Sam Stephenson asked if I could shoot a fun little video announcing Basecamp Mobile. This was on a Tuesday, and the mobile app was scheduled (at the time) to launch on Friday.

We have a Canon 5d Mark II at the office for general photo and video. Steve Delahoyde (video genius) at Coudal Partners graciously lent us his lights and light tent for the shoot. Here’s what the rig looked like (set up in our kitchen).

The direction

I wanted the video to be more about Bascamp Mobile supporting many devices rather than showing off the interface. The video had to be short and it had to tell what I thought was the most important story: You can use Basecamp on your iPhone, Android, Blackberry Torch, and Palm Pre 2.

First take

An initial idea we had was to show a hand passing a different phone across the screen: iPhone, Blackberry, Nexus One, etc. The idea that Basecamp could run on all these devices took too long to get across.

Out of focus

The better idea was to focus on the iPhone — make it seem like this is a Basecamp for iPhone spot. Then at the end we would show that Basecamp was also available on these other devices. Jason Fried had the idea to show different hands showing all of the phones.

The only problem was that the other phones were out of focus. No matter we had the idea down, we just needed to reshoot it.


Once we got the shot down I realized that we were missing an important piece: music. I did not want to have cheesy techno music for this video. Taylor Weibley recommended I work with Sudara Williams. Sudara runs a website called Ramen Music, and he also used to work with Taylor at Engine Yard. I spoke with Sudara via Skype. He lives in Vienna, Austria and I’m in Chicago. We had only 2 days to compose music for this video.

I had an idea that could move us along faster. Maybe we could arrange music that was in the public domain. There was that camp song by Allan Sherman called “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” that was based on Dance of Hours. It could be a cool connection: campy song about camp, Basecamp.

Sudara wasn’t familiar with it, so I made a rough cut of the video with my humming the soundtrack.

Humming with Piano

Sudara picked up on the humming and laid down another track of piano. He liked the idea of the humming (even though it was a scratch track) because it felt like we were seeing it from the perspective of a Basecamp customer.

Solo Piano

He also arranged the song as a solo piano track. He had never heard of the song before, and spent a few hours learning the composition.

Low-fi Indie

Sudara also composed an original piece with guitar. The Dances composition was something I thought could work with the abbreviated timeframe. However, I really loved the direction of this guitar piece. It brought a nice pause and surprise to that last part when the 2 other phones appear onscreen.

When I told Sudara that I wanted to use his original composition he was a little disappointed. He had been practicing the Dances song since I sent that humming track over to him. He really fell in love with the song.

Final cut

4 days, 50 takes, and a few Skype discussions later we had a final video. It was a blast breaking up my usual plate of web design! Thanks to Steve D, Jason F, Sudara, Michael’s (the star), Sam’s, John’s, and Taylor’s hands. I’m looking forward to doing more 37signals videos in the future.

Update: Read about Sudara’s music process for the video at the Ramen Music blog.