GETTING STARTED

 

I'm so happy you're interested in making trailers!

This page is to guide you through the most helpful posts for someone who wants to learn to make trailers. For the quickest summary of a lot of the key points for making a good game trailer, you should watch this excellent Game Maker’s Toolkit video. Mark Brown uses a lot of material from my site and various conference talks, as well as quotes and concepts from Ryan Clark of Brace Yourself Games and fellow trailer maker M Joshua. After watching that video, you can proceed for further in-depth reading!

Hello again! Now that you’ve seen the summary, let’s get into some more specifics. Here’s a quick rundown of each section of my site:

The TRAILER EDITING page includes an introduction to the basic concepts, and the most directly applicable editing lessons of trailer editing.

The TRAILER ESSAYS are to help you think analytically about trailers, editing trends, editing styles, and why they do or don't work. There are some lessons in here, but they're not spelled out explicitly in actionable steps.

The TRAILER REVIEWS are shot by shot analyses of my favorite trailers, and what makes them good. These are a good way to look at the editing for trailers of different genres, and some of the most interesting ones out there.

My CASE STUDIES are behind-the-scenes looks at how I solved the unique problems each trailer presented, whether for an action game, a point-and-click adventure game with 16,000 lines of dialogue or a first person narrative adventure. If you're making a game trailer, it might help to read the case study of a game similar to yours.

TRAILER RESOURCES includes posts with technical information like recommended software and hardware, game trailer specifications, the best debug tools for games, or information on sound effects libraries, the history of trailers, trailer music, and trailer production houses.

If you'd like to stay up to date with my weekly posts about making trailers, you can SUBSCRIBE HERE!

Without further ado, these posts will help get you up to speed!

PRE-PRODUCTION

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First, some quick resources. My trailer making checklist which has the steps of my process, and a brief explanation of each phase of production. And here's a page to help start building your trailer sound effects library. If you're looking to create remixes or fan videos, I have a tutorial for getting footage from movies and games which have little to no music mixed in.

Next up are the basics of trailer story structure. This posts analyzes the trailer for The Matrix, and breaks it down into the 3-act structure of trailers: the cold open, introduction, escalation, and the climax. Next, my post about trailer music will teach you about how to structure the acts of a trailer based on the music. I start most of my trailers by editing the music; the sooner you start thinking about it, the better. While I'm talking about music editing, I recommend this tutorial on how I prepare the music I edit with by using a special color-coded marking system.

You might've noticed I listed four things after saying "3-act structure" in the above paragraph. That's because the cold open is kind of its own thing, so much so I wrote an entire post about cold opens. This is about how to hook the audience as soon as possible, something more important than ever in the age of auto-playing social media video set to mute. 

I later made a revision to my trailer story structure post with a more detailed look at The Line of Rising Action which is about following a 3-act structure, and punctuating the moments with accents to keep the audience engaged.

If you're making a game trailer, you have the unenviable task of both exciting and educating the audience about the game. I wrote a three part series about how to treat the trailer like a video tutorial of sorts. In part one I explain the most basic way to create a progression of shots to show how the game works. Part two gets into using the lore of the game to add some flavor, and more literal instruction for how the game works. Part three is about literally saying how the game works, when it might be advantageous to do, and how some games did it well. To round this out, I have a post about depicting player verbs in games, and how to make them clear.

If you're making a trailer with a story, you need to think about how to take a ton of dialogue, pick out the right bits, and put them in an order which tells a story that makes sense. My critique of a trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2 explains paper edits, how to use them to make sense of dialogue, and structure the story of the trailer through dialogue. 

I also wrote about trailer dialogue, and cutting together story beats in my post about a trailer for Star Trek: Discovery. This is another look at how to use dialogue to tell a story in a trailer. 

EDITING

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Those should help you towards the skeleton of a trailer, now I recommend reading my post about what I'm thinking when I'm editing a trailer. This is partially a look through my very very first projects, but also some general guidelines for the reasons I cut the way I do.

A big part of making a good trailer is cutting in clear, and readable shots. I wrote about the opening montages for the show Terrace House, and their excellent shot selection.

When making a trailer, it's not uncommon to have a lot of sections, but no connective tissue between them. This is when it's good to think about how to transition between the sections. Whether it's a music transition, a visual transition, a story transition, a music stop down, or a combination of them all; this post should help bridge the gaps between the trailer. 

INSPIRATION

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At any step of the process you might look at other trailers for inspiration. Here's a post about how to watch trailers analytically by paying attention to the dialogue, music and sound effects editing. I also wrote a two part post about watching trailers after seeing the finished film.

EDITING PHILOSOPHY

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I've also written a lot of general ideas and guidelines about my philosophy for what a trailer should and shouldn't have. My post about how stand-up comedy relates to trailer making is about knowing your audience. This post is about showing, not telling, and why it typically is much more effective. By the same token, sometimes a trailer is significantly improved by making it shorter. There are also some things which just don't belong in a story trailer because they don't contribute anything meaningful. There are also a number of things which make a trailer feel very generic. And the ever important question of how to avoid making a trailer feel spoilery is addressed in this post.

FINISHING

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Then you might want to take a look at some small quick tips for relatively easily fixable pitfalls I see in game trailers.

If you're making a game trailer for console release, don't forget to get all the legal information, video specifications and end slates up to the proper specifications.

There are still many more posts, but hopefully this gets you started!