All of you have probably seen one of those whiteboard-style animated videos. You see a hand with a marker visualizing the concepts which you hear in the voice-over. They are often made to easily and visually explain concepts or as a nice way to help understand the highlights from inspiring talks (TED-like) or books; like this one on Drive by Daniel Pink [vid].

In order to learn and be able to produce something awesome like that in the far future, I wanted to practice. So I surprised two people I know who started their own company last year; Vasco Mysterytravel [web | Dutch]. The concept is that they interview you on what you’re looking for in an adventure and what your budget and time options are. Then Vasco organizes all that’s needed to give you the surprise-adventure-trip you never imagined. You find out where you’re headed at the airport, just hours before you leave. I was in the second group to help pilot their concept, and was so in love with it that I decided to make the explanation video below.
Main thing I left out compared to a video scribe is letting the image be drawn in real-time. It still does require comparable creativity and roughly the same steps, which I’ll explain further down.


  1. Gathering info
    Since I’ve been on a surprise trip with Vasco myself, I wrote down how my travel group experienced it and which parts stood out for us. Gathered info from their website and social media channels and read the reviews from other adventurers. This gave me a broad idea of all they can offer and how people perceive their Vasco experience.
  2. Creating a story board
    Out of all the info I collected, I created a story board. Selected the main topics I like to touch upon, then put them in a logical order so they build up a story. Sketched rough visuals to go with the topics to get a feeling of what the final video will look like.
  3. Recording the voice-over
    To make sure your result is driven by your message and not your drawing skills or inspiration, switch to the audio script early on. This is an important lesson I learned from @LaurensBonnema,  which is a great inspiration to me in visualizing! After the first two steps you should have enough input to think about the storyline and record the voice-over. This storyline will guide you in the rest of the process.
  4. Drawing the visual
    The recorded voice-over gave me just enough boundaries to make sure I could aim my creative skills at the right things; creating the visuals that strengthen the storytelling of the audio message. Decided to also visually support the journey we’ll be making during the video.
  5. Frame the scenes
    Again driven by the storyline, I set the frames which show during certain parts of the message. By precise framing I add focus to the message I’m trying to convey, that way taking the viewer along on the visual journey. Making sure the bigger picture slowly uncovers during the video to end with a Big Bang pan out.
  6. Sync the frame shift with the voice-over
    Having set the frames on the visual, the next step is to synchronize them with the audio. Letting the voice-over run, I shifted the frames to make sure the timing between the frames would be correct. Recorded the screen with some extra time at the beginning to be able to clip it in the next step and adjust it slightly.
  7. Fine-tuned video editing for higher quality
    Edited the audio and video streams to adjust and fix minor timing issues. Editing separately allows you to adjust volume or re-record a specific part of the voice-over if needed. You also have full control over output formats to save the video.
  8. Sharing is caring!
    Proud of the end result! Only step left was to share it with the guys behind Vasco as a surprise Christmas gift.

The workflow above is accustomed to the specific tools I’ve used, being:

  • Plain pen (Artline Drawing System size 0.3 & 0.7) & paper for the physical story board
  • UPAD 3 [app] on iPad Pro to draw the visual
  • Auphonic Recorder [app] on iPhone to recorded the voice-over
  • Tawe [app] on iPad Pro to frame the scenes on the visual
  • iMovie on MacBook to edit video and audio streams
  • YouTube for sharing the end result

When I would do this for a client, I would involve them in the first three steps to first get approval on the message to convey. This time it was a gift for the guys behind Vasco Mysterytravel, so didn’t want to spoil the surprise. 🙂

Experimenting & Learning

The how-to above is slightly romanticized version of the truth. I certainly did all the things described in the steps, but not half in such a logical and structured manner as stated. This is my battle plan next time I take upon such a challenging task, based on all the learnings I gained by experimenting and failing. Fail fast & recover is how I like to tackle learning new skills. Let me share some of the things I learned during the evenings and hours I invested:

  • Step 2) Too bad I forgot to take pictures of the story boards. Lovely to show and take people along in how this is created
  • Step 3-4) Be less stubborn next time and really start out with the audio script as soon as possible, lost lots of time going back and forth between visual and random audio recording based on keywords. Really need a script!
  • Step 3/7) Test out the hardware. I just recorded the audio with in-app controls on my iPad Pro, only to find out too late the audio quality was way below my quality threshold
  • Step 4-6) Make sure to finish the drawing before defining all the frames. Else it all goes to waste when you replace the visual, at least in the tool I used
  • Step 7) Next time I will experiment with background music under the video

This was one of the coolest things I learned during all of 2016, so it was way worth the time investment in experimenting & learning!