So you want to launch a Kickstarter, but you’re not sure if it’s worth the risk. On the one hand, you’ve heard tempting success stories—but you’ve also heard that many Kickstarters spend $10k to $50k (or more!) for professionally-produced videos. You hesitate to plunk down thousands of dollars on a video for a project that might not get funded. So the question is: can you create a video yourself that is good enough to get traction and get funded?
This is the position I found myself in two months ago, when I was thinking of doing a Kickstarter. I figured I could shoot the video on my iPhone 7 and edit in iMovie. The problem was, I knew I needed to add some special effects to the video, so that it would stand out from all of the I-just-stood-in-front-of-a-camera-so-please-support-my-campaign videos. Kickstarters with these cookie-cutter videos never get press coverage, which makes it much harder for them to get funded.
Then I realized that creative use of Keynote could be my saving grace. Though Keynote’s primary purpose is creating slide decks, its video import and export features—which support very high resolutions—mean that it can also serve as a budget-friendly video effects suite.
In the end, I didn’t spend a dime on video editing, my project got domestic and international press coverage (BBC, Fast Company, Quartz, Radio Canada, and Bloomberg), and my Kickstarter was 120% funded. Success!
Here’s the basic gist of how Keynote fits into the video editing workflow:
1: Import video into a Keynote presentation
2: Add whatever text, animations, or popups that you want on top of the video
3: Export your presentation to a video file, which you then insert into your video editor
Using these three steps, I was able to manipulate the aspect ratio of my videos, apply dynamic color filters to my shots, mask videos with custom shapes, arrange multiple videos side-by-side, and add various animations on and around the video.
Since I already had Keynote (which comes free with some Macs, and is available for $20) and knew how to use it, I saved a lot of time and money.
My Kickstarter was about filter bubbles, so one of the things I wanted to be able to do was to present two videos, running side-by-side, and have them appear encapsulated in red and blue bubbles. This required several techniques:
1: Video Masking
You can create a ‘mask’ and position it on top of a video, so that only part of the video is visible. I wanted an oblong bubble shape, and I created this using Keynote’s ‘Draw With Pen’ shape builder. I built the top half of the mask, and then copied and flipped it to make the bottom half. Then I positioned the mask (I recommend “grouping” the two halves to make this easier) on top of my video. You can see what this looks like below, along with a tint I applied to each video using a semi-transparent layer on top of the videos:
2: Adding Effects over video
I also wanted to add effects on top of the video. In Keynote, this is super easy. Just build in new images or text in the same was you would for a slideshow. To arrange the timing, set your video to auto-play after transition, and then specify the number of seconds (you can use .1-second increments) before each new item appears. I found that the “Pop” effect worked nicely for my purposes. Here are several images popping over my video, followed by a darkening of the transparent layers (it looks like the opacity is increased, but actually I’m just fading in additional red and blue layers):
3: Effects with images
You can also make images powerful and interactive using Keynote. In the example below, I slid my logo across an image and simultaneously removed (via the Wipe build-out) a color gradient mask. It took a couple minutes to get the timing just right, but in the end it gives a custom effect that could never be accomplished in iMovie.
4: Splicing in product mockups
Of course, I also wanted to show what my Kickstarter product was going to look like, and this was super easy in Keynote. I used an image of an iPhone and built in animations on top of the image to show how the app would look and operate.
Once you’ve finished your presentation, choose Export → Quicktime. Select Custom for the format, and you’ll be given several options. For resolution, I recommend 1920 x 1080. For Compression Type, don’t use H.264, which is heavily compressed and therefore not good to use in the middle of your workflow. Since you’ll be dropping your exported video into iMovie or other editing software, you’ll want to choose one of the less-compressed formats (I used Apple ProRes 422).
On my 2013 MacBook Air, it took a minute or two to export the video. If you have a faster machine, it’ll take even less time!
If you have an underpowered laptop like I do, I’d recommend importing low-res video so that you can get your timing down and elements in place. If you use super high-res video (like 4k shot on an iPhone), Keynote may stutter during playback—which makes it hard to see whether your animation timing is right. I found this was especially the case when I had several 4k videos playing side-by-side. Using low-res versions made it possible to get the timing figured out, at which point I substituted the 4k video and exported the final version.
Don’t have access to an audio recording studio? You can still get pretty decent audio if you record in a closet (where all the hanging clothes will muffle the reflected sound that causes echoes).
Take things to the next level by creating a homemade ‘pop filter’ out of pantyhose and a clothes hanger. For the uninitiated, pop filters are the circular mesh gadgets you see in professional recording studios, sitting right in front of the microphone. Pop filters prevent hissing S’s and popping P’s by dampening the rush of air that hits the microphone when you say certain words (e.g., “snap,” “crackle,” and “pop”).
I made my pop filter out of my toddler’s old tights, stretched over a wire hanger. I held this in front of my iPhone and recorded using the Voice Recorder app. As you can hear from the resulting video, it’s not professional-sounding audio—but it doesn’t have the pops and hisses that are the hallmark of a low-end recording.
I spent hours uploading a 1080p version of my video to the Kickstarter website. I later learned that this was a big waste of time, since they downscale everything to 480p. You can save a chunk time by uploading a 100 MB file instead of a 2 GB file.
Of course, you should still put the high-res version on your own website—this was the main source of direct traffic for our Kickstarter, since most press coverage links there instead of to the crowdfunding page directly.
The button to submit your campaign for review says that you should allow up to three days for approval. Be aware that this can happen immediately, as it did for us. I have no idea what factors trigger extended review, but it’s probably a combination of (1) the amount you’re seeking to raise and (2) whether you’ve verified your identity via Facebook or with banking credentials. Not video-related, but an interesting FYI!
Before and during your campaign, you can edit pretty much anything about your page. But the instant your campaign ends, your page gets frozen. You can add some additional info, but you can’t change any of the existing content (description, video, images, press links). Be sure you make any necessary changes before the deadline!
Not all of my adventures in frugal kickstarterdom ended happily. One important limitation I discovered was that I could not record voiceovers (in my makeshift ‘recording studio’) to substitute for the video I shot of myself outdoors. I had been hoping to use voiceovers to get consistent audio throughout, and I’d seen professionals use voiceovers to accomplish this. As it turns out, iMovie does not support very granular audio synching, which is necessary to ensure that the audio is properly synched with the video. I spent a bit of time trying to get this technique to work, but ultimately I gave up on it.
Instead, I used the original audio from my outdoor shoot, and just cranked up the “reduce background noise” setting in iMovie. The resulting vocals still sound a bit different from the audio recorded in my “recording studio,” but once I added in background music (care of Audio Jungle—highly recommended), it wasn’t a huge deal.
Here’s the full video, so you can see how these pieces came together:
If you have other #protips to share for building a successful Kickstarter campaign on the cheap, please tweet them to @NickLum, or share them on this Hacker News discussion thread!
Nick Lum is the creator of Read Across The Aisle and the founder of BeeLine Reader. He has won social impact entrepreneurship awards from Stanford University and The Tech Museum of Innovation.