We’ve been working on putting together some feature introductions and I thought I’d share what goes into making one.

I like to start off without a script and just start recording some screen capture with voiceover. This is edited together into a rough version of what the story will eventually be.

New Feature test – Rough Cut 1 from 37signals on Vimeo.

Feedback: The design on the blackboard can be more clear. It also takes too long to get into why someone would use this.

Here is the third rough cut. I’ve re-shot the blackboard with a cleaner design and swapped the live-action example with the explanation of the feature.

New Feature test – Rough Cut 3 from 37signals on Vimeo.

Feedback: This still feels too rushed. I think we are trying to solve two very different problems in such a short time. This can be a simple introduction to the feature without having to show exactly how it works. We can also cut a lot out of the live action scene. We don’t need to show people how to send an email.

In the fourth rough cut I’ve re-recorded the voiceover into a shorter explanation of the feature, chopped off the end of the live-action bit and added a title card.

New Feature test – Rough Cut 4 from 37signals on Vimeo.

Feedback: The transition between the example and explanation is too abrupt. Some of the mouse clicks are unclear, maybe there is a way to highlight those.

Rough cut number 5 has a second title card in the middle of the piece to help the transition and both cards have been re-worked by one of our designers. I’ve added some simple camera moves to highlight the important bits and make the video more interesting. I also added one of our bumpers at the end to wrap it all up. Again, I recorded a new voiceover track for this version though I think I sound a bit grumpy.

New Feature test – Rough Cut 5 from 37signals on Vimeo.

Feedback: This is getting very close. Can we fix the fish-eye effect on the blackboard scene? Also, I don’t much care for banjo.

Now that we’re in a pretty solid place for this video it was time to really polish it up. I re-did the camera moves in After Effects, re-worded one of the titles, recorded a much friendlier voiceover and re-shot the live-action scene with a better camera and some fancy focus pulling by Jason Fried. I also, of course, took out the banjo music.

Basecamp – Emailing Content to a project from 37signals on Vimeo.

It’s easy to dismiss the value of multiple iterations in a project like this. It took 8 cuts to get this simple screencast to a place we liked. A lot less went into the production of this than some of my other videos, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have as much to accomplish. A great man once said “Size matters not.” Don’t think about projects in terms of size and scope. As long as the the goal is reached it doesn’t much matter how you get there.