If you have never made a trailer and you are looking to make one by yourself, you’ve come to the right place to start.
Creating a trailer can be a long and difficult journey. As an editor, you need to be very conscious of the importance of being organized and use a workflow that suits your needs. There is a lot to cover so I’ll speak about the essential. I won’t dive into technical stuff so anyone can follow through.
There is no one way to make a trailer : You’ll learn a simple process you can use by yourself and get some tips I’ve gathered over the years.
Sit in your most comfortable chair. It is time to think beforehand anything else. (I talk about it in How to: Story & Structure in Game Trailers). Choices have to be made, your game will be summarized in a minute How cruel!
Start by asking yourself a lot of questions.What are the most important things to show? What makes your game unique? What is your audience? How people play it? Do they laugh? Tryhard? Play in co-op or with the family? What is the biggest sensation in the first 30minutes of play? You got it. When you think you don’t have any more question, keep digging. You are doing yourself a favor for later!
If your game is really fast-paced with big guns, show it in the trailer. If it is a slow narrative game, demonstrate it in a concise and appealing way. It is easy to get lost and want to show everything your game has to offers. Remind yourself you are not showing the entire experience, you are trying to get the viewer think : Wow, this game looks cool. I want more of it.
You need to show the reason why people should bother play your game.
Focus on a few keys points.
Software-wise, you have a lot of options: Fraps, Bandicam, OBS, Screenflow, Camstasia, nVidia Shadowplay… For free you have OBS and Shadowplay, which are also reliable! Your video will probably end up on Youtube so your software choice is pretty forgivable; use what works best for you. Anyway, with the computers we use today, capturing gameplays have never been so easy.
Use a bitrate of minimum 10mbit/s but feel free to go as high as possible (50mbit/s is great).
Capturing in 60fps (or any multiple of 30) gives you the possibility to make beautiful slow-motion or simply export a 60fps version. If you game benefits from it, you should do it. If your game isn’t fast paced, keep it at 30fps ; the quality will be higher.
For the Log Jammers trailer, a 1vs1 arcade game, I had to find a system to keep track of the interesting plays we did real-time. I started the game recording at the same time as the Stopwatch and we used the Laps function as key point of interest. When someone would think “Oh, this play was cool!” he could freely add a Lap on the app. Then, at the end, I sent the laps timer via email so I have an easy way to retrieve the bests moments. Although you should be careful to not fall in to the trap to only use those shots.
The more content you have, the more possibilities, like a giant spiderweb of choice. If you can have 8hours of gameplay, amazing. 20hours?! You lucky. The drawback is that it will probably take you much more time to work since you have so many possibilities.
Capturing is an art of itself. Having a great camera movement is very important. Get it smooth, your viewer will thank you and you’ll avoid the “camera is so shaky I can’t watch it” comments.
Quick Tips: Do a little sample of capturing your game and try it on your editing software to make sure it is working well.
Time to get all that juicy assets you’ve created. Sounds effects, background, dialogue, cinematic, characters, music… Everything well organized in folders.
If you are planning to make buzzword texts, forget to use a black screen with your white Papyrus font over it (Yes, Avatar use Papyrus, but it is special!). Take an hour or two and create a cool title card template. Show the world that you put the effort necessary in the art. People judge, it is the way human works, we make fast assumptions and it is even more true for the entertainment industry. Good design allows credibility.
You’ll also need to make a Thumbnail, make it readable when resized to a small resolution, as it will be shown on a 100×60 image. A thumbnail doesn’t tell specifically what your game is but it gives an idea of the style and provide a sense of quality. We all did get click baited once because of a juicy thumbnail, didn’t you ?
I would recommend to choose the music before editing. Choosing the right track can completely alter the way your trailer feel. Didn’t you ever notice why there is always this piano song at the end of your favourite sad movie? got me every time… You can buy quality tracks for $20-50 (for the cheapest budgets) on a lot of websites (audiojungle, tunefruit, premiumbeat…). One song is enough but sometimes you might need to blend different tracks to create a new one. For example, when the trailer starts slowly then explodes.
Get a music that has different values in it, not a boring one that has the same flow during the whole trailer. A mixture of high energy moments and quiet beats. Like stories, there should be a definite start, middle and end. Rise and shine!
The difficult process of choosing what will be shown first, second and last. The puzzle assembly begins now. I would recommend to keep your trailer between 30s to 90s if possible. Generally, it is enough and you do not need more. Because like I said previously, you’ll focus on a few key points to show, not everything.
When you’ve everything recorded, in your editing software, use markers to keep track of interesting moments. You can also create a new timeline that will have all the bests shots you might use in your trailer. This is a great way to concentrate all your selections and have them easily accessible.
Knowing when to cut is a sensitive subject. There is a ton of way to choose when to cut and bring in the next shot. The intention matters. You can do it by movement, by sound cue, when the interest is loosing, or simply because you feel like it is the right time. Editing is like dancing, the overall flow has to be neat and make sense of the whole. That’s one reason why good editors are diamonds to the director’s eyes: You don’t notice the edit.
The beginner misstep is to have the shot length way too long for no reason. Nowadays people loose interest really fast. Remember that you only have a minute available and you want to tell them well. A well made and fast-paced editing allows you to keep the viewer entertained too!
Cut during the movement or when the interest of the action start to lower down. There is nothing worse than having to look at a shot and waiting for something to happens.
After a while, editing the same thing during days and watching it hundreds of times, the objectivity get lost. Remember that your viewer will watch your trailer once and for the first time. However, with experience you will handle this feeling better. Be honest with yourself and admit it when something is not working as well as you thought it will. Taking breaks are genuinely helpful. A night or a week between two viewing allow you to reset your thoughts.
Remember to keep your trailer interesting and informational. Nobody is interested by 1 minute of the same boring gameplay that shows pretty much nothing. Gather feedback from your close (gamer) friends and ask them what do they think of your trailer, listen carefully because they are the mirror of your possible audience. You lose objectivity when you are too close of your product, external advice should be welcomed!
Sound Design is all the sound effects you can hear (gameplay, swishes, explosion, spells…). The biggest advice I could give is to try different things and keep what works, like editing. I see a lot of trailers with sounds that don’t fit the overall video. If you put a specific sound and believe it is not very good, toss it, if you don’t feel like it is working well, nobody will. It is important to put together a trailer that have a synergy between visuals and sounds. Also, you can add different layers of sound over each other to create new ones!
Making a trailer require the use of a broad range of skills. Blending images, sounds and story into one tight marketing content that will hook players is not that easy. Take your time, try different iterations to see what work best for your game. If you like the first version of your trailer, keep working on it to make it better, there is always room for improvement!