Kickstarter Lesson #6: The Project Video

23 January 2013 | 42 Comments

Having written about 5 key things to do months before you plan on launching your Kickstarter project, we’re now on a topic that you need to work on about a month before the campaign: The project video. (Note: You can get lots of great tips on the video directly from Kickstarter.)

Do You Need a Video?

Yes. I’m sure there are anomalies out there, but I can only think of one highly successful project that didn’t have a video, and it was for an expansion to a game that already had two highly successful Kickstarter campaigns. So if you’re a first-time Kickstarter creator, you definitely need a video.

What Do You Need to Make a Video?

Ideally, you need a friend who is an expert cinematographer with top-of-the-line equipment and plenty of time on their hands to edit the video for you. Then your video can look like this onethis one, or this one. However, it’s more likely that it’s just you with your smartphone or webcam, which is fine. I used my iPad to film and edit our video, and it worked just fine. I’d recommend getting a tripod for it and a way to mount it on the tripod.

I would also recommend that you storyboard your video. Take a big sketchpad and frame every shot, as well as what you want the people in the shot to say. This is particularly helpful if you film in multiple locations, because you can film out of order based on convenience.

What Content Should the Video Include?

Okay. This is one man’s opinion here. Most importantly, I’d encourage you to watch a bunch of Kickstarter videos and take notes on what you like, dislike, and what compels you to back the project. That’s much more important than anything I’ll say here.

  • Your video should be about 2 minutes long, plus or minus 30 seconds. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point.
  • Your video should convey your excitement and passion for the project.
  • Your video should clearly convey what the project is.
  • Your video should clearly convey what makes the project unique and interesting.

And that’s it. I wouldn’t recommend going into reward levels or stretch goals or anything else like that. Also, don’t use Viticulture’s video as a shining example. Although it was fun and whimsical, we didn’t do a good enough job showing the game itself and what made it unique.

I wish there were some sort of magical formula for creating the perfect project video, but there really isn’t. Just know that it will take a lot more time than you think to film and edit it. Like, 10x longer than you think. No joke.

Also, remember that you don’t have to cram everything into your main video. Many projects have secondary videos that delve deeper into the project or the process for creating the project. So keep your main video as focused as possible while knowing that you can post longer videos on the project page.

***ADDENDUM 11/24/2014***

As much as I love a basic, homebrewed project video, for a while now I’ve been really impressed by videos that resemble theatrical trailers. They’re the type of videos that immerse you in the world of the game while still maintaining the core elements mentioned above.

Recently I found a producer who makes such videos at a reasonable price. He’s the producer and creator of the Gingerdead House video seen here. Bryce Walter can create a video for any creator for about $750, and he’s offered Stonemaier Games readers a 10% discount. I haven’t personally worked with Bryce yet, but he’s very communicative and responsive, and you can see how polished his videos are from the Gingerdead example. Here’s his website.

Update: I’ve also now worked with Josh McDowell on the Scythe video, and he did a fantastic job!

***

What is the best Kickstarter project video you’ve ever seen?

Also read:

42 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #6: The Project Video

  1. Jamey, I’ve got a video for my project, but can’t really find anywhere on the web or on Kickstarter what the best export setup for the video is. They have the line saying: “videos must be 1000MB or less and have a file type of MOV, MPEG, AVI, MP4, 3GP, WMV, or FLV” and that’s about it. I believe I found elsewhere online that 640×480 is the best dimensions to use, but what codecs are best? Bitrate?

    Any thoughts? What have you used?

    1. Eric–Good question, but unfortunately I don’t know the answer. I filmed my project video in HD with my iPad, so I think I uploaded it as a .mov file, which seemed to work great. Sorry I can’t offer more guidance on codecs and bitrate!

  2. With Kickstarter video’s, I watched them for about the first maybe 4-5 projects I backed. Since then I’ve not watched through a single one, asides from maybe clicking through it a bit to see how professionally it was done, without paying attention to the content.

    The reason for this I think is that now that I’ve backed a fair few projects, I find it easier to guage whether I like and trust the project by reading through the main page, and viewing their responses in the comments section. As a result, I wonder if it’s best to aim at new kickstarter users with the video rather than ‘veterans’. Very possible it’s just me though =P

    1. Christopher–I’m like you in that I usually look at the project page first, not the video. I pretty much only turn to the video if I need something to help me make the decision. Considering that most people probably look at Kickstarter at work, the project page is increasingly more important than the video (unless some employers allow videos at work).

    2. Oh, I’m not alone :) I also prefer to read the project description than to watch video, though I’m new to Kickstarter. It’s simply more convenient, a faster way to get to the point. If the video is longer than 2-3 minutes, I seldom have patience to stand it to the very end – unless it is really beautiful and fascinating.

  3. NECROALERT:
    That thread item speaks to this question: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/153949/item/2862571#item2862571

    tl; dr: rpg players find they don’t actually watch videos, like, ever.

    It would be fantastic if anybody had an efficient way of checking what percentage of backers actually watched a given video.

