Tag Archives: iOS

My Adventures in Audiobooks

One of the things I always admired about Steve Jobs was his willingness to call out things that just plain sucked.

And so here I am, saying that syncing content with iTunes just plain sucks.

Today’s example:

There’s a good review of the Jony Ive biography over on Asymco. Since I tend to think Horace is a smart guy, I figured his recommendation was reason enough to go get this book for myself. So I followed his link, on my Mac, to the iBookstore.

But just before clicking “buy” I thought to myself, “Well, I have about ten iBooks I haven’t yet read sitting on my iPad. I probably won’t get around to this for a while.” And so I decided to check and see if there were an audiobook version instead. After all, I spend lots of time walking around the city, trying to get some exercise, and it’s been ages since I listened to an audiobook, so why not?

Why not, indeed.

There on the iTunes page for the iBook, I clicked on the “related” tab and saw that there is indeed an unabridged audio version of the same book for sale, on iTunes, no less. Narrated by Simon Vance, even. Perfect. So I bought it.

And at that very moment, I screwed my chances of listening to this book on my iPhone.

You see, unlike most forms of content on iTunes, audiobooks don’t sync over iTunes Match. They also can’t be downloaded more than once. I learned this the hard way, when I turned on my iPhone and fired up the Music app, expecting to see my new audiobook downloading automatically. It wasn’t. I also couldn’t find an audiobooks tab anywhere, even in the “more” section of the Music app. Hmmm. Did they move Audiobooks to another separate app?

I search the App Store. Hundreds of audiobooks apps; none of them from Apple, none that can read files bought on iTunes. I search the Internets. Confirmed. Audiobooks are still in the Music app, though some people are having issues since the iOS 7 update. Not a good sign.

So how to get the book over there?

I know, I’ll put it into a playlist, and that playlist will sync over iTunes Match, right? Nope. Playlists with audiobook files don’t show up in iTunes Match.

Okay, I’ll open up iTunes on my iPhone, search for the audiobook, and just download it again directly on the device, right? Nope. If I want to download it again, I need to purchase it again.

Okay, fine, I’ll bite the bullet and do something I never wanted to to again—I’ll plug my iPhone into my Mac and sync the audiobook using iTunes like a barbarian. First I try to simply drag the book over to the right side of the window to manually sync it. No dice. It gives me a blue highlight, as if to say, “go ahead and drop the file here.” But then nothing happens.

Then I go to the books tab and set it to sync just audiobooks, and I get a warning telling me that since I’m using iTunes in the Cloud on this phone, syncing this one audiobook file manually will force me to erase the entire contents of my music library on the phone first. Am I sure I want to do that?

No, iTunes. I’m not sure I want to erase 50GB of music off my phone to get one audiobook.

Not one to give up so easily, I drop the audiobook file into my Dropbox, hoping I can open the Dropbox app on my iPhone, and use “open in…” to send it over to Music. Nope. (Sidenote: Downcast gallantly attempted to open the file, but couldn’t get past Apple’s DRM. “A” for effort on that one.)

And so here I am, with a 9-hour audiobook on the least-likely device I’ll ever want to use to listen to it: My 27-inch iMac.

Thanks, Eddy Cue. Bang up job you did there.

As an absolute hail Mary play, I decide to plug my iPhone back in one more time and try the manual drag and drop of the file in iTunes. This time, it starts a sync without any warnings, and I get a progress bar at the top. So far so good. My cursor beach balls for about two minutes, but it doesn’t crash. The progress bar switches over to “Finishing Update” and I’m filled with hope. And then it keeps saying “Finishing Update” for another fifteen minutes. Convinced it must still be working on it, I wait. And Wait. If I turn on the iPhone, I can see the Audiobooks tab now in music, and the Jony Ive book appears to be there. But I can’t play it. And iTunes is still “finishing.” So I wait some more.

Forever Finishing

Finally, I get impatient and try to cancel the sync. Won’t cancel. I tap the eject button in iTunes, and I get a warning telling me that the sync is still in progress. Do I want to eject anyway? No. Another five minutes.

