startup video

How we produced an effective and affordable demo video on a startup budget

Hostfully needed a video for their beta and to demo potential investors


Our client Hostfully was creating a “virtual concierge” to assist hosts in the alternative lodging industry (e.g. Airbnb, VRBO) create guidebooks for their guests. They wanted a demo video to inform hosts of their product for their beta launch and also present it to potential investors.


Hostfully wanted a video that presents their service in a way that is warm and welcoming;  important as their service assists hosts to foster these sensibilities. This meant an animated explainer video was out of the running. It had to be a live action video which could be a challenge on their tight budget if the concept required too many locations and actors. And because they were in pre-alpha, their MVP (minimal viable product) was not ready to demo yet.

  • Shooting live action video with multiple actors on a low budget
  • How to demo a partially completed product?


What is the right concept?

We narrowed our target demographic to just hosts to simplify the concept. After a couple of brainstorming meetings, we came to the conclusion that focusing on a single host and a few types of guests were our best option to economically convey the idea.  It meant we could cover a range of issues the guests present to our host, Bob, and how Hostfully would address them. 

  • Narrowly targeted demographic - Hosts
  • Simplified concept - One host with multiple guests
Our host Bob.

Our host Bob.

If you need many locations?

Now we could write the script and rough in a budget, knowing that too many locations were a concern. To keep the production filming days to within 2 days, we decided to focus one day on the interior location for Bob’s house and the other on the exterior, and leverage places that were within walking distance or a short drive. 

  • One central location per day only
  • All other locations within easy access of that location

What if you need a lot of actors?

We knew it was important to have our lead character, Bob, played by a seasoned actor. He would be the focal point of the video, and had to convey the experience hosts go through.  This meant we could leverage friends, coworkers and family for the guest roles. That worked, as it give the video a welcoming feel. These were real people, representing real guest’s problems.

  • Lead played by experienced actor
  • Guests played by non-actors
The guests.

The guests.

And if the product is still in alpha?

Since the product wasn’t complete yet, we couldn’t demo the complete site. Not a problem, as we didn’t want to bog the video down with shots from a web browser. We wanted to show the experience a user has using the service instead, such as finding their hosts favorite coffee shop or that perfect view of the city. And since many viewers watch videos on mobile or small embedded web videos (470x264 on Facebook) a lot of detail can be lost. We decided on graphic popups to augment some shots of the beta to convey the use of Hostfully which would also showcase their new brand.

  • Forgo showing product demos
  • Use graphic popups to convey use of the product 
We used animated popups to convey hosts and guests using Hostfully.

We used animated popups to convey hosts and guests using Hostfully.


We needed to shoot live action, with multiple people and multiple locations. By using friends and family with strategic placement of where we shot, we were able to keep the budget in check and deliver a video that helped our client impress investors and raise their initial round of financing.

The final video.

Additional Files

Hostfully Shooting Storyboard

Simple storyboard to show the actual shots we would record during production.  Its intention is to communicate to the client and crew what we'll be shooting and how it will work in the edit. We also use it during our pre-production meetings with our editor to confirm we're getting the right shots and enough coverage for the edit.  These are not fancy concept storyboards, but simple, to the point, shooting storyboards. 

Hostuflly Shot Location Planning Sheet

This planning sheet collects stills shot during our location scout. Its purpose is to show suggested shot angles and potential lenses to use at our locations.