Let’s Make an Explainer Video Using PowToon — Part 1

Hello Everyone. This is the first in a new series: Let’s Make an Explainer Video Using PowToon.

PowToon is one of several web-based animated presentation suites available on a free or paid subscription basis.  Animated content is placed on a series of sequential “slides” which are then “stitched together” into a single video comprising animated content.  Narration and background sound tracks may be included. 

If you read my post Two Things to Make You Think Twice About Video, (Hi Mom!) you know the one of the two major considerations in creating a video is your cost in time.

In this series I will illustrate the time “cost” of putting together a simple explainer video using PowToon. Note that this series will not be an tutorial on how to use PowToon itself; there are many excellent tutorials available available from PowToon and other sources.

The video will have the following characteristics:

  • Simple graphics
  • Voice over
  • Background music

I’ve tried to forget what I know about video creation in order to try to mimic the efforts of someone just starting out in video.

In my experience, there are six main steps to follow when creating a video:

  • Pick a Topic
  • Write the script
  • Edit the script
  • Create the video
  • Edit the video
  • Upload the video

Each of these steps and be broken down further, but let’s keep things simple.

This post deals with picking a topic and writing the script.

Pick A Topic

Pick a short, well-defined topic. Videos take time to assemble. The more content, the longer it takes. Choose a topic and then see if you can narrow it down. Keep “cutting” until you have a precise, easily defined concept, procedure or process.

Here are two examples to illustrate what I mean:

Example 1

Proposed Topic Topic Suitability Comments
Using Twitter Bad Topic is much too general
Using Twitter for Authors Still bad Topics is still too general
Creating Your Twitter Profile Better Topic is better defined but still covers a lot of ground
Creating Your Twitter Profile — Step by Step Best Topics is narrowly defined and clearly refers to a process that has a beginning, a middle, and an end


Example 2

Proposed Topic Topic Suitability Comments
Plotting Your Novel
Bad Topic is much too general
Plotting Your Fantasy Novel Still bad Topics is still too general; in fact there’s no real difference from the previous topic
Plot Structure in Novels
Better Topic is becoming more refined, but is still very broad
The Three Act Plot Structure in Novels
Best This is the best topic; it is very specific


Write the Script

The “script” denotes the content to be displayed in the video and the order in which it is presented. Many times it refers literally to the voice over narration script, but a script is more than that.

I think of scripting as comprising two elements:

  • Visual content — text and images that appear upon each slide in the finished video
  • Audio content — the text of the video narration, if any

Scripting is an iterative process and you will go through several drafts of both visual and audio content scripting as you develop and refine the video.

The explainer video developed in this serious has narration, although it is possible to create explainer videos without narration.  As we will see, narration adds significantly to the video’s development time cost.

I like to start the development process with the narration script because the narration will often drive what is placed on each slide in the video.

Explainer Video Script

First draft

When first developing the script I suggest the first draft should take the form of blog post.  Write “long”.  You’ll be cutting it down significantly in subsequent re-drafts, but don’t worry about that at first.   My first draft is the text from the post Two Things to Make You Think Twice About Video.

Time spent: 2 Hours

Second draft

Create two-column table in a Word document (or use whatever word processor software you like).   You will use this table to roughly divide your first draft into slide-based chunks.  The left column is for the slide number, the right column is for the slide narration. Remember that PowToon development works with “slides” that are assembled into a seamless final video.

The second script draft accomplishes the following:

  • Divides the script into “slides”
  • Provides a rough idea of the number of slides required in the video
  • Illustrates where the content will need to be reduced

Video Script -- 1st and 2nd Draft

At the end of the second draft it will almost always become apparent that you have too much narration content for each slide. 

Time spent: 2 hours; 4 hours spent in total

Third draft

Read through the second draft and cut it down.  Be ruthless.  The more narration on each slide, the more visually engaging a slide must be — and that takes work, which in turn takes time.  You’ll likely split the script into more slides in the third draft as you slim down the narration assigned to each slide.

Time spent: 1 hour; 5 hours spent in total

Fourth draft

You’re fourth draft will occur when you move into PowToon and begin slide planning.  As you draft your slides you’ll likely see that you need to further cut back the narration and/or add further slides.

I’ll cover that process in the next post.

Two final notes:

  • The more time you spend in the first three drafts, the less time you will spend later in the development process
  • As you gain experience in creating videos, you will likely be able to shorten the time spent drafting the narration script and may well be able to skip one of the draft stages

As always, comments are welcome.

Thanks for reading, and I will see you again soon.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.