How To Make a Demo Video Part 3: Direction

Concept, script and direction are the three pillars of making an exceptional demo video. When you get these right, the rest is about execution. Even on a low PowerPoint budget, attention to this will take you far.

After you chosen your concept, we then work on script and direction—often at the same time.

Sometimes a client’s budget dictates our choices—often a client has only budgeted for a 30 or 60 second video. Sometimes we can do this in 30 seconds. A hint: We’ve learned that a 60-90 second video is ideal. The burden in our shorter videos is on the concept, writing and direction. The burden on longer (60+) second videos is on the animator.

Remember: You respect the time of the viewer when you make an effective short video. Nobody wants to watch 6 minutes that might have the answer, people want facts not pitches.

First: Confirm the Tone

Our script gives a pretty good picture of what the final piece will look like, but the process of direction is what sets the tone of a film. Directors have a certain style associated with their works. For instance, Christopher Nolan, Quinton Tarantino and Tim Burton are 3 directors that all take very distinctive approaches to their films. Films by these directors are easily identifiable. If you gave the same exact script to the three of them, the final results of their efforts would be 3 very different films.

Directing is different than creating a concept and script. Directing is really just a matter of interpreting what has been created by the writer. The words on paper can be interpreted in endless ways. Recently, Philips partnered with legendary director Ridley Scott to explore this very idea. Check out this awesome Philips promotion to see how one script to many different forms through direction.

When the script is written, it may written it may intend a particular tone, but the director may move it to new places. The director might work at the outset with a storyboard artist or writer to establish or refine the tone of a film. Our work on Catalyst is more “tone-heavy” than a lot of the other work we’ve done. We had to keep everyone’s attention and get people to understand that Catalyst is THE WordPress theme framework for Power Users.

“Our Catalyst Demo Video was made in order to show Catalyst as an epic theme frame work. The music should be epic, like a comic book movie, the voice should be a super snarl, and everything on the screen presents it in such a way that makes Catalyst be POWERFUL.”

From that point, it’s a matter of execution: what conveys power?  We made the video like a supervillan sharing his weapon with the world. “Yes, Batman, BEHOLD with the POWER of CATALYST, we will take over the WHOLE WIDE WORLD. MUH-HA-HA-HA.” The script captures that idea well, and what started out being described as a “comic book” feel wound up taking on more of a summer blockbuster vibe through the process of direction.

Set Your Tone with Music and Voice Talent

Next to the vision the director brings, the music probably does more than any other person to set the tone of a piece. Our clients aren’t always ready to invest in custom scores, so we spend time selecting stock music.

AudioJungle is often excellent because it’s searchable by genre, and you can quickly sift through tracks. Often composers make tracks that open differently then settle into a 2-3 minute theme. This is nice because you may get two pieces for the price of one. Many production houses have bad music that costs $150-1000 per needle drop depending on the final delivery platform. AudioJungle gets you legal for as low as a few bucks.

Special note: Listen to the ending of your track. The ending is important because often that will be edited and synced to the last part of it.

Next to music, for the kind of films we make, the voice over is the next most important aspect of setting the tone. We begin by asking ourselves what kind of mood we want to set? We audition many different scripts. Even when we intend to use a particular talent for the script. Sometimes a fresh read will convince us that we had the tone wrong to begin with. Some of our “regulars” and go-to-voices were found on different VO sites. Marc Scott originally wasn’t right for a piece, but we kept his info, and had him record a new piece for our Reputation Changer video.

The voice read can really set the tone for the script and transfer the intended emotion from the creators to audience. A snarky voice is different than a bubbly voice is different than a sultry voice. Use the right talent accordingly.

After that, we edit the sound and voice together, and make sure to listen. At this point, we’ll have a good idea of the length of the piece. Only rarely does it change from here.

Metaphors Make Your Film Memorable

The Director should add many of metaphors—beyond the script. One of most metaphor-heavy was that of a wizard in our Scribe SEO demo.

