An explainer video describes a product or service in a short time with simple language. It is designed to provide potential customers and clients an overview of your offerings as directly and concisely as possible and help interested viewers decide whether to purchase. Short and simple videos are popular in marketing because they carry effective messages to customers with little resource investment.
You can start making your own explainer videos with an affordable setup and just a little bit of basic video knowledge, and we’ll show you how.
What Do I Need to Make an Explainer Video?
The setup for explainer videos is straightforward. There’s no need for expensive jibs and advanced sliders. Cover the basics and you can start learning how to create explainer videos right away.
Must-Have Shooting Equipment
The following items represent the bare minimum equipment needed to shoot the footage for an explainer video:
Two types of cameras cover the essentials of shooting for explainer videos: Smartphones and prosumer digital cameras.
Smartphones now record video at shockingly high resolutions and output quality video files when you prepare your shooting space correctly. They are a perfectly viable option provided you can steady your shot by propping the phone against solid objects on top of a flat surface.
If you want more advanced control over your shoot than what is offered by smartphones, you can opt for a prosumer camera. Prosumer is a portmanteau of professional and consumer, so called because it combines the features of professional products with consumer-friendly functionality. Most prosumer digital cameras shoot video in 1080p, even premium compact cameras, and they usually perform advanced functions like shutter speed adjustment and iris control automatically so you can focus solely on getting the right shot.
Your microphone captures the subject’s voice, which is essential to explaining your product or service. Unfortunately, the on-board microphone that comes with your camera is usually omnidirectional, which means it picks up sound from every direction. Omnidirectional microphones are great for recording ambient sound, but they also pick up echoes that will distract your viewer and lower the professional quality of your video.
To capture clean audio, make sure you have a lavalier or shotgun microphone that is directional, which means that it only records sound in a single direction and within a limited span. Cardioid microphones, which capture audio in a heart-shaped pattern, are also effective, affordable, and wildly popular.
Must-Have Editing Equipment
The items below represent the minimum equipment needed for editing.
Desktop or Laptop Computer
Desktop computers tend to house more power than laptop computers, but if you work on the go, a laptop can still help you fashion a formidable explainer video.
Ideally, you’ll operate with a computer that has a video card inside. Video cards provide exclusive memory for video-related tasks, which allows your computer to process and handle visual information at a higher speed. If you don’t have a video card, modern graphics chipsets such as the very common Intel HD Graphics chipset will provide slow but functioning power for basic graphics tasks.
Most modern cameras use an SD card to store video information, so your computer should have a port for an SD card if you’re using it to edit. If not, you can email slightly compressed videos from your smartphone to any device that connects to the Internet, but you’ll be sacrificing video quality.
Optional Shooting Equipment
The following are items that will make your shoot look more professional, but are not needed to create a basic video.
The tripod is the three-legged device that holds and stabilizes your camera. If you have one, you can steady your shot and adjust much more easily than you could with a smartphone and a stack of textbooks. The most rudimentary tripods start at about $10, but professional-grade tripods can reach $10,000 or more.
Most tripods will fit most cameras if they have the right baseplate. When shopping for tripods, you won’t need to worry too much about whether your camera and tripod are compatible – just make sure that when you get a baseplate, it fits both the camera and the tripod.
Setting up lights is the fastest way to turn the look of your video from grainy home movie to glamorous silver screen film. Lighting has become astronomically more affordable in the last 10 years. The base price for an entire lighting kit now starts around $50. Even two well-placed standard lights can breathe new life into dull, flat video sets.
No lights – tough to see, not much dimension, fades into background
Key and fill lights – easier to see, separated from background
How Should I Set up for a Shoot?
The shoot is all about the subject. If you want a great performance, make your subject comfortable by creating a fluid studio experience.
- Place Your Subject – Using a stand-in (you, a friend, or a coworker), find a comfortable place for your subject to stand or sit that is at least a few feet away from your background. In any video, keeping the subject separated from his or her surroundings will make your video less claustrophobic and distracting to the viewer.
