I have been a total fan of Andrew’s interviews for over 4 years now and have probably watched over 50 of them.
Many of the things I know today about running a business, marketing, and executing your vision successfully have come from listening to his one hour long interviews.
Before the interview, Andrew and I talked for over 30mins trying to figure out how to best tell my story.
I had sent him an email with over 20 topics that we could discuss, from how I miserably failed on my first startup Pointkit.com to how I have managed to meet many interesting people over the years by just reaching to them.
First we were going to go the route of how to avoid the mistakes I did when I starting a company.
Then we considered talking about hustling to get what you want, but nothing seemed to be juicy enough to keep Andrew’s audience entertained for an hour.
Finally I said: “Andrew, I really want to provide value to your audience so let’s talk about what I know, which is producing videos for products.”
Andrew loved the idea, envisioned the whole interview storyline in his head and here is the result. Enjoy!
Thanks a million to Alexis Ohanian and Sebastian Marshall for helping me get this interview.
Both of you are remarkable people and doing great things for this world.
Alexis through his great uncorporation Breadpig.com (see the video I did for Breadpig HERE).
Sebastian with his fantastic blog on winning and strategy at sebastianmarshall.com
Here is the complete interview transcript courtesy of the good folks at SpeechPad.com:
Andrew: Hey everyone, it’s Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. How do you create persuasive video? More and more I’m finding that if I create a sales page online, people ignore all the text on the page and they go right to the video. I see the stats and I know exactly where they’re going. At the end of the video, based on what they saw, they decide whether to buy from me or to move on. So I want to learn and I want you to learn along with me how we can create persuasive videos since that’s the way the world is taking in our information. To learn how to do that, I invited Miguel Hernandez of Grumo Media. Miguel, how did I do with the pronunciation?
Miguel: Very good.
Andrew: Grumo Media. He’s the guy who Ashton Kutcher hired to create a video for his foundation. He’s the guy creating explainer videos for Y Combinator companies. He’s the guy that many people in my audience have referred me to and suggested that I interview here. So, Miguel, welcome to Mixergy and thanks for helping us out.
Miguel: It’s a pleasure to be here.
Andrew: All right. Hey, how did you get to meet Ashton Kutcher?
Miguel: It’s a little bit of a process. I did a video for Hipmunk.com, a flight search company that is actually a Y Combinator company and one of the, not co-founders, but the marketing principal, his name is Alexis Ohanian. I don’t know if I’m saying that right.
Andrew: Alexis Ohanian. You teach me the Spanish. I’ll teach you the English pronunciations. Alexis Ohanian, the guy who founded Reddit and now is helping with Hipmunk.
Miguel: Exactly. He’s the marketing principal. I sent that through their support site and said, “You know what? I created this little video as a spec video because I really love your site, your product. Let me know if you like it.”
It turns out that Alexis really liked it to the point that he said, “You know what, Miguel? As a thank you, I’m going to introduce you to everybody that I know who could possibly need a video like this.”
So I did more videos for other companies, other Y Combinator companies like The Fridge, he’s actually got a little non-profit organization called Breadpig and I did a video for that as well. My last video was for PadMapper, which is kind of like Hipmunk for apartment search. So it’s basically got a nice interface that crawls all the major apartment search listings, like Craigslist and some other apartment services and it’s a visual interface [interference] can see where all the apartments are and I did an animation for that. It turns out that somehow Ashton Kutcher really liked that and he tweeted saying, “This is probably the best video I’ve ever seen as an explanatory video.” And boom, after that I was able to get in contact with Ashton Kutcher, actually, thanks to Alexis who somehow knows him.
I think one of the reasons why is because Ashton Kutcher, he is an investor in several startups in Silicon Valley, so he’s very much into the startup world. He saw this video and he thought, well, this is awesome. He tweeted it to his six million followers, and suddenly I got quite a bit of attention. What happened is that Alex introduced me to him and I said, “You know what, Ashton? Since you really liked my video, if there’s any good cause that you want me to create a video for, I’m open.”
And he said, “You know what? I’m doing a campaign for, it’s called Real Men Don’t Buy Girls for the Demi and Ashton Foundation.” He wants to create awareness about this big issue in the world, especially in the United States, the fact that a lot of men are paying for girls . . .
Andrew: For what?
Miguel: . . . for sex.
Andrew: Oh, really. Okay.
Miguel: Yeah, it’s a big issue. So they’re really trying to bring awareness. There’s a big campaign coming in April, actually, and there’s a big video component to it. Ashton said, “Miguel, I would really like to have an animation component to this. If there’s something you can do, let me know.”
I said, “For sure,” and he put me in touch with his foundation. Right now I’ve got four scripts that he sent me he really liked that he would like me to animate. We chose one and now I’m going to be producing one of those animations for his foundation. Really good news for me and hopefully I can make a great video for this great cause.
Andrew: As a result of these videos, you’re getting to meet people who I can’t meet here even though I’ve been doing videos for forever. Mark Cuban, Ron Conway — who else do I have here? Jessica Mah. I happen to know Jessica Mah.
Miguel: I was talking to Jessica Mah two days ago.
Andrew: Yeah, so you’re getting to meet a lot of people. You’re the guy, apparently, to go to when it comes to explainer videos. Before I get into the how-to’s of it, if you don’t mind me embarrassing you maybe a little bit, you showed me earlier, you have a compact from your wife, your wife’s makeup kit on your desk. Can you show the audience the green screen and the setup that you use? Just use that compact to reflect what’s going on behind the camera so they can see.