We’ve used many metaphors—vaults for protecting content, spaceships launching new content, robot arms for building a website. Metaphors are one of the signatures for our motion graphics work. Metaphor has the power to make an idea “stick” or  live beyond the viewing experience. When you want your product to “stick,” metaphor is the way to do it—people remember stories.

A read through the script can give some idea of how we’ll convey the information from one person to the other, but many metaphor discoveries are made when in production. This is why storyboards aren’t something we recommend for most productions.

It’s not as complex as it may sound. A metaphor doesn’t have to be anything more than a “green checkmark” to signal yes.  They could be as a logo going from handwritten to dimensional. Often the more complex they become, the less effective they become.

Also, we don’t have to use every metaphor we think up in the same piece—we don’t want to be jarring at any point. Too many can become confusing. And don’t mix metaphors. A director should be sure to maintain visual consistency throughout a piece.

Read the script, look around the internet for the key words and thoughts and see what comes to mind. Brainstorm with co-creators. Look at current, popular websites to determine what’s happening and how Facebook or Amazon is conveying similar messaging.

Make Your Opening Scene and Logo Reveal

We almost always try to include a logo reveal in the first few seconds of a script. Usually we demonstrate the problem, or announce a solution and bring the logo in to represent how that goes away. While logos may be nicely designed, it’s a good idea to reveal the logo in some creative way. Make it come to life. Tell the story of the logo in a few seconds if you can. Directors should have an eye for telling the story of the logo in some simple way.

“Welcome To Headway: Now You Can Make A WordPress Website in about 5 Minutes . . .”

“Search Engine Optimization is a dark and mysterious art, with Scribe, this is easy and efficient . . .”

The opening scene establishes the color palette and sets the tone for the piece as well. Having a crazy-quilt of colors in the piece doesn’t really benefit anyone, or lead to a smooth closing.

Set Up Your Close—and Smoothly Guide Them There Scene by Scene.

Often, we come up with the close before we do the other scenes. This is because we want people to be guided smoothly to the action step.  We want each piece of the chain—from the open to the close—to matter to the customers and to be visually and verbally logical.

Figure out—either on paper or on the screen—what you want the close to look like. Being a good director means recognizing that everything in the film leads to a close. Make sure that the viewer is cognizant of what’s next, and gently lead them to the end in a way that it isn’t like slamming on the breaks.

The ending shouldn’t be a surprise or a shock when you ask people to do something. It should seem to make sense to them.

It should just be a smooth statement of fact. “Now, to  ____________, all you have to do is ___________.”  Forget manipulation or false scarcity methods, you just guide the whole piece to the close. “Here are the great things we do, here’s how you take the next step.”

Close simple: No begging, pandering, pushing or anything else, it’s just simple. Now, a note: If you do have a reason things are scarce, tell them that. The world is conditioned to disbelieve special offers, but sometimes it’s true.

This is how we make our videos. This is a brief article on the direction process, but when you follow these ideas, you’ll see that you’ll have great results—on any budget. There’s no substitute for time.

We you’ve learned something about Script, Concept and now Direction through what we’ve added here.

Chris Johnson & Jason Moore, Simplifilm Co-Founders
Chris Johnson & Jason Moore, Simplifilm Co-Founders
Simplifilm is the chosen motion graphics and trailer studio for the world's hottest start ups, brands and authors. Our design philosophy is rooted in two core beliefs: the market is tired of unprofessional and cheesy work, but that clients shouldn't have spend like a Hollywood blockbuster to generate stunning returns that demand audience attention.

With a client list that includes companies funded by Google Ventures, YCombinator, 500 Startups and bestselling authors and videos which gross their clients more than $50M a month, Simplifilm has turned the presentation business upside down. With a proven, step by step process for scripting, directing, voicing and producing product videos Simplifilm produces effective videos in frictionless, efficient way.
No hassles, no excessive wait time, no agony, no endless back and forth. Simplifilm's seamless style fuses creativity and rigorous testing to ensure our clients get only the best.
Our videos convert.
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