We produced a short video of Handcraft last summer (no longer available) and learned a lot. We might use what we learned in the future to do something again, but one of the most important lessons was that it's hard to get right. Because you have some priorities on the user experience side (like Csongor says, keep it short and simple, etc), you're creating quite a handful of work of a different nature to writing web copy or designing UIs. The biggest things you need to deal with aren't related to production, but start at a conceptual level:
- What will you talk about?
- How do you summarise your message in 30s/1m/2m?
- What tone of voice are you looking for?
- What kind of pacing feels right?
Basically, first you need to decide on how best to represent your product or whatever you want to talk about in video form. That can be challenging if it's your first time because you need to think visually and temporally as opposed to depending on, say, text and UI controls to help you.
I guess these might be things any director is aware of and focusing on, but obviously as a UI designer my experience isn't necessarily in that area. Here are some things we tried to get right (bear in mind it was a video about our entire product):
- Keep it high level. Rather than spending a lot of time talking about details, you want to give your audience an alternative way to introduce themselves to your product. So talk about the same stuff you talk about in the copy on your product page. That includes the product pitch, who you are, why you made it, etc.
- Don't talk too much. Let the video do the talking, since that's the point of the medium. Highlight some things here and there by narrating, but allow the video to explain itself. This means you need to figure out how to highlight features of your product in such a way that they speak for themselves. This was really hard for us since our product is technically complex.
- Train your voice or hire a voice actor. For our video I did the narration because I have a British accent and all my colleagues sound like typical Dutchmen-trying-to-speak-English. I learned a lot doing the narration because it turns out that even if you're an animated speaker normally or when doing presentations, narrating a video somehow turns you into a monotonous robot. So you need to learn the script and iterate on it until you don't drone it out. No one wants to listen to a nasal voice boringly listing off product features.
- Write a great script. Prepare for the video by writing down exactly what you're going to say, at what pacing, and when. Then sit down and do it over and over again until you feel comfortable (even if you plan to hire someone to do the eventual narration, it's good to know what the pacing is like yourself). If you can't write the script yourself, perhaps you should look into getting a writer involved, but be warned, as they might not be the best person to write about the product - you'll need to bring them up to speed on how best to represent it. Content strategists might be a good approach.
As for film editing, you really need to be in a quiet or sound-proofed room and get a decent microphone first or the quality of the video will suffer. We ended up with a bunch of static noise in the background that could have been circumvented by not using a laptop microphone. Beyond that we cut the script down to what it needed to be after several attempts rather than using video editing software to artificially modify it. I think that was a good approach because it made us focus on our message and pacing rather than just putting something in the video and expecting software to fix it.
Hope that helps.