Okay, this time, I just want to eject it. So I say yes, I do want to eject anyway. Still “finishing” but I get an additional window, no close boxes or cancel buttons, called “Syncing iPhone.” with its own independent progress bar that never shows any progress. I guess this is iTunes’ way of scaring me into not unplugging.

The Second No Progress Bar

Another ten minutes. Remember, this is all for one audiobook. I realize the file is 250MB, but over a USB cable, what should that take? Maybe two, three minutes, tops?

Finally, I get bored and yank the Lightning cable. We’re already way past the point where any sane human being would have given up, aren’t we?

Look, if it’s all or nothing with iTunes in the Cloud, then everything you sell on iTunes has to work over the cloud. Everything. Not most things. Otherwise, if audiobooks are special and can’t be synced over iTunes in the Cloud, give me some other way to sync them without wiping out my whole library. Is that too much to ask?

And if manual sync is supposed to be the way to do that, then make sure manual sync actually works. Because it sure doesn’t seem to work as far as I can tell.

Also, let’s keep in mind that I’m more than a little savvy with this technology stuff. And so are a lot of my Twitter followers. And none of us could figure this out. If this is possible, and I’m missing it somehow, you get an F minus for usability, Eddy. There’s no way a “normal” person would have tried this many different things.

Seems pretty obvious to me, since you still sell audiobooks on the iTunes Store, that there should be an easy way to listen to books bought on your Mac on any of your iOS devices. I’m not talking about some obscure old content I bought ten years ago. I’m talking about a file I bought today, for crying out loud.

Still, third time’s a charm, right? And I want to be thorough for the sake of this post. So I give it another go. I plug in my iPhone and try the manual drag and drop in iTunes for the third time. I’m about to eat dinner, anyway, so how can it hurt? First three times I drag, it gets stuck in “preparing” to update and I have to cancel. So I quit iTunes and relaunch, drag it a fourth time, and just walk away.

Thirty minutes later when I return from dinner, the progress bar is gone. iTunes is sitting idle. I fire up the Music app on my iPhone, and sure enough, the file is sitting there. Tap it, and it starts playing. More than three hours after I purchased the thing, I can now finally listen to the Jony Ive audiobook on my device of choice.

Isn’t this the sort of thing for which we usually make fun of other companies?

My advice: Don’t ever buy an audiobook from iTunes. Or, if you do, buy it on the device where you want to listen to it, because you won’t be able to move it after the fact without wanting to punch someone.

And this is but one small example of how crappy it is trying to sync content to an iPhone from iTunes. This is no isolated incident. I don’t have the heart to tell you the one where I tried to turn off iTunes in the Cloud and go back to manual syncing all my music last year. That’s a whole day I’ll never get back.

Fix this stuff, Apple. Seriously. iTunes is a multi-billion dollar business. You should be embarrassed of how piss poor this experience is.

Some Pictures are Worth More Words Than Others

We all know that old expression: “A Picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, that’s an average, I think.

While submitting my 1.2 version of Fin last week, I made a last-minute decision to make a major change to my screenshot strategy.

For those who may not know, Apple allows up to five screenshots for each app on the App Store. Officially, these are supposed to be actual screenshots from the app. Just pictures of what is on the screen itself. No extra text, no pictures of the device running the app, no other fancy Photoshop tricks.

Up until now, I’ve honored Apple’s rules, despite the fact that thousands of apps blatantly disregard them. Apple often features apps that completely ignore the policy, even, so clearly this is one of those instances where the rule is not taken seriously. Still, on principle, it didn’t seem right to violate the rule myself.

You know what doesn’t sell apps? Standing on principle when it makes no sense to stand on principle. I was hampering my own app’s ability to impress potential customers, all for the sake of obeying a rule Apple clearly doesn’t enforce. That’s fairly stupid, actually.

We have so few ways to stand out when it comes to how our apps are represented on the App Store. Why not take advantage of one of the easiest ways to get the customer’s attention?

