I’ll be the first one to admit that I suck at anything artsy and creative. Beyond maybe a few creative classes and functions in my code, all graphics and sound in my games and apps are outsourced. I prefer math-y programming tasks. But after finishing my upcoming iOS app Dev Docs, I knew I had to buckle down and make an app trailer. I’ve honestly had lackluster marketing efforts in the past. It was time to take the leap. I filmed and edited the whole freakin’ thing.
For all you math nerds like me out there, it’s actually not that bad.
Here’s what I learned through the process:
I’ve found that there are 3 main steps to creating a trailer or commercial for your iOS app or game:
Let’s walk through each of these steps.
Although it’s slightly cliché, you’re going to want to outline some goals for your video. Ask yourself these questions:
- What features of my app do I want to showcase?
- What emotions do I want my video to provoke? Interest? Excitement? Hope?
- Am I creating a trailer or commercial?
I think that last question is essential (mainly because it’s something I missed with my video): are you trying to demonstrate what your app does with a trailer, or are you making a commercial to convince customers to buy? Trailers and commercials definitely overlap, but there’s also a clear distinction. The app store guidelines state that if you want to include a trailer with your metadata, then it needs to be more like a trailer with app footage as opposed to a commercial. I didn’t really know which one I was going for when I started, and in the end it became a commercial. Is that a problem? Not necessarily, but now I don’t have anything to submit to Apple for app store marketing purposes.
If you’re deciding between a trailer and commercial, I’d like to bring up a business concept called feature/benefit marketing. A feature of a product is the actual usage of the product. In the case of apps, it would be the functionality, UI, etc. The benefits are how the consumer is impacted, like enjoyment or productivity. Consider whether the features or benefits of your app are more enticing.
Another design decision you’re going to want to make ahead of time is what kind of audio your video is going to have. Music? Narration? Both? I found some great, inexpensive music over at premiumbeat.com, and I hear that you can get some decent voiceovers done at fiverr for $5.
Once you’ve outline a solid direction for your video, you’re going to want to create a storyboard for your video. In case you’re a total video production n00b, a storyboard is a short outline of the flow of a video or movie. It usually takes the form of a grid and contains a quick sketch and description of each scene. I know I dropped the ball on the goal setting for my video, but my storyboard worked out really well for my app video. Here are some storyboard templates if you need some. I just drew a 4×3 grid in my handy dandy notebook, which was sufficient for my needs. Your scenes can be real life film footage recorded with a camera, like my commercial approach, or specific in app footage. I chose the music I was going to use prior to making my storyboard, and I would highly recommend taking this approach. You can construct your scenes based on the build up and climax of the song to maximize the impact of your video.
Be creative with your trailer/commercial idea:
When you’re storyboarding, provide extra length in your time estimates. I ended up having to squeeze shots in to make a 30 second video. If I went for a 25 second video instead, I would’ve had more wiggle room to extend it to 30 seconds.
At this point, if you’ve planned effectively, filming should be a breeze. I have a few things here that I would like to go back and change about my video.
First, I’d highly recommend that you invest in a decent camera and tripod if you require real life footage. I thought my camera was a high quality one, but turns out it’s pretty old. Some of the footage turned out a bit grainy. Technology changes fast, so a new camera should treat you well (for the time being ;)). I rigged together a broken tripod with some duct tape. It worked great. Shaky footage is worse than low quality footage, so at the very least, get a tripod situation sorted out. If you’re just grabbing from the iPhone/iPad screen for in app footage, you can simply connect your device and record it through QuickTime on your Mac.
Yet another place for improvement in my video was the lighting. Since my video If you’re not a professional with experience, I imagine that it’s pretty difficult to nail appropriate lighting. In general, I’d recommend to keep it consistent and make sure faces stay lit. Don’t force a shot if there are shadows in somebody’s face. Obviously lighting isn’t an issue if you don’t have any real world shots!
Lastly, even if you think a shot is perfect, take about 3 shots for every scene. This will help with polish, and it’s not fun to have to go back to a location to reshoot. Trust me.
Editing was my favorite part of the process, because it put me in my comfortable environment: on my computer.
The more your invest in video editing software, the better your product will look. I’ve always enjoyed Adobe Premiere Elements, but I’ve had poor experiences trying to use it with screen recorded footage. Many people also recommend iMovie for the Mac, which would be a good pair with QuickTime recorded in app footage.
When you edit, allow yourself to get a bit creative and break out of the mold of your storyboard. Try out transitions and different clip lengths and zooms.
For the love of all things holy, please save your project every once in a while. I assume all of you who are reading this are computer literate, but apparently I’m not. My computer crashed right as I was about to export and I had to start ALL OVER.
While you’re editing, it’s also worth nothing what size you’re producing. YouTube likes 16:9 ratios (1920×1080, etc.). Apple has a ton of specific specs (heh) that you should be aware of if you’re producing an app preview.
In case you’re curious, here is my finished product: