Is video ad creation part of your everyday life? Or would it be, if only you knew how to do it? Today, Epidemic Sound’s resident Senior Video Producer, Nalle Hedberg, lets you in on the secrets to creating the perfect video ad. Read on for his step-by-step guide, illustrated with video ads his team created!
What is a video ad?
Whether you have something to sell, or even just a story to tell, the main purpose of creating a video ad is to make a unique visual impression. Basically, it’s something you can’t convey with only text, audio, or still images – the video element is essential to getting the point across.
For the project I’m using as an example in this piece, we needed to convey Epidemic Sound’s offer in an easy, digestible way. We know that music licensing is a complicated business, so these video ads were made to educate and entertain potential customers.
How much does it cost to create video ads?
From nothing to millions of dollars! A video shot on an old phone, with zero budget, could outweigh the grandest and most ambitiously produced TV ad ever.
On this specific project, more than half the crew were internal resources. It meant we could skill-share while keeping expenses down. However, if you don’t have a full production crew when creating this level of content, external expertise is usually needed.
If you can manage, mixing your internal crew with industry experts will allow new perspectives and give your team the opportunity to learn and grow. It’s money well spent!
What’s the biggest challenge when you want to create video ads?
Standing out from the crowd. We’re exposed to so much content on a daily basis, and there’s an exhausting amount of best practices and metrics to tick off when making video ads on YouTube, for example. X brand impressions in Y seconds multiplied by… you get the idea. These things are important, but the number one thing is to produce something that feels original and exciting to you.
If you want to go big, look to your favorite Super Bowl commercials for inspiration. If that seems daunting, then step back, and find the tone you want to nail for your target audience. To paraphrase Martha Kent: “Make the world smaller.”
What software do you need to create video ads?
The simplest camera and editing tools are fine! On this project, we shot with our own BlackMagic Ursa, then did all the video editing and color grading in DaVinci Resolve Pro – which, by the way, offers a great free version. Finally, we covered all visual effects in After Effects and mixed the sound in Logic.
How to think of great ideas for video ads
Don’t limit yourself early on – let the ideas pour out. An early concept for this ad was putting a yellow ukulele in James Bond’s hands, paired with the words ‘License to Thrill.’ Not my finest hour.
Once we settled on a theme, I fought tooth and nail for a scene with a bear chasing our protagonist. Not mainly, but partly – all right, mainly – because I wanted to say: ‘OK people, that's a wrap. Let’s go for after-work bears.’’
It’s silly, but it helps get the ideas flowing. I tend to find puns everywhere – I blame it on becoming a dad – and it helps me unlock some interesting associations. They don’t always work, but after being spitballed by people with actual brains, they can become pretty unique.
I’m letting the ‘after-work bears’ hibernate, by the way. They’ll be back.
What do the story and ideation processes of a video ad look like?
It usually starts with a brief. The best ones are open briefs, where the main challenge is finding your angle. I always look for a pun, juxtaposition, or something quirky, but that’s just how I work.
Once I’ve found a few ideas, I draw them up and create a storyboard – even if it’s rough. It helps me visualize the idea, and it’s handy to have when pitching your vision. When your concept is agreed upon and picked up, your project group peels back the layers of crazy stuff to ensure the idea’s actually doable! Be cautious here, though. If you strongly disagree with something being cut, fight for your vision!
Finally, don’t kill your darlings. Savor them. Put them in a personal document, save them for later, and let’s go for some after-work bears. No? Fur enough.
How do you create a storyboard?
I start by drawing the frames in sequence on paper, to try the order and composition out in a super simple way. Then, I draw it a little more ambitiously in Procreate on my iPad. Here, I might use reference photos to help me nail the framing.
Then I pair the drawings with text, scene numbers, and shot notes with InDesign. As the Director, planning the shots early is helpful, as it means I'll know exactly what I'm looking for on-set. It also helps the Director of Photography frame the shots, and the First Assistant Director plan the shot list and schedule.
If you don’t like storyboarding, find someone who does! It’s essential.
What inspired the idea for these video ads?
The theme came from team ideation sessions. How do you talk about music licensing in an easily understandable, entertaining, and relatable way? That was the mission, and we came up with: ‘A lot can get in the way of creating content – music licensing shouldn’t be one of them.’ That phrase was our guiding star when building the stories and scenarios.
When building the stories, I thought about different types of content creators, and whereabouts in the home something could go wrong or interrupt their workflow. The story about the dad working from home, and his 2-year-old daughter getting her hands on some memory cards, is straight from my own experience!
What tracks and sound effects did you use for the production? And how important are they?
We used one track for each piece of the campaign. We wanted to have three different vibes, with the music fitting the scene and the characters. The goal was for the music to build and amplify the unfolding drama, while not taking over from the messaging delivered as voiceover.
When it comes to sound effects, Epidemic Sound has 90,000 of them. Check them out below!
Sound effects are all about being creative. In the scene with the dad, we really went to town; when he stepped on a small toy, we used an effect called Bone Crunch. Ouch. My favorite sound, though, is when the daughter hits the camera with the final frame – the sound enhances that impact so much.
We actually used two of our own Epidemic Sound artists for the voiceovers: Dajana provided the English version, while Nico Rengifo gave us the Spanish do-over. We initially worked with external voiceover companies, but the tone just wasn’t right – at least we tried, though!
Our catalog is curated by humans, not an algorithm – it's perfect if you want to find tracks or sound effects with a specific feel. If you can’t find what you want in our search function, reach out to our curators here and they’ll help you out!
What’s the most important thing when producing video ads?
Pre-production. It sets you up for success and identifies the risk of failure. Be thorough, give yourself time to plan, and double-check everything. Fewer fires to put out on-set means more time to nail the perfect shot.
How do you succeed when you create a video ad?
In short, what makes the shoot successful is getting what you came for, and hopefully more! Actual on-set production is surprisingly brief, so make the most of it.
Stick to the vision you planned, and while on-set, make everyone feel welcome, seen, and empowered. Give them memories to go home with, even if it’s just a bad pun about bears.
These aren’t just soft values – they’ll show in the work. People who are comfortable and motivated can lift mountains (of filmstock, at least) when pulling in the same direction. If you create a positive environment, you’ll have built an even stronger team for the next shoot. So bear that in mind.
Bear that in mind. Get it? Sorry.
Curious about how our video ad turned out? Check it out below. No bears included.
If you want access to 90,000 sound effects and 40,000 top-tier tracks, all royalty-free and safe to use with a valid Epidemic Sound subscription, why not try our 30-day free trial?
Nalle Hedberg is Senior Video Producer at Epidemic Sound. Check out some of his work over on Epidemic Sound’s YouTube channel.
Are you a video editor or filmmaker? Whether you’re an absolute master or just a beginner, discover what Epidemic Sound has to offer on our Epidemic Sound for Filmmaking page. Oh, and if you’re looking for some music for video editing, check out our dedicated page.