Reading articles can be time-consuming, we have so much content available to us, saying yes to something is saying no to everything else. Summarizing ideas is a great way to get into the soul of what matter most. In this article, I’ve gathered a lot of differents concepts and notions around the art of making trailers, aiming to grasp the theory around what we can do to make a great one using key bullet points.
I’ll decipher the concepts in a few sentences, however each concept can be read as a standalone. Remember, every rule has its exceptions.
- It all begins with a story
A trailer is more than a marketing video content, it needs to tell something, a story.
- A structure is a sequence of events that makes sense when put all together
A beginning, a middle and an end like Aristotle told us hundreds of years ago in “Poetics”. A story have sense because every part follow each other smoothly.
- Make it in one minute
45 to 90 seconds is usually enough to convey all you need to. Moreover, the longer your trailer is, less people will finish it.
- A great trailer use a great music
It doesn’t work the other way around. We all can watch a 360p video with amazing music and sound design, but we find it painful to watch a 4K video with really bad audio.
- The right questions gives the right answers
All you need is asking yourself a lot of question. What do I need to show? What interest my audience? How can I tell a story in my trailer? What structure should I make?
- Show, don’t tell
This is a trailer, not a book. If you can show something, instead of writing it, you are doing it right.
- No Logo
Hook the player with your game, not your company name. Also, your early view retention is a sensible thing to play with. Adding a logo is one more reason to leave a video when all we want to see is the game.
- No Interface
Let the game handle the talking. Players are interested by gameplay, not interface. Unless your game is among the few that require you to show the interface, just don’t. Also, it clutter the screen.
- No weird camera movements
If you are not sure about what you are doing, keep your camera movements simple and linear. We all have been exposed to high quality cinematography, everyone knows when a camera movement doesn’t feel right.
- Simple design is better than a bad design
Background, texts and end-slates can be poorly designed, and they convey a lack of quality to your viewers. Showing nothing is also better than showing really bad design.
- Sound effects emphasize what is on screen
If your see guns shooting, add appropriate sounds. If a player is falling, add a rising sound to it. Sounds are your best allies and can turn a dull moment to an epic one.
- Use the center of the screen. Never touch the borders
Our eyes need more time to accommodate when they need to move. Keeping everything near the same place allows us to understand what is happening.
- Diversity is key
A game is a rich world. Maybe your game mechanics are simple but use a lot of maps, enemies and colours. It is better to show 5 differents monsters than one 5 times.
- Surprise your audience
Keeping viewers engaged is hard. Surprising them with unique footages or unexpected events of your game is a great way to surf on the emotional engagement required to remember what they have just watch.
- One thing at a time
Looking at several things at the same time is impossible. We can focus on one thing and/or one idea. We can read texts, watch a boss being attack and a character doing a new ability. Show one at a time, or two in a smart way. For example, having everything still and only one thing moving will force your eyes to draw themselves to what is moving.
- People remember emotion over information
Your audience will probably not remember the “OVER 100 WEAPONS” text, however they will remember how amazing the sequence with all the explosions and weapon shots made them feel. Also, finishing a trailer on a high emotional intensity increase the positive feeling your trailer will be remember by.
- Enter late, leave early
As a rule of thumb, shorter clips are better than long one. If you feel that your trailer is boring or slow-paced, try cutting earlier.
- Make it visually readable, clarity is important, declutter your shots
When too many events happen at the same time, we do not know what is on top of the hierarchy of importance.
- The endslate should be simple and informative
A simple background, your game logo, the console/store and you are good to go. You can do much more, I’ve made an entire article about endslates.(link)
- Shot gameplay footages for an entire day
You should plan what you want to show, and have a lot of it. Having a high amount of material is crucial to the success of a trailer. It allows you to have exponential possibilities and every minute can be used in one way or another.
- Don’t show everything – Tease
A trailer that feels like everything has been shown is problematic. You don’t create a craving emotion by giving away everything right away. For example, you can show some visuals of your final boss, but not all his mechanics.
- Finish strong
Viewers remember really well how you made them feel at the end. If the emotion is positive, you increase the chance that the final thought your audience will keep is a great one. However, what has been show before is equally important, since a viewer won’t reach the end if everything is previously poorly executed.
There are so many simple concept everyone can use to make a good trailer. It doesn’t take much to have a marketing video popping the idea “Hey, this game seems nice, let’s look at the store page”.
Obviously, when you are aiming at high production value with specific ideas behind it, some of the concepts above are used differently or completely