Hey interested reader! Do you yearn to learn the ins and outs of Adobe Premiere? Do you thirst to study its vast yet confusing tool set? Do you aspire to fix video resolutions from the most atrocious to the most precocious? Well I’ve got great news for you! There’s a bunch of tutorials on YouTube and you can fuck on over there to teach yourself! I’m just here to just show you the aesthetic part of trailer making, gorgeous.
But George, are you even qualified to tell me how to make a trailer? Where are your credentials mister?
Right here hipster beotch! Check out the trailer I cut for Dirty Chinese Restaurant:
You like? What’s that you say? You’re not convinced? I can understand your apprehension as it was my first shot and I did get better with trailer #2. Maybe you should check that out before you keep ragging on my skills son!
Well George that was all cute but I don’t think I want to take advice from an amateur like yourself. I’ll look for a more, ahem, professional opinion from a real artist. One that knows what they’re doing and gets their coffee from Starbucks because they believe in fair trade like I do.
That’s fine fuck face you gave me two extra views, one for each trailer. Your usefulness has run dry like my ex-girlfriend’s vagina and you can leave this page just like that succubus left me! As for the rest of you many thanks for staying and let me take you on a magical journey!
Tell A Story That Builds Maximum Awesome!
Big things have small beginnings. The smallest seed suffocated in dirt will bloom skyward into the loveliest flower. A tiny vulnerable caterpillar will transform into a majestically radiant butterfly. A flaccid red spotted penis will sprout….yah, you see where I’m going with this. You need to tell a narrative that begins small and grows throughout. Don’t whore out all your unique selling points at the beginning of your trailer. Learn to be a tease you dirty girl, and lead the viewer on. Your trailer needs to have a beginning, middle, and end.
If you only show your games high points at the beginning, most viewers will tune out around the middle because either your trailer becomes redundant or worse — BORING. Every trailer tells a story whether it be something small the likes of Angry Birds Space, to the latest Call of Duty. Your audience’s excitement needs to grow so that they will come to the conclusion that they will be a part of the action. In other words, showing the player what they will experience with your little indie gem gives them incentive on why to buy.
Look at it this way. If I’m on trial for murdering my parents because they keep telling me to get a real job, I better be able to put the jury in my shoes. It needs a beginning to establish my trustworthy good hearted character, reasons throughout why it’s really my tragedy, and a crazy climax to sell the bench on my ‘innocence’….hey reality is only a matter of perspective right? I say ‘potato’ you say ‘Your honour we find the defendant guilty of first degree murder’.
Storyboard Your Vision Master Director!
Only inexperienced drones pop their editing cherry without any planning! Sure you’re inexperienced but don’t be a drone! Storyboard your ideas first. You don’t need to be an artist, just make quick sketches to help convey your ideas. And if you are an artist don’t waste your time drawing Disney level artwork. You’re wasting precious limited life force on something, at most, 15 people will see! And you ain’t getting that life force back unless you’re a vampire of sorts. Once done Nosferatu, show them to your development team and get their opinion.
If you’re a lucky son of a bitch who knows people in the game, film, or entertainment industry they can be an excellent critic. If you’re a loser as myself and know no one of awesome importance and influence, then talk to people who game. They can give great advice, but try to avoid forums. Those are full of pretentious know it all assholes and Trolls on keyboard steroids. You need to see actual face to face human reactions. Go to comic book shops, board game meetups, or your circle of gamer pals. You’ll know you’re in the right place when all you smell is dry thick B.O. mixed with Cheetos aftertaste.
The Rough Cut Will Hurt
Next start making rough cuts like an inexperienced sloppy serial killer on his first murder where he doesn’t quite grasp what he’s doing. Just like the confused blood soaked man coming to terms with his newfound art, don’t look into your first editing foray with too much criticism. This is just to get the main ideas across and get your editing sea legs going. Dump all your footage in, drop a beat (that means music to you non-street readers), slap it around till it gets numb, and export!
