18 January 2013
Guest post: How we hacked together Snapchat for video in a day
As the co-founder of Lamplighter Games, Andy Minkstein writes on developing this week’s App of the Week winner, Vidburn. When first released, Vidburn was pegged the ‘Snapchat of video’ however the same day of Vidburn’s launch, Snapshat added video functionality to their own app. Check out Andy’s tips for building a video-based app in record time, and his experience working with Corona Enterprise.
Want to know how we built Snapchat in just one day? Ok, ok – it didn’t exactly take just 1 day. However, we did make the core of the app easily within a day. Once we decided the app was worth launching, we spent the next week refining it so we could publish to the App Store.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Snapchat, it’s a neat little app that lets you send self-destructing pictures to your friends. They are viewable once for a pre-set number of seconds and then disappear forever.
As you can imagine, the launch timing of our app – Vidburn – was both interesting and unfortunate due to the fact that 45 minutes after our launch piece on Gizmodo, Snapchat lifted the veil on a big new update. Snapchat’s update provided a feature similar to what Vidburn was offering – it allowed users to send short, self-destructing video clips.
Either way, a lot was learned while producing Vidburn. To start, we created the alpha version in a self-policed hackathon style coding session where we drank numerous cups of coffee, stayed up late and got a working prototype. Once we realized we had something, we took the time to tie up the loose ends, fix bugs and get it a little closer to production-ready. We would definitely recommend that all developers engage in these types of hackathon coding sprints. It’s not good to do everyday, but once in a while it can not only be fun, but rewarding as well. Developers will often be surprised at their level of output when faced with no other choice but to “get it done.”
One problem we faced from the very beginning was that, despite our love for Corona SDK, the media APIs did not have any methods for capturing video. The obvious solution was to make the leap over to Corona Enterprise and to natively code any of the functionality Corona SDK did not have. We have a few key takeaways from this experience, that we think every Corona developer should consider before making the jump to Enterprise:
1) Native coding is much harder than coding in Lua. We guarantee you that you will appreciate the quick, iterative style of developing apps with Corona when faced with a challenge that can only be solved with Objective C or Java.
2) Corona Enterprise offers unlimited possibilities. Your ideas no longer need to be constricted by what the Corona APIs can do. If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and dive into native coding then anything is possible. Just remember that any extensions to the platform have to be done twice, once for Apple and once for Android.