“Big Data” from Picturelab on Vimeo.

Today I’ve got an interview with Rico Andrade, who is the co-founder and vice-president of PictureLab – one of the leading video producers for tech companies and a division of Transvideo Studios, which has been doing this stuff for 30+ years. He also happens to be the guy I mention as the crazy, balls-out guy who deliberately did a one-armed catch on a high bar release move.

After seeing my post on how we worked with Media Sauce on our isocket video with isocket he was like “You used a competitor?!!  Don’t you know I make these??” And I was like “Really? Somehow I missed that.” Turns out Picturelab is a powerhouse in this area – they’ve worked with Google, Facebook, Intuit, Qwiki, Yammer,, Cisco, StumbleUpon, Mint and many more.

So in order to rectify this mistake, I decided to interview Rico and get his perspective on how startups and tech companies. In this interview, you’ll learn:

  • The recommended length for your overview video
  • The two big mistakes people always make when doing a video
  • What separates Picturelab from other competitors
  • How to make sure people actually watch your videos
  • The three major reasons why videos are kinda pricey – and how to work around it if you’re a cash-strapped startup

So let’s jump right in and I hope you enjoy it!

1) What are some top mistakes that people make when deciding to do a video?

There are two big mistakes we see very often.

The first big mistake is try to make a viral video or just try too hard to entertain. Making an overview video isn’t about creating the next “viral” phenomenon – it’s about helping users understand what your product is about, and why it is important to them. Most companies, especially startups, would be better off leveraging the organic traffic that comes comes to their site, and turn more of those visitors into users or customers, as opposed to creating more buzz via a viral video. There are a few lucky exceptions, but videos that try to be too cute, too out there, or two entertaining miss that point, and most fail at going viral (or at explaining the value proposition of the product).

The second big mistake is trying to do to much with the video – showing off all the features, describing several use cases, listing all the benefits, doing a full walkthrough of the product, etc. The goal of the video should not be to show everything about your product, but just enough for the user to say “oh, I get it,” then move on to learn more. We have plenty of evidence (some of which is public), that incidental viewership just drops off precipitously before the 90 second mark (here one such survey).

What our own experience suggests is that for these explainer-type of videos, 30 seconds is too short, because the explanation feels shortchanged and incomplete, and feels like a commercial. The sweet spot for introductory videos seems to be somewhere within 45-90 seconds. So unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, keep it within the 90 second mark.

Another reason to keep things short because is because conversion rates improve when there is a specific call-to-action at the end of the video explicitly telling the user what to do next (sign up, download, try, call). You want viewers to stay on long enough to be told what to do next. A longer video, even one that front-loads the your important information, is not as effective as a short video if the viewer drops off and doesn’t see the call-to-action.

Our suggestion: prioritize the few things you want to say, as much as you want to really show off that little feature you spent so much time working on…

2) What do you think makes Picturelab different from other vendors out there?

There are three things that separate Picturelab from everyone else.

Long-term experience in Silicon Valley. Transvideo Studios has been in business for 30 years, doing demos for companies (on VHS) since the early nineties, and videos directly for the web since the mid-2000s. We were lucky enough to be working for Google around the time they acquired Youtube, and as a result, did literally thousands of videos for them very early on, experimenting over in over with what worked and what didn’t. Because we have such large, metric-driven clients such as Google, Facebook, Intuit, etc… we were able to get a lot of data to learn what tends to work and what doesn’t, and we use that knowledge in all our videos. I don’t know anyone who has the same access to data and information as we do.

Adaptability to brand requirements. We work backwards from the look of brand, to make a video that seems that was created organically by the company that hires us. We take pride in the fact that we don’t have a signature that identifies our studio per se (sketch drawings, cutouts, etc…), but have an incredibly diverse portfolio in terms of art direction, tone, content, etc…

Absolutely the best quality animation, that makes our clients look good. If you get a video for us, you can rest assured it will be top-notch. We don’t want the animation that gives the impression that a site is run by two college students in their dorm. We want to convey that your site has the thoughtfulness, experience, and resources to invest in a video that shows you know exactly what you’re doing.

3) Why are videos so expensive to make?

I think a great video is an investment, especially early on with startups, when they could use the most outside help focusing their message and presenting their value proposition in an elevator pitch. If a video really helps with user acquisition, press, or funding, the investment is worth it, I certainly would not call it expensive in the grand scheme of things.

The cost that is there comes from a few factors…

1) Animation is fairly labor intensive. Worlds need be constructed from scratch in a computer, and then meticulously manipulated. And that doesn’t include the time and team it takes for the design and creative. And because of the technical nature of the tech industry, you need professionals who understand the language of early engineer founders, and translate it into something that will be effective with a diverse group of people. (My major, for example, was CS).

2) Infrastructure to be able to respond quickly in the ever-changing world of tech companies. Software changes on the fly, things get launched without notice, so the infrastructure needs to exist to respond accordingly.

3) Demand is really high for most everyone doing this. The ROI is pretty clear, and the more people are realizing, the smaller the bandwidth is necessary to meet all of the demand.

I know cash flow is an issue for a lot of startups, but there certainly are creative ways of arranging payment. One of our favorites involves a partial payment early on, with the remainder, plus a premium, at the next round funding or acquisition.

4) Walk me through a recent engagement

We have thousands of examples, but the most recent one has been the launch for The combination of Launchrock and a killer video has led to tens of thousands of views and signups in less than three weeks for a product that doesn’t even exist yet.

5) Once they have a great video, how can a company best leverage it fully?

You may have a nice video that explains your value proposition perfectly, but it won’t be very useful if people can’t find it. Don’t hide it behind a few links – feature it prominently on a home banner, with an big, inviting “Play” button in front of a still. In general, people like to click “play” buttons. The clicking action also implies a certain amount of deliberate attention, where the brain is engaged and ready to absorb the information that is about to follow. And promote it on all your channels… Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, blog, etc…

And that’s a wrap! Rico also suggests you check a post he wrote a while back called Why Overview Videos Matter. And of course, you should check out Picturelab and Transvideo Studios to learn more about them.

And finally – a sweet picture of Rico doing a Kolman (a full-twisting double back flipping release on the high bar). Enjoy =)