So I doctored up my screenshots with a blurred background of some people in a crowd and pictures of various iOS devices running Fin. It took a bit of time to get it looking the way I wanted, but not much. Meanwhile, the difference it makes in showing off the app is immediately evident.

The screenshots went from being a random collection of app views to telling a story about what the app can do for people. The new presentation gives the potential customer a much better feel for what it’s actually like to use the app for its intended purpose.

How this change will effect sales, it’s too early to tell. But even if sales don’t improve by a wide margin, I’m still glad I went ahead and took the time to present my app in a better light.

Dial in the Time: Fin 1.2

When I wrote my ten-part series on making your own app marketing videos, one of the first things I recommended was avoiding live footage. Take shots from the iOS Simulator, place them on top of still frames of iPhones and iPads, and animate them in Final Cut. Super easy to get professional looking results.

Live footage is very difficult to get right on a budget. Without professional lighting rigs and a good bit of expertise about how to shoot properly, the results could be devastatingly amateurish.

But there are some things that simply won’t look right in the Simulator. And the circle gesture in Fin 1.2 is one of those things. So pardon me as I talk for a moment about breaking my own rule.

First, a little background. Setting timers in most apps is actually more cumbersome than it should be. Even Apple’s own Clock app uses the UIPicker interface, which actually got worse in iOS 7, as far as ease of use goes. Fin always had common presets on the Settings screen, so you could easily get to 10, 20, 30, 45, etc. with one tap. Chances are, your performance slot is one of those presets, and if not you can at the very least pick the closest one and swipe your way up and down to the exact time you need.

But I always suspected that there was an even better way to go about setting the time. Then one day I got a message from Saul Mora, suggesting that it would be cool if you could swipe around in a circle to set the time. Bingo. Makes perfect sense. Clockwise to add time. Counterclockwise to subtract. Similar to setting an old grandfather clock.

Of course, I had no experience with custom gesture recognizers, and the math was bound to get tricky, with the ability to change the timer even after it was running, counting up vs. counting down, etc. But no matter. Once the seed of his idea hit my brain, it became obvious that this would be a great way to improve the user experience.

So I managed to figure out the code, after a few weeks of pain, and it was time to submit to the App Store. And man, was I excited. It was even better in practice than I had hoped. But I wanted to be sure people could see this new feature, as it’s yet another thing that reads poorly in a screenshot. So I decided to make a new video showing off the feature.

And then I realized that swiping in a circle would be just a little too silly looking in the simulator, with the fake finger overlay I used in the first Fin video. I needed to do some live video on this one.

The first and biggest challenge was lighting. I don’t own a professional lighting rig, so I needed to get as much natural light as possible, yet avoid heavy shadows. Fortunately, my apartment has nice large living room windows, and it’s winter, so slightly overcast days are quite common this time of year. I opened the shutters and set up a small serving table in the living room in mid afternoon.

Secondly, I needed to get the camera as steady as possible. Fortunately, I have two iKlips, one for the iPhone, one for the iPad. I could mount either device to a boom mic stand, and film the other device.

After a few test shots, I knew I could get it to look at least presentable. The trick was taking several of the exact same shots from several angles, on each device, so I’d have enough variety to change up the camera angle frequently. And to position the device so that there would be neither a reflection of the camera nor my windows showing on the screen. That took some practice, particularly with the iPhone shots, as I did those while holding the device in my hand. (The iPad I sat on a 12South Compass stand, so it was much easier to set the correct angle and forget about it.)

After shooting for about a half hour, I was confident I had the footage I needed. I uploaded the clips from both my iPhone and iPad, and I got to work in Final Cut.

Everything else I did the same way as I did for the previous Fin video. Text clips set up first to establish the pace, then the clips of the device. One interesting side note: My establishing shot of the device didn’t need to be a live one. I was just showing the ticking time, not a gesture, in that shot. So I used a Simulator shot. But I wanted it to match the look of the live footage, so I took a photo of my serving table from the living room, and compiled it with the simulator footage and an iPad device frame, to tie it together.

