Back in April decided to produce an animated intro video for my startup, and spent a good week or so producing it. Below is part of the how-to email I posted to the NYC Lean Startup Meetup after I completed the video.
1) First of all, if you don’t have a 60-second intro video for your website, definitely consider doing it. It’s a great way to engage the potential user right away and get your message across. Here’s a great one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4Q9MJdT5Ds
Seriously try not to go over 60 seconds - that’s a LONG time in internet world.
2) Do as much work up front as possible. I wrote a script, drew up a very basic storyboard on Illustrator, and timed the whole thing by reading it out load next to a stopwatch. I’m a firm believer in the hands-on approach; you’ll learn a lot about your product positioning and marketing by doing these things firsthand.
3) Try to find a close aesthetic fit between your animator and the style you’re trying to accomplish. This is a very nuanced and specific thing you’re looking for, and you don’t want to end up with something that doesn’t fit your company’s message or personality.
Now for the nitty-gritty:
I used two main channels to search for animators: job boards at design schools and Craigslist.
Design School Job Boards
Yielded even fewer results, and none of them that great. Students tend to lack an extensive portfolio, so you don’t really know what you’re getting unless they happen to have produced something exactly like what you’re looking for.
To my utter surprise, this was a great way to find animators. Important things to keep in mind when you’re posting: be VERY specific about what you’re looking for - describe the aesthetic and cite examples like the Google video above - and EMPHATICALLY discourage submissions that don’t fit the bill. Here’s what I wrote:
ONLY FREELANCERS MAY APPLY; NO COMPANIES/SHOPS/RECRUITERS
APPLY ONLY IF YOU CAN SHOW WORK THAT FITS THE AESTHETIC DESCRIBED ABOVE
IF YOU’RE APPLYING AS A STUDENT, INCLUDE “STUDENT” IN THE SUBJECT LINE
Yes, I used all caps. And then I prayed to the online etiquette gods not to smite me.
I got about 20 emails, 15 of which had relevant work examples. Of these, I really liked 3 of them.
Then, I did a phone interview with those 3, went over my storyboard and script, and most importantly, I asked each of them to submit a 1-2 second animation of a snippet of my storyboard of their choosing. I really wanted to make sure there was a fit aesthetically before committing to hiring. They were happy to do it - it would be like 30 min of work on their part.
Finally, I negotiated a flat project fee of $500-700, depending on what the scope ends up being. This is considered pretty low for a 40-second video (20 seconds will be screencasts produced by me), and most animators will quote around $1000-$1500 but I was able to demonstrate that:
1) The animation will be bare-bones and simple, much like the Google video
2) The storyboarding/scripting is pretty much done, so not much else is required beyond the actual animating.
Ace in the Hole: Personal References!
Still, I didn’t see anyone that was right enough to pull the trigger on.
It took a while, but I finally found an awesome animator through Spencer Fry. As with other projects, personal references seem to work the best for some reason. Check his stuff out here: http://pasqualedsilva.com/hire
Eventually I ended up with this video (LearnBat is no longer active, but not because of the video :))
I can’t stress how effective this little video was in conveying our message to students, parents, and other interested parties (it probably got us into DreamIt Ventures).
The Barebones Method
Since pivoting to another business model and changing our name, we’ve taken another approach for the intro video, the barebones screencast: http://easellearning.com/iPad/
Probably not as cool, but pretty effective, depending on what your products is. To make this happen, you need just one thing: Screenflow. Best screencasting tool out there, with awesome editing features built in.
Finally, whether you go for the barebones or animated method, you’ll need:
It’s a once-off cost, and definitely worth the money in my book - I hate listening to mushmouthed CEO’s ramble through their intro videos.
Just go to voice123.com; you can listen to demos of EVERY voiceover artist and even have them record a sample “audition” script. For a 60-second video the job is gonna be less than an hour - definitely affordable.