Miguel: Oh, okay. If you want to really see a lean startup, look at Grumo Media. Grumo Media headquarters is my 750 square apartment in Vancouver, British Columbia. I don’t know if you can see the green screen. Let me pull this so you can see.
Andrew: Okay. Angling up the camera. For people that are listening to the MP3, we’re now seeing his computer screen, still his computer screen. Now we’re seeing me. Ah, there it is, the green screen behind him and a big light and a chair. So that’s basically what you use, a camera, a big green screen and there’s the rest of your apartment.
Miguel: It’s a disaster. My wife is going to kill me after this. Hey, you know, this is true lean startup world right here.
Andrew: I’m going to ask you later about how much you paid for that software, not the software, but for the green screen and so on. The reason I wanted you to show it now though is I wanted people to see that you’re not using the most sophisticated Hollywood equipment. You’re using stuff that anyone can buy. As you told me earlier, you bought your stuff off of Craigslist. It’s pretty accessible stuff. So let’s go into how people can do this. The first thing I’d like to know is what they’re doing wrong. How does the average person create a video explaining their product or what they’re trying to sell and why is that wrong?
Miguel: The typical startup guy creates an application. They’re like, I’m going to take over the world with this thing. I don’t have enough budget because I’m a startup to go and hire a big Hollywood studio or a big ad agency to shoot a video. They’re like, “Okay, I’m going to do it myself.” So they get, maybe they probably get Camtasia or they get, for Mac, I think you have iShowU. These are screen-recording software. Basically what they do, and it makes sense, you record your screen. You record how your product works and you go, okay, this is how you sign up, this is how everything goes.
Basically, most of the time, it’s the actual founder or the CEO that is doing this to promote their company and this is great, you know? But there’s a little issue with that is that that’s not their forte. They’re programmers. They’re people that code all day long. I don’t think they have the skills to actually create a video that people are going to want to watch. So what happens is that you end up with a three to five minute video of them clicking and showing you things with their voice. Maybe you hear a trucking going by — vrrrrr. Nobody’s going to watch that.
I mean, really, in today’s world, you have like 10 to 15 seconds to catch somebody’s attention. If you have a boring video, it doesn’t matter how much love you put into it, they’re going to leave your website. Right? That’s what people are doing wrong today. They think they can save money by doing them themselves, and they may be hurting their business because they’re boring people. A video is worth a lot more than text, but only if it’s a good video, in my opinion.
Andrew: Okay. Is it just the time? Is it just that they tend to go long — two, three, four sometimes five to seven minutes? Or is it a bigger problem than that? Is it that or is it that showing a founder clicking on his website, taking people for a tour through his product, that that alone is boring? Or is it the time that’s boring?
Miguel: It’s a combination. At the end of the day, to create something that people want to watch, this is what I always say: There has to be a little story. So if you starting saying, “Hello, my name is Miguel Hernandez. I’m the founder of this awesome startup. Let’s go in and start clicking here and there.” How can I relate to that? All right. Good for you that you’ve got a great awesome software. Let’s go back and look at something else. What I say is that, at the end of the day, they’re missing a little story. This is what I do at Grumo and what people that do videos like this try to do is create a story that people can relate to. It’s like an elevator pitch, but it’s a visual elevator pitch. They’re missing the ability to tell a little story that people can relate to.
What is the problem that you’re trying to solve, number one. Oh, okay. That makes sense. Second, how are you solving that problem? Okay, that makes sense. Third, what do I do to actually sign up for your site? Okay, boom. So you’ve got a little three act little story that makes sense that people can relate to and that is going to be way more effective than you just going clicking here and there and filling forms. It’s not as effective.
Andrew: I had the founder of Hipmunk on here. Hipmunk is an online search engine. If you at the end of that interview said, “Andrew, show people in a video how that site works or create a video for the home page of Hipmunk,” what I might do is say, “This is Hipmunk. Watch me type in a trip from New York to Los Angeles. These are the results that I get. Now I click and I buy and so on.” That’s what the average person would do.
Miguel: Not only that, that’s what people did before. If you go to YouTube and type Hipmunk, there’s a bunch of videos of people that before have done exactly that, two to three minute videos.
Andrew: So it’s not that uncommon and I’m not an idiot for coming up with that approach. Others have done it too. You took a different direction. Can you describe it and then we’ll understand why that’s a better direction. What’s the direction that you took?
Miguel: For Hipmunk or for . . .
Andrew: For Hipmunk. Can you describe what was going on in the Hipmunk video that you created?
Miguel: Okay. So Hipmunk was a spec video I did for them. What happens is that, okay, first of all, I think what is the problem they’re trying to solve? Okay, flight search. There’s tons of companies that do flight search, but what they’re trying to do is make it a lot easier. Now, how can I make somebody identify with that problem? So you have to pick a concrete example. and I don’t want to do advertising here, but this is something that comes from this book. It’s not something I invented.
Andrew: You’re holding up a book called “Made to Stick” about how ideas stick in people’s heads.
Miguel: Again, a lot of the things I’ve learned come from people that have done a lot of research. Basically, one of the things they say is you have to be simple and you have to be concrete and you have to be emotional and you have to tell a story. So let’s put all these ideas into how can I tell the best possible story in the least amount of time for a company called Hipmunk that does flight search.
All right. So what I did is like, okay, imagine a very typical scenario. You have a girlfriend across the country and you want to visit her. Okay, what are you going to do? You need to get plane ticket. Okay, well, typically the process would be you go through a bunch of pages that are boring and ugly and try to figure out what’s the best ticket, or you go to Hipmunk.com, which has an amazing interface that allows you to see all the flights in just one page. Suddenly, you solved the problem that the person had which was how to get from A to B in the least amount of time and Hipmunk was the solution.
So that’s what I did, a little story where there is a guy that wants to meet his girlfriend, wants to fly there, goes through a lot of websites that don’t make sense, finally finds Hipmunk, makes a lot of sense, gets the ticket, gets together with the honey and they’re happily ever after. There you go. It’s like a typical Hollywood movie story right there. It makes sense. It’s simple. People can identify to that. People are going to watch and remember that.
Andrew: All right. Actually I’m wondering how we can test that because to me that makes a lot of sense, but when I’m sitting down with a creation that I worked so hard on, that my people slaved and coded and put up and it’s finally online, I think a story is belittling it. Shouldn’t I show all this great technology that we created? Shouldn’t I show people the Ajax that we have? Why is this story better than showing the clever way that my page refreshes as someone types in their search?
Miguel: You really have to understand your target market. If your target market are coders and stuff like that and all they do is want the details, okay, maybe you want to go into more detail. But I think most people that come to a new page, you have to assume that they don’t know anything about features or programming or technologies, Ajax or RSS feeds. They don’t know nothing. You have to dumb it down. A good example is if your little five-year-old daughter doesn’t understand it or you 80-year-old grandmother doesn’t understand it, there’s a problem there.
I think almost even fairly difficult, complex concepts can be dumbed down or explained in simple ways that anybody can understand. And another thing is, again, one of the rules from “Made to Stick” is keep it simple. The moment you start talking about technology, the moment you’re talking about how your software works underneath the hood, you’re losing people. They’re like, okay, that’s great, but what problem are you solving? That’s wonderful. You’ve got all these bells and whistles, but at the end of the day it’s like, how are these bells and whistles benefiting me? Is this going to be more secure? Is it going to be faster? Am I going to be able to solve the problem? Yes or no? I don’t care about the features. Those are great. Can you solve a problem? Yes, then okay, maybe I’m interested in your product.
Andrew: You said there are three elements here within the story. One is identification of the problem. Second is how your product solving that problem for the user. And then at the end you said something that I want to spend a little more time on, which is what to do next. You always have a call to action at the end of the video?
Miguel: Yeah. The call to action is very important. Sometimes, if you look at TV ads, we’ve all been exposed to TV ads for our entire lives and many times you see all this amazing imagery like helicopter shots, gorgeous women, and you’re like, all right, what are you selling? It was very nice to look at those girls, but I don’t understand what you’re selling because they’re lacking a call to action.
For big brands like big brands that we all know, you don’t need a call to action because you know what they are. But for startups that are starting and they don’t have, nobody knows them, you have to really tell the story and get them to go and click that “buy” button, get them to click that “subscribe” button at the end. That’s what really matters, right? Get more customers. Convert those visitors into paying customers, that’s the bottom line of a video, right?
So, for that, you have to tell them, this is what you do. I explained to you what I do. It’s wonderful. What do you do next? Go here, click the big orange button and subscribe to our website. But you have to tell them, right? They’re not going to guess it. So that’s what I do at the end of the video is either go to blahblahblah.com or subscribe to blahblahblah whatever and you end up with that. That’s the last image they have in their brain is like, okay, I know how to do this. I just have to do what they told me the last second of the video, right?
Andrew: I can see why Y Combinator companies love you, because Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator, when he was here said you have to have a very clear — I think he said a big red button that says “click here now.” Let people know — I just dropped my pen — exactly what to do next.
Okay. So now we understand why a story, the structure of a story, what happens at the end of a story. Let’s move to the next thing that I’d like to talk to you about, which is, what do you do with that? I would ordinarily sit and maybe write in a notepad what I would do, but you showed me that you storyboard. Can you show my audience how you storyboard, how you take an idea that’s in your head and lay it out? Are you allowed to show the storyboard that you just showed me in the pre-interview?
Miguel: Yeah, you won’t know what it is? So, here, the first thing you do, you write a script. Hopefully it follows all the rules that I told you about make it simple and having a call to action and a little story. Then, for every sentence of the story, especially if it’s voiceover driven, like most of my videos — so that means there’s somebody talking and explaining what’s going on — for every single sentence, there’s going to be a little image, cartoon, something happening. For every shot, there has to be, the shot is going to be represented in the storyboard. I don’t know if you can see it here. This is the way I do it. Can you see that?
Andrew: I see. Yeah. I’ve got enough of it to get a sense of it, right.
Miguel: Okay, so basically it’s like a letter-sized paper and I just divide it into six rectangles and I start doing little doodles on it, right? Every doodle represents a sentence on the voiceover. That’s the next step, that you create the storyboard.
Andrew: I think in television news they have a saying, something like, “See the dog, show the dog.” So whenever they talk about anything, they always want to have a picture to go along with it. Do you do the same thing here?
Andrew: If you say, “See John,” you want to show a picture of John and then if you say, “He has a girlfriend across the country,” you show me a picture of the map of the country and then the girlfriend on the other end?
Miguel: Yeah, exactly. It’s very powerful to associate sound, or the words, to an actual image that represents the actual sound because it just sticks more into your brain. There’s another very typical, you can see a lot of videos are like infographics, where what is being said is actually being written with what they call kinetic type or animated text. The fact that you’re hearing it and seeing it, it actually helps you to remember and the same with images, like in a storyboard. The fact that I’m saying something and I’m showing it to you is way more powerful than just seeing something and not hearing something or just hearing something and not seeing anything. So that’s what I am trying to accomplish with a storyboard.
