Making the trailer

Of course, I would have liked to have fashioned a trailer that featured live actors, some spectacular sets, and the eye-candy of great CGI effects. Alas, such resources are beyond my pocketbook at the moment, so I was reduced to crafting something myself (with the very limited resources I had a hand). But hey, I like a challenge, so I dove right into it.

Most book trailers you see feature static shots using stock photos and generic music. Occasionally you’ll find some that have video, but again, it’s often stock. I tried finding stock photos, videos, and music that would do the job and wouldn’t require me shelling out a lot of money, but because of the setting of my novel (and my budget), that wasn’t very practicable. There was also the matter of consistency of appearance. I tried putting together a trailer that had a mix of free video clips and photos (as well as some of the artwork I’d done for my book), but the result didn’t appeal to me in the least and didn’t come close to conveying the atmosphere I was after.

Since my budget was zero, I opted to try my hand at a little animation. To be honest, the closest I’ve ever come to doing animation in the past were a few flipbooks I made as a kid. But animation has always fascinated me (there was a time when I entertained the possibility of being an animator), so I decided to give it a go.

You would think in this day and age it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to do a little animating. There’s a ton of software available, after all. The problem is that a) most of that software costs money and b) it involves a substantial learning curve. Even the free stuff you can find on the Internet takes time to acquaint yourself with – at least to the point where you can turn out something usable. I just didn’t have the time for all that (though in retrospect I probably should have made the time).

I decided my best bet was to use a basic paint program to create the brief string of limited animation sequences in the trailer. And by using the cut-out, copy-and-paste, move and rotate tools (among a few others), I was able to manufacture a few simple scenes. Some involved a bit more work than others, but on the whole it was much faster than doing page-by-page drawings.

I ended up with literally hundreds and hundreds of jpeg images (cells, in animation parlance), which I then had to string together into short video sequences.  Fortunately, I found a free little app on the Internet that allowed me to convert the series of jpegs into avi files. Once I had all the avi files and a few static images, I then had to composite them into a workable movie. Unfortunately, the only piece of software I currently have for this task is MS Moviemaker, which while decent for what it is, lacks many of the bells and whistles of other video editing software packages. I could have purchased something more robust – but remember: I had zero budget.

I wanted the trailer to look like old movie stock, so I turned all the avi files and static images into black and white footage. In a video editing package I had many years ago, there was an option to add scratches and dust specks to the footage for more verisimilitude, but Moviemaker has no such feature. A pity, since I think that would have added some character to the trailer and fit in with the ambiance of the book.

Once I’d edited the avi files and such to my liking, I added some sound effects. Since Moviemaker apparently permits only one soundtrack, I had to then convert the partially finished composition into an mpeg4, then reload this into editing software and add a musical track.

In the case of the music for the trailer, I once more opted to create it myself. In this case I availed myself of Magix Music Maker, which I’d previously used when putting together the soundtrack for the book (which you can find elsewhere on this site). I selected the cue “Sophie and Jonathan” for the trailer, and was pleasantly surprised by how well it fit the images and the fact that it was almost the perfect length. The music and sound effects definitely make all the difference, completely transforming the entire video, making it seem a lot better than it otherwise would. Not that the trailer is what I really wanted it to be. But, as they say, beggars can’t be choosers. (And you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, etc., etc.)

To the right are a few of the animation “cells”. In most cases the imagery is very basic in style and content, more as a function of some of the paint program’s limitations than of what I was shooting for. The important thing was to have a certain degree of consistency in what all the images looked like, so that it all seems of one piece. I think I’ve achieved that to a certain extent. It’s not Hollywood, but if nothing else, I had fun doing it – and sometimes that’s all that matters in life.