The Making of the OpenSignal Video Blockbuster

There is a certain start-up ethos that stems from a brittle blend of impecuniousness and prideful arrogance. This ethos is the spirit of the belief that anything that can be done professionally can be approximated better. Faced with the challenge of filming an app-introduction video on a budget devoted in its entirety to tea and hobnobs, and fired by the knowledge that it would cost £2,000 to have done professionally, we were forced to dive into a swamp of technical challenges. The mission James and I set ourselves was to film our intro video using only equipment that we could source from around the office. Taking ‘limitation breeds ingenuity’ alongside ‘it’s too cold to get some real equipment’ as our mantras, we set to work.

The first step was to do a bit of market research to work out exactly what our video should look like. Having discovered that Google also subscribed to the ‘finger-pressing-screen‘ school of app video direction, we felt that we should probably go with that method too. Rule one for the digital age, Google are probably doing it right. The next step was to work out how exactly we were going to film the video without a camera. I wish I could give you a simpler, more technologically sophisticated, answer than the truth, but I can’t:

1) We put a phone on the table
2) we sellotaped the phone to the table
3) we got two glasses and a ruler
4) we balanced my iPhone 4s on the ruler
5) we broke a ceiling lamp trying to minimize glare and
6) we filmed. If that boggles the mind, here’s a photo:

OpenSignal take a screenshot

This prompted one passing onlooker to stop, look at us anxiously and say ‘you guys do know that there are easier ways to take a screenshot, right?’. We thanked him for his concern.

Obviously a certain degree of creative tension is vital for the success of any ‘artistic’ endeavour. Admittedly, it was probably unnecessary for me to storm off to the kitchen muttering about ‘damn chimp hands’ when James pulled rank on me over whose fingers were going to star in the video. I now fully accept that. I accepted it even more when it took us a preposterous 14 takes to get it right. Then another 5 takes for me to get the voiceover not sounding utterly alien (Patrick Stewart was sadly unavailable, and probably wouldn’t have accepted payment in hobnobs anyway). Finally came the editing process and the all-important adding of special effects:

2012-12-20 14.58.26

It was at this point that Brendan, CEO of OpenSignal, asked us whether we could really justify spending two days on one video, and ‘didn’t we have better things to be doing anyway?’ It is for this reason that the 200 business cards he has arriving tomorrow (which I ordered) describe him as Brendan Gill, Big Cheese/Head Honcho of OpenSignal. I hope the lesson ‘you don’t rush art’ will be learnt.

And so, the OpenSignal ‘Blockbuster’ was conceived and delivered. Our final step was inviting the editor of the Tab to an exclusive (one-man) media preview screening. He declared himself impressed. On a more serious note this was actually an extremely easy way of filming an app tutorial video, as well as a lot of fun, and we recommend it to any other start-ups who want to record a video for their users without coughing up the outrageous £2,000 that we saw quoted online. Remember the ethos! The video is below, hope you enjoy it.

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