So you’re all done with your game (or nearly done!) and it’s time to show off all of your hard work! Just like with creating games, spending the time on making a polished trailer can be a great use of your time, but it can also feel like flailing about in the dark if you don’t know what you’re doing!
Luckily, I just went through this experience so you don’t have to! In this post, I’ll describe a general process that you can apply to make trailers of your game that communicate well and look semi-professional. You can also refer to my earlier post about creating Unity iPhone Trailers on a Budget to see the technical how-to that will let you capture your game with clarity for Youtube or other distribution methods.
Step 1. Understand your Appeal
This might seem obvious, but it’s easy to get mired in the technical details of trailer creation without considering what you want to communicate in the first place! So start with the basics. Open your text editor and answer the following questions:
- What are the 2 or 3 coolest short/quick visual features of my game?
- What sets my game apart from other look-alikes?
- What is the most common action that occurs in the game?
- What are the things that occur at the boundaries of levels in the game? (like story dialogue or intro/outro scenes)
- What is the most interesting special effect in my game?
- List 10-15 places/levels/characters in the game that exhibit one of the above characteristics, but are audiovisually distinct (or as distinct as possible). This is your scene list.
Step 2: Create a crude storyboard
From the scene list, order each of those listed “scenes” in a way that avoids direct repetition of things that look similar to one another. Don’t worry about exact composition – this is your time to try and mentally visualize the color or tone of your trailer so that it doesn’t feel repetitive.
Try your best to use some of these rules of thumb:
- Take the 2 most visually interesting things in your list and place them 1/3 and 2/3 of the way through your trailer. This creates space and provides peak excitement spread out.
- If you were able to find things that occur at the boundaries of levels, place them at the front and back of each third (or each half) of the trailer.
- If you have 2 scenes that share the same art or audio content, put them at least 2 scenes apart from one another.
Step 4. Start recording content
This part is easy – take your scene list, and use your vidcap software of choice to record LOTS of video of each of those scenes. Make sure to demonstrate a good amount of your functionality, and try to have action sequences that flow smoothly instead of taking actions slowly. For the most visually interesting things, record 4 instances (preferably with variety) for later use.
Step 5. Editing
Now you’ve got to fire up your video editor of choice. I use iMovie because it’s very affordable! Now, for each of the types of scenes I listed, you can try some of these approaches and see how they work for you:
- Start with a company / publisher logo, and end with the title of the game and the URL of your website.
- For really visually interesting scenes, cut up your 4 instances so that they hop between visually distinct styles and repetitively show the same thing. Your cuts should be really short for these – play with the start and end points and don’t use any transitions to get a punchy, rhythmic feel.
- In between those, use your more common scenes. These can last 3-4 seconds in length, which gives a break in the rhythm for your viewers.
- Use transitions only between action scenes and buffer scenes. Use cross and fade transitions but stay away from Wipe or other fancy transitions unless the scene you’re going to is scrolling, as it looks kind of home video-ish. When cutting between action scenes, just cut directly without a transition.
- If your character has actions that they go through, try placing the start of your clip at the first or second frame of the action taking place. Leaving space beforehand leads to a jerky feel when transitioning, and going with the first or second frame can feel more natural and give the sensation of action.
- Make sure you include unique or special features – if you can’t find a good place for them, try putting them at the end right before the final scene.
If you get lost, a great way to get restarted is to watch a trailer in the same game genre that gets you excited and try to discern its structure, then use it as a template.
Step 6: Publish!
The last step is just to publish! If you use Youtube, make sure to take advantage of linking to your promo website in your description, and use Annotations accordingly to have your viewers subscribe for future videos. If you followed this far, you obviously care about providing a good experience for your users, and that’s the most important thing! Keep on working hard, and good luck!