We’ve made two videos to showcase our mobile apps for Trello, and wanted to share our experience with the process. The video above shares some production techniques that we learned while setting up a camera and lighting to shoot video of a mobile device. The post below is going to cover some of the thought process that went on behind the scenes.
Our decision to produce a video for the launch of the Trello iPad app came after we watched the Mailbox app video. We learned from the Mailbox team that they produced the video in-house. Their video was amazingly successful, and was likely a major factor leading up to their eventual acquisition by Dropxbox. Our aspirations weren’t so ambitious, but we were encouraged to try our hand at video.
We did the requisite Googling for “how to shoot video of mobile,” but didn’t find a lot of helpful information (this is surprisingly difficult. You really have to play with your search query to get results that show making video of an iPad, and not with an iPad). This meant we had to learn a lot as we went along.
Making a video for the first time was quite challenging, but I was surprised at how quickly we were able to overcome a lot of the technical challenges and come up with a final product (I finished the editing within Premiere Pro’s free trial period). There is a wealth of information available online to learn how to work with video.
Apple decided to feature the Trello iPhone app while we were still finishing up the iPad app — an amazing opportunity, but this also meant that we had to hurry to finish the video so we could release the iPad app. Given more time, we might have touched up the video some more (for example, we might have made it shorter), but it made more sense to ship what we had while we were still being featured in the App Store.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Trello for Android video, compared to the Trello for iPad video, is that it’s much more direct. The phone and app are front and center. There are no actors, and the only narrative is what you pick up from the user interface. If you’re shooting your first video of a mobile device, I’d recommend leaning in the direction of how we shot the Android video. Point the camera at the device and show what it does.
Even though the approach to this video was more simple, I still ended up having to make two videos in order to come up with something we felt we could ship. I’ll admit that I was pretty proud of the first version of the video. Although I learned a ton in the process, I quickly latched on to a few of the techniques that I wanted to use and had trouble distancing myself from them when I was finished.
When you’re close to your work, it’s easy to get married to it and become blind to its flaws. It took some honest, hard-to-swallow criticism from colleagues to convince me to edit the video.
The second version of the video (the version embedded above) ended up being much better, and I was glad to have made the edits. When working with video — especially when getting started — try to emotionally distance yourself from your work so that you can look at it with fresh eyes. This might mean taking a few days away from your video editor and coming back to it with a list of your original goals in hand.
Throw away the cruft that interrupts the flow of the video, even if that means removing a scene that took you a day and a half to edit. Most importantly, be prepared to receive criticism, and try not to take it personally. Remember, the reason your friends and colleagues are giving you their honest feedback is that they, like you, ultimately want the video to succeed!
- Trello for Android Google Play store listing
- Camera: Canon T4i with 50mm f1.4 lens
- Tripod we used: Manfrotto 055XPROB Legs with Manfrotto MVH500AH Head
- Any tripod with a center column that swivels 90° would likely work (like this)
- We used a cheap lighting kit from ePhoto, but could’ve used the Down & Dirty Lighting Kit
- Modeling clay to keep the phone in place
- PlaceIt by Breezi for quick mobile screenshot mock-ups
One of the benefits of creating the Trello for iPad video in-house was the experience we gained producing and editing video. We could certainly have hired someone to make the video for us, but then we would have missed out on the knowledge that eventually informed the Trello for Android video. With each video we produce, we learn something that makes the next one better.
P.S.: Music for the Trello for Android video and top how-to video is by Brian Cervino. He works at Fog Creek and also composes music.
What techniques have you used to shoot device screens effectively? How do you showcase your app with video? What companies have you seen doing a great job with this?