Explainer Video Production In 2023 [Updated Guide]

Explainer videos have been steadily growing for over a decade. Whether you’re a B2C or B2B brand it’s likely you need to educate your market about something. That’s where explainer videos come in. In this article we give you an overview of not only what they are, but how to make them, and use them to your advantage.

Explainer Video Production - A Quick Overview

Explainer videos are a broad term used to describe, well, videos that explain.

Whether B2B or B2C brands use them usually to demonstrate a product or drive home it’s benefits. Aside from being an effective way of keeping attention, they also help to build credibility by structuring all the necessary information into a short video.

From screencast product demo style videos to full frame by frame character animation - many styles can fit under the “explainer” tag making it hard sometimes to distinguish between them.

What is an explainer video?

An explainer video has become a bit of a catch all term. 

On one hand it could be a video that teaches, explains or sells. Often it’s an overview video, or a high-level breakdown for a product. However many people associate the term explainer video with cartoony kind of cheap videos. 

This is because back in the day a lot of explainer videos started out with a “Meet Bob” type of scenario and really poor illustrations or animations to support - leaving a bad taste in many viewers mouths.

Today though - we see product demo videos in ALL kinds of styles and mediums. Here’s a few that we have made in different looks

  • Insert 2D motion graphics 
  • Insert 3D style 
  • Insert frame by frame animation
  • Insert product demo style (screencast)

As you can see none of these look the same, but they all fit under the explainer video tag. In fact, in B2B the term “explainer” is usually reserved for middle of the content funnel type videos, or products, or even an overview.

This is because usually topics are more complex in B2B and require more elaboration. It’s not quite a direct sales type video, and it’s not promotional, it’s usually used once there’s already interest to further establish rapport or even to book demos.

Why explainer videos? Do you really need one?

As with all videos - it’s about knowing when to use the medium to get effectiveness out of it. Explainer videos can be amazing if used properly:

  1. You can visualize complex and abstract concepts in simple and illustrative ways.
  2. Create any scene you want, with characters, with talking animals, the only limit is your imagination.
  3. Tons of different aesthetic options from cartoony to classy to sophisticated to frame by frame and even 3D - just pick and choose.
  4. Often one of the most effective ways to get into video marketing for any brand is a video overview of their product or service

The most important reason though: they work when done right.

This is the tricky thing - but video IS an effective medium only when properly executed. We’ve had many sales reps tell us that sales videos help them get interest DURING client meetings.

Sometimes having a video that can explain the “gist” of it within 60 seconds is more credible than having the sales rep say the exact same thing. Actually it’s almost as if “someone else” is saying it - which allows the rep to focus on the human side of the interaction.

Just some food for thought.

Details that make a GREAT explainer video.

As with all things - there’s so-so, good, great and amazing videos. Everyone wants amazing, but it’s not that easy.

So what are the tricks of the trade? Lets dive in.

To get the most out of your video here’s a few tips 

  • Obvious but often overlooked - know your positioning and marketing. Video is BETTER than text but it’s not a magic bullet. Without knowing your market, demographic and how to speak to them - it can be a waste of money.
  • Think about visuals first. Think about the scenes that matter - what you must show - and script AROUND including them.
  • When scripting think in character. Add in quirky lines. Tone. Humor. Make it feel personal.
  • Use logic in contextualizing the problem and solution - think of it like a thesis.
  • Let the creatives do their job but always tell them if something is amiss.
  • Bring visuals to the drawing table. From pitch decks, from napkins - everything is welcome during the brainstorming phase.

Or course the easiest way to make a great explainer video is to hire a world class explainer video agency

Ahem. Just saying.

Pricing for Explainer Videos - Are you overpaying?

As with all things in life - prices will vary. So how much will your explainer video cost?

Well… it depends!

Sometimesyou pay more because you’re buying a better service, and sometimes it’s not because you’re simply paying more for a brand name.

Customers have told us that some agencies quoted them 3-5x for the same video that we would make. That sounds ridiculous but it’s true. 

So why would someone pay those prices?

  • Sometimes it’s a team with massive amounts of experience - for example a creative director who worked on some Coca Cola commercials will want more $$$.
  • Sometimes it’s just a money grab. We have all our prices on our website - which means we don’t play the “let me know what your budget is so I can get you a quote” game. Some agencies do.
  • Some brands have money to spend. And they want to spend it. A certain amount is allocated for video production and little thought goes into why or who. 
  • Sometimes it’s not a question of budget but “not losing your job” - so you end up paying more for the same video, because you believe THAT team won’t **** it up.

That being said - you don’t have to pay 30-50k to get a decent video. We’ve seen videos that people got off sites like Fiverr which were “all right”. I don’t want to say good or great, but not bad, or at least passable as a starting point.

And when you consider the price to quality ratio - probably quite high.

I’ve also seen customers who made their videos in house and spend 1 month perfecting something which could have been made by our team in under 3 days. The DIY approach can often end up costing more in actual time + opportunity cost internally.

That being said - most companies will charge from 3-5k per minute minimum. And depending on the quality or complexity of the video this can easily go up to 10k or even 100k depending on who you are hiring.

The most important thing is to know your general length, and a few styles which hit what you’re trying to recreate.

Breaking down the explainer video process 

We won’t get into it too much, but you can visit our explainer video process page to find out all the juicy details.

