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The opening of a trailer is probably the most critical part, because it can be the deciding factor for whether or not the person watching will continue watching after the first few seconds. Here are a few tried and true ways for making a great opening to your trailer!Read More
This is the second trailer I made for Neo Cab (though it was the third to get released). The E3 trailer was made to immerse the audience into the world of Neo Cab, and also using a conversation between Lina and Allie to establish the character's story. In trailer lingo it was a "scene pull" where a trailer takes a single scene (or what feels like a single scene) and uses it to give a sample of the game or movie. This is in contrast to trailers which cut together with a lot of different scenes to build a story.
With the premise and world of the game established by the reveal trailer, I thought it was important for the next trailer to show some nitty gritty specifics about how the game plays, and its unique design. Namely, the Feelgrid, which is the bracelet Lina wears which changes color according to her emotions and the intensity of them. In the game, her emotions are affected by her decisions, and the responses she gets from her passengers. Parrticular emotions will make certain dialogue options unavailable because they don't correspond to how she feels.
I wanted to show this idea, but in a way which didn't explain it to the audience by showing text which says: "Your emotions affect your choices!" The characters do explain how the feelgrid works in the game, but since there's no voice acting I thought it might be less engaging to have the audience read it.
The idea I came up with was framing the trailer as an explainer video which could conceivably exist on the Feelgrid website in the world of Neo Cab to explain what the device does in order to hopefully entice them to purchase one. This way I could use a narrator to explain the device. My hope was by having a narrator who existed within the world of Neo Cab, but didn't talk about Lina specifically, it would feel separated enough the audience would not conclude there's voice acting in the game.
The voiceover script I mostly cribbed from explainer text in the game, and for the rest I read a lot of articles about self-care and emotional wellbeing to submerge myself in the language used for products in that industry. My goal for the trailer was to show how these positive, well meaning vibes might be tested by Lina's job as a Neo Cab driver. That juxtaposition is what I thought would intrigue the audience, and add an interesting dimension to what some might otherwise write off as just another visual novel game. The script I wrote received some tweaks from Neo Cab's story editor Paula Rogers.
For the voiceover I enlisted voice actress Erin Yvette who previously did the impeccable news anchor voiceover for the trailer I made for Quadrilateral Cowboy! I knew she would be perfect as the explainer video narrator.
Though I've done some voiceover direction for trailers, I don't do it often so I really wanted to make sure I gave her enough information to do her work. Here's what I sent along with the script:
Neo Cab is a game set in a not-too-distant future where Silicon Valley-like tech companies have even more control over the way we live. Everything has an app or a device, and humans are more disconnected than ever before.
This trailer is set up like an explainer video for an advanced mood bracelet which shows what emotions the user feels, and the intensity of that feeling.
The vibe of the company/commercial is Apple meets Goop.
The video uses the language and culture of self-care, mindfulness, and touchy-feely ideas mental health to sell its product.
The narrator believes they’re helping the user live a better life.
Erin nailed it on the first take she sent me, which is what the trailer shipped with. She said: "I went with a mix of “yoga coach” and “tech industrial ad.”
For the very beginning of the trailer I hired my motion designer friend Forrest Mulcahy because I knew it would take too long for me to figure out how to use the 3D elements taken from the game, and he could do a better job of it. I think I originally had a more ambitious intro idea, but simplified it so there wouldn't be too much time on non-gameplay footage.
The next step was to choose the story bits which would most correspond or contrast with what was said in the voiceover. Initially everything I selected were the parts of the game where Lina was sad or angry because they contrasted well against the self-care language, but I realized quickly that would get tiresome, and not accurately reflect Lina as a character or the range of emotions she goes through in the game. Structurally the trailer goes back and forth between voiceover and dialogue so they would work in concert, and never fight for attention.
When using on-screen text of any sort I always worry about the audience's ability to simultaneously parse the text and any other audio or visuals on screen, so my hope was the voiceover and dialogue would be related enough to feel like one single narrative throughline.
The music is a hybrid of two tracks from the soundtrack: LCD Daydream and Euclidean Waves. The composer Joseph Burke took my crudely assembled music tracks, and made a new custom track which stitched them together and added an ending for the trailer.
I'm really happy with how this trailer came out! I love how the unique premise of the game lent itself to an entirely different story structure which I had a lot of fun putting together. It's also always very satisfying to collaborate with other creatives to make something even better!
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