The Making of Aviary's Google Apps video

launching Aviary in Google Apps Marketplace, Google asked us to create a video to help introduce Aviary to Google Apps users (many of whom are businesses).

Being that this is Aviary and that instructional videos can often be boring we wanted to make a really creative and fun introduction video that also showcased stylistically what our tools can do (in addition to the more obvious functional use for a business user).

Michael and I (Avi) set to work making a storyline that had the following goals:

1) Show off a single use case for Aviary that would appeal to a broad set of small business owners.

2) Use Aviary's editors (and the concepts in the different editors) as the multimedia components in the story. For example, audio would be mixed in Aviary's online audio editor when possible. Items used in the scenes would be floating panels showing the editors in action or stylistically borrowing from the editors.


We decided to go with the story of "Joe." Joe would be described as a small business owner who typically calls on his designer Jane when he has a design need. In this particular story, Joe needs a template design for a presentation he is giving and Jane is unavailable. No worries, he logs into Google Apps and uses Aviary to make a kickass presentation all by himself.

Pretty soon we had a white-board of the different scenes and panels up telling this story.

At this point, we added Meowza and Mike Peutz to the mix. Meowza's role was to create the individual art elements and Mike's role was to animate the art and create the video itself.

Mike immediately got to work creating a prototype video that helped us to track our storyboard concept against an actual timeline.


One thing we weren't certain about was how Joe should look. Although we wanted the background elements to be multimedia like and drawn, we thought that Joe might look better as a real person. After seeing a couple of Meowza's mockups of Joe, we decided that Joe himself should also have this kind of multi-layer feel to him, as if he was composed of elements cut out of a magazine. And as per usual, Meowza nailed it.

Meowza also went to work creating some styles for different components in Joe's office.

Joe's clock was based on Raven's vector editor.

Joe's office window was based on Phoenix's image editor

And coolest of all, Joe's office plant was based on the Node interface we use in Peacock, the filter editor.

When possible, Mike would animate items in the video according to how the image editor would work. So when showing off how many clients Joe had, we showed the mouse clicking off additional layers.

During the scene where Joe is panicking, we used a number of peacock blackbox filters on Joe's face to help showcase his emotions.

The images that Meowza made did not stray too far from the storyboard. This can be seen in this comparison of the vacation scene from the storyboard and the final video.

We were even able to sneak in our audio editor, using it both for the audio sequence of Jane's phone and voicemail, but also for the underlying track that looped throughout the video.

The one third party tool we relied heavily on was Sony Vegas, which Mike used to make the video animations and transitions, as Aviary has not released a video editor yet. We do like to eat our own dog food wherever possible though, and hopefully will be able to in a future video. :)

By the time the video was complete it came in pretty long and needed some heavy editing, mostly in the areas where we showed Aviary's tools in action. We also had to make an audio change. Here's the first draft.

It came in at 2:17 minutes. After some back and forth dialogue on how to clean it up to make it more streamlined, we were able to whittle it down to 1:40 minutes and felt it was ready enough for primetime. Here you can see Meowza and Mike's completed work.

Knowing that this was turned around in under a week and was produced internally by a couple of people on our team is simply awesome. It makes me really proud to work with folks that are so talented. I'm definitely looking forward to the next time!