Or just watch this video

The overview is something like this:

  1. First is the brief: understanding everything about your brand, compiling all the files, and starting to explore what are our options.
  2. Then we love to do a kickoff call. This helps all of us align about “whats what” and make sure we didn’t miss anything. 
  3. Afterward before starting anything we do a bit of script and moodboard. This lets us nail down how the video should look + sound before committing to a direction.
  4. Next we’ll do voiceovers, style frames and an animatic (your storyboard with a rough voiceover). This develops the visual narrative and rhythm of the video.
  5. After all this is approved we move into illustration, where we also like to render another illustrated animatic. This way we can double-check everything lines up.
  6. If we get the green light, it’s time to animate it. 
  7. We do a few rounds of revisions, send you the source files, and that’s pretty much it.

And again - click the link above if you want all the details. Or if you want to use the process without hiring us. It’s written out in much more detail above.

Important considerations when making your explainer video

Know what matters about your product to your demographic. Yes it’s that simple. 

We like to overcomplicate explainer video production while really if you have 60 seconds that’s about 150 words. That’s not very much time for a video.

What will you include? Well the most important ideas. The facts. The context. 

The narrative which sets up the prospect to act. And lets be honest - there just aren’t that many things that your product does to make this an infinite list.

So we have to list out everything the product does, and how it might be of value to the prospect and afterward prioritize them. Now from that list we can visualize actions of how the prospects life is improving or changing using your product. 

There’s always the before and after. The what could be different. The aspiration. And it’s exactly these visuals which will form the basis for our scirpt - and eventually the entire video. So start here. That’s the best process for making amazing explainer videos.

It’s basically a mix of your best messaging lines and visuals. And these are the things that you’ve heard prospects say “wow” or “that makes sense” when you showed them in the past. This is your best starting point.

Should I use video production software? Or hire an agency? Freelancer?

All of these can be amazing solutions for different reasons.

Going with an agency: you get expertise, some quality assurance and generally less headache. Of course you will pay more, but it might just be worth it.

Software: means DIY. This is great if you have someone inhouse who doesn’t have other work to do. But it can also lead to bottlenecks and not every creative has all the skills necessary to complete work up to standard.

Templates: this goes hand in hand with DIY - but basically you can use templates to save time, but you will still need to customize, tweak and actually modify the .AE files. Which believe it or not depending on the templates can be more work.

Fiverr: This can either get you burned with a low quality asset or be the best investment of your year. Fiverr is a bit hit and miss but can work for a proof of concept type of video. If budget is your concern - Fiverr is your best option.

How to write an explainer video script?

Pro tip: take your time.

Usually we’ll take 3-5 days minimum to write a script and start the visual narrative. Out of those days many are dedicated to research and understanding the landscape. With most corporate projects it’s to your advantage to see what’s out there before starting.

Explainer video scripts are no different. What you are really looking for is the visual narrative which the script can support. This means searching high and low for visual references and examples that the creatives can use.

The script writers real job is to help discover the visuals which are essential, and structure the words in a way that gives them time to play out. And the approach here can vary depending on the individual - but generally soaking yourself in the niche, forums, and symbolism of the niche is a great way to start.

Afterward we suggest the two column table approach within Google doc. Here’s a quick example and the kind of template that we use:

explainer video script example

Try to keep your script 150 words per minute as a general run time. And get ready to do anywhere from 3-10 versions of a script with revisions included. This is what it usually takes to get the touchdown zone.

How long should an explainer video be?

Explainer videos vary in length depending on client needs. We’ve made some videos that are 10 minutes or longer in length for educational or YouTube channels. And these were effective!

It all depends on the complexity of your offer, and of course budget ;) 

The easy example is that if you’re selling something that everyone wants or giving away a great free offer (like a bar of gold) it probably won’t take much explaining to get people interested. 

Therefore your video can be shorter and still extremely effective - the point of diminishing returns is reached fast.

Now, the more complex your offer, the longer your video might need to be. Think for example if you’re selling an engine - there might be more to explain and therefore your video will be longer. 

This is a general idea about how to think about length - instead of a number think about how long does it need to be? And that will be defined by the structure of the content.

How long does it take to produce an explainer video?

This can vary depending on the visual complexity and how much time the client has for concepting or back and forth. On the short side - we’ve made social media content in ~2-3 days per video. 

Here’s an example

It can also take 5-6 weeks or more depending on the client, communication and other v variables. 

The length of explainer video production is mainly contingent on the amount of artists working on the actual illustration and animation since that’s what takes up the most time.

Here’s an example

However, for your video to really kick ass, you will want to spend the most time on concept/pre-production, and making sure that the plan makes sense. 

And in some cases - because of the medium of production it can take upwards of 3 months to make 1 single video. Yes that’s right, 3 months. 

And a good rule of thumb is: more time doesn’t hurt. It allows for more trial and error, concepting and creativity - all good things to have time for.

So, to explainer or not to explainer?

The easy answer is: do it.

Explainer videos aren’t going anywhere.

Whether it’s live action, typographer, SaaS, startups, product demos, characters - video demand just isn’t going down, and more and more styles are becoming accessible.

As technology improves so does what you can get for the same budget. For example 30 years ago it was inconceivable that you could get todays level of quality for anything less than a 30-100k budget.

Fast forward today and people are making videos which rival those of the past - in their own bedrooms!

You just want to take your time, figure out your market, and dive into a video when you’re ready - not acting like it’s a magic bullet which will turn everything around.

If you can do that, you increase the chances of your video being effective astronomically. And I think that’s what we all want: to invest money in the right thing and to get a solid ROI.

(At least hopefully).