    My sense is that the ideal video for gaming projects might be a simple “component drop” (okay, not a drop, likely) combined with a video preview from Undead Viking or somesuch. In some cases when I was unsure about a project and joined the chorus of those clamoring for a actual play video, I realized the actual play video did not, at the end of the day, really help me make up my mind. It’s an interesting topic, for sure.

    1. Felix–thanks for your comment. From the project creator perspective, you can actually check to see the percentage of backers who watched the project video. For Euphoria, 43% of people watched the video. I agree that lots of visuals of the components can be very enticing.

  4. Hi,

    Thank you for the excellent article – really informative and helpful, just like all of your Kickstarter lessons. As I’m mostly focused on book and publishing projects, my favorite video is for Joseph van Nydeck. (I’d rather provide a link but unsure whether I’m allowed to do it here.)

    However, I found no tips on how to deal with sound on video. I filmed mine on Sony HD camera. The picture is rather good, but the sound… AWFUL. A constant drone, like that of some powerful machinery, accompanies my voice. I tried to re-film using a mike – it was no help. Now I’m in search of any means to improve this drawback efficiently. Did you have similar problems with your video? Can you recommend anything?

    1. Hi Ingrid: Thanks for your comment. Sound is something I struggle with too. I’ve found that filming the sound in a “soundproof” room can help. I read somewhere that clothing absorbs extraneous sound, so when I record sound for my Kickstarter videos, I literally sit down in my closet with my iPad and close the door. Maybe that’ll help a little bit?

  5. I’m a little late to the party, but maybe I can help with the sound problem.

    I’m working on the video for my upcoming KS right now, and have gone through a few iterations of sound. I first tried filming with my iPhone 5, and the sound is rather inadequate: lots of background hiss. I also tried with my digital camera, and that was no better. Talking very close to the phone helps increase the sound and quality of your voice relative to the hiss (this is probably fine for voice overs but might be a little strange for the “talking head” part of a video).

    What I am trying now which seems to improve things is to use a lapel microphone with an old digital sound recorder I have, and synching up the audio with the video in iMovie. I bought my lapel mic on Amazon in like a 5 pack for like $7 (the first one I tried works). I just tried plugging the microphone into my iPhone and it didn’t pick up the sound for video on the first try, but I don’t know that it wouldn’t work if configured properly. I assume you could find a digital voice recorder on Craigslist cheaply if needed.

    A few other resources I stumbled across about video that might be helpful:
    How to do moving shots without expensive equipment: http://www.videomaker.com/article/1409-camera-work-smooth-moves
    Using rubber bands to pan/tilt smoothly on tripod: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zo0nrVNvB80
    Dramatic zoom-in effect using 2 legs of tripod: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6cbTyU0ac8
    A free website that converts .wma audio files from the recorder into apple-readable formats: http://media.io/

    I hope that helps!

  6. Hello Jamey.
    Thank you very much for all help you give with your blog.

    I’ve read the previois posts but I didn’t find a useful help for my problem.
    So, this is a question:
    for a video in which someone needs only to speak (no singing) with a background music, do you have any advise about what mic and soundcard are reccommended in order to get a good audio quality?
    If you don’t know what hardware might be useful for that purpose, do you know any site or person where to get any useful tip?

    Best,
    Mirko

  7. Jamey, first off, thanks so much for sharing so much incredibly helpful information. In my eyes, you are some sort of information sharing saint.

    For everyone else, a “dead cat”, gross as it sounds, works wonders for microphone issues. http://www.instructables.com/id/Fast-and-Easy-Camera-Mic-Wind-Muff-dead-cat-Mod-/

    And if you love your childhood and don’t feel like cutting up your favorite stuffed animals like instructables tells you to do, you can usually go to the fabric store and ask for a free swatch of something furry. Happy recording!

  8. I think one of the real issues in the sound here is that you need an Audio interface ($100 for a cheap one) and a decent microphone. Honestly, I’d ask a musician friend, because this kind of thing is actually really easy if you know how. If you don’t know any mic tech folks then try a headset mic. Often those small condensers are actually quite clear!

  9. Firstly, Jamey, thanks so much for sharing all this information on how to run a kickstarter campaign. I’m at the beginning stages of working on my own game and the information that you’ve offered here is invaluable to those of us trying to work out how to proceed.

    I’m a little late to the party here – but I imagine that a good number of people will read this after me, so perhaps I can help a bit with the sound on video aspect.

    My first degree is in sound engineering, and I do sound in short films as a hobby, but we have won awards in film festivals, so I like to think I know a bit about it.

    Firstly, it is acknowledged by filmmakers that getting good sound is harder than getting a good picture. Ideally you want a dedicated recorder like a Zoom H4N or a Roland R26, with a good microphone like a Rode NTG 2. This type of mic is called a condenser shotgun mic and is designed to reduce the sound coming from around it and just pick up the sound source it is aimed at. If you can borrow or rent these things from somewhere in your city like a film school or music shop, it could well be worth a small investment. Using a lavalier mic (the small one that attaches to your collar or under your clothes will get you a better sound than just an ipad or small camera’s microphone too.

