Our Improv community is still young and troupes rarely produce any promotional material. So I got my hands dirty and work on it! This post summarizes my lessons during three weeks making promo material for my troupe.

Disclaimer: My video/image editing experience is close to none. The first time I opened a video editor was two weeks ago. I am an IT fellow with little artistic sense. I dream of an easy manual to make the videos look amazing. Luckily, as an avid YouTube consumer, so easily found a tutorial to start. But don’t expect expert insights on this post!z

Tool of choice

YouTubers choice seems to be Final Cut (Mac only) or Premiere, the latter also offering tools to edit clips from your phone.

I opted for LightWorks instead. Why? Their free version doesn’t have a time limit, and it covers all my needs. There are enough tutorials online to guide you through the first steps. I am in love with their workflow now!

LightWorks is a powerful software but doesn’t have the ease-of-use features from its competitors such as Premiere. LW gives you the freedom and power to achieve most tasks, but offers no magic one-click tools.

Most tools have a limited trial period, tho. Give them all a go, it is the easiest way to find the best match!

If you are thinking about getting astonishing promotional images, Photoshop is the go-to tool. I have done next to nothing with image editing, but whenever I needed some (simple) editing I used the open-sourced Gimp. Nowadays, you can achieve amazing results even using tools like Paint3D (Windows) or Instagram!

Resources to use

I am not a videographer and I can’t take professional-looking movies. Luckily, one of my scene partners recorded every performance, so I have plenty of material to start from. Remember, the better the material is, the more professional your promo will look!

If you are planning to create silly Facebook ads, you might need extra footage besides your (hilarious) show. Think of all those infomercial-like ads!

Here you can see a list of resources. I am in a low budget, so I only use free commercial use licensed resources. Just in case you are actually making money with improv, I will add some premium options. It is worth the investment!

Free Stock videos

Pexels videos is a gold mine for me. Commercial license with no attribution required (but encouraged!), and they look professional! I usually use a short clip as a silly intro, just adding text making a joke or premise.

I also found winners on Pixabay. StockFootage has epic shots from nature if that is your cup of tea!

Paid option: Shutterstock videos seems to offer a huge variety for a monthly payment.

Free Stock Music

Besound is where I have found my favorite background music. They have a short selection, but the quality is amazing.

There are many youtube channels that offer music without copyright, or you can also search the free music library

Paid option: EpidemicSound is my favourite YouTubers’ choice. They have a trial period, and then you play a monthly fee and you can use their entire library.

##Free Stock Images

Pexels has a wide variety of options, but there are other free stock pictures platforms.

Unsplash makes 10 pictures a day free. PicJumbo has a different selection. You can even find some on Flickr searching by the correct license!

Paid options: Adobe Stock’s pictures look astonishing.

Free stock fonts

Fonts have a license, but you already know that! If you want to not use the basic ones, we need to find free fonts out there!

I end up using Impact due to its clarity most of the times. When I want a different style, I use Stockio or 1001fonts to find free usage fonts.

Logo and Branding

If you have enough skills, Photoshop will be the way to create your unique logo.

In my case, I use Shopify’s free software Hatchful to make some simple logos for the different shows. They offer many images optimized for different social media accounts

Paid options: You can find many professionals on Fiverr that will create an amazing and personalized logo for $20-$40.

Steps I usually take

I usually make very simple video ads: a silly premised followed by a clip playing with that idea, or a summary of a bunch of scenes from a show. Both of them follow a very simple path.

Intro and Outro and common parts

Luckily, I have template projects with intro and outro already done. Let’s see a way to create a template like that!

For the intro, pick a stock clip or picture that will engage the audience on the first 5 seconds, and to write the premise. I usually add some cinematic bands (top and bottom) so I can include silly phrases. I like to follow that with a second of our logo saying “We have you covered!”. If you’re just doing a summary of a show, you can skip the stock video!

For the outro, just add promotion on where to find you, social media, etc. I also like to include our logo. I mean, I spent some time making it, so let’s use it at least! I also like to include the audio from the end of our shows so you can hear an engaged audience clapping!

I enjoy adding is a soft song on the background. I use the same group of songs most times which feels somewhat repetitive, but creates a brand.

I usually apply basic colour/light correction to the clips of our show. I also like to crop the video so I remove the sides and the audience’s heads (as we are recording on a weird angle), but some love to keep that.

Finally, I add subtitles for the people not listening while scrolling (and to be more inclusive!), colour coding it with whom is talking. This is the most time-consuming part. For that, I have to add titles manually. You can copy and paste the format, and find in the audio track where are people talking, but it still takes time.

Short Facebook ad

The first step here is to identify which scene I want to add, and some kind of premise for it. Valentine’s Day? Maybe we can use a scene exploring a relationship. A surreal scene where someone called the obvious? Or you can just make add a common premise.

Having the intro already ready, time to work on the scene. I will chop the parts I want to see and include that (ideally, the video should be under a minute!). I usually look at the audio track to find the loudest laugh, and aim to end the clip around that mark.

Remember to apply some colour corrections add the subtitles and done! A silly non-professional looking at you can use everywhere! Watch out for all the licences of everything you have used, so you know that you can share it freely!

Show summary

Here, I start by finding which scenes I want in the montage. Do you want to follow the same story through many scenes, or just add punch lines and laughter? Remember the audio waves helps you find funny moments, look for the claps! When you have your selection, chop them and put them in order.

Transitions time! You have a sequence of clips now. Personally, I don’t like when the image jumps from one scene to the next, but that is a matter of taste. I usually add simple transitions between scenes and I like to keep it consistent!

Promotion without footage of your team

You can also create funny material without showing your pretty faces (or if you have zero footage). Many Facebook ads use stock images and videos to make funny remarks that will produce reactions; so you can use that option!!

Silly promotion is always better than nothing. You can track what works for your team and your audience!

Details to remember

Here I want to share a list of unconnected tips to keep in mind.*

  • Video Resolution. Think where are you planning to share the videos. Facebook uses the unique resolution of 9:16 instead of 16:9 (as most people watch them while scrolling), so consider that when you export.
  • How to share it. Everyone uses Youtube, and it is very convenient to only need a link to share! But if you want to share this material on Facebook or Instagram, having the video itself will bring more people, and it works better on the feed. Personally, I share with my team all the Youtube links and
  • Licenses. Double check the licences of everything you are using. Does the music require attribution? Do they want it in a particular format? Do you have to specify where did you get the pictures? How about your theatre, are they requiring anything before using the footage? The best way to avoid trouble is being proactive and understanding with their needs!

And, the most important thing is to please ask your performers for consent, and gives them a chance to ask at any moment to take any video down. We are here to have fun, not to cause problems!

What about you?

Do you create your own promotional material? Do you have someone from your theatre helping you on this? As I said, I am barely starting my video/photo editing journey, so I would love to learn from what it is already working for you!