***Please don’t share this blog post — I could lose my job.***
I work for an amazing 17,000 person SaaS company and they think I work like a dog creating videos. Truth is, I don’t think I work that hard. I’m a one-man video production team and my videos are quite well-received thanks to a dozen years of forced scrapification (producing interactive content and websites back when I was self-employed). The crazy thing is, working now for a Fortune 500 company requires me to wear at least as many hats and still just get ‘er done, with no budget other than my salary.
So let’s let them keep thinking I slave away in a dark room 16 hours a day while I share my flow and know-how below. I’ll be focusing on (a) enhancing talking head videos with a cheap green screen, (b) leveraging Keynote/Powerpoint for fantastic animations and (c) screen captures versus screen recordings. My universal disclaimer applies: there are always more robust ways of doing things for more money that take longer and require navigating through more red tape; caveat productor.
It’s also worth mentioning that I’ll be running a live workshop on this topic next week at Dreamforce (on Tuesday and Thursday) and also at the Space Camp video marketing summit in October. If you’re interested in seeing first-hand how I apply the techniques below, join me at one of these sessions to witness the live creation of a scrappy video in under 40 minutes!
Green Screen Fun
Firstly, a word of caution: acoustical ceiling tiles break easily. I heard about a guy (ahem) who may have damaged some while using clamps to hang a wrinkled cloth green screen from a conference room ceiling. That guy, I’m told, got a large green screen and a set of mini spring clamps online for under $75. It spends most of its life stuffed ungraciously in a small, black canvas bag and has never seen a portable steamer. Works great. So why do you care?
Take your average talking head (think customer or co-worker) and put them in front of a boring background like a conference room wall, or anywhere really, and you’re going to have issues with what’s behind them. Maybe it’s a dirty whiteboard that won’t erase completely or lots of people milling around — a green screen will allow you to put whatever you want behind your subject including still photos, stock video clips (I like short, loopable ones from stock video sites) or animated bullet points. iMovie ($15) is more than sufficient for editing video shot against a green screen. (Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) is overkill for this discussion, but it’s what I use on a daily basis.) A green screen gives you the ability to shoot in a more controlled space with better audio regardless of the mic setup.
The frame grab below is from a video where Mike (pictured) was shot in front of the green screen in a mid-sized conference room. He was about two feet in front of a whiteboard and a foot behind a wood conference table that came up to his thigh. He was lit only with the fluorescent lights existing in the room. I could have filmed him in the building lobby (lotsa red tape), but it would have been noisy and über distracting. Instead, I shot a still photo in the lobby before the security guards saw me and used it as a part of the background. The computer display behind Mike is used to overlay (i.e., display) text and images relating to his talking points. I created that animation ahead of time in Keynote (see next section below).
A slightly simpler option would be to center Mike in the frame and cut back and forth between him and the talking points with nothing animated behind him, with or without a green screen. And simpler still would be Mike doing a voiceover with animated slides only. But this video made his parents sooo proud.
From Presentation File to Video
Powerpoint and Keynote will allow you to export a presentation, complete with animations, to a video file (.mov or .mp4). If you keep your animation styles consistent you’ll have an eye-popping video when you later import it into your editor. In other words, if your presentation has images appearing one after the other throughout, make each of them scale up or each wipe from left. Make all your bullet points dissolve in or squish; try not to mix animation styles within a single presentation component in other words.
The screen grab below is from a Keynote presentation where the iPhone screen was animated and then exported to a Quicktime file. The roof-top patio is a still photo background layer. The phone itself is stock and I emailed the iOS app images to myself from my iPhone (after screen capturing them by pressing the iPhone’s home and power buttons simultaneously). To make the animation more realistic, I created a mask to hide the screen images as they moved in from the right (i.e., so they’d appear to slide in from within the iPhone frame instead of from the edge of the presentation). Alternatively, Camtasia now allows recording right off a connected device.
Creating custom bullets with a company logo, or other custom shape, is a nice touch.
Sure, there are other more robust tools for animation like Adobe Flash or Apple Motion, but where’s the fun in using expensive best-of-class tools?
Keynote’s secret is exporting presentations complete with all their beautiful cinema quality animations to a Quicktime .mov file where it can then be imported into any video editor.
Screen Captures vs. Screen Recordings
A big part of my job is making explainer videos of our SaaS solution. I use Camtasia, however sparingly. Instead, I prefer to animate screen captures (still images), in part, because it can be quite challenging to move the mouse around the screen smoothly and without a menagerie of menacing mouseovers popping up where they have no business doing so during the recording. The current version of Camtasia lets one enhance a screen recording in a variety of ways, but in my experience it’s not a reliable video editor. I prefer to screen record, export it, and edit in iMovie or Final Cut Pro. But mostly I use still images, enhanced in Photoshop and then imported into FCPX. I love the fact that images linked to a FCPX project will automagically update themselves right in the FCPX timeline when I modify them (i.e., in Photoshop). Sweet!
Experimentation is key. Don’t wait for an important project (with a deadline) to emerge before you have some fun learning how to do animate in Keynote/Powerpoint and export to a video. And perhaps go nuts with a green screen, endless fun!
I’d love to hear what you think about these ideas and hope to see some of you at my presentations next week at Dreamforce!
Stonehenge Management Customer Story https://webevents.force.com/stonehenge
Professional Edition Key Features https://webevents.force.com/s/pe-tour.html
Green Screen Sample: http://salesforce.vidyard.com/watch/jul-4g-07STlqJJMCExMqg