When it comes to watching a trailer or any video production, we can instantly tell if what we are looking has been made by complete amateurs or professionals. Thanks to our ability to use our memories and compare it with what we have previously seen and how we liked it, there are a lot more to it.
In this article, I’ll deconstruct a few key points on why we feel that way and what is important to look for when you are aiming at high-quality results.
This is probably what all arts are about: Feelings. What do you get from watching something is what people will remember instinctively. This is why I always ask one crucial question before starting working on a trailer: What feeling should the viewer have at the end of the video?
With the intention to make the viewer scared, you have a scope to aim for and can design your project around it. As consumers, we need to have a reason to keep consuming (a video), we need an emotion that comes with a story.
We are story-driven persons, we like stories we can relate to, characters we can have empathy for. The very essence of drama is to have a character taking action towards his goals, while he face difficulties to reach his ambitions. The viewer needs to understand what is at stake and what is all the story about.
Everyone knows someone that tells incredible stories. We could listen to their words for hours and not be fed up with their adventures. If there is no story, we ask ourselves, why bother continue?
Seems obvious, but sometimes the viewer ends up thinking “What did I just watch?”. This is really bad news and usually, mean you didn’t put many efforts into intelligible meaning.
Coherent and understandable content is achievable with great pre-production process and asking a lot of questions about the outcome desired. What needs to be shown? What is important? What can you do in the game? What is the story? What is the goal?
Always try to go a little further, one extra step when you think you are done. Trailers are often the first and last marketing asset an individual will watch. The main idea I like to use is to make a trailer as you would design it for children. When my nephew comes to visit me and I show him a trailer I’m working on, I’m asking him what did he see?
What does he think the game is about? If a kid can understand it, bravo!
Dynamic is usually a buildup of intensity with some variety and change in the melting pot of various elements. In trailers, while everything needs to make sense, there must be a sense of movement and rhythm between shots, composition, length of clips, motion in shot and camera movement.
Having a great dynamic gives your brain some juicy candies that make it think what you are watching is enjoyable (as long as you understand it). You don’t want to be forced to stare at 10seconds of nothing. You clicked on that video and you are expecting things to happens, and a lot of it.
As a video guy, I still have to admit one important truth: The sound and music choice makes a trailer or kill it. Bad and not-so-interesting visuals can be hidden by the music, the editing can be saved thanks to a great sound design and music choice. And even more important, it is a colossal creative toolbox.
[The Editor of Atomic Blonde points out an interesting fact:: You should be able to put any music (or none) over your edit and it should still works. ]
The choice of music and sounds are what will make your trailer good or great. Even if you hit right on other aspects of your production, there will always be this one thing that doesn’t click.
Obviously, you can also make a trailer without music, sounds effects or dialogue, just like you can break any rules when it comes to art. But one thing is certain: the wrong piece will harm your trailer.
The composition of every frame is an important factor and overlooked in indie trailers. If you treat each single shot with care, almost like a masterpiece, assembling the elements thoughtfully, you are able to achieve great prouesses :
-Leading the viewer eye (Better control over the editing)
-Offer readability (Comprehension of what is happening)
-A sense of quality (We are all used to great framing and recognize it, thanks to movies and photography)
-Tell a story (Composition can have intentional meaning, like a lone child crying, surrounded in a crowd)
It needs to be thought beforehand and every single shot needs to add value to the overall trailer. Trailers are short and each second can have an impressive impact over the viewer. The first shot of a video can be the reason your viewing retention is high or low, make each frame count.
One general question you can ask to yourself is : Does this shot adds value to the trailer ?
Growing up, we are subject to great design every single day. We learn to differentiate between good and bad design, naturally, we can sense if something is well designed or not (despite of personals preferences). You can recognize good logos because they beautiful, see a smartphone that is visually appealing and deduct it has been carefully thought and well designed.
Titles cards or any graphic animation/design is often present in trailers and are a witnesses to the skill of the editor/designer/team behind a trailer. Inconsciouly, as an human, you judge by your pasts experience and a very ugly title card design is often the water drop to express how bad the movie/game might be. Maybe the final content is awesome, maybe not, but one thing is certain : You trust your guts to make choices on what you will use your time on watching and playing.
The result of a great trailer comes from a simple concept : Intention. Have a precise motive and work from it. Everything should converge to fit the exact intention. Finding the right balance between all the techniques used can be tricky, it requires time and skill to hit the jackpot. That’s the reason you either need a professionnel to help you reach this kind of result, or take yourself the time necessary without rushing anything. Just like a great chinese puzzle, it can take several shots to get it right, try differents things and discover how you can make it work.