How often do you watch YouTube videos? Alright, how often do you watch YouTube videos that aren’t music videos? Most content on YouTube that has any level of popularity, and that isn’t a music video, tends to have some kind of an intro in front of it. Have you noticed? Take a minute and go check your favorite videos for a moment; I’ll wait.
I’m guessing that at least half of the videos you really like have intros in front of them. However, there are still plenty of videos that do well without an intro, and many, many videos that door poorly perhaps because of their intro.
Should Your Videos Have an Intro?
The first question you need to ask yourself is whether or not your videos should have an intro in front of them. Some people will tell you that you absolutely need an intro, but I figure there are a few considerations that might change your mind.
First of all, what kind of content are you sharing? An intro is good if you have a niche that includes strong branding. When content is generic, branding can make the difference between just another piece of content and a piece of content that is memorably yours. Marketing content fits this description fairly often.
On the other hand, if your content is something that only you could produce anyways, an intro isn’t necessarily going to do much for you. Music videos are the primary example of this. Watch a Beyonce video and you know it’s Beyonce, you don’t need a 10-second intro before the video to reiterate the point. Though, you can include an intro as a way to stymie people who want to download the audio track; it’ll have the audio from the intro too, which is annoying enough some people won’t download it after all.
My second consideration is the length of the content. I’ve come across people who do quick tip videos on YouTube, videos that are themselves less than 90 seconds long. I’ve also seen people who make those videos with an intro that takes up the first 20 seconds. This means it feels like a significant portion of the video is “wasted” with the intro. I would save intros for longer videos, or make sure the intro is very, very short.
Tips for Making a Great Intro
If you’ve decided to make a YouTube video intro, you’ve probably come looking for tools, services, or tutorials to help you. I’ll provide all that below, but first let’s talk about what makes a video intro good or bad.
Length. The ideal length of a YouTube intro should be less than 10 seconds, as far as I’m concerned. You’re not making a TV show with a 2-minute intro that cuts to commercials here. You’re just throwing up a brand, logo, and sound effect more than anything else. Why? Your branding is best for new users. Existing users – the ones most likely to watch numerous videos – don’t want to see your lengthy intro over and over. If you keep the intro short, it’s more work for them to try to skip it than it saves in doing so.
Branding. There are two forms of branding that can be added to the intro: company branding and series branding. For example, if you’re a company named Bob’s Sandwiches, you would have one central logo for your company, an animated sandwich that spins in place. Then if you produce three different web video series’, each one of those can have their own intro card as well. For example, a series about sourcing ingredients called “Locally Sourced” could have a logo/title card, a separate series about actual sandwich recipes called “Making Bacon” would have one, and so forth.
Therefore, each video would have a semi-custom intro that is three parts: the logo for your shop, the title card for the video series, and a quick couple seconds of the title of the episode itself.
Quality. The overall quality of the intro needs to be high. If you have some low-res CG logo that smashes onto screen with a poorly balanced audio sound effect, it gives users a very poor first impression. Remember, between all of your videos, users will remember one thing that stands in common between them. That one thing is your intro, so you need to make it good.
Don’t try to make it “cool” and especially don’t try to make it cool with a younger generation. Absolutely nothing is more pathetic than an out of touch brand trying to make something that appeals to a younger audience they don’t understand.
Examples of Good YouTube Intros
To illustrate what I’m talking about, let’s take a look at some high quality or stand-out YouTube intros and what they do right.
1: Yuya. Yuya is a Spanish-language Mexican beauty vlogger. She’s bubbly, charming, and charismatic, and I don’t even understand Spanish myself. Her intro is about 8 seconds long and is a bright, colorful illustration of her channel in a nutshell. It has pictures of dogs, pictures of beauty items, and a cartoon version of her front and center. It has no words, just casual music that sets the tone for her channel’s style.
2: TED. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. The TED Talks series is an ongoing conference of speeches from the best and most brilliant minds in just about every subject imaginable. The current intro for TED Talks is a droplet of water that cascades into a universe of interconnected stars and spheres, showcasing the elemental idea of disruptive thoughts. It’s illustrative of what TED stands for: Ideas Worth Spreading. This is all masked over by the TED logo and tagline, all in 10 seconds, which then transitions smoothly into whoever is giving a speech in this particular video.
