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Anatomy of a Product Video Part 2

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:

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In this series, I’m detailing the process of making a product marketing video for my app, Fin. The hope is that I can 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 just a bit of money).

The Budget

So what do I mean by “much smaller budget”? Unfortunately, you will still need a few things to make your video happen, and they’re not all free. And it’s important to note that you have to spend the time to learn these tools and actually create the video, which is also not “free” of course. (Like I said earlier, pro video people are totally worth what they charge.) But if you just don’t have that money to spend on a team of pros, and you have any interest in the art of product video marketing, you can get the job done and learn a lot in the process without spending nearly as much cash.

Here’s a list of all the things I used on the Fin marketing video:

  • iPhone Simulator (Comes with Xcode, so no cost there)
  • ScreenFlow – for screen captures. There are other alternatives, but I like this one. $99.
  • Final Cut Pro X – $299.99 – much maligned by the pro video community when it first arrived, this is actually a perfect tool for making smaller product videos. I learned the old Final Cut Pro back in the day, and for someone like me who only dabbles in video, this new version is a hundred times easier to learn.
  • Motion – $49.99. Not essential, but a great tool for really polished text and camera effects. I always use Motion to create my intro and outtro logo animations, among other things. Final Cut has some similar animating capabilities, but you’ll be able to do much more with this. Consider it a “nice to have” as opposed to an essential tool.
  • Photoshop – $19.99 per month as a single app license. $49.99 per month for a full license to the entire Creative Suite. I used this to manipulate a transparent frame of the various iPads and iPhones I’d be dropping into the background behind my screen grabs, as well as to work on a hand image I needed to show screen swipes. You can find PNGs of ready-made graphics for you elsewhere on the web, so having this app is pretty optional for this process. You can also use a much more affordable tool like Acorn for your photo manipulation needs.
  • Logic Pro X – $199.99 If you want to create your own soundtrack, rather than licensing pre-existing music, Logic is a great choice. Even if you’re not necessarily a pro engineer or musician, you can actually create decent background music with the provided loops and sound effects. If nothing else, there are complete, license-free jingles included with the package as well.

I’m assuming you already own a Mac and have Xcode installed, of course. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have a product to be marketing.

The grand total, if you had none of these and you wanted to use all of them, even the optional ones, is $648.97 (plus $20 a month for Photoshop). That may look like a lot, but keep in mind that there are free or lower-cost alternatives to most of these products, and you only have to front this cost for your first video. Replace Final Cut Pro with iMovie, and Logic with Garageband, which are both free and somewhat capable, and you’re already down to $148.99. You can get a free 30-day trial of Photoshop and create the PNGs of your iPhone and iPad frames in a few minutes. Or download some images of iPads and iPhones you find from many designers on the web. In either case, you’ll have a very hard time finding a professional video company willing to make you a video for less than $700.

(Of course, what you spend in your own time is another story. As a frame of reference, it took me the better part of one day to do the entire Fin video, but this wasn’t my first time around with Final Cut Pro and the other apps involved. Your mileage may vary.)

My advice: buy these items one at a time as you get to making more videos for more products. Start with Final Cut Pro X, as it is far more flexible than iMovie. Use free alternatives for everything else in the meantime.

When I set out to make my video for Fin, I already owned all of these tools from previous projects. So my software cost was effectively zero for all of this. You’ll be able to say the same on your fourth or fifth video.

In the next part of the series, we’ll start the process of making our video with the most important tool of all: a pencil. (Or a note-taking app, if you don’t like kicking it old school.)

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