Andrew: So everything that we say needs to have a picture. It almost seems a little bit like we really are dumbing it down for the audience. We can’t expect the audience to know that Jane is across the country, or to remember it, unless we show a picture of a map to let the audience know that it’s across the country and a picture of Jane to say, “This is Jane.” That’s what you’re telling me?
Miguel: Yeah, that’s exactly. Because, like I said, these companies, especially startups nobody knows, they cannot assume people are going to know what they’re about. So, like I said, if you’re a big brand, you can show anything. As long as you show your logo at the end they’re like, “Oh, okay, I know what they’re talking about. This is a company I know.” But if you’re new, you have to embed every single sentence into the brain. This is what we do.
It’s almost like you’re not calling your audience idiots. It’s just better for them. You’re making their life easier. What you’re doing for them is explaining in the most simple possible way what you’re doing. You’re not playing any mind games. You’re like, this is our value proposition. This is the simplest way I can explain it to you, and I’m adding a little bit of humor or quirkiness or a little bit of a story so at the end of the day, you understand what I’m talking about you know what my company’s about. You don’t have any questions. You’re like, “OK, that makes sense,” or whatever. I’m not confusing you. That’s why I make sure that every single sentence has a visual representation.
Andrew: All right. I saw, in preparation for this interview, a video where you were teaching how to record audio. We’ll get to the equipment that you talked about and the methodology you talked about in that video. One thing that stood out to me that’s relevant now is you said every sentence that you record needs to stand on its own so that you can cut it out or insert it into the video at a different point later on. So you create video the way that I might create text so that you can easily go back and instead of reshooting and re-editing the video, just go back and adjust a little bit and do small edits.
Andrew: I understand how that works in audio. What does that mean for video? Do you have to make any adjustments to the way that you storyboard it? Do you have to keep that in mind as you’re laying out your ideas, as you’re shooting it? Or is it not relevant at this stage?
Miguel: Well, yeah. When I’m doing the storyboards, first of all, the first thing, when we finalize the script . . . by the way, the most important thing is the script part. Once you finalize and agree on the script, that’s when you start animating. Doing changes after you animate, it can get very expensive because now you’ve got an animator that has committed to create a series of illustrations and put them into software and animate them, and if you change the script, that means the voiceover is going to change, the animation is going to change.
In terms of a storyboard, every frame represents a different sentence more or less. It’s very important to know, or explain to the animator, how the transition is going to happen from one frame to the other frame. So I usually explain that on the storyboard and it’s very easy for the animator to understand that, okay, from Frame A to Frame B, we’re going to connect them in a way that makes sense. I really like to make videos that are fluid. I don’t like to have hard cuts, so everything flows very smoothly.
In terms of, at the end of the day, what happens is the animator finishes the animation and then he gives it back to me and then maybe I do a little bit of tweaking, like you were saying, for audio where I maybe stretch the audio so the transition makes sense.
For example, if the voiceover artist says sentences too close to each other, I won’t have enough time to have a fluid transition. So maybe what I do is I separate the audio so it gives me enough time to have a little mini transition that is not forced by the audio, and then the whole video flows more smoothly. I don’t know if that answers your question, but that’s the process.
Andrew: Okay. It does answer it. I want to come back. I wrote some notes as you were talking to come back to this animator, what you pay for an animator, what we do if we don’t have an animator. But let’s go on to the tools. I know that a lot of people who are listening to this are just going to understand the ideas that you’re teaching and then they’ll go hire somebody to do it. But if they want to supervise it, or if they want to do it themselves or if they want to just understand the process that they’re paying for, I still want them to understand what the tools are that are involved. What software do you use to edit?
Miguel: Okay. The first thing is there are different things. There’s audio and there’s video, right? So if we talk about audio and you want to do your own audio, you want to record it yourself, I actually created a little video tutorial that teaches you how to record fairly high-quality audio with just an iPhone. You put a blanket on top of yourself and that actually blocks most of the background noise, and most of my videos actually have been done that way and nobody has complained.
Andrew: So just you under a blanket with the iPhone? You don’t need a special mic the way that I have here for these interviews. It’s just you and a microphone and, in fact, in many ways it’s better than the mic that I have here because you’re not picking up the door shutting and the rest of my office, like people hear sometimes my interviews in the background. You’re not picking up on trucks that are outside or sirens. In a lot of my interviews, I talk to entrepreneurs who are sitting in a big city with trucks and sirens and all kinds of people in the office moving around. This masks it because you’ve got a blanket on your head while you’re recording into your iPhone. It’s ridiculous to say it, but I’d much rather . . .
Miguel: It looks ridiculous. Trust me, when you see that video, you look like a fool but it does work, because, at the end of the day, you want clear audio and you have to block a lot of . . . people don’t realize that things that you may not notice, like the air conditioner or the fridge, they sound. You can hear them on the recording. But if you put just a blanket or if you go to a closet or something like that, the audio quality is going to improve considerably. Obviously, if you have more budget, go and hire a professional voiceover artist or get a sound studio, but that gets expensive really quickly, if you go that way.
