch a lot more peoples attention and propel your kickstarter and future sales.

    Great work Jamey and team.

    1. Neil: Awesome, I’m glad you enjoy it! I was really impressed with what Josh could do, particularly making those still images come alive on the screen. It makes the video look much bigger budget than it actually is.

  5. Hadn’t realized this was the project video rather than the usual video you and Alan Stone standing up and talking about the game (And the inevitable outtake video that causes) when you posted it to the Geek…

    For me, I think this sort of video makes more sense the more Story Driven/Setting Driven the game is.

    For a game about wine making, or 17th century sustenance farming, no matter how thematic the game is – and I would argue that both Viticulture and Agricola are thematic Euros – this sort of trailer is never going to help that sort of game.

    For a game like Scythe, where one of the selling points is the world you’re playing in or narrative you’re playing through, however? Imo, treating the game as a movie and selling the world or narrative that way (but then talking about the game play so people know what they’re getting into) is absolutely the way to go in general. Never been sure what to make of this sort of video on a KS project, however, which is usually more personal backing than deciding to pick up a game, but it has worked for other games in the board game space and it will be interesting to see how it works here.

  6. I agree with @roaranimation. If I see this video before knowing the price points (I.e. before I click on the Kickstarter link) I will be expecting quality. Maybe its just me, but I have never clicked on a KS link for a popular/viral video, if the video didn’t suggest that the product would be quality.
    However, I did think that the video could be improved slightly. For instance the first time I watch it was deliberately without voiceover, then when I turned the sound up and re-watched the voice did not match what I had envisaged. It was a good voiceover, but in my minds eye, or whatever, I had heard something a bit more ‘epic’.
    Also, because I assume this was at least initially for a KS campaign the video should have mentioned a KS end date (as a stinger, which you could cut out after the KS had finished.) In marketing parlance it needed something to hit the ‘scarcity’ trigger in the brain.

    1. JiaoshouX: Thanks for sharing! I appreciate those ideas, and it’s interesting to hear how we could have made slight tweaks/additions to the video if I had planned in advance to spread the word on YouTube (it was kind of a last-minute decision). I’m going to add the project end date to the description on YouTube in case it has a small impact. :)

  7. Excellent video! Also very relevant for us atm – thanks!

    Minor point: I understand wanting to support folks who are hard of hearing, but for the record I find the subtitles distracting. They’re enabled by default (I don’t think you as the creator can change this), and I only clued into disabling them near the end. btw, this is a YoutTube cc system, right? (You mentioned it was new to KS.)

    1. Eddy: The YouTube video and KS video aren’t linked to one another–I had to type in the closed captioning separately for each of them. I could be wrong, but I actually don’t think it’s the default on either one–I think it might be something you clicked at some point. Just turn it off (it’s a button at the bottom right of the video) and you won’t see it on videos from now on.

  8. Hey Jamey, have you seen any data on what style backers prefer? We did simple animations of our Ginger Wars game pieces with narration. Some have the creators talk straight about their game. Some do funny skits. Some look like movie trailers. Just wondering what backers like the best.

    1. I don’t have hard data, just anecdotal feedback. It would be neat to run a study to see what backers prefer, but there would have to be some sort of commonality (like, the same project presented in 6 different styles of video)–otherwise there are too many variables in play.

  9. With the declining metrics of people that actually engage with the video on the KS home pages of campaigns, could/should we bypass the expense of a formal video in the top most slot of the campaign? Could we save that money and invest it somewhere else that has a better return? I recently got some quotes to build out my video and it ranged from $1500-5000. If the metrics that most people don’t watch past 30 seconds of that video are true, then why should we invest in that? Are we only doing it because “we have too”? Thanks for any feedback, James

  10. James: Thanks for your question. I’m curious about those metrics–could you share a link?

    As for the expense of the video, I think it depends. First, I think the people I mentioned in this post are going to give you better rates than $1500-$5000, so that might be a factor, but even $1000 is a lot of money. For your first video, I think making it on a budget is perfectly fine–I don’t think it’s going to be a turn off to backers as long as you keep it short, share your passion, and clearly express what the game is and what’s unique about it.