I also animated my live footage clips with the same Ken Burns style zooming that I used on the Simulator shots in the first Fin video. Just because my camera was stationary when I filmed the clips doesn’t mean it has to stay that way in post-production.

The end result is yet another marketing video done for the cost of a few hours of my time and equipment I already owned. And it really sells the new circle gesture way better than any screenshot could. The live footage isn’t as polished as I’d like, of course, but it gets the job done.

I encourage you to experiment with making videos for your own apps. If you can get enough natural light, and you avoid the pitfalls of a shaky camera, strong shadows, and screen reflections, you can get decent results and really impress your potential customers.

Fin 1.2 is now available on the App Store.

Apple takes the lofty route for iPad « Observatory

Apple takes the lofty route for iPad « Observatory: “But — while this spot can be seen as uplifting and inspirational, it can also be seen as incredibly pretentious. One must admit, it’s a bit of intellectual overkill for those who just want to do their email, surf and shop — which probably covers most of the tablet-buying public.”

(Via Ken Segall.)

That, in a nutshell, is exactly Apple’s problem with the iPad. People think it’s an email, surf, and shop machine. If it continues to be just that, the iPad is never going to meet Apple’s expectations. Thus, the “loftier” ad approach of the Verses series.

People raved about the Misunderstood iPhone commercial over Christmas, but I actually think these spots are much more important to Apple’s long-term future. Thanks to Apple’s misguided driving of the App Store into Crazy Eddie’s Discount Bonanza, people are losing sight of just how powerful a tablet can be. They clamor for a “bigger” iPhone, because they figure that would do just about everything they do on their iPads well enough to no longer need an iPad. And that’s certainly not good for Apple.

Sure, the message is lofty, and maybe it only appeals to Apple’s current customers. But those customers aren’t getting as much out of their iPads as they deserve. Sometimes you need to start with a lofty message to reaffirm your core values. Sometimes you have to remind people that you’re trying to improve people’s lives.

If Apple wants to continue selling iPads, it needs to carve out a space where the iPad is seen as essential to the things we want to create, not just a luxury toy for watching movies on a plane.

Thumb Gymnastics – x2y 2.2

One thing that has bugged me since I got my first 4-inch iPhone is the “thumb gymnastics” involved whenever I need to reach a control that’s near the top of the screen. You know what I mean. Holding the phone one-handed, touching controls with my thumb, I can reach the top left and right corners of the screen for those navigation bar controls, but it’s not exactly comfortable.

I can’t fix this issue for every app on my phone of course, but for my own apps at least, I figure I can do something about it. Put as few controls as possible that far out of reach, and make them controls you don’t need to use often.

For the latest version of x2y, I took a look at the basic flow of how you type in your three values to get to that calculated fourth value. Tap the x1 field, erase what’s already there, type in the new value, tap the y1 field, erase, type your new value, tap the x2 (or y2 if you’re solving for x), erase, type your new value. That’s three times you need to stretch your thumb up from the number pad to change the fields. And erasing the existing value usually involves multiple taps. There had to be a way to make this easier.

Fortunately, x2y has a custom number pad, so I can do pretty much whatever I want with it. I considered adding “next” and “previous” buttons somewhere, but I didn’t want to play with the existing sizes of the buttons already there. The sizes of all the numbers and the delete button match the built-in number pad perfectly.

I could add previous and next buttons to the accessory toolbar above the number pad, but there are already four buttons up there, and I’d still have to move my thumb off the number pad to hit those buttons.

Then I thought, how about some sort of gesture? Swipe from left to right across the number pad to go to the next field, swipe right to left to go to the previous field. Super simple. Not discoverable, but this is a convenience feature, not a necessary gesture to make the app work, so I was comfortable with it. A “power user“ feature.

Since I was adding some gestures, anyway, I decided to add a long press gesture to the delete button as well. Hold down delete, and it’ll empty the entire contents of the field. Much easier than hitting delete three or four times to clear the field.

