Game developers: iMovie is your friend!

When I made my first iOS game, I decided I would make a proper app preview for it, since I feel it is one of the most important factors that determine whether someone decides to download it from the app store. After doing a little research about editing programs, I ended up choosing Apple’s iMovie program. The movie I ended up with was pretty simple, but good enough to show off the game’s basics.

A few weeks ago, I had a need to do some video editing for another project, and was going to try a more “proper” editor like Final Cut Pro (there is a 30 day free trial), but due to my familiarity with iMovie I ended up using it again. With my experience from the app preview, I was able to ramp up pretty quickly and do some advanced editing to splice together my film.

I had the impression that iMovie was only for basic editing, but after this project I realized it was extremely powerful. The learning curve is a bit rough initially, but you can get over it pretty fast and be editing in practically no time.

iMovie, especially for a free program, sports a surprising number of features, including transitions, titles, sound effects, independent editing of audio and video, and export to a variety of formats including Vimeo and Youtube. It also has a special mode for iOS app previews that helps you get the right filetype to Apple at submission time.

For my next iOS project (to be released shortly), I decided on using iMovie again, and in only a few hours was able to edit together something even better than my first game’s preview.

Even if you don’t have a need to create app previews for iOS games, having editing skills come in handy whenever you want to show off your game to someone else quickly, without having to actually install it on their machine. This can be great for finding investors, additional developers, or other staff to add to your project.

I’ll close with a few tips I learned using iMovie:

1) Part of the reason for the initial learning curve in iMovie is because of the way clips and movies are organized. When you first start the program, you can import clips into your library, organized by “Event”, but you have to start a new movie via File->New->Movie/Trailer/App Preview before you can actually start editing. The confusing part about the iMovie Library window is that it contains both the list of movies, plus all the clips for a certain event. If you click on a movie it will change to it, but the list of clips is global so doesn’t change.

2) iMovie doesn’t have a “Save” option which makes me uncomfortable, but if you are paranoid you can make a backup of your movie in the aforementioned library window by right clicking and clicking “Duplicate Movie”. I appreciate that the program is supposedly saving after every action, but the “Save” option would make me feel much better. It’s nice to know the undo option goes back pretty far, however.

3) In both the iMovie Library (top center) and main (bottom right) panes, you can change the clip size via the little film icon. You can also change the zoom level via a horizontal slider in the latter pane. When I use iMovie I frequently adjust these depending on what task I am working on. For example, for fine-grained editing (to sync up two scenes perfectly) I would zoom in pretty deeply.

4) A bunch of special effects can be accessed via the little icons at the top of the upper right pane (which shows the current frame). When I first used the program I had trouble finding these.

5) iOS app previews are different sizes for each device, and creating one for each device type is time consuming. You can re-scale from one size to another by creating a black image in a program like Gimp or Photoshop, and then importing it in the first frame, and making it last only 0.1 seconds. I was able to do this to scale a preview made from video recorded on a iPhone 6 to iPhone 6 Plus size, though I had to create a new project, import the black image, then cut the scenes from the iPhone 6 project to get this to work. If you actually have a physical device I would still consider recording each one separately, especially if your app/game’s UI changes significantly depending on the screen size.