You can cut the whole thing once and go back for advice, or use my strategy and build it in pieces and get critiqued with each segment. Don’t worry if the cuts don’t look great, if they’re too late or too early. You’ll fix your failures soon enough. At this point you’re looking for narrative and if the trailer is addressing your game’s unique selling points. Don’t worry if it looks like shit. This is clay you’re gonna mold into a masterpiece over time. If it still looks like shit by the end of it however…well, then you’ve made shit you can’t fix cause it’s the shittiest shit. And your game is probably shit. And you should exit this article and find one on good game design.
Set The Pace Win the Race
Editing can be a tricky mistress. When I cut the first trailer for DCR I cut every shot on every beat. With so many cuts the effect I thought I achieved was conveying DCR’s hectic game play experience. However, when I showed it to people, all it conveyed was a bunch of mindless fuckery. Because the cuts were so fast people couldn’t comprehend what was going on. What was even worse, the viewers weren’t understanding what they were seeing, becoming less engaged while stating that the trailer was too long.
While drying my tears in the middle of the “Revenge” list I was writing, I stumbled upon an epiphany. In order to cut properly, my audience needed to see the subject, what the subject was doing, and then move on. That’s basic editing 101 in a nutshell, and I felt like a stupid motherfucker for not figuring it out sooner. That’s why I call it the Sam Jackson Triple Play Cut (patent pending). Here are the steps:
- Establish the Motherfucker
- Display what the Motherfucker is doing
- Cut the Motherfucker outta the Motherfucking picture (don’t linger)
I went back to my trailer and cut on every other beat. This created longer cuts allowing viewers to see what’s going on in each cut while not lingering too long. One of my friends commended me on a job well done and said it looks better now that I had made it shorter. I told him it’s the same length I just removed some cuts while making the remaining ones longer. Then I put a knife to his throat and told him to never question my art again, because you know….friends! 😀
Pick The Right Music
Don’t give me that fucking look. You know…the “music doesn’t really matter look”. If you really think your visuals alone will sell the game, then you are fucking stupid a tad naive. Imagine the hilarious Benny Hill Theme combined with the intensely apocalyptic Mad Max Fury Road Trailer. What was that? No one’s stupid enough to do that? How do you think I lost my job at Warner Bros?! Surprise cockface!
Music creates the tone of your game, and it gets your audience pumped. It’s a reflection of what your game is and compliments the visuals. Don’t let this intimidate you. Best rule of thumb is to use tracks from your game since that reflects the character of your IP already. Just be sure to pick the appropriate track. If it’s a fast paced trailer pick music from an upbeat fun section of your game. If you’re looking for a more dramatic effect pick a track from an emotional part of your game. If you want to be a selfish prick, then combine both but be careful to not ruin the tone or narrative.
The most important rule is to avoid using popular music that will clash with your visuals. Don’t be a total tart by adding the Indiana Jones theme to your 2D jungle platformer or inserting that played out Requiem for a Dream track to your medieval RPG because you saw The Lord of the Rings Trailer 46,847 times. It doesn’t make you look clever and your audiences’ ears will be menstruating because IT WILL NOT MATCH YOUR GAMEPLAY! Success only goes to those with originality.
It’s About the Game Not You’re Inflatable Ego
I’m putting this in because it’s one of my pet peeves. Always remember your game is the star NOT you. That’s right, not your development story, not your indie struggle, not how much time you put in etc. You think your development story can sell your game? Let’s look at Clent’s ‘exceptional’ story game trailer:
Scene opens to reveal a young bearded man with black thick rimmed spectacles. He’s in a plaid shirt, his hands ever so tightly in his skinny jeans. He’s leaning on a fence with an urban sky rise in the background. The sun is just kissing the horizon indicating a new dawn, a new hope. A serious look crosses his face as this man feels naked and vulnerable in front of the camera. But he pushes on as he is about to begin his emotional confessional.