So now the process of entering your three values is tap and hold delete, type your value, swipe right, tap and hold delete, type your value, swipe right, tap and hold delete, type your value. Your thumb never leaves the number pad.

x2y 2.2 is now available on the App Store.

Riccardo Mori’s Essential iOS Apps

Riccardo Mori » My essential iOS apps — Part 1: “This article may disappoint some people. It doesn’t want to be an in-depth guide to ‘The 30 best iOS apps you must have on your iPhone or iPad’. It’s not going to be another piece along the lines of ‘The best iOS apps introduced in 2013″ or ‘iOS apps that everybody must have’. Instead I wanted to focus on a selection of apps that have proven to be indispensable to me over the years, making this article more akin to a retrospective of sorts rather than a review of ‘what’s hot in the App Store now’. Perhaps you’ll find something useful among my ramblings.”

(Via Riccardo Mori.)

Special thanks to Riccardo, as x2y got a special mention in Part 3 of this series.

Lists like this always intrigue me, for the same reason seeing pictures of people’s “1st and 20″ iPhone home screens intrigue me. I love to see how others use technology. The things we have in common, the things that we do differently. I often learn a lot, and sometimes I get a tip on an app or two that I hadn’t yet discovered.

There are some really great apps on Riccardo’s list.

Fin 1.1

The reception for Fin has been great, and I couldn’t be more pleased that people are out there using it for their talks, podcasts, etc. I have lots of plans for improvements over the coming months, and as always, your feedback has been invaluable in helping me shape those plans.

Today I’m announcing version 1.1 of Fin is available. There were two important additions for this version.

The first is local notifications. Fin has always had the ability to keep track of its timer, even when you put the app into the background or turn your screen off. If you start a timer, then need to bounce into another app for a few moments, Fin will know how long you’ve been out of the app and adjust the timer accordingly when you come back. This is accomplished not by continuously running while in the background, which would be wasteful, but rather by taking a time stamp when you leave, one when you return, and subtracting the difference.

Considering that Fin is a visual timer, meant to be giving you constant feedback on how much time you have left while you are performing, stepping away for longer periods of time is not a likely use case. But it did bother me that if you step away too long, the timer may run out while you are away and yet have no way to notify you.

If you put Fin 1.0 into the background long enough that that timer actually ran out, Fin would not notify you of this until you came back to the app at some later point. “Timer elapsed while asleep” would show on the screen when you brought Fin back to the foreground, and the timer would be reset. Helpful, but not ideal.

With Fin 1.1, a local notification will fire if the timer runs out while Fin is not in the foreground. This notification can take the form of an alert dialog or a banner, depending on your preferences in the Settings app, and it can even be set to show on the home screen notification center if you’ve turned your screen off. Or, if you prefer not to receive these notifications, you can turn them off entirely.

If you return to the app before the timer runs out, of course, the notification won’t fire.

The second improvement for 1.1 is specifically for the iPhone. It bugged me (and some of you) that the iPhone version didn’t have the same ability the iPad version has to see the running timer while on the settings screen. While the settings panel is semi-transparent on the iPad, it is opaque on the iPhone, because there isn’t enough room on the screen to show the timer and all of the settings at once. In 1.1 I solved this by simply adding the timer to the top of the settings panel. Now you can see how your settings changes effect the timer while you make adjustments.

Lastly, on the help page, I added a link to customer support and another to rate the app. I hope those of you who are enjoying Fin will take a moment to write up a quick review or give me a star rating. Your positive ratings will help others find Fin, and help me continue to improve it. Feedback via the support link is always welcome as well.

I have many good ideas for versions 1.2 and 1.3 already, thanks to feedback given to me from my customers. Expect to see some great new features over the next months.

Fin 1.1 is now available on the App Store.

x2y Version 2.1

One thing that I wanted to be certain didn’t happen when I started working on Fin was the neglecting my first app, x2y. While x2y has a great feature set and just this summer received a UI overhaul for iOS 7, I nevertheless don’t see it as “done” by any means. There are always things you can add and other ways to improve any piece of software.

