How to Create Video Content on a Budget

At first you thought that creating a video was for the professionals or the wannabe YouTube stars. Now you start seeing videos everywhere, even on your competitors’ websites. Where are all these videos coming from? And who is creating them?

While you think of the options that are available to you, you start thinking of all the costs and time associated with a professional team providing you a set of videos or at least one. But you don’t have time, let alone money, for that.

frustrated businessmanYou needed a video out yesterday or last month to be ahead of the competition. So where else can you turn? There are smaller providers on sites such as Fiverr, but the low cost doesn’t make up for its hit or miss quality and occasional inaccurate estimated completion time. That means you have one option left – in house. In a panic, you start thinking of who on your team has had videography experience. There has to be someone, right?

If you find yourself in this scramble, you’re not alone. And thankfully there’s a way to create videos easily and with little cost. So let’s explore the steps to create a video without breaking the bank.


Planning: Gathering the basics

Before you even look to find a person in house to create video content for your website, you need to come up with an idea for your video. No matter how great the person is who can create videos, they might not completely understand the topic that you’re wanting your video to be about. You might go through a long, drawn out back-and-forth conversation of what’s wrong and what’s right with the video draft. So lessen that problem before it happens!

Gathering-ideasOnce you figure out what topic you want your video to be about, you then need to clarify to the video creator how long you want the video to be and what format you want your video to be in. If you want a long video to begin with, know in advance that it will take a lot of man hours planning and editing. So if your budget doesn’t allow for hundreds of hours of work, try to keep your video in between 60-90 seconds. Studies show that a minute to a minute and a half is enough time to capture your target audience without boring them or leaving them with too many questions.

Next, write down the preferred format of the video. Each have their pros and cons, so depending on what resources you have and who your audience is will determine what’s best for you. Examples of video formats include

–Partly animated
–Complete animation
–Still photos and video


Planning: Time to write/draw your thoughts out

Now that you know what your topic is, how long your video will be, and what format you will use for your video, it’s time to put your ideas on paper.

The first step to planning is creating a style guide or design cheat sheet where you’ll list out all the restrictions visually for the video creator, letting that person know the fonts, colors, background, tone, and overall feel of the video. Typically you’ll want to use the same hex codes and fonts that are in your company logo and on your website. Even though you probably aren’t going to be putting these final touches on the video, it helps you to stay focused on the story you want to convey without backtracking because the font was changed and now gives a different feel to the viewer. No distractions or random ideas will be thrown into the video just because you already have limitations for style.

With the design guidelines in hand, it’s now time to create a story board. If you’re unfamiliar with a story board, it’s basically a piece of paper with empty squares (or rectangles) for each slide or scene of your video. Visually displaying the progress of the video will help whoever creates it.

Last but not least, if you have an animated video especially, it’s good to have a timeline for completion included with your storyboard. That way you can be updated on the progress of the video and know how it looks. You don’t want to wait four weeks for a video you hate, so communicate with the designer and request samples of the work in progress.


Planning: Choosing your video creator and editor

With a budget, it’s best to look internally to see if anyone on your team can create a video for you or has had experience creating videos. Even if none of your co-workers have had video experience but one volunteers for the job, there are some beginner-friendly tools out there. So let’s go through some of the video editors to choose from.

  • Sparkol – For about $20/month, you get a pretty impressive whiteboard animation tool that makes it look like you’re drawing images and writing text on the screen. And it’s all done using one of the hand options from the program. You can pick a type of hand (or none at all) and you can even have your own shown on the screen! In addition, there are many options for background music and images, and you can upload your own images, fonts, and more with Sparkol. However, some of the downfalls of this video tool is that the overall interface is not very intuitive and there are not bulk edits/actions. Each image, line of text, transformation has to be done individually. If you’ve ever used Prezi, it’s similar in functionality. Also, you will have to adjust your voiceover in another program to sync with your animation. Sparkol doesn’t allow you to do that within the program. You add the audio and that’s it. So use tools such as Audacity to fix your audio needs. If you’ve never used a tool like Sparkol before, it might take four times longer than you expect.So for beginners, a 1.5-2 minute video would probably take about 10-12 hours.


  • Adobe Premiere Pro – From a free trial to a monthly subscription to hundreds of dollars for the full Adobe Suite, Adobe Premiere Pro is a great solution for more experienced video editors who are either cranking out a lot of videos or just adobe-premier-proa few during the free trial period. If you’ve never used any other video editing program before, you’re going to have a hard time with Premiere Pro. It’s not as hard as Adobe Flash, but there’s still quite a bit of a learning curve. If you want to develop your skills using this program, look for some tutorials on YouTube or Lynda. So if you’re a more experienced editor or want a challenge, look to Adobe for a wonderful editing program that can have multiple audio and video tracks to produce a professional looking product.A 1.5-2 minute video would probably take up to 30 hours for beginners.


  • Adobe Flash Pro – From a free trial to a monthly subscription to hundreds of dollars for the full Adobe Suite, Adobe Flash Pro is a great solution for more experienced and professionally trained video editors. While this program is amazing for animation, don’t give an inexperienced video editor this tool to use. That person will be crying at his or her Flash-Prodesk within the first few hours of trying to figure out the program.Only consider using this product for a highly experienced animator. I say this because someone who knows his or her way around Flash won’t make the mistake of having multiple frame sizes within a video, will know how many frames per second is best for your video, and will be able to navigate this not-so-intuitive program.So if you’re a beginner, look at 50-100 hours for a 1.5-2 minute video.


  • Moviemaker/iMovie – Moviemaker (Windows) and iMovie (Mac) are two video editors that are best for news-type packages (with interviews, b-roll, and photos) as well as videos that have static images and slides with a voice over.Each year these programs have more and more capabilities, yet they are not quite Final Cut Pro level. Still, these programs get the imoviejob done. You can transition and include voiceovers. You can slow down the audio and add text to the video.For programs that are already installed on your computer, both are very user friendly and intuitive. There aren’t too many questions for beginners as to how to do certain things. And you don’t need an audio editor because all audio edits can be done through these programs. You just might have to upload the same file multiple times for individual snippets of a record, but that’s a downfall that most can live with.Beginners, look at about 6-8 hours max for a 1.5-2 minute video.


Creating: Making the video

Making-the-videoWith all of the planning done, it’s now time to actually create the video. Handing over all these items to your trusted videographer, you might think it’s time to just sit back and relax. In reality, it’s the opposite. You need to have a time set with your video designer to explain all the items included in the planning steps above. Engage with the designer, and if you’re doing a non-animated presentation, consider talking to the other people who are involved with this project, such as the photographers and interviewees for testimonials. Sometimes not everything is passed to each individual involved in the video project, which could result in an unwanted variation of the video. So clear up any questions that these people have either in person or on the phone during any part of the video making process.

Occasionally, you might have to revise your story board and step backwards a few steps, but with clear communication, it should be a breeze.

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ashley monismith
Ashley Monismith
Ashley Monismith is a client strategist at Bay Leaf Digital, where she helps SaaS companies achieve and surpass their lead generation and brand awareness goals. In her free time, you can find Ashley hiking on nearby trails with her dog and working on various sustainability projects within her community.
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