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May 1, 2012 at 7:30pm

How to Make Your Own Explainer Video

First things first, the result of my DIY efforts…

Explainer videos are awesome. They show and tell the most important parts of your app in about a minute or two, but they are costly (for good reason) from the pros. Since our tiny, two-person bootstrapped startup couldn’t afford the $3,000 to $20,000 price tag of a QUALITY explainer video, we chose to DIY and that’s where this tutorial comes in.

Now I’m no genius, I can’t be credited with being the first to think about using Keynote for video. I just happen to be one willing to pass on the lessons I learned in a detailed how-to.

Hope it’s useful.

P.S. Include the link to your own DIY explainers, I want to see how awesome they all end up.

Estimated Time: 24-48+ hours (in hours not days…yea that long)
Estimated Cost: ~$300.00

Time Breakdown:

  • Research - 3 hours
  • Script - 2 hours
  • Storyboard - 2 hours
  • Voiceover - 15 minutes (outsourced)
  • Graphics - 4 hours
  • Sound Effects - 2 hours
  • Keynote Creation/Animation - 4 hours
  • Screenflow Screencast/Video Editing - 7 hours
  • Upload to sites - 20 minutes
  • Admiration - 1 hour (oh come on…you know you do it too!)

Cost Breakdown: $300.00

  • Voiceover - $100.00
  • Screenflow - $95.00
  • Stock graphics - $50.00
  • Sound Effects and Music - $20.00
  • Keynote - $20.00

Tools Used:


  1. Research.
  2. Watch and rewatch professionally made explainer videos. I watched about 50 videos (and even got distracted a bit discovering new apps and services). Remember to take notes.
What to pay attention to in the videos:
  1. Tone used
  2. Transitions used
  3. Art style
  4. Script
  5. Call to actions
Save the links of the videos you liked. You will need them later for reference, trust me. Write your script.
  1. After watching so many videos I found a common template:
  2. Describe the pain point
  3. Description of your product
  4. Feature set explained in a natural, solution based way
  5. Benefits of using your product
  6. Call to action
Time the script. Make sure you write the script for the length of the video you desire. Want a :60 video, write a :60 script. It will save you some time. Make the decision now to choose a male or female voice.
  1. When you read the script, imagine the voice that will be used in the video. Consider the voice your audience would relate to most. For instance, if Pinterest were to make a video my guess is that they would choose a female voice.
  2. Awesome reads:
  1. Storyboarding is no joke if you do it right. This is the step you actually want to spend a few hours since every single detail of your video should be handled here. Besides even with everything storyboarded, something will go wrong or not as planned. Remember to: remain calm, think creatively, and stay nimble ;).
  2. Here is everything I included in my storyboard:
  3. Specific animations to match the script
  4. Transitions between scenes
  5. Sound effects per scene
Voiceover time.
  1. DIY - Consider using your own voice (or a partner’s voice). Savings about $100-$200
  2. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel here, if you’re interested in doing your own voiceover, this is the tutorial to do it on the cheap:
Professional voice - Since I despise everything about my own voice I chose the pro route with no regrets. The voice professional I used was super awesome and had a high quality mp3 sent over my way the same day.
  1. Professional voiceovers -  (I used Zack Taylor)
Make your graphics.
  1. DIY
  2. If you’re really creative or have a good idea of what art you want or just don’t have the budget for stock illustrations you can DIY your graphics. Using a vector based program is necessary here so you can scale your images for use in the video.
  3. Vector apps:
  4. Desktop/Web:
  5. Inkscape
  6. Adobe Illustrator
  7. Sketch
  8. Skitch
  1. neu.Draw
  2. Inkpad
  3. iDesign
  4. Touchdraw
Stock illustrations
  1. Save yourself additional time and find stock illustrations that you can put together to get your message across. I used a total of three different stock illustration sets. I wanted more, probably needed more, but just wanted to keep it simple. Buy what you need to get your point across.
  2. Once I purchased my stock sets I edited them to get them to animate. I opened the stock illustration sets in Inkscape and moved the arms, heads, mouths, etc. of my characters to help them come alive. It’s the most primitive animation I’m sure anyone has seen, but it worked with the style of our video.
  3. Stock photo and illustration resources:
Create your Keynote animation.
  1. Now it’s time to tell the story. Just open a blank white Keynote template, make sure the size is 1920x1080, and start. Yes that’s it.
  2. Be creative with your animations but stay in the bounds of your storyboard.
  3. My favorite animation was Magic Move, it helped me make my mouse clicks look real, when in fact it was just the image of a mouse icon moved with Magic Move!!!!
  4. Remember, mostly everything you will need will be in Inspector, trust me.
  5. Resources to help with Keynote:
  6. Magic Move -
  7. Graphics -
Download and/or create your sound effects.
  1. Refer to your storyboard, watch your keynote, take note of which sounds you need, and download them. This will take a while because there are lots of different sounds for the same thing and you need to find just the right one.
  2. Everything you can’t find online you have to make. Use the voiceover tips from above to do the sound effects and with a little love from Audacity and Garageband you can make any sound you want.
  3. Resources for sound effects:
  4. - Make sure you check licensing, most require attribution this could easily be handled by adding credits but I didn’t want to distract my viewer so I chose to purchase my sounds.
  5. - Most of the sounds I didn’t make came from here, like 90%. Easy, didn’t like the credit system, but I found a lot here.
Tip: Check Garageband for stock sounds before you purchase. I purchased a lot of sounds that were actually pre-installed or just a download away within Garageband. Download or create your soundtrack.
  1. Same deal from the sound effects. Just listen to them, play your animation with a few sound effects, and see what really matches the tone of your video.
  2. Resources for background music:
Record your Keynote presentation with screencasting software.
  1. Just launch your screencasting software, play your Keynote presentation, and  press record.
Edit your video and audio.
  1. Open your video editing software (I used Screenflow for both my screencasting and video editing needs).
  2. Add your recorded Keynote screencast, voiceover, sound effects, and background music.
  3. Now sync them. Make the sound effect, voiceover, and animation sound as if they were born together!
Export and Upload.
  1. Using Screenflow, it was simple to export to H.264 Best Quality for Web. Find out how to do the same with the editing software of your choice.
  2. Make sure to upload to YouTube, Vimeo, or any other web video hosting service of your choice.

You’re done and it just took 20+ hours, some good four letter words, and about $300 ;)


  1. Familiarity with your story - Helps you tell your story, sometimes I find it hard to describe my solution easily to prospects and this definitely helped.
  2. Learning Experience - You learned something new. I learned that I’m resourceful yet not patient enough to do these often ;). Again, a learning experience.
  3. Cost Savings - It’s simple math here. From $3K-$20K to $300 ENOUGH SAID.
  4. Cheap Changes - I wrote a longer script than I liked and got the voiceover to match. While editing I realized some of the information I wanted to include was too much for the video. The good news is, I was doing it myself and simply removed it. If I want to add it again, I simply do so. Quick, cheap changes. No need for pay someone else to do this for me.
  5. “Quick” Turnaround - The average turnaround for a professional is about 4-6 weeks, you can pull it off in a few days. This is because you are your only client. This is a huge benefit if you are like me and wait until the last minute to request the video because you didn’t realize how long they took to produce.


  1. TIME - There is a reason the pros charge so much and they deserve it. Even the little animation I did do in the easy to use Keynote took hours. I would consider how much my time was worth BEFORE getting into this project. It’s not cheaper if you miss an opportunity to go to an event or meet a contact that’s worth more.
  2. Quality - This one is up for grabs. Your video may or may not be better than a pro’s version. Some pros aren’t as good as others obviously. Just keep in mind the high quality a lot of pros will be able provide.


  1. Use the most powerful computer you can find. Things will move a lot faster if you have a mega computer like my developing partner Patrick has. My 5 year old black Macbook couldn’t handle too much Screenflow and Keynote action at the same time, so I sent my Keynote file to Patrick to record and his Macbook Pro made quick work of it.
  2. Think twice before DIYing. Yes, I said it. DIY explainer videos should be reserved for the broke and bored! I think an entrepreneur, especially launching a startup, can do other things that have a better ROI…you know things like GETTING CUSTOMERS.
  3. Plan ahead. If you are considering it and still have a few week lead time before you need it, try it. If you don’t like it, shoot over an email to the pros.
  4. Don’t over animate. I did this and the video editing took longer than I wanted. Animating more than necessary forced me to need more sound effects, better transitions, and it was harder to make the voiceover and animation stay in sync.
  5. Not everyone will agree, but I would try to avoid using screenshots of your actual product unless necessary, especially for startups. Your video will most likely outlive the look of your product. Try to keep your video as timeless as possible to avoid updates.
  6. Bonus: Obviously, someone needs to develop an app that lets you create your own explainer type videos. It would have stock graphics, sound effects, and music pulled in from other stock websites generating affiliate income, have an awesome storyboarding feature, and make it dead simple to edit video and audio together. I’m just saying ;)

Alternative methods:

  • Typevideos - Takes text, animates it, and allows voice to be added. Simple, clean, cheap. 
  • Animato - Takes photos and does pretty things with them. I think this would be good for screenshot based explainers.
  • Go Animate - Professional quality animation video for business
  • Good ole’ Adobe After Effects - Honestly, if you know how to use this…why are you here, lol.


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