Andrew: You know what? It’s funny, just doing these interviews, I am now so much more aware of noise. I had to look at ten offices before I picked this one office, and not because any of the other ones looked better or worse than this one, I should say. They all looked better than this office that I’m in, but they had like this little hum of an air conditioner that nobody would notice and some people would think is reassuring because it means there’s air conditioning. I couldn’t deal with it. For a video, I couldn’t even deal with the light with the window because the window means at certain times of the day it’s darker than others and I have to find a way to mask it. You are much more aware, once you start recording, of what’s going on around. I know that I can’t block out 100%, but at least this one little office blocks out a lot. What you’re saying, for smaller videos, makes a lot more sense. Just a regular blanket over your head, bring the one that you sleep with at home, record it and you’ve got it.
Miguel: That’s one way.
Andrew: Okay, so that’s recording the audio. What about the video?
Miguel: For the recording, my videos are animated videos, right? They’re not like carrying a camera around and meeting actual people. You need certain software. The first thing you’re going to need is to actually convert the storyboard. You’re going to have to convert this into actual digital graphics. You can use different software. What I usually use is Adobe Illustrator and basically, I convert what you see on the storyboard into actual digital or vector graphics. Once you’ve done the vector graphics — if you can do those yourself, you’re good enough, you can do it yourself, if not you can hire an illustrator to do them for you — you have to import that into an animation software.
There are two ways of doing this. You can either go the Flash way. Everybody knows what Flash is, right? Adobe Flash. So you import it into Flash and you animate it. Flash is good for some things, but I think it’s very limited if you want to do more complicated stuff. The de facto software for animation is called Adobe After Effects. Just go to the Adobe site and you can download a trial version if you want to. Basically, it’s a very complex, amazing piece of software. I would say 95% of the Hollywood movies have gone through the After Effects workflow some way or another because you can do amazing things with it.
Andrew: I want a simpler version, but give me an example of what could be done that’s stunning with After Effects. What could be done easily but really . . .
Miguel: I’ve got to mention this guy now that you say that. Imagine I want to put a big explosion, like a nuclear explosion, behind me and I explode into chunks, something like that and it looks really realistic. Well you’re like, how do you do that? There’s a way and most likely, you can do that with After Effects. There are many, many, many, many tricks that you can do to basically do anything that you see on the big movie screens with that piece of software. There are more things to it, especially if you go and buy a bunch of plug-ins. You can buy plug-ins that allow you to do more complex particle effects and smoke effects and blood spatters and whatever you want. For a simple animation, like what I do, the basic version of After Effects is way more than enough. Extremely powerful.
Andrew: Okay. Let’s bring it down to something simpler and more manageable for someone who’s newer. What about iMovie?
Miguel: With iMovie, you can do a bunch of stuff as well, but I’m not sure if you can do this type of animation with iMovie. iMovie is more for actual video, for recorded video, not so much to animate stuff. So if you want to edit video and don’t have a big budget, iMovie is a solution that is good for about 90% of the population. If you want to go a little bit beyond that with more complexity and ability to do faster transitions and color correction and stuff like that, you definitely have to go for Final Cut Express, which is the cheaper version of Final Cut Pro, which is an Apple product as well. That’s the de facto for editing nowadays videos like this.
Andrew: Let’s move on now to what if you can’t do this.
Miguel: If you cannot . . .
Andrew: Actually, I was going to say, before we get into what if you can’t do any of this yourself, let’s talk about the animators. You don’t animate yourself. You hire someone. Where do you get that person and what does it cost?
Miguel: Okay. So what happened is that when I started, I did my animation myself, but then suddenly I got lots of requests and I’m like there’s no way I can scale this if I don’t start hiring people. Luckily, there are tons of great animators out there. They’re usually called motion designers and most of them work with After Effects as well. So all I did is I put out an ad on Craigslist and another company called Motionographer.com — I can help you with that too, spell this out. Basically, I put an ad on the Internet and then lots of people got in contact with me, about, actually close to 50 people within a week.
I looked at every single reel to see if their style and their experience matched the type of animation I was doing, and then I rated them from one to five on a big spreadsheet to figure out which ones I was going to contact. Then all the people that were over three and a half or four on the average of everything that I measured, which was transitions, the ability to do illustrations, the love that they put, whether they were able to connect with an audience or not, I graded all of this and then I contacted those that had the best scores. Then I said, “You know what, this is what I’m doing.” I sent them the storyboard. I sent them the script. I sent them the voiceover. Can you do that? How long is it going to take you? How much are you going to charge me to do it?
Andrew: I’ve got to pause the story here and just be empathetical to the person who’s listening to me who’s saying, “This is too much.”
Andrew: They are going to be saying, “I’m not an animator. I’m a guy who created a web app or created some product that I’m selling online. Andrew’s telling me that video’s what I need to sell it, but if I start getting into the video business, I’m going to forget about the business that I’m here to try to support selling.” Let’s pause this and then I’m going to get back to that because I think this is still useful for people to hear, but let’s pause it and say this. What if you’re just someone who says, “I heard Miguel and Andrew talk. I want to go a step above just doing a screencast of my computer screen as I show off my software.” Can they, if they can’t do design, if they can’t do fancy animation, can they use pictures to describe it? Can they do something simpler? What do you recommend?
Miguel: Yeah, we talked about this and yes, they can use infographics. They can do like a little . . . they can buy stock photography. They can animate it. We were mentioning that they could go to Animoto.com, which they just actually revamped their website. It basically allows you to upload images, sound, and video and put it all together with a track. I think you can also do voiceover if you want to. So that’s like a more affordable way of creating a video. I don’t know how well you could create a video that makes sense for your company, but that’s a way. You can create videos with images. You can even record a PowerPoint presentation.