- Prepare Your Camera – If you have a tripod, place your camera securely on it and place it far enough away from the subject so that the bottom of your shot ends at chest-level or mid-thigh. If you don’t have a tripod, stack books on a table and balance your camera or smartphone on a flat surface. For an explainer video, place the camera as close to the height of your subject’s eyes as possible.
- Test Your Audio – Ask your subject (nicely) to count down from ten slowly or to try an enunciation exercise such as, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” while you record the audio. Play it back to make sure that reverb (echo) is minimal and each vowel and consonant sound is clear enough for your audience without popping.
- Create a Lighting Scheme (Optional) – If you have lights, set them up so you have at least a key and fill. The key light is your main source of light that you place in front of and slightly to the side of your subject to create dimension. The fill light is a subtler light placed in front of your subject and slightly to the opposite side to soften the harsh shadow created by the key light.
- Shoot a Test Shot – Once your subject is framed, lights placed, and microphone tested, try a full single shot while your subject practices enunciation again. Ask him or her to do another countdown or exercise with a bit of facial expression and movement so you can ensure that your camera is focused. Review the footage and correct any errors.
- Seat or Stand Your Subject – Bring in the real subject to either sit in a backless chair or stand in front of the camera. If you’re doing an interview-style video, let the subject know that you’ll be asking a few questions and that you would like for him or her to repeat the question in his or her response. For example, if you ask the subject “What is your favorite color?” the subject should respond with “My favorite color is green.”
Once you’ve prepared and your subject is in place, you can begin your shoot. The events of each shoot will vary, and it’s best to learn how you work with your actors to find out what process will work most efficiently for your sessions.
Remember these tips for your explainer video shoots:
- If your subject is reading from a script: Try to begin and stop recording at the end of each section of speech. Unless your subject has memorized the entire monologue, it will be easier to scrub through takes than to try to pick out usable lines from one long, continuous shot.
- If your subject is answering interview questions: Record the entire interview without stopping – you never know when your subject will say something unexpectedly profound or pertinent. Give yourself an audible cue before you begin a new question to make the editing process more fluid.
- Keep water around for your subject to drink between takes. Even in the middle of an interview, a dry throat makes lines of monologue and answering questions nearly impossible.
- Be ready to adjust lighting. If your subject is blinded by your lights when facing the camera or the interviewer, the lights are probably not properly placed. Maintain the dimensions created by your lights while improving comfort for your subject.
What Do I Do Once I’m Done Shooting?
Immediately after shooting, turn off your camera and microphone, shut down all lights, thank your subject for participating, and place your equipment safely away. Remove the SD card or DV tape from your camera before storing it.
Your next step will be importing video to your computer. The process will differ depending on your recording medium.
- SD Card – SD cards store recorded information as ready-to-use digital video files. Most operating systems provide an importing wizard for you as soon as you plug an SD card into the port. If they don’t, you can use the Finder on a Mac or Windows Explorer in Windows to locate your SD Card and click and drag the files onto your hard drive.
- DV Tape – Digital video (DV) tapes are an older technology, but if you have a camera around from the early 2000s, you might still be using them. You’ll have to use the Capture feature in your editing program to get DV tape data from a tape deck to your computer.
Your microphone audio may be attached to your video files, saved as separate files on your SD card, or may need to be imported from your smartphone or audio recording device if you’re using an external audio recorder. Pull them onto your computer before beginning to edit.
Once your footage has been converted to digital files via the Capture tool or imported from an SD card, you can bring those files into your editing software. Most video editing programs now have a click-and-drag feature that allows you to pull footage from your folders directly into the application by clicking and holding your footage, then dragging it into the application window. If not, your software should include an Import option that will open a Browse window where you can locate and import your footage.
Prepare Additional Assets
To make your video look ultra-professional, you may want to whip up or purchase some graphical assets. Consider grabbing some of the following, depending on your needs:
Make sure the assets you use are not copyright protected under a copyright that is not your own. Lots of companies offer royalty-free images and icons for a small up-front price or subscription fee. You may even be able to find free assets from graphic designers who are looking to garner a more elite reputation.
How Do I Edit?
Editing is the process of piecing your shots together into a seamless video. It’s where you get to see your video come to life.
Operating systems these days come with basic editing software that has a surprising number of features:
iMovie becomes more powerful with each iteration, and its interface closely resembles that of professional video editing software. It includes templates for animations, trailers, and entire videos. Use a template if you wish, or customize your edit by clicking and dragging footage on the user-friendly timeline provided.
PC: Windows Movie Maker
Windows Movie Maker has come bundled with the Windows operating system for many years, and though it has been discontinued as of January 10, 2017, those who still have the software on their computers can use it without software support from Microsoft. It has significantly fewer features than iMovie, but can still help you perform fundamental edits.
Editing your video is a 6-step process:
- Choose the shots you like – Find the shots with the best audio and video combination and pull them into your timeline, the area of your editing software in which you make cuts, inserts, and changes.
- Arrange your clips – Make your clips fit the flow of your script or the goal of your interview. Remove questions from the interviewer so that only the interviewee’s answers remain.
- Trim the beginning and end of each of your clips – Give your video a distinct rhythm. Make sure any pauses at the beginning and end of lines of monologue or answers match as closely as possible between clips.
- Add an intro and outro – You can put your company logo or a title card at the beginning and end of your timeline. Editing software has tools that help you make quick and easy title cards. You can also import your logo graphic and plug it in.
- Add transitions – Apply a dissolve or fade to your cuts where appropriate. It makes the transition between clips smoother. At a minimum, you should apply a transition between your intro and the body of your video, then another between the body of your video and the outro.
- Export your video – Each application handles exporting differently, but most will have an Export option with default settings that make Internet-ready videos.
How Do I Use My Explainer Video?
Once your video is done and exported, it’s ready for use on the Internet. The easiest way to get your videos onto your website is to attach them to a video hosting service first, then embed them using a special code.
YouTube is owned by Google and is a fantastic hosting service since it’s likely to boost your SEO efforts as well. If you haven’t already, you can create an official account for your business or agency, then begin uploading videos directly to YouTube. Each one has an embed code that you can add to your website’s HTML built into the YouTube page that displays your video.
Many businesses also use Wistia to host their company-related videos since the Wistia platform offers comprehensive analytics and open-ended APIs that allow video to integrate into many different platforms. You may need a plugin to place a Wistia video on your site, but installing one is usually free and takes only a minute.
Using either your YouTube or Wistia embed code, find an attractive home for the video on your website and implement the ready-made player that comes with the code.
The most potent ways to use your explainer videos once you know how to create them are:
- On Your Service Pages – When you offer a complex product or service, it’s tough to find an audience that wants or needs it. Make it easy on those searching for your solution by creating short videos that fully explain the broad concepts of what you offer.
- On Your Landing Pages – Help your audience make the right decision about whether to take advantage of your product or service by providing fast-paced, to-the-point videos on your landing pages that will save them time and clinch their decisions.
As you get better and faster at creating video, you can find more ways to implement video into your marketing. You can start using video in blogs, articles, social posts, and even in the background of your website. Learning how to make an explainer video is an easy first step into the world of video, and there’s no better time to start creating videos than right now.
No time to make videos? No problem – your friends at Leverage Marketing have the know-how and the tools to make professional-quality videos that go well beyond the explainer video. Start a conversation with us about video marketing – there’s no obligation, just powerful marketing knowledge and friendly faces.
Latest posts by Eric Ysasi (see all)
- Intelligent Personal Voice Assistants in Business and Marketing - February 6, 2018
- What Does an SEO Analyst Do for You? - January 24, 2018
- Should I Use a Website Builder? - December 27, 2017