Michael's Musings

Making of a Trailer

I’m hoping to get some photos from my last few school visits to do a proper recap of them, but for the time being, I thought I’d write a bit more about the book trailer I posted last week for Postcards from Pismo.

First, big thanks to Mr. Sharp and others for the kind words on Twitter and elsewhere. I’m really glad the trailer seems to be connecting both with folks familiar with the book and folks without. (And hi to Mr. Sharp’s class! I hope we’ll talk again soon.)

Anyhow. This trailer took a lot more effort to put together than my Latasha and the Little Red Tornado trailer (you can view that here). For the first trailer, it was a matter of filming my dog misbehaving and creating some simple motion graphics, plugging in some sound effects, and finding an appropriate no-royalties music track. Between tutorials, gathering footage, and editing, maybe about 20 hours work.

For the new trailer, the tasks at hand involved:

– Taking over 400 still photos in and around Pismo Beach, California — about 300 were made of strings of rapid-fire snaps, with the remaining 100 being individual, separate shots
– Narrowing down this selection to about 200 photos
– Color correcting said photos
– Using several strings of photos to create stop-motion effects
– Composing/recording a simple, original song for the trailer
– Putting it all together

I had some help in two areas — first, the Midlandia Press splash animation is not my creation. That was done by a talented fellow named Matt Casper, and it is both lovely and way beyond anything I’d be capable of creating. Also, while I selected the images and the text for the postcards in the video, the placement and typography was done by Kurt Emch, who is the designer responsible for Midlandia Press‘s website and both of its iPad app trailers. These, also, are much better than the rough drafts I sent to Kurt.

But otherwise, the trailer was all my work. I probably spent a solid 80 hours making it, spread over the course of a month. The tools for the project were:

– Canon Powershot G10
– Various Adobe Products (Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere Pro)
– Garageband for iPad
– Cool Edit Pro (for sound)

About half of the images in the trailer were ones I planned on getting, and the other half were things I saw in the moment that were interesting. For example — the footage leading up to Camp SLO? I knew I had to get that — and luckily, the weather cooperated. But the opening sequence of the man walking across the beach? That was just some guy I spotted while getting pier footage and thought would be fun to capture. I have no idea who the guy is, but he had exactly the right look for the trailer.

Once I had all my footage sorted and selected, it was time to edit it all together.

Since I’ve been using this type of software for years, it wasn’t hard to do the editing — just very time consuming. If I want to do another trailer like this, I’ll need a more powerful computer. At least ten of those 80 hours were spent waiting for things to render, realizing the rhythm of the shots was off by a frame or two, and then re-rendering. I grew to hate this sight:

Once I had the images, it was time to make the music. Garageband made this very easy. Using the “Smart Guitar” function, I noodled around until I had a chord progression I liked, and then strummed away as the trailer played on my computer. It took a bit of trial-and-error, but after about half a Sunday, I had exactly what I wanted.

Once I had my rough cut put together, I got feedback from trusted associates, a big assist from Kurt, and then did one more round of tweaking for rhythm and flow. And in case you didn’t see my earlier unveiling, this is the final product:

It wound up being a much bigger time investment than when I’d first thought, “Wouldn’t this be cool to do?” But in the end, it was very cool, and I’m darn proud of it.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *