Updated 9 Apr 2015: This post has been updated to Swift 1.2
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The screenshots that adorn your app’s page in the App Store have always been incredibly important in advertising your app – giving a flavor of what a user can expect and attempting to get them to push the all-important Buy button. Back when iOS7 was first announced I wrote a blog post about how given the new, flatter UI design, screenshots just weren’t going to cut it any more (iOS7: What does it mean for developers?), and it seems that Apple agree. Starting with iOS8, you can now upload a short video to demo your app, to be displayed alongside the screenshots in the App Store.
In today’s article you’ll learn how to create these videos, and take a look at some of the recommendations from Apple regarding their content. Since it’s still early days in the video approval process, there is little empirical evidence as to how strictly the rules are applied – with time the community will learn both what what works, and what Apple is happy to approve.
In a change to the standard format, today’s post doesn’t have a sample project. It does describe how to get started with recording video from your device – with a sample demoing the MarqueeMaker action extension from day 29.
Recording a Video
In the past, when wanting to record video from a device you’d have to resort to using AirPlay and a 3rd-party app on OSX. AirPlay has low resolution, and a high compression ratio – allowing it to work over wireless networks. This means that a recording from a device looks shabby at best.
New to iOS8 and OSX Yosemite, it’s now possible to record directly from the device onto your computer. In fact, when you plug in an iOS8 device (via a lightning cable) it appears as a new camera.
To record a video, you need to start out by opening QuickTime. Note, that by default, QuickTime doesn’t open a window when you start it – but you can see that it has started in the dock:
You start a new recording via the File menu:
This will open a new window and tell you that you need to select a camera:
If your iOS8 device is connected via a lightning cable then you’ll be able to select it as a camera from the source menu:
QuickTime will then resize to mirror your device’s current screen, at which point you can start recording. Notice also that the status bar has changed from the regular one to the standard one – displaying the “Apple Time” of 09:41, removing your service provider and filling your battery:
This will allow you to create a simple video, that at the very least will allow you to record the source material to cut together to build your complete demo video.
Although this sorts the technicalities of actually getting video from a device into a recording, it’s only the tip of the iceberg that is creating a great video.
Apple has created a page full of info about how to create App Previews, which goes some way to helping work out what to do. Some of the most important points are summarized below:
- Videos should be 15 to 30 seconds in length
- The video will appear before the screenshots
- iTunes Connect allows you to choose a poster image. This is the image that is displayed before the video starts playing. Note that you can’t change this without uploading a new binary to iTunes Connect, so choose wisely. Remember that this poster frame is taking the place of the first screenshot – so make sure it is as powerful as the screenshot it is replacing.
- You can submit device-specific videos. This means iPad, 4-inch iPhone, 4.7- inch iPhone and 5.5-inch iPhone can all have their own videos.
- Apple is keen on well-produced videos. this involves careful planning, storyboarding to create a well-formed story. It should demo the top 5 features of your app.
- Prepare appropriate demo data.
- Previews (like screenshots) are for all audiences. This means the content needs to be suitable for the 4+ age-group.
- Videos are not localized. This is good in one respect – you don’t need to create hundreds of versions of the same video. However, if you’re marketing in multiple markets, you need to ensure that your video is understandable irrespective of the user’s native language. You also can’t include any pricing details, since these will vary by territory.
- Soundtracks are encouraged. Make sure you have the rights for everything you want to use in your video.
- In-app purchases must be disclosed. If your demo shows features only available via in-app purchase, you have to notify users of this. In a language- agnostic manner. Good luck with that.
- Videos should only feature on-device footage. You should not have video of somebody using the app, or anything similar. In this respect it should be very much like the screenshots you’re used to producing.
Apple has helpfully produced a PDF guide of how to create app previews using Final Cut Pro, which gives you some indication of the level of quality that Apple is expecting.
There are a couple of different things in today’s post – the ability to record video from a device, and app previews. I think that the ability to record video is super-useful – and is something that was never really very easy to achieve in the past.
From a user’s perspective, app previews are a definite win – for exactly the reasons I outlined in the aforementioned article last year. Getting a ‘feel’ for an app via static screenshots has become increasingly difficult, so app preview videos will make life easier.
However, for developers, app previews represent yet another thing that needs to be done as part of the release process. Due to their nature, they are likely to benefit large shops – who have the skills to create this kind of creative. I think that small developer-only teams will find creating compelling videos quite hard work. Remember, huge amounts of money are spent on creating TV advertising, which are also 30s videos. Some of the restrictions that Apple have laid out will help level the playing field between those who have money to burn and those who don’t.
It’s early days for this new App Store functionality – it’ll be really interesting to see how it pans out over the coming months. Let me know your opinions on this – gimme a shout on Twitter – I’m @iwantmyrealname.