Again, it’s not going to have the same production value, but one of the things I was saying is that, at the end of the day, it’s not so much about the quality of the video, it’s about whether you’re telling a story that sticks, a story that makes sense. So I was saying, if this little pen can tell me a story that I can relate to, I’m going to listen to it and I may want to buy your product because I don’t care if it’s a low-budget pencil. I care the fact that it’s connected to me. So yeah, if you don’t have a lot of budget, but you really know or think that you can tell a story, you can present the problem that people can identify with and you can present a solution that is believable and then you have a strong call to action, whatever floats your boat. If you can do that with animated text, do it with animated text. If you can do it with images, do it with images. Obviously, it’s not going to look as professional as a video produced by a company like mine or a studio, but at least you’ll be able to have something that maybe works.
Andrew: Earlier, I said that television does something like, “Say dog, show dog.” If you say something, you want to show it on the screen. We also used the example of Hipmunk, with the story that you created for them. This is Jack. His girlfriend’s across the country. She’s Jane. We talked about how you can show with animation Jack’s picture, the picture of the continent of America, and then you show Jane on the other side of it. If you couldn’t animate and you had to show that on the screen as you said those three sentences — This is Jack. Jack’s girlfriend is across the country. Her name is Jane. How would you show that? How would I show it, considering I’m not an animator and the person listening to this segment of the interview, really squinting with his ears is not an animator. How would they show it?
Miguel: How do they show that?
Miguel: With video or with text or what?
Andrew: You tell me. They’re listening to you and they’re hearing the story is better than showing the software. . .
Miguel: If you cannot animate . . .
Andrew: . . . what do they do?
Miguel: Well, obviously, if they don’t have the ability to do this, they have to go and hire somebody. They can hire me, Grumo Media. There’s a lot of studios in the United States and some other countries that specialize in doing this. If you go to a big agency, to give you an idea, and this is something I wrote on my blog, is that big commercials that you see on TV that are 30 seconds long, the average that they cost to produce is anywhere from $300,000 to a million, or even more. The Super Bowl commercials you’ve seen, those cost a lot of money, and they’re 30 seconds long. Obviously, you’re not going to go to somebody like that, but it gives you an idea of the price that you’re talking about. It’s very expensive. If you go to a studio like me, then for a few thousand dollars, you can create something that is not a million times worse, that still can tell the story and is going to look professional. So that would be the next step. If you cannot afford to do it yourself, go hire somebody that knows what they’re doing.
Andrew: Here’s what I’ve seen in the direct marketing business. I love to study two groups of people online — the porn industry, because for a long time they were willing to try technology and they were willing to do things that the rest of the world wasn’t willing to do, and direct marketers, because direct marketers online are hustlers. They’ll come up with creative techniques to just try something and they don’t care about their reputation, so they could really be experimenters online.
What I see from the second group of people is they do either PowerPoint with text, so if they say a word, they show it on the screen and the video is just text on the screen. Every time they say a word, they show it on the screen, different font, they adjust that much, but not much more than that. Or they do bad stock photography because they’re just doing Google searches, they’re taking a picture and if they were to say, “This is Jack,” they’d show a picture of Jack, maybe a guy in a tie. “His girlfriend’s across the country,” they might show a globe. “His girlfriend’s name is Jane,” they would show another stock photography of Jane or some picture they stole off of Google Images. Is that enough, or am I kidding myself to say that that’s something my audience needs to consider?
Miguel: There are two different ideas of using images. If you’re doing a conference and you want to speak and you want to have a PowerPoint presentation, you don’t want . . .
Andrew: No, I mean for just selling online. I mean I want to explain what my product is so that people buy it or use it online. Either it’s a web app they want to use or maybe it’s a product I want to sell them, but I’m not going to show the product because you’re saying that that’s a little too boring. I’m going to tell a story that’s memorable and that has a finish that says, “Take this action.” Can I tell that story using stock photography in the way that I just described or maybe even text?
Miguel: You could. I haven’t tried, but I’m sure you could do it. At the end of the day, think about when you read a blog post that really . . . 37signal’s Jason Fried says, text or typography, I forget what it is, basically, if you can tell a story also with text that people can relate to and if you can engage them with that little story, then you may convert some of those visitors into actual paying customers. So at the end of the day, it’s your skill. It’s can you make the magic happen with just words? My opinion is that most people would rather watch a video because it’s something more passive — you just sit there and you watch and you get entertained — than read, because reading takes more effort, more brain cycles than just watching something simple. But yeah, you could use text, different images, it really depends.
Andrew: In the video, I would use text or stock photography as long . . . you’re telling me, over and over I’m hearing, in the pre-interview and now in this interview itself, the story is the word. If we leave people with nothing other than come up with a story, then you feel that we’ve won this battle and then the rest of it, they’ll figure out for themselves — what technology they need, how to structure it, who to pay, how to hire them and so on, right?
Miguel: Yeah. You need to tell a story that makes sense and that people can capture in a few seconds. If you’re able to do that, I’m sure you’ll be able to convert more people into paying customers. So, yeah. But the problem is that a lot of people cannot or don’t have the ability to tell their own story. I have the same problem. I was talking to a marketing guy the other day and he’s like, “I think I could tell the story of Grumo Media better than you because you are part of the system. You’re inside of it.”
So its’ hard to look from a different perspective and know how to tell your own story. That’s the problem. If you try to tell your own story, you may try to explain too many things. It’s easier if somebody comes from outside and looks at you and says, “Okay, this is what I’m seeing.”
