Five Tips for Producing a Demo Video for Your iPhone App

Guest author Aaron Kardell runs Performant Design and created the iGarageSale app.

One of the best ways to showcase your application’s functionality is to produce a great video. A video is one of the few opportunities potential customers will have to experience your application before buying it. And, a great video is an important key to getting iPhone app reviews. Here’s five tips to get you pointed in the right direction:

Tips

1. Record using iPhone Simulator, SimFinger, and Snapz Pro X

Use iPhone Simulator, SimFinger, and Snapz Pro X to record your demo video. The combination provides the illusion of recording directly from the iPhone without the hassle of attempting to record directly from the device.

SimFinger adds polish to videos by:

  1. Providing a bubble pointer to emulate a fingertip driving the app – instead of a mouse pointer
  2. Installing native app icons in the simulator to give the appearance of running on an iPhone
  3. Providing a white background and gloss overlay to give the appearance of an actual iPhone being used, and
  4. Allowing the carrier text and time to be overridden (e.g. display AT&T instead of Carrier)

SimFinger was written by Loren Brichter, the author of Tweetie, and is offered as donation-ware. The source is freely available on Github.

Snapz Pro X is a straightforward screen capture utility that will record a specific selection of your screen and save the results as an MPEG video. Make sure “Cursor Visible” is unchecked, or the SimFinger effect won’t take. Capture a 2:3 aspect ratio area to simplify post production – 320 x 480 for just the screen, or 506 x 759 (give or take) for the entire phone. A free trial of Snapz Pro X is available and costs $69. A less expensive option to consider is iShowU HD for $29.

2. Keep it short

Potential customers and reviewers will make a quick decision on whether to purchase or review your app based on your video. An ideal video should be between thirty seconds and two and a half minutes. Videos that approach the two minute mark should highlight the most important functionality in the first thirty seconds of the video to get the point across quickly to those with limited time or attention spans.

3. Edit using iMovie

Use iMovie to add captions and splice together just the video you need. First time iMovie users may benefit from watching the numerous iMovie tutorials provided by Apple.

Export in Large or HD format for any videos you plan to upload to YouTube or other online services. This ensures that the video will be encoded at high quality. Note that if the source video isn’t large enough, the Large export size may not be available in iMovie. Work around this by adding an image at the end of the movie. The image can just be a white background. Or use the opportunity to provide information on where to find your app.

If you create a second version of the movie for viewing on the iPhone, be sure to use a 3:2 aspect ratio, and use the Cropping & Rotation mode and rotate right 90 degrees.

4. Dub in appropriate audio

Use a voiceover describing the application’s functionality if your application requires detailed explanation. Dubbing in a voiceover is straightforward with iMovie (http://www.apple.com/ilife/tutorials/#imovie-voiceover). Or, if you record your video in one take, you can also record the audio in real-time with Snapz Pro X.

Background music is a simpler option and may be more appropriate for self-explanatory apps. License music for this purpose from sites such as Jamendo. Alternatively, independent artists value exposure and are more likely to license their music for a low-fee (or even no fee) in return for mentioning them in your video. Contact artist’s managers directly to investigate.

5. Host it on YouTube or host it yourself using a QuickTime supported format

A significant percentage of your prospective customers and reviewers will want to view your demo video directly on an iPhone. To ensure iPhone support, host the video on YouTube or host it yourself, using a format QuickTime supports. Also, all Mac owners will have QuickTime, and iPhone owners using a PC will have a very high likelihood of having QuickTime installed, since it is typically bundled with iTunes.

Choose YouTube for free hosting, easy deployment, and to promote sharing and embedding your video on other sites. Upload a high-resolution version of your video with standard dimensions (16:9, 4:3, or 3:2) and include the tag yt:quality=high to force the video to be viewed at high quality. Standard resolution iPhone app demos on YouTube lack detail and appear grainy and pixelated. Consider uploading two versions of the video – the standard one for viewing on a Mac or PC, and an iPhone version rotated 90 degrees to a landscape view. Use user agent sniffing on your website to determine which version of the video to show.

Host it yourself in a QuickTime supported format if you want more control over the layout of the video on your website. Check out the websites for Byline, Convertbot, and Where To? for great examples of how to pair good web design with QuickTime movies.

Up Next

Stay tuned for the next article in this series which provides a tutorial for emulating the launch of native apps (Maps, Phone, YouTube) in iPhone Simulator.

Have your own tips, or alternate suggestions? Leave a comment!

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