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How to make a good explainer video

We're all looking for attention. And brands are the world's biggest attention seekers. Unfortunately, attention is a zero-sum game. We live in a time of information overload. Modern consumers are bombarded with marketing messages during every waking minute. So, how do win the race for attention?

Not all content is equal

It's not enough to create content that is valuable and interesting, you also have to consider how you deliver it to your target audience. Some forms of communication are more effective than others. It's important to offer content that's easy to digest.

Creating short videos can be one of the best ways to boost your online presence.

In the battle for eyeballs, videos stand tall above text, still images and audio content. In fact, people spend 2.6x more time on pages with video than without. Trying to sell a product? Well, your potential customers can be convinced to buy a product or service by watching a video.

What is an explainer video?

A recent LanguageWire explainer video using both live-action and animated elements.

Explainer videos are short marketing videos that explain a product or service. They are often animated, but this is by no means the rule. For them to work, they should be compelling, concise and clear. And this is where it gets tricky, how to make a good explainer video?

A good process

Making video content can be daunting. You may find it easier to get an agency to do the heavy lifting and guide you through the process. But even with recent drops in production costs, agency prices can be exorbitant for something that isn't all that hard to make. So here are some tips on how to create an engaging video for your brand without breaking the bank.

1. Research

Research Explainer Videos

This is where you lay the foundation for everything to come. If you do your research right, you will find every step along the way a lot easier. First, make sure you understand your product or service. Use the information in your product brief (such as USPs, target audience and competitive landscape) to know what you need to create.

Secondly, dig into what problems your target audience faces. If you understand their pains correctly, you’ll be able to create a video that is valuable to them by showing them the solutions to one or more of the problems they are facing. This is a great time to make use of the buyer personas you have stashed in a drawer somewhere.

Finally, use all of this information you’ve collected to create your explainer video brief. This will be the reference point for your internal team as well as an external assist you need along the way.

2. Allocate resources

Allocate Resources Explainer Videos

You have your brief together now, so what’s next to get this video made?

You’ll need a scriptwriter, a project manager, a graphic designer, a video production specialist, an editor, models, a voiceover artist, and language experts who can localise your video for your respective target markets.

Most businesses will have an in-house copywriter. This person can work with product owners and other relevant colleagues to craft the message. It’s always good to have a second pair of eyes check and refine your content, such as a proofreader and/or text editor. You’ll also want to storyboard your video as a way to pre-visualise what you are creating. Graphic designers, art directors and copywriters work well together here. Outsource as needed.

The majority of brands will need help from a video production specialist. This is someone who knows how to shoot film, edit, do sound design, and possibly animate as well. You might be lucky and find someone who can do it all using Adobe’s suite of tools (think Premiere, After Effects and Audition). Otherwise, your video production specialist will be able to sub-contract any missing skills that are needed for the production of your video.

If you’re going for a live action video, models will be required. This is something that we would typically leave up to the video production specialist. When creating the contract with models, be mindful that they will need to know where this video is intended to be used (at trade shows, or online ads for example). The same goes for your voiceover artist. The price will change depending on usage.

Finally, to properly leverage your new content, you’ll want to adapt it to all of your markets. This means you’ll need a team of language experts who know how to speak the language of your target audiences. These people will include translators, proofreaders, additional voiceover artists (or you can use subtitles), and extra video editing work. We'll go into how you can achieve this later.

3. Author

Author Explainer Videos

As mentioned earlier, your in-house copywriter can write the script based off of your video brief. It always pays to have a text editor with experience in scriptwriting to look over your text. Make sure you read it out loud and listen back to how it sounds. It’s quite a different experience to reading your script off of a screen.

Additionally, it makes a lot of sense to have externals have a look at your script. This could be people from your personal network or business partners. You want your message to be as clear and easy to understand as possible, so test it on some outsiders.

With your script ready, you can now make your storyboard. Depending on your team's graphics capabilities, you may want to do a rough sketch of what you want or to create an in-depth visual guide. How much you can prepare storyboard-wise will dictate the length of time your collaboration with the video specialist will require.

4. Create

Create Explainer Videos

This is where you gather all of the content and reference material you have created and send it to the video production specialist. This content will include your script, storyboard, video brief, brand material (such as logos, colour codes and illustrations) and voiceover (if you choose to project manage that yourself). In our case, we use VoiceArchive for voiceover work.

Don’t forget the music. It should be something that matches your brand and works as a bed for your content, making it a true audio-visual experience. You can leave the hunt up to the video production specialist or peruse music platforms like Music Vine.

There will usually be a few iterations of your video. You’ll work with the video specialist over multiple revisions to ensure your content meets your needs. Just remember, if there’s something that is bugging you on the first couple of viewings, it’s not going to get better after seeing it a dozen more times over the next few months.

The final content should include your video in the source language, a version with hardcoded subs for social media, and a subtitles file (.srt, .sub or .sbv) for YouTube, Vimeo or your native video player.

5. Adapt

Adapt Explainer Videos

If you want to get someone’s attention, you’ll have to speak their language. Common Sense Advisory 87% of consumers who can't read English don't buy products or services at English-language websites. And not only that, there may be some visual changes you should make as this is cross-cultural communication.

Here are some things to consider when adapting your content to other markets:

  • Translate the script. This is a good starting point. You’ll want to work with translators who understand your industry and markets. It also makes a lot of sense to refine the translation with the assistance of a text editor, as you would do with the source text.
  • Voiceover localisation. Find the voice that is right for each of your markets. Then, you can either have the voiceover artist try and match the timing of your current video edit or have the video production specialist edit your original video to match the natural timing of the new voiceovers.
  • Want to take a cheaper route than multiple voiceovers? Then try subtitles. This requires taking your translated script and making new hardcoded subs and subtitle files.
  • Adjust imagery. If you have text in your video, that should be localised. And not only that, it may make sense to change some of the visual material to match the new cultural contexts. Does that reference to American Football resonate with your French audience?

This can seem like a lot to get your head around, especially if it involves more than one language. And it is indeed not a straightforward workflow. That's why it makes sense to turn to a specialist when you want to localise videos for multiple locales. Fortunately, language service providers, such as LanguageWire, offer video localisation services.

Other considerations

Now that you've had an overview of how to make a good explainer video, here are some other key considerations to make sure your content grabs the viewers’ attention.

The first five seconds is vital!

You only have a moment to capture the casual viewer's attention. That's why online trailers now begin with mini-trailers. You need to convince the viewer that it is worth watching the rest of the content, even if it is only a minute.

Keep it short

Don't waffle on about your product. You should be able to get across your value proposition in one minute. That's about 200 words. You can offer the viewer options for more information, such as in-depth instructional videos, webinars, a phone call, or a face-to-face meeting.

Practice makes perfect

Our final piece of advice is to just do it. As with email marketing, blogging and other forms of content creation, the more you do it, the better you get. During the creation process, you will often have ideas for future videos. Capture them and make sure you start work on the next one asap.

Now go back to step one and start creating!