Andrew: Gotcha. Right. Okay, fair point. But you did give me a framework that is at least helpful if I don’t have that person. Find the problem that you’re trying to solve. Tell a story of someone who has that problem. Insert your product as a solution. Show how it solves the problem. And then call to action at the end of that.
Okay. I asked you a question earlier about what it costs. What does it cost to hire an animator?
Miguel: The cost after taking the average of all the people that I’ve asked for quotes for — so that’s about 50 people — it’s about from $300 a day to $500 a day.
Andrew: And how many days does it take to animate a minute?
Miguel: The video takes about one to two weeks. It’s about . .
Andrew: One to two weeks!
Miguel: Yeah. It’s about one minute per week, something like that, of animation.
Andrew: So we’re talking about, how much? $500 a day you said, five days for one minute, that’s what? $2,500.
Miguel: Yeah, right there, just on the animator himself.
Andrew: So the Hipmunk video that you gave Hipmunk.com for free — I keep using their name over and over like they’re a sponsor here — the video you gave them for free would have cost $2,500 if you were to sell it to them, if they were to hire you. That doesn’t even include the creative work, the scripting.
Miguel: That’s a big chunk. I’m going to be very honest. I was charging $2,500 for the first videos, and I lost money because, you have to write the storyboard, you have to do the script, the storyboard, the voiceover, you have to manage the client and the animator. So if the animator’s making $2,500, what profit is there for me? There’s zero profit. So you have to charge more than $2,500 in order to be able to make a profit doing videos.
Andrew: You know what? Tell me if I’m a jerk here for pissing on your whole industry here, or tell me if you think I am because I don’t want to. I admire you and I admire what you’re doing, but I feel that that’s too expensive and I’ll tell you why. It’s not that the work you’re doing . . . if anything, you deserve more money for it. But here’s why it’s too expensive. When you’re launching a new product, you don’t know yet how to describe the product. You don’t know yet how to persuade people to buy it and to understand it. You need to keep playing with it. I would almost imagine that you’d have to create a new video every single week before you find aha the one video that works.
I’ll tell you what I’m basing that on. We learned text for years. We didn’t learn video production in elementary school, but we learned how to write in elementary school, and as adults we kept growing. When you create a landing page, the text on your page that you come up with on day one isn’t the perfect text. You have to cut it and edit and come back and A/B test it. And if we had to pay animators $2,500 for every one of these tests, it would stink. Isn’t there a simpler way to do it so that we can launch one today and another tomorrow and another the next day? What do you think?
Miguel: I totally agree with you. If you’re too early in your startup, the video is going to become obsolete within a week, even a month.
Andrew: So how do we create something that’s cheap and quick so that we can dispose of it the way we dispose of headlines through A/B testing?
Miguel: So then try to tell a story with you recording yourself telling the story, which a lot of people do. Then once you really know that this is what your product’s going to be, at least for one year, then go ahead and spend more money trying to produce something else. But let me tell you something. If I think your startup doesn’t have a value proposition or is not defined yet enough to warrant a video . . . the other day I turned down four entrepreneurs, really smart entrepreneurs. They came up with a great idea to me and I said, “You guys are too early for a video. You should spend this money developing the product, and once you develop this product, come back to me and I’ll think about doing a video for you.”
Because I said to them, “A week from now,” and knowing from my experiences as a web developer myself, “your idea is going to change and it’s going to change and it better change if you want to be able to succeed because it’s just the nature of startups.”
So if your idea’s too early, don’t think about spending too much money on making videos. Put that money towards developing your product and making sure that people actually want what you’re trying to build.
Andrew: But even if you get the perfect product, the perfect presentation takes just as much trial and error to get. But it sounds like what you’re saying is, “Hey guys, if you have a new product and you don’t yet know how to promote it, just get on camera, tell your story. It won’t be as effective. It won’t be as impressive production-wise, but you just keep telling your story in different ways until you find the version that works and then you lock it in by hiring someone to design it.”
Miguel: That is one way. The other thing is that, believe it or not, and somebody mentioned this the other day to me, a guy that I spoke to, he just raised $100,000 because he had an idea and he had a really good video. So the video acted as a trailer for a movie that was not produced and this happens a lot. A lot of producers, they create a trailer for a movie. They haven’t done the movie. They just create a little trailer, but that’s enough to get funding to produce the video. Today, I think, we’re in a little bit of a little bubble again in the startup community and the startup world. People with a great video, which is just a trailer for the startup can actually, it can help them to raise money because now they investor’s like, “I get it. I know why this is going to be successful.” So sometimes it’s warranted to spend a little bit of money to create a high-quality video that explains your idea because that may allow you to raise money. So there are two ways of approaching it.
Andrew: Okay. All right. Fair point. I see that point of view. When you were telling the trailer story, I thought you were going to go in a different direction. I thought what you were going to say is this. Sometimes, when you add a new feature, you just want to create a quick landing page for that feature and explain it in a video and then if it doesn’t work, if not enough people buy it, you don’t build it and if they do buy it then you do build it.
That’s another reason why I was saying there needs to be a cheaper way to do it. Now maybe this idea that I was talking about earlier with the stock photography is the way to do it. Maybe text is the way to do it. Maybe the audience has a whole other way to do it. Maybe you’ll have another way for me to do it. But I just want to put it out there that that’s a concern, that we need to be able to dispose of videos or edit videos almost as quickly as we can text.