  11. Jamey – I don’t have specific links, there are tons of articles here and there and mainly from reading feedback in comments it seems that the general consensus is there around a 30% completion rate of the main video. So if that is the case and lets says we pay that $1000 for a video, only $300 is really effective, or do we think people “see enough” to be happy and don’t finish the video and still back the project?

    These questions are coming from someone who is putting together his first time game project and wants to really know where I should invest my money.

    Could we poll the community? Who watches the videos from start to finish? 50% of them? Not at all?

    Maybe the answers and metrics we seek are right here.

    (Also, gonna be contacting the 3 guys in this post for better rates, thanks!)

    ((Picked up Viticulture this week, stoked to get it to the table))

  12. That’s interesting about the 30% rate. You can see some data about that on my projects here: https://stonemaiergames.com/statistics-from-the-scythe-kickstarter-project/

    I would actually say that the completion rate may not be as important as the number of people who watch the video at all. This poll would suggest that there are much more important elements of the project page to focus on: https://stonemaiergames.com/what-exactly-do-you-look-at-when-browsing-a-project-page/

  13. As always, you give fantastic feedback, thank you for taking the time out of your day to help the community!

    It looks like the length of the video is the key factor. 60 seconds or less, or 30 seconds or less even? Hmmm, much to think about.

    Many thanks,
    James

  14. Mr. Stegmaier,

    I was wondering. Did you write the script for the video, and they did the editing, or did you employ help in writing the narrative and description of the game? Was this something more collaborative you did with your art and video partners, or something you sent to the video person and they helped to polish? I am mostly curious about the gritty details of process.

  15. I personally think that it is very likely that the video was worth it. Did it result in additonal 50 games being sold? Most probably and then the investment was worth it.

    For less established publishers it makes sense to have a professional video as well because they need to signal credibility and quality to the audience.

    I like to imagine scenarios:

    The $1k investment probably won’t break your budget/project but not having a professional video could indeed be crucial for the project’s success. If you are low on budget you may find a video producer who is willing to share some of the risk and get a certain percentage of the compensation after the project got funded.

    1. Juma: Well said, I agree with all of that. I know I wouldn’t have been able to spend $1000 for my first project video, but it’s possible a video producer may have been willing to accept partial compensation after the project.

  16. My new game is set in Scotland in the 19th century. Would you recommend a Scottish or an American voice over? Scottish voice over would fit the theme but might be off-putting American backers.

  17. The conversion rate (views to backers) is one of the most important statistics of a video. I analysed Stonemaier’s 4 board-games and their conversion rates. I felt it unfair to compare non-standalone board-games such as Tuscany, which is an expansion. But keep in mind there are a lot more factors than a video that makes or breaks a Kickstarter project.

    Conversion rates (Views to backers)

    Viticulture: 6.7%
    13,958 views. 942 backers.

    Euphoria: 24.7% conversion rate
    19,235 views. 4,765 backers.

    Between Two Cities: 25.2%
    20,986 views. 5,287 backers.

    Scythe: 10.9%
    162,496 views. 17,739 backers.

    To discover why each video had such conversion rates I analysed each one noting important scene changes in the videos and problems, if any, that each video had. I think the following order makes for better understanding: Euphoria, Between Two Cities, Scythe, and then Viticulture. Before starting I thought the Scythe video could not have anything wrong with it as it was fantastic, I also thought Viticulture must have had a low conversion rate due to the fact that this was Stonemaier’s first board game project on Kickstarter. I was wrong about both.

    Euphoria (179 seconds & 24.7% conversion rate):

    Starts with seeing Jamey and Alan holding Viticulture and the Euphoria in the background (Only Jamey in the company t-shirt, very friendly, “HI…. excited… hope you back it… thanks a lot”) > Green Screen, detailed long wonderful story with the camera simply panning over the lovely game art (slow relaxed pace) > how to play info voice-over by Jamey (slow relaxed pace) > end: tiny bit of story for a few seconds with player fantasy.

