While working on finishing up All-Night Yahtzee’s newest album (which I arranged, taught, recorded, and edited the vast majority of), we realized we were running short on funds to get the final CD replicated. To get the last $1,000 we needed, I suggested launching a Kickstarter project. I figured Kickstarter would be a great way to connect with Yahtzee’s existing fan base, and with all the different donation levels we could set there would be an incentive for everyone to support it, no matter how large or small the pledge.
I started by doing a lot of research on other Kickstarter projects, both successful and otherwise. What I found was the most successful ones featured a video with high production values— good lighting, rich visuals, concise writing, and dozens of shots carefully edited into a cohesive whole. After a few meetings with the current members (this CD is left over from my final year in the group), I set out to create the video.
There were a few priorities to keep in mind when writing the script. To give a sense of history (and also to introduce the group to viewers unfamiliar with us) I wrote a short introduction to what Yahtzee is and how we got to where we are today. Humanizing the group was important as well; I figured people would be more likely to donate if they knew how passionate we all are about the music we make, so I included space in the script for several people to speak off-the-cuff about what it meant to them to be in Yahtzee. Finally was the sequencing of topics to create a narrative arc in the video. The trick there was to get viewers emotionally invested in the project and the people before bringing up the topic of donations.
After completing the first draft I realized we had a lot to say, and I didn’t want viewers to get bored and stop watching halfway through. My solution to keep things fresh was to appeal to the ADHD nature of our generation and break the script up into chunks of a few sentences, each read by a different group member.
Structuring the video this way had a couple of benefits— first and foremost, having as many different members in the video as possible would further humanize the project as a group of friends trying to release a CD rather than just some faceless, anonymous group asking for money. To keep the background interesting, I selected some of the most iconic parts of Florida State’s campus to serve as backdrops. Yahtzee is, after all, a collegiate group, so I wanted to use the opportunity to showcase our campus to the world.
Lucky for us, Florida State has plenty of locations to choose from. Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium is just about the most visually detailed place on campus, and I ended up shooting four people there. My favorite shot was of Daniel inside the stadium– it was my first time walking on the field, and looking up at the stands was a goosebump-inspiring experience. Even the seemingly bland backdrops in the video (Caitlin and Chelsey), though dictated by the limits of the speakers’ schedules, had meaning: both are in the Kuersteiner Music Building, and both are places Yahtzee frequently gathers to rehearse.
Whereas some of the best videos on Kickstarter used professional cameras and extensive lighting equipment, I was working on a shoestring budget– I used a Canon T2i mid-range DSLR, and because my ‘lighting’ equipment consisted of the white box my laptop came in to bounce some light and avoid hard shadows, I shot outdoors in the sunlight as much as possible.
Since it would be boring to simply cut between shots (and wouldn’t impart any of each speaker’s personality), I took a few photos and some candid video of each person to provide a nice transition between shots.
The video was edited together in Final Cut Pro X. It was my first experience with the program (and really, working with video at all), but after some experimentation I knew enough where I could edit together our (comparatively simple) video. The video took a few days of editing to complete, and the Kickstarter project was fully funded in just four hours before finishing up at 290% funded.
With the benefit of hindsight there are a few things I’d change if I did this project again. First and foremost I should have bought an external microphone with a wind screen, ’cause all the wind noise in the final product drives me batty– and that’s AFTER running it through noise reduction in Final Cut. The hard shadows in some of the shots are unfortunate too. Next time I’ll at least spring for a large piece of white posterboard!
Overall I’m really proud of the final product, and I’m glad I was able to help the group get over the top and release the CD. It was a fun project and a great learning experience, one I hope to keep building on in the future.