Keep your audience’s attention straight from the first second of your video. Take some tips from the pros on making a proper YouTube intro.
Grabbing attention with intros
You wouldn’t eat a sandwich without the bread would you? Then why would you have your YouTube video without an intro and an end screen? The thing that truly defines that next level of content creation is the packaging. True, there are plenty of examples of people succeeding without that polish or boost – but those are the exceptions and not the rule. From internationally renowned brands and services, to influencers and rising stars, everyone benefits from a touch of proper presentation. No matter what ingredients you put in the middle of that sandwich, no one will order it if the bread is moldy and sad looking.
Both the intros and the end screens make for a consistent branding message. It signals the brain you’re in the right place for the information you want, whether it’s comedy, tutorials, conspiracies, or gaming. As a creator, you want to knock into that unconscious focusing of attention, especially in a world that is constantly battling over it. You have to say, “What can I do to set myself apart?” and the answer to that is branding (read our blog 9 Ways to Build Better Branding). The followup question: “How do I present that branding so they get it from the start?”
There are two ways to grab attention with intros, and that’s with video and sound. A lot of people think they’re done after they get the visual element, but what’s not often understood is that sound is a powerful branding tool as well. A specific sound or jingle will stick with somebody much longer than an image. Using the two together is a great knockout punch of creating a remarkable impression.
Below I have some tips to help you make the perfect YouTube intro and some examples further down of intros done right and why.
Here’s a great (and old, from the days before he could grow a beard) YouTube vid from MrBeast, showing you exactly what NOT to do in intros and why a good one is worth the effort:
Tips for YouTube Intros
- Don’t go too crazy. There are a lot of services out there that focus on doing just an intro, and there’s always the threat of creativity cannibalization there — that is where you find a jewel of a template, but so has everyone else. Your intro doesn’t have to be anything complicated, just something that sets the tone of your brand and what you’re presenting. It can be as simple as just pasting your logo with music or a sound to catch the viewer’s attention.
- Keep it short. The modern attention span is built around flashes of information, and so the intro only needs to be a flash. It should essentially communicate: “This is who I am, this is what my show is about.” So whether you go with an intro creation service, a preset intro from your favorite video maker, hire someone from fiverr or other freelancing site, or make your own, make sure you keep it at about 10 seconds maximum.
- Animate it yourself. The go-to program to animate with and use templates for is Adobe’s After Effects. AE is expensive, but it is at least fairly simple to use templates. It’s perfectly acceptable to purchase a 3rd party template for AE, subscribe to AE for only a month (or just use their 7 days free intro), edit it to fit your brand, and voila, your intro. Repeat if and when necessary. Most templates for AE, like those available on VideoHive or MotionArray, just require dragging and dropping your logo and a few pictures, so any subscription more than a month isn’t necessary.
- You don’t need AE to make a good intro. Break down your vision into pieces. Even the most complicated animation can be done with your most basic video editor, as long as you can plan it frame-by-frame and have a lot of patience. Animate one thing, render it, animate another aspect or layer, render it, and so on. At most you’ll need to invest in some green screen or use a green bedsheet. Since we’re only talking about 5 seconds of animation, keep it simple and you’ll succeed. For a free, high-powered video editor, check out DaVinci Resolve.
- Use your brand colors! Color and sound are the two things that glue everything together and keep a person psychologically focused and on your message.
- Use sound! A lot of people don’t get the value of the auditory experience. Luckily, Create Music has made that part super easy. Just type in the mood or genre of your project into our Web App and select your favorite track. From there, you can shorten the timeline to 5 to 10 seconds (however long your intro is) and it will automatically and musically adjust for you. Each song also has a number of hits and sounds for transitions, so that you can have a branded and united sound for your channel as well.
The best YouTube intros and why they work
This Crash Course clip is a great example of my first point. It’s so simple: just an animation of polka dots. Then we see a tilted yellow version of their logo, which draws in, rotates, and turns into the actual symbol. You don’t need a fancy editor to make something like this. First step would be to make two renderings: one with some dots that grow in yellow, the next some dots that grow in pink. Then a transition. A rotate (the animation here is nice but hardly noticeable). Then the word comes out.
The really clever thing about this intro isn’t the animation though. It’s the use of contrasting colors – that all compliment the brand colors – and music. The music is electronic and minimal, matching perfectly that brand logo and the image the channel is trying to create: simple and modern. Our Focused album has tracks with a similar feel.
Dan Lok doesn’t have a standard intro, but if you notice every one of his videos does have a definite introductory section that takes about 5 seconds. It sets the tone of the individual episode and has a clear connection to the content. This is also probably the hardest intro style to pull off, since it takes a lot of brainstorming for each episode – though Dan (and his team) does manage it amazingly.
This clip shows him rolling a bunch of gutter balls, which is a metaphor for the gutter balls you’ll roll as a YouTuber until you manage to strike. Notice his intros take zero animation skills. It’s still quite expensive since it’s location-dependent, but it gives you some idea that you can use location and action just as much as you can use animation. He also doesn’t even have his logo animated, but instead simply wears it on his shirt.
If you notice a theme that I have here, it should be that simple is best. Marques shows this great. The intro is a color board of his brand color, with some lines that randomly coalesce to his logo. During the presentation, it’s accompanied by some funky music, before it split transitions to Marques’s face and welcome. Notice also his shirt is on brand. Looking for some similar music? Check out our Case Closed album.
Practical Psychology has another example of a very clean and quick intro screen. Just a white canvas, their logo, and the text of the channel name. Then in a complimentary color, they write the title of the episode. All very simple and very eye catching.
TED has a great example of showing the interplay between visual and audio. You have a light, which represents ideas, with a chime similar to one cartoons always play when the wiley villain comes up with a new plan. Then the sound of a drop with a timpani roll, creating a graphic in space that combines the Big Bang with water rippling out, as though showing how one idea can expand and make an impact. Then with a riser, it culminates in a white screen, logo, and slogan.
Clean, metaphorical, and fast. An intro like this was probably made first from the sound and then the visuals. Our Cinematic Exploration album has some really interesting tracks to use in this manner. Set the timeline to 10 seconds, put in one of our epic pieces and see what kind of creative juices flow from there.
The gamer Raptor has a very cool and simple graphic. He’s got a big coin in the center, one side showing an “R” for his name, and the other side showing his logo. This kind of 3D effect, like that of a coin spinning, needs a program like After Effects, but doesn’t take too long to figure out how to do. Sound-wise, he’s got a shrill sound followed by a boom. Effects like this are very easy to find in our Sound FX section.
Good luck on making your intros! We’d really like to have a look at whatever you’ve come up with. Leave a link to your channel in our comments and be sure to let us know if you used any of our tracks, as we’d love to have you for a feature!