Studio Musings

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lessons Learned: The Kickstarter Video

For me, the video was far and away the most challenging part of putting together my Kickstarter campaign.  While I enjoy speaking in a workshop setting, put me in front of a camera and I get the willies, badly.  In this post, I'll share the a few things I learned to make the process easier. 

Planning the Video
Plan what you want to say ahead of time.  Unless you're one of those rare people who are great at extemporaneous speaking, spend some time plotting out what you want and need to share in your video. 
  • Key points - what is your project and why is it cool?
  • Who are you, and why are you the right person for this project?
  • Why are you asking for help?
  • What is your time line?
  • Call to action.  What do you hope people will do once they've watched your video? Remember to share what they can do to help support your project. Be specific.  If you're like me, asking for financial support may be hard.  Remember people really do want to help!  It's fun to help other people achieve their creative goals.  Several friends kept reminding me of that fact. And as a supporter of other Kickstarter campaigns, I have to agree.
Video Length
  • Shorter videos have higher completion rates.
  • Keep your video under 2 minutes.  People tune out on longer videos unless they are truly amazing.  Mine was simply sufficient.  At 1:51, my video had 1,773 views with a 40.44% completion rate.  Doing a Google Search for 'kickstarter video plays completed', it looks like that was a reasonable percentage. 
  • Time yourself.  Once you have your script, read it out loud and time yourself.  How long did it take to read through everything?  
  • If the time was more than two minutes, see if there's anything you can cut or edit.
  • Technology assessment - what equipment will you need?  I shot my video with an older model digital camcorder with an internal mike, set on a tripod.  My husband acted as the camera man.  While the image quality of the video wasn't the best, the biggest problem with this set up was the sound.  
  • An external, clip-on mic could have improved things considerably!  It doesn't have to be expensive.  Runnng an Amazon search for 'external microphone for camera', I found an Olympus Noise Canceling Microphone for under $15 with great reviews.  I've not tried it myself, but I truly wish I had purchased an external mic before filming my video!
  • Location, date and time.  Where will you shoot the video? What time of day? 
  • Will you need supplemental lighting?
  • Check for any external conflicts!  I planned to film my video at my studio, located in an old warehouse building across the street from the Seahawk's stadium.  When my husband and I arrived at the studio bright and early one Saturday morning in January of 2014, we discovered a street party in process.  Since we aren't sports fans, we'd managed to miss the fact that it was the day of the first Superbowl playoffs.  The Seahawks band playing their hearts out just below my window was a lot of fun, but pretty much insured that we wouldn't be filming that day.  We did make use of the time to decide where to film, set up the equipment, and do a quick run through.  We then returned the next day to do the shoot.  Luckily we had the flexibility for that extra day! 
Additional Resources - here are several links to other sites with suggestions for creating a stellar video:
Shooting the Video
  • Consider shooting your video in sections.  Even at under two minutes, I found it very difficult to keep to the script when I tried to run through everything at once.  I kept ad-libbing and 'running into the weeds' until I broke my script into five parts, each shot separately.
  • Mark where you plan to stand/sit.  Breaking the video into several shoots, I ended up marking the floor with a blue X of painters' tape so I started and ended each section in the same spot.  
  • Shoot multiple takes of each section while you have the chance.  You can always trash the extra video later, but it's worth having the extras in case of glitches that you didn't catch in your camera's playback.
  • Shoot any alternative shots that you can think of while you have the camera and crew.  We shot all of the scenes with me speaking while standing in my studio.  But I also had my husband take some video of me stitching a project and working on various aspects of the book design on my computer.  While I had no original plans for them, this footage was very useful in post production. 

Once you've shot all the scenes, you still need to put it together into a finished video.  What video editing software will you use?  I used iMovie, which came with my laptop, so I'll focus on that. I'd never used iMovie before and had a lot of trouble understanding the interface at first.  Once again, it was Google Search to the rescue. 
  • Apple's iMovie Tutorial page was a good place to start, but I found some of the 3rd party videos more immediately helpful.
  • IzzyVideo has an extremely thorough video tutorial that walks you through every step.  I found his Tour of the Interface and Editing tutorials particularly helpful.
Things you can do with iMovie (and presumably other video editors as well) include:
  • Separate the audio track from the video
  • Carefully edit out a couple of glitches in your audio/video.  This is a great way to get rid of 'ums'!
  • Used the software to adjust the audio track to minimize the tinniness from the camera's microphone.  (An external microphone might have prevented this necessity).
  • Combine still shots along with your videos.  You can specify how long you want each still shot to remain on the screen, as well as specify the scene cuts/fades.
  • Video editing isn't fast!  I found it rather like putting together the pieces of a 5,000 piece puzzle without quite knowing what the finished picture is supposed to look like.  Make sure to allow your self time to both come up to speed with the software (assuming you're like me and aren't already familiar with it), and to put together your video puzzle.

Quite a bit of time can go into the creation of your 1-3 minute video, so you might wonder if it's really worth it.  I know I did.   What I can tell you is from a statistical standpoint, projects with videos have a much greater chance of succeeding than those without. 

Perhaps even more importantly, the video gives you a chance to connect more directly with your audience than is possible with either text or still photography.  It's a powerful way of saying 'See, I'm real, my project's real, it's going to be fantastic, and I'd love for you to be a part of making it so'. 

In my next Lessons Learned post, I hope to focus on running a Kickstarter campaign.  I'll talk about my experiences managing updates, social media, stretch goals and anything else that I can think of between now and then.  Have something in specific you'd like me to include?  Let me know!  I love your feedback. 


  1. Excellent information Karen - thanks for sharing! I've been wanting to put together a quick video of myself painting a small painting but didn't have a clue how to start. This has helped clear those muddy waters a lot.

  2. what a wealth of information Karen! you just never cease to amaze me at how organized you were for this project! how well thought out and on schedule with every last detail. And how wonderful that your husband was there for support. I'd like to think mine would be there. And perhaps he might be, but his eyes glaze over at the mere mention of beads!