Explainer Videos: Hire a Professional Video Production Company or DIY?

Explainer Videos: Hire a Professional Video Production Company or DIY?

Now that you know about the cost breakdown of an explanation video, the question is what choices do you have to move forward with your project? Previously, choice was limited. You either went for a high end explanation studio (87seconds, Switch Video, Explainify etc) or you hired freelancers. Recently, however, we've seen the uprise of some amazing DIY video tools like Powtoon, Moovly, and Explee. A third option could be outsourcing to individuals: freelancers including designers, animators, voice-overs and scriptwriters.

In order to know which option suits you best, we need to take a step back and have a look at how explanation videos are made. From the idea through the storyboard to animation, this post will walk you through the main steps involved in creating a stunning explanation video and compare do-it-yourself vs hiring a professional option. Let's start at the beginning, with the script.

#1. The Script – The Key To Your Message

Do you have a clear idea of your 1min 30sec format and how do you want communicate that to your target audience? What’s the main purpose of your video: to create a buzz, to explain a new concept, or to describe the offer on your product or service?

Doing-It-Yourself: You’re the best person to talk about your own product. You know your customers, you know every single feature of your solution, you know which are most favoured, what advantages they have over your competitors. But you need to be professional in your storytelling and explanation techniques (some tips here). Otherwise, chances are high that your script starts with the “Meeeet Bill..” format (see hilarious post on start up videos here).

Hiring A Professional: What you can’t do, and where most DIY tools fail, is to structure your communication. Being concise and sticking to the point is not an easy task and that’s where an explainer or other communication agency comes in. They can help you with a crystal clear story-line and transform it into a creative script.

#2. The Storyboard – Bringing That Creative Idea to Life

A storyboard is basically the static visual representation of the different shots or frames that will make up the final video.

Hiring A Professional: the team is pro when it comes to thinking of visual representations, metaphors, tools to explain complex concepts in a more digestible way. Designers are flourishing in creativity and can prepare the “feel” of the video, giving an overall layout, style and storyline to meet the project goals.

Doing-It-Yourself: Here, it really depends on your creativity! You may be awesome at creating your storyboard or you may end up with something less efficient while investing time and effort.

Explainer Videos: Hire a Professional Video Production Company or DIY?

#3. The Graphics – The Storyboard Goes Digital

Once the basic idea is approved, the process goes digital. The designers prepare the storyboard and supplement with graphic assets such as logos, icons, fonts, or corporate colors. This is basically the last step before animation, and the point where the client can see the static frames.

Hiring A Professional: At this stage in the process you can benefit from the expertise of a professional in multiple ways. They have the experience of knowing which visuals are best understood by the audience and can help you push your brand forward. Using graphic editor programs such as Adobe Illustrator, designers can professionally edit and create mind-blowing static graphics:

Explainer Videos: Hire a Professional Video Production Company or DIY?

Doing-It-Yourself: You’re constrained to the few visual representations available in the library and viewers get used to these quickly. More importantly, the video cannot always truly reflect your identity and as you can only work with the templates you are given. However, although you cannot cistomise there is still scope for creativity and here is an example of the type of graphics that Powtoon can provide:

Explainer Videos: Hire a Professional Video Production Company or DIY?

#4. The Magic! Adding Animation to Your Explainer Video 

When it comes to adding motion to the frames, layers need to be introduced. This means that basically any graphic element, audio, video footage or other assets which are used in the composition are assigned a separate layer. A composition may consist of as much as thousands of layers depending on how detailed the animation is.

Hiring A Professional: Be aware that this is possibly the most technically complicated step when it comes to making an explainer video. Professionals can create expert tailor-made transition between scenes and objects. They can also control the pace or rhythm of the video based on the visuals. The designer will choose certain after effects to be used for any given layer which creates a dynamism.

Explainer Videos: Hire a Professional Video Production Company or DIY?

Doing-It-Yourself: This step used to be quite complicated, but Powtoon and Moovly have done a good job at their UI. You still need to dig into it yourself though and have a few white nights in front of you. Example of editing timeline from Moovly:

Explainer Videos: Hire a Professional Video Production Company or DIY?

5. Audio – Because What’s a Video Without Sound?

Videos are meant to be heard and well as seen, and adding audio is essential. Whether it's a voice-over, or a great backing track.

Hiring A Professional: They've got the experience, and know their audio resources inside out. They know what will click, what’s hot and what’s not, and what will make your video more enjoyable.

Doing-It-Yourself: You could spend a lot, and I mean a LOT, of time searching for that right sound, music cover, or voice-over you were looking for. Here are some tips for finding the best royalty free music.

Once all animations are in place, and the audio is consistent, the video is basically ready to be uploaded on any video hosting site, landing page, social media network etc.

Conclusion – Pros and Cons

Summing it up, here are the main pros and cons of your basic choices when you decide to produce a video.

Explainer Videos: Doing-It-Yourself

As a rule of thumb, I’d say that doing-it-yourself is a great way to either test your marketing approach or one -off communication, especially if you are being careful with budget. We've noticed that successful DIY projects work when your communication and/or identity is still maturing (i.e. at the start up stage); or when it’s expected to change and/or you don’t have the budget; and when you need dynamic communication content (instead of a static Powerpoint, for example) for a temporary event or presentation. We feel the following are really excellent examples of this:

PROS

  • Cost-effective.
  • You can easily edit and re-use the animation.
  • Keeps things in-house.

CONS

  • Trade-off in professionalism: it is (most probably) not your core-business, you will need to invest time and effort to create a professional video for yourself.
  • An outsiders view is missing: sometimes you just need the experience of knowing how to explain your business to someone who has no clue about it.
  • Graphical assets and animation are based on templates: no brand recognition, less customized, and less original result.
  • A very mediocre video could actually send the wrong message and harm your reputation instead of building it up.

Hiring a Professional Video Production Company

Hiring an agency to produce an explanation video is best when you need a professional presentation. For example, on your website (first impressions are crucial), for a long term marketing tool, or for important internal communications.

Other projects to consider are tutorials (where video can have impact on your conversion rate), safety videos, video demo apps (a great video can increase your downloads), or for a product demo where youit is crucial that you show off your product or service in the most professional way. The question is really about ROI, can I expect enough return to justify the cost of the video? Here are examples of professionally made explainer videos:

PROS

  • They are more professionalism – that goes without saying. It is the agency's core business and they are best at it. They have the expertise, the talent, the equipment and know the best practices.
  • They have the connections – a perfect voice-over in any language, scriptwriters, designers – they can handle from scratch to finish the whole production
  • They can offer solutions you haven’t thought of before. They have experience in using different techniques that could suit you best and get a new perspective. It is their job.

CONS

  • There is usually, of course, a much higher cost involved.
  • There may be less control – as with anything you outsource, you will have less control over the project –though that can be counterbalanced with a clear review process.

Check your budget, your goals, have an honest view on what you have and what you lack to make an explanation video. And then decide. Hopefully we have given you some options to consider.

Images: 87seconds

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About Our Contributing Author - Thibaut Dehem
Thibaut Dehem is the Founder of 87Seconds.com, a platform for producing explainer videos for corporate communications. 87seconds.com also provides tools to help structure a video message.



Please Note: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributing author and not necessarily that of

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