3: Good Mythical Morning. GMM is a variety show themed after all manner of bizarre and ridiculous questions, games, challenges, and news happenings around the world. The two charismatic hosts have a great back-and-forth, but that’s beside the point. This is an illustration of a case where you don’t have to put the intro at the very start. Every episode of GMM starts with a 1-4 second brief intro to the episode coming up, which is followed by the 10-second intro itself. The intro is as quirky and bizarre as the show itself, various 3d models of objects warping into one another, many of which have at some time or another been featured on the show.
4: Fail Army. Fail Army is dedicated to schadenfreude; the German concept of taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. In this case it’s generally in the visceral, people-being-idiots kind of way. People falling off of objects when performing stunts that go wrong, people wrecking expensive electronics while doing something stupid, that kind of thing. Anyways, Fail Army does the same thing GMM does; the have one intro clip of a #fail, then they play their intro. The intro itself is a mere six seconds long, and simply has the letters of their brand fall into place with an accompanying, now-iconic sound effect. For themed episodes, a title for the theme appears as well, but this isn’t always present. Regardless, it’s a very strong branding intro.
How to Make a YouTube Video Intro
There are a handful of different ways you can make an intro, but technically the “make” part is not quite accurate. Most options actually involve paying someone else to make one for you. Here are your choices.
Option 1: Complete DIY
The complete DIY method involves having access to some specialized tools and having the knowledge to use them. It’s the least popular method for one very good reason: if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’ll look like crap.
Basically, you need some kind of video editor and some kind of rendering engine. Many people use something like the Blender Project as a rendering engine, for example. You can make a short video there, and then use it with whatever video editor you like to add it to the start of your videos. AfterEffects is also a frequent choice.
Option 2: DIY with a Tool
This is possibly the best budget option out there. There are a lot of tools that can help you make a YouTube video intro and will give you the video to add to your uploads. Some are free, some require a small fee, and some are a bit more expensive.
Here are the options I’ve found:
- Render Forest. Render Forest has a range of video intro templates available for you to customize with your logo or company name, and which can be exported for use in your videos. Regular 360p SD quality intros are free, but they’re watermarked. To remove the watermark you need to pay, ranging from $10 to $30 per export, or with a subscription that can range from $49 to $499 per month depending on the length, quality, and other features you want.
- Adobe Spark. The Adobe offering on the list is surprisingly free, and is made for use either with a web app or on iOS. It basically allows you to add a few images in a slideshow, some text with basic animation effects, and an audio track behind it. It’s simple and a little basic, but can be made to work well enough.
- Biteable. The Biteable intros are another free template-based customization engine, but since they’re more pre-rendered, they can both look fancier and give you less customization options. A few of their intro templates also work very well for a longer outro or credit sequence at the end of a video as well. Remember, nothing says you’re limited to using these videos at the start of a video.
- Intro Cave. Another editable template system, this one has a wide range of various intros, all of which can be quite customized. They have some real talent for producing them, and they have a good range of different videos that use text or logos or both. They aren’t free, but each video has pricing that depends on the resolution of your creation. It’s generally $5 for 720p and $10 for 1080p.
- Video Hive. Several of the other options on this list sound like Envato Marketplace names, but it’s actually this one that fits the bill as part of the network. It’s a huge library of individual assets you can pay for. You can find intro templates, After Effects elements, Blender models, and other items all within, for various prices.
The with-a-tool DIY option is generally the most popular, and it can make you some very good intros for free or for a very low cost. The only downside is if you’re being too cheap, you might look it; an SD intro in an HD video will look bad, and if you choose to use a template, it’s possible other people will have used it and it will be recognizable.
Option 3: Hiring a Freelancer
You can hire freelancers for a relatively low price to make you a video intro, and some of them will even customize it for a handful of different styles for you to use in various videos along the way. This is, ironically, one of the few times I’ll actually recommend Fiverr for your video needs.
Video intros on Fiverr aren’t actually $5. I’ve seen them range from $20 all the way up to $150. There are a few at $5, but often these are people who are using one of the tools in the previous section and just selling you the video they made out of your assets. The higher priced sellers have their own libraries of pre-generated templates they can use for your intro, and the really high priced freelancers will make something more completely custom for you.
A step or two higher on the list, you can find freelancers on Upwork that will produce and edit videos for you. They tend to charge by the hour of labor, and how much the finished product you want costs to produce will depend on your requirements. You can find intros ranging from $35 to the hundreds here.
From there, you can spend as much as you’re willing to spend for custom work. You can find individual freelancers on their own websites and hire them, or you can hire a professional agency. Pro agencies can run anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars or more. After all, Hollywood hires agencies for video production too. The only thing stopping you from hiring those same agencies is budget.