With this in mind, right after the Fin 1.0 release, I went to work on a small update to x2y: version 2.1. This is a minor update that adds two interesting things.

First, x2y is now fully 64-bit compliant. So if you have an iPhone 5s or one of the new iPads with the A7 chip, the app will run in native 64-bit mode. This upgrade was surprisingly easy to do. You have to hand it to Apple; they make the 64-bit transition incredibly easy, even for a guy like me.

Was 64-bit necessary? Of course not. No one running 2.0 and 2.1 side by side will be able to see any difference, even in performance, in such a basic little app. But 64-bit is obviously the future of iOS, and I wanted x2y to be ready for it as soon as possible. I know Apple well enough to know that if you don’t keep up with the changes while they happen, you quickly fall behind and hurt yourself in the long run. So consider 64-bit support a bit of “future proofing,” if you will.

The second improvement for version 2.1 is in the area of VoiceOver. As you may have heard on our podcast Release Notes, both Charles and I take accessibility seriously with our apps. VoiceOver support has always been there in x2y, but I learned a lot during the making of Fin that I was able to apply to x2y to improve the app experience for those with disabilities. I suspect I still have more I can do in this area, and I will strive to do so.

So that’s it. Version 2.1 is now available on the App Store, and if you upgrade it, there’s a decent chance you won’t notice any difference. But at least you can be assured that I’m still actively supporting and striving to improve all my apps as long as they are available for sale.

I said to myself when I created x2y that I wanted it to be the best aspect ratio calculator on the App Store, and I believe it still is. If you have any ideas on how to improve the app, feel free to send them my way. I’m always listening.

Anatomy of a Product Video Part 10

This is a series of posts about the making of my marketing video for Fin. You can see the other parts of the series by following the links below:

 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

This is part ten, the final in a series detailing the process of making a product marketing video for my app, Fin. I hope to inspire others to try and make these kinds of videos for their own products, as I think they are pretty essential for selling apps to customers. We may not all have the budget to hire a pro team to make super-awesome videos for us, but we can make something worthwhile if we put in some time and effort, and a little bit of cash.

The Intro Animations

Now comes the part where I used the app Motion to create some cool animations on my logo. For the introduction of the video, I wanted to show my logo and tagline, of course. But I wanted to come up with a nice way to have them animate onto the screen.

I won’t go into all the details of how Motion works (there are tons of great tutorials online) but suffice to say that what I used it for on this video was a tiny sliver of what this program can do. Multiple layers of text, imagery, and video can be combined with 2D and 3D camera effects to produce great results. And it’s a fairly easy app to get to know, if you’ve used any sort of keyframe animation app before.

You could accomplish your intro quite easily using only Final Cut Pro, with a nice fade in and some camera panning, just like we did with the other video clips. But Motion is one of those apps you should have in your arsenal for putting some nice pizazz into your animations. Spend an afternoon with it, and you’ll have a blast. The more I get to know how the app works, the more tempted I am to overdo it with crazy animation. So be careful about that, too.

Upload Time

Hopefully by now you have a great video that shows off your product in an incredibly positive light. The last thing you want to do is screw up all that hard work by presenting the video poorly on your own web site.

You basically have two choices for how to host your product video. You can host it yourself on your own server, or you can use a service like YouTube or Vimeo.

The upside of hosting yourself is that you get full control over the entire presentation. The downside is that you have to pay for bandwidth yourself, and you lose the tracking/social features that come with video services. If the video is only going to be watched by a few dozen people, bandwidth won’t be an issue. (Hopefully, you have higher aspirations for the size of your audience than that.) If your video were to go viral, you could end up with a pretty big bill at the end of the month.

Personally, I recommend Vimeo for hosting videos. And I also recommend getting yourself a “plus” account on Vimeo as well. With the plus account, you get all sorts of nice features, but the one that appeals to me most is having a lot more control over how the video gets embedded on my site. I can turn off all the extra distractions on the video interface, control the poster frame, and choose what shows when the video ends. It’s a nice feature set that costs relatively little and goes a long way to making the videos on your site look more professional.