One of the reasons that I can say that is, or that it’s important to me is I work with Wistia here on my site. Wistia’s phenomenal for showing me where I lose my audience’s interest. Like, if I do a one-minute video selling a product, Wistia will show me that’s the section that they rewound and they care a lot about, that’s the section that they just dropped out because they got bored by. I want to be able to go in — slam — just create a fix to that and I can’t go and hire somebody at $2,500 to create the video for it and wait another week before it gets back to me. I need it tomorrow and I need it quick so that I can approve it. I think I beat this to death.
Miguel, are you sick of being here on Mixergy? You’ve spent a lot of time here with the pre-interview with me and now listening to me batter you.
Miguel: I listen to most of your interviews. I love the stuff that you do.
Andrew: You know what? Most of them, and the ones where I don’t, what I’ve been thinking about is, I’ve got a couple here in mind where I wasn’t pushing enough. I let the speaker talk and I know I’m going to get complaints about it for the speaker and because I didn’t push a little bit, I didn’t bring the best out of my speaker.
Miguel: Push me. Push me virtually.
Andrew: I will. I appreciate you being open to it. In fact, we spent a lot of time in the pre-interview because there’s so much that you and I could have talked about and I wanted to make sure to bring something useful and hopefully we tapped it. Now here’s what I’ve got. We’ve got story telling. We’ve got the tools. We’ve got the way of using the tools. We got the storyboard we talked about. We talked about what happens if you have a designer, what happens if you don’t get a designer. One more thing, if someone where to hire your company, or a competitor of yours, what would it cost from zero to finished product, including the design, the edits, a couple of edits maybe and thinking through how to tell the story? What would that cost me?
Miguel: Anywhere from $5,000 a minute to $10,000 a minute. That’s pretty much. In fact, the pricing which I looked at some of my competitors, it goes the first minute is the most expensive minute, so it’s around $10,000, and the second minute, it drops down a little bit. I don’t think it scales indefinitely, because if you have half an hour, that’s not a demo video anymore. But most demo videos are between one and two minutes. So you’re talking, the average video, it’s anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 and obviously you can go sky’s the limit.
Andrew: All right. How about a couple of resources, maybe where people can learn about how to create videos? You were talking earlier about a guy who is . . .
Miguel: Oh. This guy, you’ve got to interview this guy because not only he’s a great speaker, he’s very good looking, and he is a great teacher. His website is called VideoCopilot.com and he teaches how to use After Effects to animate and to do special effects. He’s got close to 100 instructional videos, very detailed, with high quality where he takes you from the beginning to the end to create an amazing, astounding special effect. This guy, every time he releases a video about 100,000 to 200,000 people watch it within one or two weeks. It’s the best resource to learn how to animate, and actually I taught myself how to animate with that. It’s got to such degree that — his name is Andrew Kramer, he’s got the same name as you and his last name is Kramer — that he’s created kind of like a style. Sometimes when people get reels they’re like, “Oh, you learned from Andrew Kramer’s website.” VideoCopilot.com. Great resource to learn about After Effects.
Andrew: VideoCopilot.com. Is he a jerk like me and he charges for his videos, or does he give them out for free and be a nice guy?
Miguel: He’s very smart. He gives all the video tutorials for free. People I’m sure would be willing to pay for them because they’re quite amazing. But he sells and develops plug-ins that you can use to enhance After Effects. He sells those for anywhere from $75 to up to $200 apiece, so I’m sure he’s doing well.
Andrew: Okay. So if my audience wants to go over there, they can go and look at the videos all they want for free and learn for free. Have you bought any of his plug-ins?
Miguel: No, because, like I said, for my type of animation, I don’t need anything especially fancy. After Effects by itself is more than enough.
Andrew: All right. How about one resource on your website where people can go and find out more about how to create videos? The one about how to record audio, if anyone’s recording audio, it’s way long, way in-depth, but it’s useful if you’re recording audio. How do they find that blog post that you mentioned earlier?
Miguel: They have to go to GrumoMedia.com/blog or just go to Grumo Media and click on any of the boxes right there and you can go to “tuts” for tutorials. If you click on the “tuts” tab, then you get a couple of tutorials.
Andrew: Ah, gotcha. Okay.
Miguel: And one of them is called “How to Record Great Voiceover Audio With an iPhone” and then there’s one “How to Create an Awesome Video Demo” and “Step by Step Guide to Producing a Promo Video.”
Andrew: They can see the Hipmunk video that you and I mentioned in the right margin of the page too. Hey, your accent, where’s it from? Where are you from?
Miguel: Spain. Espana.
Andrew: You’re from Spain. And how long have you been in Canada?
Miguel: 15 years.
Andrew: 15 years. All right. Cool. You know, I have all these stories here that you and I could have gotten into and we didn’t get into them. Maybe we can save them for the next time.
Miguel: Just call me back. I’m happy to share my stories with your audience anytime.
Andrew: All right. The website is — let me make sure that I got it right — it’s GrumoMedia.com. GrumoMedia.com
Miguel: You got it.
Andrew: Thanks for doing the interview.
Miguel: A pleasure.
Andrew: Cool. Thank you all for watching. Bye.
Enjoyed it? Here you have 7 more interviews with Miguel Hernandez:
The origins of Grumo Media: A story of trial and error – Miguel Hernandez
Running an Animation Studio by Grumo Media – Interview by Animation Orbit
Running Grumo Media and Insights on the Demo Video Market
“Life is too short not to take risks” – Audio Interview with Grumo
How Grumo Overcame His Fear of English and Built a Successful Company
Explainer Videos Explained: Interview by The Local Method
Grumo Advice to First Time Entrepreneurs – Interview by Siosism
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