About a week before Tacoma’s release, Steve Gaynor of Fullbright asked me if I had time to make a short 30 sec “available now” launch trailer. Of course I said yes, but I knew I’d only have a weekend to do it since at the time I was working an agency gig during the day, and on top of that I had another project I was already working on at night.
I managed to do this on a Sunday in about 7 hours (with some breaks for food/cats etc.), with only a few small tweaks the day after. My familiarity with the game greatly expedited my edit/capture creative decisions, otherwise I never would've considered taking on a project with so little time available. Well... it depends on the project :P
Steve’s initial idea was a short trailer that used the same music as the full trailer, and maybe some alternate takes from what I captured for E3. My first instinct was to avoid the full trailer’s music, lest the audience think they’re seeing more of the same from E3.
I constantly worry about fatiguing the audience with multiple trailers, especially when they're released in close proximity. If a game’s marketing campaign is going to incorporate multiple trailers, it’s imperative to make them unique enough to justify the audience’s attention. A guiding principle behind my creative choices is I never want the audience to think they’re seeing the limits of the game, and multiple trailers that showcase similar content is an easy way to do just that.
So instead I proposed a mini-trailer a la the Firewatch mini-trailers to show some pretty shots or a little vignette with dialogue from the game. Before working on this trailer I had booted up the game curious to see what sort of polish there had been since the end of May; I noticed some new subtle ambient music tracks. I requested all of that music, and one of them felt perfect!
My two ideas were: a montage of the Tacoma characters’ AR projections frozen in poses while the camera moves around them, and a version of that with a nice dialogue moment. As is often the case, the final result was a hybrid of the two.
First thing I did was cut down the music track from over a minute to what felt like a nice pace, but wasn’t too repetitive. The opening of the song doesn’t have much variation, so I made it shorter to get to the middle section faster. I also placed the title card and “available now” slate at the end, to block out how much room I had.
I went back to my selects strings from May, and the first thing I listened to was some dialogue from the space station’s AI, ODIN (by the way, future me always thanks past me for being organized, but also finds ways I could’ve organized better). For the launch trailer I considered using some exposition explaining the AR recordings central to the game, but found there wasn’t enough room for it in the story I wanted to tell. But since the plan for this trailer was to showcase the AR recordings, it was perfect!
I cut together a couple lines of ODIN’s dialogue, and not only did it provide the perfect backbone to the trailer, but its length fit the music! In fact, the breaks between the lines gave me a reason to cut the music down even further, and have it sound cohesive, and motivated.
With the ODIN dialogue cut in, I made a video outline using title cards to roughly block out the sort of shots I wanted to put into the trailer for each section. I didn’t know if Fullbright was going to be on board with this approach, so in the interest of time, I thought it best to show an outline before getting in too deep. I knew with this approach I’d still have the option of stripping out the dialogue, and going with the original plan. They ended up liking it, so I got started capturing!
For capture I re-rigged my improvised string/tape 3x3 grid for my TV, and set out looking for good still moments where the characters stood in interesting poses, or were arranged in a way that looked like it told a story. Moments when characters stand with their arms down aren’t very dynamic, but if the arms are in the air performing an action, it suddenly becomes that much more interesting!
For the climax I wanted to find areas that had a lot of movement in the frame when fast forwarding or rewinding, and then a bonus for characters going into the screen for the very end.
I was very pleased with the end result; Fullbright had just a few small tweaks, and it was done! I like that I got to solve multiple problems with this one trailer even though the original idea was just to show some pretty images and put a date on it. I think this manages to teach the audience a bit more about the universe, and set it to pretty images and music.
Tacoma is OUT NOW! Obviously I’m biased, but if you’re interested in unique game narratives, definitely check it out!