As a bonus, Final Cut Pro X can export your video directly to Vimeo, and it’ll handle all the maximized compression settings for you.

Remember, your product videos are commercials for your products. They shouldn’t be cheapened by ads for other people’s products. With a little bit of clever Javascript, you can make your video look very clean and well-integrated into your site, while still getting all the benefits of having your video available on Vimeo’s network, with all the tracking and social features that provides.

In Conclusion

So that’s how I made the product video for Fin. It was a great time, and in the end I think it turned out pretty nice. I’m still always improving my skills with video editing, and I think my next video will be even better. Sure, if I had hired a pro team, I could have made a video that really knocked people’s socks off. But I think this video is way better than not having anything at all, and it only took me a day. (Plus, it was a great switch from programming and designing to stretch my creativity in this way.)

I ended up writing a lot more about this topic than I had originally planned. Hopefully, people will find it helpful for making their own marketing videos. Most importantly, you shouldn’t be afraid to try and make videos yourself, or to try and put something together with friends on a budget. As long as you can make something that’s clear and well-thought out, you’ll go a long way to helping impress your prospective customers. And that can only help raise people’s impression of your company.


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Anatomy of a Product Video Part 9

This is a series of posts about the making of my marketing video for Fin. You can see the other parts of the series by following the links below:

 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

This is part nine in a series detailing the process of making a product marketing video for my app, Fin. I want to inspire others to try and make these kinds of videos for their own products, as I think they are pretty essential for selling apps to customers.


I’ve been a musician longer than I’ve been a designer, so I like to create my own music for product videos. The biggest advantage here, other than the fact that it’s a fun excuse to spend a few hours in Logic, is that I don’t have to worry about licensing fees for the music I make myself.

Assuming you’re not a musician, or you don’t like to compose your own music, you’ll want to look into some alternatives for your video. There are lots of license-free music clips you can use floating around, although you’ll want to be careful not to pick something that’s already been used too much. As I mentioned earlier in this series, Garageband and Logic both come with a number of musical jingles that can be used, or you can mix up something with the free provided loops in those packages. Or perhaps you know a friend in a band who wouldn’t mind letting you use some of his or her music in exchange for a credit.

If there are no free alternatives at your disposal, there are songs that can be licensed for a reasonable fee as well. Search around the Internet and you’ll find them. This is a cost you’ll have to pay regardless of whether you hire a pro crew to do your video or not.

The goal with your music, as with so much of the video process, is to be appropriate and not too distracting. Try and find something that matches your product and that isn’t too far into one genre that it might turn off a portion of your audience.[1]

You can’t make everyone happy with your musical choice, but at the same time, you shouldn’t go out of your way to alienate a large portion of your audience, either. It’s a tough decision.

Once you’ve chosen your track, you need to pop it into your video timeline and see how it runs with the visuals. You’ll be surprised at how much extra tweaking you’ll want to do to your edits to make sure they flow with the beat. Have those cuts from one shot to the next happen on downbeats whenever possible.

For Fin, I had an additional consideration. Fin is a timer app, and as such, whenever the app is shown, it’s counting down (or up) in seconds. So I needed my musical beat to match this clock ticking. Fortunately, I was writing my own music, so all I needed to do was use a tempo that matched actual seconds. 60 bpm (beats per minute) provided the perfect rhythm[2]. I still had to make sure each shot started on the downbeat with my second counting, of course. But it really helped tie my video in with the music nicely to have that pulse as a guide.

In the final part of this series, we’ll wrap things up with some animations for our logo at the beginning of the video, and talk about options for hosting your video.


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  1. I love Rush and Yes way more than the average person, but I’m not going to use prog rock in my marketing materials, unless there’s a good reason for it. At the same time, though, I’d avoid the trendy hipster banjo-type music that’s been getting way overused lately. (That stuff makes me glad I usually watch product videos on mute.)  ↩

  2. It would have been stupid to set my tempo to an odd tempo that knocked my seconds out of sync with my drum loop, like say 63 bpm, or 75bpm.  ↩