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Explanatory videos: how to create them

Explanatory videos have become a popular means of conveying essential information in an entertaining way. Companies use them to elucidate products and services or as a supporting element of their professional development programs. The television also deploys the format to explain complex circumstances in a comprehensible way. The main characteristics of explanatory films are:

  • Short runtime between 1 and 3 minutes
  • Use of speech, music and sound effects
  • Implementation of the core information into a story (storytelling)
  • Use of symbols and illustrations
  • Animation, cartoon, stop-motion or live action film or a combination of those styles

explanatory video

The basic principle of explanatory films is not to present the content in an elaborate and detailed way, but to give a rough overview over the most important aspects. The use of cartoon-style animation or stop-motion techniques creates a playful and entertaining atmosphere that relaxes the viewer and creates a state of receptiveness in their minds. This makes the format ideal to convey a message or learning content in short periods of time. That makes explanatory videos a sub-discipline of video learning.

If you want to create explanatory films with a high quality, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind.

The conception of explanatory videos

When beginning with the production process you should consider some things previously:

Who is my target group?

Different target groups have individual preferences and aversions. If they are rather conservative, make sure your video is not hectic or that your background music will not be perceived as inconvenient or inappropriate. With younger audiences, the videos can be more unconventional, but make sure that the overall pace of your video is not too slow. The attention of the viewer should be held through the whole runtime.

What is the core message?

Your content determines the frame conditions for your explanatory film. Define right from the start what is the exact goal of your video. Then decide which means are the best to reach that goal.

On which platform will I provide the video?

The way of provision is a factor that you should also keep in mind. Will viewers see the video on their smartphones for example, you should avoid small elements and small font sizes. When the film is embedded into a website or an intranet, it is possible to attach or link to additional information. You can find more tips on how to present content on smartphones in our article on how to create e-learning courses for mobile learning projects.

The creation of explanatory videos

If your goals and the frame conditions have been set, you can start the production process for your explanatory video. These are the usual steps in the procedure:

The creation of explanatory videos1) Screenplay and voice-over script

Since most explanatory videos are being dubbed by a voice-over narrator, the production process starts with the conception of the script in most cases. The script will be the leitmotif of the whole video and should be created at the start, since all other elements will be aligned to it.

Now you should read the script aloud and measure the time to get an idea of the runtime of your video. Also you will find out whether the script is too long or too short.

In the next step you should create a screenplay or storyboard which defines the following aspects:

  • At which point in time and how long will you record which camera angle, or what will be shown in the picture
  • Which protagonists will be seen in the picture and what will they say
  • What the narrator says in the particular scene
  • What sound effects or animations will be used in each scene
  • When does the background music play and for how long

Now you will have a more or less precise schedule for your explanatory film. Possible weak spots in your concept will show in this phase, so you can take appropriate actions to fix them. Reflect once more: Is your concept in line with your overall goals? Do the chosen elements fit your target group? Then you can progress with the next production step.

2) Production schedule

If you chose live-action film, you should now create a shooting schedule. In it, you specify when to shoot which scene, what kind of equipment is needed and which actors must be present. Is your project based on animation or cartoon style, you should create a production schedule, that defines when each scene will be created and what kinds of material will be needed.

The next step is to gather all the material that is needed. That can be cameras or props, as well as artwork, soundfiles and music. When you have all necessary material, you can go on with the actual production.

3) Production

You should start production with the recording of the narrator. The speed of the voice-over determines the overall pace and it is easier too adapt the video sequences to the narrator than the other way round. Afterwards you can start shooting when using live-action film or start creating the animations if you chose that kind of video style.

You do not have to be a motion designer equipped with professional tools to make an animated explanatory video. There are a couple of tools and programs that enable laymen to create animated films. Some of these tools even offer the possibility to use a completely free licence (with limited options). The tools offer a broad selection of pre-made characters and elements that you can animate according to your ideas. Here are some recommendations:

  • GoAnimate
  • PowToon
  • VideoScribe (exclusively for whiteboard animation)

Now create all the scenes in your production plan, one after the other. If you are satisfied with the raw material, you can proceed with step 4, post-production.

4) Post-production

In this phase, all the parts are assembled for the final product. If you are working with live-action film, you have to consolidate your raw material in the fine-cut. Arrange the best takes around your voice-over text and cut the movie in the final runtime. In the end you can add sound effects and music, if you wish to do so.

If you are working on an animated film, the post-production phase is similar. Potentially, you will need a video editing program to arrange your video sequences with the audio and music files and use video effects like transitions, cuts and subtitles. Here are some examples of free video editing tools:

  • DaVinci Resolve
  • Shortcut
  • Windows Movie Maker
  • VSDC Free Video Editor


The making of explanatory videosIt became clear that it is possible nowadays to create explanatory videos with the help of free tools. But to achieve a professional level of quality, it is necessary to at least have a good sense of timing and a basic understanding of audio-visual media production. If a voice-over is used, the recording should be in decent quality and the narrator should be talented. Otherwise the end-product can seem unprofessional or even involuntarily comical. But practice makes perfect!

If you are interested in professionally produced explanatory films, get in contact with us. ILT Solutions produces professional explanatory videos for all kinds of purposes. As experts for modern professional development, we can also counsel you in questions concerning digital provision or the implementation in a bigger educational project.

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