“Hi I’m Clent, game architect of Pulley Panic Plight, an experience where you use a water pulley system to get water out of a cracking damn. As a three-year developer it’s been a thought-provoking journey that has given perspective and illumination to my four-man team, Josh, Spencer, and Abigail. We see games as an art and as artists we are masters of the game’s providence. Every time we stroke the keys to fashion a line of code it feels like it’s real. It’s a process of birthing. We create a construct, an environment if you will, where people can place themselves in a world of dam reconstruction. When we build games first we begin with the spiritual. What journey do our players want to take? What growth will they find within as well as externally? What questions do gamers ask of games and where can we find those elusive answers? How can we make the existential tangible? I think we’ve just touched the surface with these transcendent questions in Pulley Panic Plight. Our astonishing journey into Pulley Panic Plight began….”
WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT CLENT! YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE MARKETING A GAME NOT A FUCKING SHITTY ASS COLDPLAY SONG! So tell me dear reader, do you want to donate your life savings to Pulley Panic Plight’s Kickstarter now?! I thought not!
Listen, I understand sometimes it’s good to put a face in front of the company, but no one really gives a shit about your personal story. All they care about is the game. Is it fun to play? Does it have an interesting story? Not your douchebag artistic view of game development and what it means to your fragile existence!
Sometimes people behind the game do become popular if it finds success after release. If that happens then you can talk a little about the craft and what it means to you but it’s no excuse to be a pretentious fuck! Don’t get lost in your hubris because you took a leap of faith and are actually stupid enough to think other people aren’t doing the same thing.
Don’t Be A Tease
Does anyone know your game Diamond Swap, the 4,576th Bejeweled clone on the app store? Are you constantly being bombarded by fan mail and friend requests because of your work on Jumpy Squirrel Adventure the generic 2D platformer you made in 6 months? Did you get green lighted in 0.8945 seconds based on your trailer for your latest game Coalition of Mythologies, which your Kickstarter claimed to be a ‘Leauge of Legends killer’? Chances are while wasting investing time in these IP’s you were also brilliant enough to create a teaser trailer that meant jack shit.
If this is your first indie rodeo, I’d bet American money (I’m Canadian) that no one knows if you fucking even exist on this planet let alone as an indie game developer. You’ve got to let them know about your game so just make a trailer for Christ sakes! Teaser trailers and teasers of teaser trailers (thank god that last cocktease fad is over) works for Halo, Legend of Zelda, and Metal Gear….because they are all established brands!!! Look at the first Legend of Zelda commercial, link (pun so intended) here:
Incredible awesomeness aside you can see that in 30 seconds it tried to sell you on everything Zelda had to offer. The gentleman with too much 80’s hair gel uses his epic rap skills to explain the gameplay while the 80’s coke snorting editor cuts in ALL three scenarios you’d ever see in the original NES Zelda:
1) A hard as pornstar dick dungeon
2) The open fields where those cockmaster pigs throw fucking spears at you 24/7
3) The menu screen
THE FUCKING MENU SCREEN!!! Why didn’t Miyamoto go for broke and show the ending as well?! Main point is no one knew who or what a Zelda was. The commercial actually shows everything…even how to put the fucking cartridge into the system! Nintendo felt it necessary to show you visual instructions on how to insert a godamn cartridge because they were afraid you’d be super stupid enough to jam it in the wrong way. Don’t you fucking lie, you tried it at least once when you were a kid. We were moronic kids in the 80’s.
To sum it up, making a teaser trailer, teaser of the teaser trailer, main trailers 1-8, etc. doesn’t make you a marketing genius. It makes you an advertising shithead.
Conclusion…Because This Article Had To End At Some Point
Making a game trailer can be pretty tough to the uninitiated. It takes time, practice, and a lot of trial and error. Getting an objective opinion about your trailer is paramount in crafting an excellent one. You need someone to point out what aspects are blowing their minds and which ones are shitting down their throats. Now I’m not suggesting you build and rebuild your trailer 17 godamn times because that’s what idiots do. If you plan properly, get proper feedback, and focus on what makes your game great, you should only be needing to make some tweaks.
Once it’s out there, if you did your job properly, that masterpiece will be tickling every gamer’s balls and dancing in all the wet dreams of little gamer boys and girls. So take off your coding cap, put on your director’s helmet (I call it a helmet cause you’re going in the trenches soldier) and start making some movie magic!