So you’re nearing launch and now need to start thinking about a trailer. You know the drill: Without video, there’s a good chance the press will ignore the game. (Most websites and blogs lead with video, which they can also share on their YouTube channels.) Check out the infographic below for 10 tips for great game trailers 🙂
- Plan ahead!
Planning out your trailer in advance can help you get organized and avoid unnecessary headaches. Here at Novy Unlimited, we use a Video Production Concept Document – where we map out the structure of the trailer and list all elements that will be used (such as game footage, music, fonts, caption text, store icons, and animated sequences). This is an essential first step, so don’t skip it!
- Use the “Goldilocks” test
Making a trailer too long or too short is a common mistake. A long trailer is usually the result of the “kitchen sink” approach, in which developers are so excited about their game that they want to make sure every possible feature is covered – no matter how large or small. The only time you should have a short game trailer is when it’s being used as a teaser or mobile App Preview. The optimal duration we recommend for a launch trailer is 1:30 (or 90 seconds). Much longer videos might work better as gameplay-focused walkthroughs.
- Don’t tinker!
The “Tinkering Effect” arises out of wanting to make sure the trailer encapsulates every possible aspect of your game. This often occurs when you’re never quite satisfied with what you’re showing to the world. This is understandable – especially when it’s your first published game. Tinkering sometimes also happens with those who are more consensus-driven – needing to get everyone’s opinion before making a final decision. The problem with tinkering is that it can result in delays, costly iterations – and a trailer that has too many concepts and no clear story.
- Settle on a trailer type
If you’re creating a launch trailer, make sure it’s gameplay-focused. A story trailer is great to have, but the gameplay is absolutely essential when your trailer will be shared with the press during launch. If you want to include a story sequence, it’s best to do this at the very beginning – and it should be around 15-30 seconds in length. (If you go to 30 seconds, you might end up increasing the duration of the 90 seconds we recommend for a launch trailer. That’s fine!) Keep in mind that story sequences can be costly and time-consuming – whether they’re live action or animated.However, with some editing finesse and knowledge of After Effects, you can keep the costs down by purchasing stock footage fromPond5, Shutterstock, Getty Images or Envato and adding some interesting filters and overlays. (Be sure to create a shot list in advance before you go shopping for stock footage – and make use of collections and other aggregation tools before making your final purchase.) In addition to gameplay and story trailers, there’s the reveal or teaser trailer mentioned earlier: Teaser trailers are usually 15-30 seconds and attempt to “tease” the viewer about the game without spelling out features or even showing much gameplay. One of our clients put together a teaser that simply had narration with a long upward vertical pan across a person posing as a character from the game for a few seconds. It was quite effective!
- Capture footage like a pro
One of the biggest mistakes is capturing footage without sound effects or with music. Neither of those options will work. The only way to handle audio is to capture footage with sound effects and without music. Why? Because we want to preserve the “natural” sound of the game while still being able to edit various footage together without being concerned about linear music. If we were to remove the sound effects, you’d have a “silent” game with a music score in your trailer – which just doesn’t feel organic.If we were to keep the music in the footage, we’d have a cacophony of mismatched music tracks when it comes to editing the footage. Capture at the highest resolution your game supports and at the maximum frame rate (60 FPS minimum). Export at H.264 and at the same frame rate and resolution at which you captured. Although this is optional, export using a lossless codec if you have enough available storage. Side Note: Make sure you’re capturing footage from the latest build – and watch out for bugs while you’re capturing footage; you’ll want to fix those and also make sure they don’t make it into the trailer! (Note for mobile: Do not use any footage of the device itself in your trailer; this can be extremely distracting – and it’s unnecessary. And another note: Do not under any circumstances misrepresent your footage as being from one platform when it’s really from another.)
- Choose your music wisely
For your trailer soundtrack, start with in-game music to see if one track will convey the game’s mood and tone throughout all the gameplay footage we’ve captured. Unless you have a composer create a music track to fit what you’ve edited, you’re editing “to” the music – so you’ve got to choose wisely. We recommend using just one piece of music throughout your trailer – but in the case of a gameplay trailer with a story sequence at the beginning, you can get away with a different track during the sequence … as long as your primary track works well as a crossfade (or there’s a nice lull right before it appears).Let’s say that none of the in-game tracks really work well with the footage you’ve captured. This happensa lot. Do not fear: This is not a reflection of the strength of the in-game music, which wasn’t created with a trailer in mind. If you find yourself in this situation, go to Pond5, Shutterstock Music, Getty Images Music or another production stock music site. Do some strategic keywords searches and listen! Download a comp/preview of the music and experiment while you’re editing before you make a final decision – then purchase the track of your choice.
- Include VO when necessary
Voiceover should always complement your trailer rather than detract from it. Many developers make the mistake of adding unnecessary narration from voice actors who don’t have enough experience or skills. When in doubt, leave it out. We often use VO for the initial story portion of a trailer only, but we sometimes use narration when it’s an explainer video or a high-intensity gameplay trailer that needs more bite to get the point across.
- Use a consistent style
Determine the type of mood you’re trying to create, and then make sure the style of your trailer complements that mood. One of the biggest mistakes made by developers is to produce a trailer that doesn’t match the tone of their game – which gives the press and prospective players the wrong idea about what their game is all about. If you do decide to add a story sequence to the beginning of your trailer, a shortened version of your backstory in VO is helpful. Include assets such as your logos (company and game) and actual gameplay footage in your trailer.
- Begin and end with a bang
Make sure you bookend your trailer with a sequence or elements that provide some sort of drama or help you stand out from the crowd. We like to take a cue from the film industry and start most of our trailers with a fade in/fade out of our client’s company logo against a black or white background without any audio. We’ve also launched into a story sequence without any logo being shown – and we’ve included audio and/or background behind a logo as well. We do always end with a card containing the game logo, tagline, and relevant store icons. Depending on the mood you’re trying to create, the music should end in some dramatic fashion – in some cases, with an actual BANG 🙂
- Follow the rules
Some retail trailers need to adhere to certain specs and guidelines. This isn’t as much an issue with desktop (PC, Mac, Linux) – but with retail trailers specifically for console (PlayStation, Xbox, Switch) and mobile (iOS due to App Store guidelines). If you’re working with Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo, you will most likely receive logos, mnemonics, ratings, and branding guidelines based on region. Apple also asks that developers adhere to specific guidelines when creating an App Preview, which should be exactly 30 seconds and show gameplay only. (We always include an end card as well – minus store badges.)And one more thing: Don’t include a launch date or anything else that “dates” the trailer. You don’t want to upload a new trailer when the original one becomes outdated. This will dilute your view and “like” stats.
If you want to check out a few trailers that Novy has worked on, see the “Novy Creations” playlist on our YouTube channel!