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Making your own demo video on the cheap

I posted my fourth effort at producing a product video to Revver Monday. I’ve learned that while product demos are hard to do well, product demo videos can be even harder, or else really expensive if you hire a professional to help you.  If you have a camcorder and a tripod, though, with a little effort you can do it yourself cheaply. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned throughout this process.

Like the previous videos, this one is a very quick overview of Talk-Now. It’s super important to keep it short, and even shorter in video than live. A stage demo can be longer, but a video demo has to stay right on topic. The way to do that is to be disciplined about what you’re showing. The script for this demo follows the classic claim / 3 proof points model which my friend Shel Israel used so effectively with the three companies he coached to DEMOgod status last year in Phoenix.   The demo itself is just 3 minutes long, and the title and concluding sequences add one more minute.   

When shooting the video itself, here are some of the things I did:

  • much of the video was shot with a screen capture tool, rather than shooting the Blackberry directly, as I have done previously. The colors are better, the image is more visible on the screen, and it doesn't shake from hand motion. It's a much better experience. I used Idokorro's Blackberry Viewer to view the BlackBerry screen on a PC, and then Camtasia to capture the screen.  Both are available with free, and full, trial versions.
  • the screen capture was done with no voice.  The voice over was inserted afterward, because I've found it way too hard to do both while capturing everything on video. I wrote a short script afterward and basically read from it while the video was playing.  The voice over was recorded using a Bluetooth lavalier microphone and the Sony HDR-SR1 camcorder.  That produced a useless video, but a high quality sound track, which I had to attach to the original silent video. I stripped the video out using Adobe Premier Elements, and married the remaining sound track to the demonstration video. Any lav mike will do, and you can pick them up on EBay pretty cheaply. And once again, Premier Elements is available for download trial, and just $99 to buy.
  • the short live sequences at the beginning and end were recorded in my basement TV room, using the Sony HDR-SR1, and lit with my cheap shop lights.  The lights were $50 at my local Canadian tire. To get rid of the yellowish caste they create (very noticeable in the previous video), I manually white balanced the camera before shooting.
  • titling and editing was done with Adobe Premier Elements.  Final output was to a WMV 7 file, at 720×480 pixels (the same size as your TV), with low compression.  Revver did a superb job converting it to a flash movie.
  • recording sound turned out to be very problematic, with kids and dogs frequently interrupting. I made multiple takes, before resorting to recording the sound in the basement, while the rest of the family was out at swimming lessons.

Even so, when I watch the final result I see the following errors:

  • there is a light reflected in the right hand side of the glass covering the picture on the wall behind me.  I need to put a covering over the lights — one which won't burn up, as they are 500 watt halogens. 
  • there are some very harsh shadows on the walls behind, because I left out the rear light this time. There was no good place to put it, and I tried to compensate by turning up the wall sconces to full brightness.  Didn't work. 
  • the sound changes dramatically from the video to the final live sequence. The battery ran out on the Bluetooth lav mike, and I was forced to record the final sequence using the stereo microphone on the camera itself.  Next time I'll make sure I've got spare batteries.

See for yourself. And have fun making your own product demos.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • PaulSweeney May 1, 2007, 3:28 pm

    Hey, pressed the button on the vid above. Just saw an endless circle, circling… not bad in itself, after all, I do have celtic blood in me, and those patterns look familiar from our standing stones!

  • PaulSweeney May 1, 2007, 3:31 pm

    ok, works now. Just needed to refresh the browser….

  • Emmanuel February 25, 2011, 11:50 am

    Thanks for the walk through! Will have to put a video together for a product launch next month, and came across your post. Everything I need in there, thanks again!

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