    Assuming however that you cannot get these things, there is a way of cleaning up sound files if you have a little bit of computer savvy. You do not need any specific knowledge or training.

    Adobe make a professional sound editing software called Audition and it has a very useful function that removes noise from audio files. Although the software itself might look a little intimidating to people who have never seen it before, using the noise removing function is not difficult and explained in numerous Youtube videos such as this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKEQW7wOA3g and many more. Simply type in Adobe audition noise removal and you’ll get a bunch of hits.

    The best thing is that Adobe let you trial their products for free for 30 days so you can download the free trial software and use it safe in the knowledge that you’re violating no copyright. Both Premier (the video editing package) and Audition (the sound editing package) are part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite http://www.adobe.com/creativecloud.html.

    Watch a few youtube videos on how it works and if you have even fairly minimal computer skills you can clean up a lot of background noise (especially constant noises like hisses or hums) from cheaper microphones, using Audition. You will need to add the sound back to the video again (use Premier- again search youtube), but it is really not too hard, and I’ve gotten rid of some horrendous background noises from shooting in noisy markets and outside on roads using this.

    I hope this is useful to someone – I wish I had known about it on some of my earlier projects – it would have saved me some grief.

    Again – thank you Jamey.

    I will be following this blog and will happily answer any questions I can for people.

    I look forward to being able to share my game with you all one day, too.

    1. Thank you for such a detailed reply! This is great, and I look forward to trying out Audition.

      So here’s my current dilemma: I use a webcam to record YouTube videos. I know it doesn’t look great, but it’s really quick and easy to use. I also have a great mic. But I don’t have a way of actually recording the video (I know, it’s odd, but no software came with the webcam). So I’ve been recording my weekly YouTube video on YouTube (it’s an option they offer), and for some reason the sound is terrible on it, completely undermining the great mic.

      Ideally I would record the video and audio through my webcam and USB mic, process it through Audition, then upload it to YouTube. Speed is important. Is there a way to do this that you’d recommend?

  10. I’m not sure what is going wrong here – I’ve tried to reply multiple times..

    Ok.

    The first thing I’d do is to make sure that Windows is recognizing your USB mic and using that one to record your Youtube videos. (If you’re using an Apple – I know nothing about them – sorry). Often, Windows has multiple speaker/headphone and mic connections even if they’re not actually physical – since some software programs create virtual hardware connections. For example – my PC has 4 speaker options and 5 mic options even though I have only one set of speakers and one headset mic that is not turned on most of the time. You need to make sure that it is actually your USB mic that is being used and not the mic attached to your webcam.

    Right click on the Volume Mixer (the speaker icon that you use to change the volume) and select Recording devices. Make sure it is the USB mic that is active and not the Webcam one – that might be your problem.

    If that is not the issue – then you might want to try using another webcam-to-flash recorder and then up load the video to YouTube afterwards. One popular one is Manycam https://manycam.com/ but there are dozens that you can use. Even VLC Player (a commonly used media player) has a record function – although it is not so easy to find.

    There are also sites that give tips on how to get better webcam-to-flash recordings such as this one http://info.viddler.com/blog/8-tips-to-improve-flash-webcam-recordings ..

    I hope some of this is useful to you – or someone else

    Good luck

    1. Linton: Thank you so much! My webcam doesn’t have a mic on it, so I think it’s something to do with YouTube. I’m downloading and installing Manycam right now, and I really appreciate the recommendation.

  11. Having a bit of a hard time and I’m not sure why – juggling my Facebook and WordPress accounts .. anyway – I hope you have some satisfaction – but I’m always here if I can help

  12. Yes- I liked the video. simple and sweet. I would like a little more about what makes this game unique, I think, because they said that was their driving motivator.
    I’m making a “promo” video that I would love some feedback on. If you’re interested, I’ll send you a link – give me your critique. I don’t want to steal this space is all. Thanks Jamey.

    1. Robert: Thanks for asking. This is the place to share the video if you’d like me and other commenters to chime in. Otherwise the Facebook Kickstarter Best Practices Group is a good place to get feedback too. Thanks!

  13. Hi Jamey!
    Looks like Luke over at Kickstarter agrees with you on two minutes. Luke gave an excellent talk about games on kickstarter and they posted the video recently. At about the 25 minute mark, he specifically talks about video content. Here’s the link at the beginning of his talk on videos.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MIhnqNsLkY&feature=youtu.be&t=24m55s

    To everyone else who hasn’t seen the video, I highly recommend the entire video. I was fortunate to be able to see it in person. Luke is a fantastic guy and has a huge amount of extremely helpful information from his own experiences and from kickstarter on games on kickstarter and what he’s seen work and not work.

  14. Just watched the KS video for the newly-launched Vengeance campaign (by Might Boards). One of the most interestin videos I’ve seen – much closer to your category of ‘theatrical trailers’ than an informational video.

    1. Drin: I’m glad you mentioned it. I watched that video a few days ago, and I immediately made a note of it, because I think it’s one of the best Kickstarter game videos I’ve ever seen. It combines the story seamlessly with an explanation of how to play the game in less than 3 minutes, which is incredible.

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