These days, it takes much more to sell an app. It used to be good enough to build something that simply did what it was supposed to and didn't crash too often. Over time, users came to expect better performance, lower power consumption, and an attractive interface. Even those things aren't always good enough because many apps are presented with high quality demo videos. How can independent developers and small teams compete with companies that can pay for high-end shoots and professional models? A new service called PlaceIt might be able to help. Developers can submit screenshots or recordings to PlaceIt and have high resolution photos and videos generated on the spot, and it gives the appearance that real people are using the app.

The idea is simple, but it's done really well. Developers upload images or video from their apps, and PlaceIt inserts that content into a staged scene from its inventory of photos and videos. All of their scenes are shot by skilled photographers using real devices, backdrops, locations, and models.

The really amazing feature is in generated videos. The first thing you'll notice is that a real hand is interacting with the uploaded app. PlaceIt accomplishes this by recording the positions of click events while the video is being recorded, and then mapping those points to a series of prerecorded gestures made by real people. The end result is a very convincing simulation of a hand that makes all of the correct swipes and taps right on your app.

PlaceIt has been producing static images with this method for a couple of years, but the video service is a new offering.

Both images and videos can be created for free, but this option comes with mandatory watermarks and a few restrictions. For non-watermarked copies, pricing options start at $8 for images and $99 for videos, but prices increase based on licensing. The licenses will probably seem a little confusing, and the web page explaining them is a little awkwardly explained, but there are criteria that determine if customers should use the standard commercial license or the extended commercial license. Hint: more than 5k downloads (from an app store), views, or print copies in a month and you're expected to take the more expensive extended license. There are also bulk purchasing and subscription options available, both of which offer some savings. None of these options are exactly "cheap" for independent developers, but they cost considerably less than footing the bill to produce original advertisements with this level of production quality.

Here are a few more sample videos. Note: videos are produced without sound, but audio can be added in post-processing or by YouTube's mixing feature.

PlaceIt isn't about to replace truly original and custom productions, but it offers a creative alternative that takes very little time or effort. Since it's free to generate watermarked videos, there's no harm in trying it out.