Video Breakdown: Transform Your Creative Process with Roam Research by Drew Coffman

Video Breakdowns is a series where I where talk about why good videos are good! I hope to deliver some insights on the production process and point out post-production decisions that were made so that we can we can make better videos.

Drew Coffman - Transform Your Creative Process With Roam Research
Length: 7:02
Platform: YouTube
Format: Vlog/How-to

Everyone on Twitter is talking about Roam Research. It has reached phenomenon status. The problem is, it is a VERY difficult tool to explain. It took me 2 weeks of seeing people talk about it until I finally decided to check out what the hype was about.

The best way to Roam is: a Wiki for your brain. It’s a writing and notetaking app, but you’re able to link together your notes, creating a web of connected thoughts and information.

I went to Roam’s homepage and saw “A note-taking tool for networked thought.” This meant nothing to me. I thought that the way it worked was my notes would be connected to OTHER PEOPLES’ notes in a kind of collective consciousness experiment. Other peoples’ notes and thoughts would help my own thinking or something.

I had no idea what this thing was until I saw Drew’s awesome video mentioned on Twitter. Drew’s video is so good I thought he was on the Roam team and it was an official video! I think it’s important to distinguish because we watch videos differently when they come from the company vs. an opinion video on YouTube.

Let’s talk about why this video is really good.

Opening line:

“I’ve always been fascinated by the desks of highly creative people.”

Steve Jobs's desk with branded green texture overlay
Steve Jobs's desk with branded green texture overlay

Every video needs to start with a hook. Like a melody in a song, a hook is a way to capture attention with something that is relatable and memorable. It’s visual. You immediately think “Wow I never realized all creative people have messy desks!” It’s a great observation and tying it to Roam makes you wonder “what does this have to do with Roam?”

I love the design also. This video has very little traditional b-roll, so these still photos treated with a green overlay is a great way to build brand identity. Could he have used the photos as he found them? Sure, but the green ties them together and makes them uniquely Drew’s.

The Shot

Drew's shot features plenty of natural light, centered on the camera
Drew's shot features plenty of natural light, centered on the camera

The first thing we see is a series of pictures with a green overlay. Drew’s shot incorporates this idea in a few ways:

  • Same styled green image on his computer screen
  • Hoodie with green design (it’s even the same shade of green…)
  • Plants in the background

He’s mainly using 2 colors - green and white. I like the pop of orange at the top right as well, just for some contrast.

He’s sitting in the middle of the frame and talking right at the camera. There’s plenty of natural light and the room he chose to film in has a bit of depth. It’s totally his kitchen (you can see the faucet over his left shoulder) and that’s awesome.

His delivery is fantastic. You can tell he’s either reading off a teleprompter or was very prepared with a detailed outline. He’s conversational and inviting.

The Music

The music is best described as a “mellow beat.” This Spotify playlist Mellow Beats is a favorite of mine to have in the background while I’m working. I also enjoy Gold Instrumental Beats.

Listening to instrumental music helps keep me focused when I’m writing and working on videos that don’t require me to listen to people talking. If I was using Roam for notes, I would totally have the track that Drew picked on a playlist.

If you want to check out artists in this genre I highly recommend Will Sessions, Pete Rock, and Damu The Fudgemunk.

If you want to use music like this in your own videos, check out Mike Cherne. I use his stuff in my videos all the time.

The Problem

Drew describes a feeling a lot of us have - we keep trying tools, especially note taking tools, and they fall short of our expectations and/or we can’t get in the habit of using them consistency.

Later in the video he talks about the old way of notetaking using files and folders and has this great old school OS design:

Old school Mac OS graphic. So fun!
Old school Mac OS graphic. So fun!

“Files and folders keep us from linking ideas together.”

The Solution

Drew uses great terminology to describe Roam. I have no idea if these are in “official” company comms but they should be. Word and phrases like “the mental weight of notetaking” and “mind map” and “bidirectional links” are understandable and descriptive.

Drew demos Roam’s killer featuring - using double brackets to create new pages, which creates links between notes.

iPad used for product demo
iPad used for product demo

I like this shot a lot. Instead of his iMac from the main shot which would take up the whole screen and/or the text would be too small to read, he’s using an iPad on a stand, typing on an external keyboard. The frame is filled out by a sexy Leica camera.

Drew then gives an example of why you would want to link ideas together, then introduces a new graphic to show this, using his signature green overlay with a nice paper texture. (I’m now realizing that the texture is on the opening photos as well. Subtle on the darker photos, more noticeable with these white “cards.”)

Card graphics with arrows show connections
Card graphics with arrows show connections

There’s no animation here at all. The arrows don’t fly around - it’s just a quick zoom in on these graphics. Simple and effective!

The Big Takeaway

Roam lets you “bundle” information and visualize connections between notes and ideas that you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. That’s where new ideas come from - combining two disparate ideas into a something new.

Web of connected notes in with the green texture design
Web of connected notes in with the green texture design

“Roam is the digital version of the cluttered desk that I’ve been looking for.”

Drew makes a callback to the opening with this line. Overall, his script is really polished and the “desks of creative people” hook is so good.

Other takeaways:

The length doesn’t matter. A great video is a great video! At 7 minutes, this a long video by social media standards, but Roam requires a lengthy explanation to understand how it works and how you can use it. There’s no way a 30 or 60 second video would get you excited about the product, but if the video is done well and you’re interested in the topic, you’ll watch the full 7 minutes like I did.

There’s zero animation The graphics are well branded with Drew’s green motif, but even with multiple cards and arrows on some graphics, nothing animates beyond simple zooms and pans. Don’t spend time in After Effects or think you need whizbang animation!