    Between Two Cities (60 seconds & 25.2% conversion rate):

    Green screen > Seeing Jamey and Alan with lots of board-games in the background and holding Between Two Cities cover (both in company t-shirts, very friendly, states quickly why the game is unique (play style not story), “thank you so much for helping us bring this game to life”), shows board game and components with text explaining what to do. No story, no player fantasy.
    It’s the highest converstion rate, but by less than 1% so it is not significant. I the wonder if the conversion rate would have been even higher with just a few seconds of story and player fantasy? I think it would have especially on the back of Euphoria credibility and fans. Euphoria had more backers spend over $75 than Between Two Cities, maybe that indicateds more excitement.

    Scythe (107 seconds & 10.9% conversion rate):

    Green screen > No creator, starts with voice over story (slow relaxed pace) with slightly animated scenes that look great but feel like they were just created for the trailer (they don’t look like they are actually from the board game), continues story while showing character art and miniature pieces, how to play with voice-over (medium pacing with lots of information), text list of the amount of components and play-tests while voice-over is speaking about something different (distracting, “join us…”)

    The feeling on seeing the animated scenes surprised me. I’m a fan of animation. The Scythe video looks better than Euphoria (which did’t have animation), but the feeling is different. In Euphoria it FEELS like you are PANNING over the board game art (cards, boards, rule book or whatever) even though you can’t see them as cards. But with Scythe it doesn’t feel like that. It feels the same way as an expensive high quality mobile game trailer in which the animations look great but you know it’s just been made for the trailer and the game does not look like that. Even though the art in Scythe is the same great quality it feels like it is not part of the game at that point in the trailer, and if the viewer stops watching half way through they might never find out.

    Did this video get 162k views because the video was cool or did it get 162k for other reasons? Other reasons like it was better promoted. Jamey would have better data on that. From the outside it’s hard to tell, it’s like the chicken or the egg scenario.

    The big question is if the video was like Euphoria, or Between Two Cities, would the conversion rate have been 25% (and Scythe have got 40k backers with a funding of $4 million)?

    If the project page got it’s views BECAUSE of the video then No (it’s better to have 10% conversion rate with 162k views than 25% conversion with 20k views). But if the project page got it’s views for other reasons (not the video) then the answer is Yes. But can you have both? Can you have a high quality fancy video that also gets the best out of the 25% conversion videos? Yes you can. Quickly let the viewer see the actual board game art right away then show the fancy animated scenes. Perhaps even have the “camera” zooming in on a card and then the card comes to life. For the next scene pan to another piece of the board-game and have that come to life. Going this route allows the viewer to immediately know “this is the quality you get”, and the creator also has a cool video for people to share. In addition include the other great things about the higher conversion videos.

    I had to listen to the last part of the Scythe trailer a few times to fully understand the overlaying information. Trying to get both differing pieces of information is too distracting, you end up with none. One has to be ignored to fully understand the other.

    Viticulture (164 seconds but feels double that, 6.7% conversion rate):

    Green Screen > White screen with title and no video of Jamey just his voice “Let me tell you” > story (slow relaxed pace), quick boring story > how to play mixed with text saying something different to the voice over (jokes, very distracting) and introduces 2 people (1 is Jamey) who the view doesn’t know and they are smelling cards (makes the viewer wonder why > they will probably be too distracted to read the text) > boring white screens with names and cuts to 2 guys in car > talking about what they will do when they launch a kickstarter campaign, picking up chicks (funny for the few people who saw the movie Sideways probably creepy for everyone else) > deceiving women to impress them (see last brackets plus probably best not to give kickstarter backers the impression that you deceive people even in a joke way as the subconscious may not be logical) > ends with text saying “thank you for helping us publish…” (it doesn’t ask it presumes which could annoy some fussy people).

    I watched this last :) I thought it got a 6.7% conversion because it would be the first time board-gamers heard of Stonemaier but I was wrong. Wow this is a great video for what not to do. It is great it got 942 backers, they probably saw and liked the movie Sideways. I’d love to see the percentage of women that backed this. But Viticulture is defiantly a game men and women can fall in love with.

    1. Anthony: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think it’s important to remember that correlation is not causation. I think the Scythe video is objectively the best video, and more people saw it because it was a very hot project. The lower conversion rate isn’t due to the video itself (at least not compared to other project videos); rather, it’s just reflective of the number of people who heard about Scythe compared to other projects.

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