If you’ve delved deep into the world of startup videos, then you’re sure to have stumbled upon the works of Sandwich Video. Time and time again, they’re the go-to reference point for great product videos, and last year, we got to spend some time on the phone with founder Adam Lisagor to hear about his storytelling process.
This year, we’re pretty much bubbly to have Sabrina Skau of the Sandwich Video team join us as a speaker at our annual business video conference, WistiaFest. Sabrina comes from a background in anthropology and documentary filmmaking, two fields focused on studying and understanding people. We chatted with her about Sandwich’s approach to video creation and some of her favorite projects that she’s worked on there, and came out feeling both inspired and educated.
"It usually takes us about 8 weeks to complete a video," Sabrina explained. Here’s how the process breaks down:
- The creative phase: The team brainstorms ideas and writes a treatment.
- Adjusting the treatment: Sandwich works with the client to make sure they’re hitting all the important points about their product and that the client feels good about the creative framing of the video.
- Scripting: Sandwich takes all the ideas from the treatment and puts them into a script.
- Pre-production: Sandwich finds a location and cast for the video, hires a crew, creates storyboards and photoboards, and selects the wardrobe and key set elements and props.
- Production: The actual shoot usually takes a day, although some require two days.
- Post-production: Sandwich edits together the spot, adds in VFX and motion graphics, color corrects, and mixes the sound. This usually takes about a month.
Many people working with video production choose one role to specialize in (for example, someone might be the go-to editor or director within their company), but at Sandwich, everyone is involved with lots of different roles across many videos.
“We all wear multiple hats at the company, and we’ve been operating this way for so long now that if feels very natural and comfortable. There is a real collaborative spirit. Something may not necessarily be ’your’ project, but if extra hands are needed—we’re getting close to a delivery date but still have a bunch of graphics shots to get through, for example — you’ll jump in to help get it out the door. It’s a feeling of shared success, and it’s very gratifying.”
Although everyone at Sandwich is involved in lots of different roles, Sabrina’s favorite part of the process is the edit: "The edit is where the video takes shape. It becomes an actual thing. And through multiple iterations it becomes a better and better thing. A great edit helps to validate all the decisions you made on set as a director, which is a big confidence boost."
Here at Wistia, we’ve been pretty adamant about putting people from our team on camera, so it was interesting hearing from Sandwich about taking the opposite approach and working with outside actors, in accordance with their video style. "Because a fair amount of our spots utilize a direct-to-camera approach, in which a character speaks directly to viewers about a product, it’s important to us to find actors who can connect to the camera and come off as friendly, approachable, and confident."
As Sandwich seeks out actors for their videos, they’ve also been making an effort to be more inclusive in their casting.
“We’re making a formalized effort to be more inclusive in our casting. We want the cast of our videos to reflect the diversity of our world. Recognizing that women and people of color are underrepresented in the media, we’re trying to address these imbalances by making sure that we’re giving women and people of color opportunities to have leading roles in our spots, and to play characters who don’t fall into old stereotypes.”
After Sandwich holds auditions and selects their top five or so actors for a given role, they send this selection over to the client for their input before making a final decision. ## Product videos with a human touch As Sandwich’s team of creatives works on a given video, they strive to keep their audience in mind by asking questions about how the product would integrate into people’s everyday lives: How does it improve upon an old or traditional way of doing something? Why would people want to use it? How would they use it? What’s the best way to inform someone of this thing they didn’t know about, but that they would actually find quite useful? "A great product video is one that shows the ’magic’ of the product. It doesn’t have to be a big ’aha’ moment — it can be a series of moments in which the viewer is introduced to the thing or several things that make a product interesting or special," Sabrina explained. Sandwich purposely chooses clients whose products excite them, and what drew them to a project initially also informs the creative treatment for each video.
“A great product video is one that shows the "magic" of the product. It doesn’t have to be a big "aha" moment—it can be a series of moments.”
One of Sabrina’s favorite projects she’s been involved with is Sandwich’s work with Osmo, where she served as the director of four different videos. In Osmo’s case, the "wow" moments came naturally: Osmo combines digital gaming with traditional, physical ways of playing by giving iPad games the ability to see and integrate the physical world into the digital game.
In the Osmo videos, Sandwich pretty much let the product work its magic: in the video, a child moves two puzzle pieces on the desk in front of the iPad and the puzzle pieces also come together on the screen. "The children in the spot went crazy for it—they experienced the magic of Osmo first-hand and conveyed their excitement to the audience."
Of the Osmo videos she’s directed, the most fulfilling for Sabrina was the video for the "Masterpiece" app.
"The Masterpiece video is a rarity in the Sandwich oeuvre in the sense that no one is speaking directly to the camera, there’s no voiceover, and no verbal explanation of how the product works. It’s just a simple story about a young girl who uses Osmo and the Masterpiece to draw a picture of her dad as a superhero. It’s endearing, and it combines elements of narrative film and product videos in an effective way."
Because Sandwich has worked with Osmo on 4 different videos now, they’ve had the opportunity to push themselves creatively and stylistically more than they would with a one-off project.
Osmo’s product is pretty compelling by nature, but what do you do when the product is a bit drier? One approach that Sandwich takes is to introduce graphics. "We rely heavily on graphics to help make clear the more abstract workings of the product and introduce more visual ’pizzazz,’ if you will."
It can be tempting to use graphics just for the sake of graphics, but Sabrina advises producers to be more selective and purposeful: "Graphics should always help to clarify for an audience how a product works." In Sandwich’s video for Slack, they used visual representations of messages being sent back and forth across the office to show how Slack makes communication more efficient.
Another example that may have seemed a bit dry at a glance was Sandwich’s work with Notarize, an app that provides electronic notarization. While this might sound boring, if you’ve ever had to get something notarized, you know how time-consuming the process can be. In their video for Notarize, Sandwich focused on the idea of the added convenience of instant notarization, and with the help of a booming "Notarize!" voiceover and some split-screen magic, they added their signature charm.
"Businesses should make sure that the video creatively highlights what is so special about their product. What about their product is going to excite people? Or if not excite them, at least make them perk up and say ’hey, actually that would be useful.’"
Want to learn more from Sabrina Skau and other business video experts? Join us at WistiaFest!