Wednesday, 31 March 2010

How to make a video/trailer

I am always being asked how I make my video's and to a lesser extent my book trailer, so I decided to make a post about it.

About 9 months ago I knew my book would be published and I knew I wanted a trailer for it so I began looking into vidding (well, after nearly having a heart attack when when I saw the prices for getting it professionally made).

I know it can seem scary and like there's no way you can ever learn something so outside the realm of your experience, but just go for it! I've had my own business since I was 21 so I'm used to doing things myself rather than having to pay for it. Turns out, most things aren't actually as hard as you might imagine.

So, the first point to remember when learning how to vid is... Enjoy it! Seriously, don't just play around for the sake of it, find a project that captures your imagination but isn't too long.

I chose to make a fan video for Leverage (because I happened to have those files on my computer) to the Ducktales theme. Partly because I have a weird sense of humour and partly because the Ducktales theme is only a minute long.

I will explain how to get clips lower down but for now lets stick with having fun!

It took me about five hours. That seems like a lot for 1 minute of video but I was just learning but more importantly, I was enjoying learning. It now takes me between 4-6 hours for a full length song (about 3 ½ minutes on average).

So this was my very first attempt.

No, it's not brilliant, but for a first attempt it's pretty damn good, I think.

Pleased with that I moved on to other songs, the A-Team theme, MacGyver theme, gradually moving up to longer songs, like the Mission Impossible film theme, a couple of Queen songs (because I love Queen).

I then found a new TV show I loved, The Vampire Diaries, and started making vids for that.

Gradually I learned my craft, the features, how to do transitions, effects etc etc.

I discovered I'm not a huge fan of effects, but when I need them, I now know how to use them.

And most importantly, it has never felt like work. In fact I enjoy it as much as my writing. I've even had a couple of the screenwriters comment about my vids, which obviously was very cool.

I still make videos because I suffer with insomia. Sometimes I am unable to write in those times and vidding is now my substitute.

I will stress at this point, these fan video's are only made for fun, no profit was made, no copyright infringement was intended and the copyright is still held by the original artists.

So you can see how I've improved over time (if in fact I have) this is my most recent video to show the skill level I'm at today (about 6 months later).

So, now we've covered how to learn, here's what you will need to learn.Turns out, not a hell of a lot.

The hardest part if finding clips and music. You already have software you'll need.

Episodes of many TV shows are now available from Amazon and iTunes. If you can afford that option, it's the best one because you legally own the episodes. You don't have the right to redistribute them and if a company should crack down on these vids, your video may still be removed, but you have not committed piracy.

If you are unable to legally download episodes you have two options.

1. Rip the episode from a legally bought DVD (using Windows Media Player, WMP). You will then have to convert the clip to AVI. I use Total Video Converter (TVC) because it converts almost anything to almost everything. It's about $40, but well worth the investment.

2. Torrents. No I won't give you a step by step, 'how to break the law' but I assume you all know how to use google.

For music, iTunes is great, or once again you can use WMP to rip a CD, but you will probably have to convert it to MP3 format. Once again TVC can convert it for you. If you have a video clip with audio you want to rip and use, again TVC will convert video to audio only, just choose the MP3 output.

Vidding software is a little harder because it's very much dependant on personal taste. Start off with Windows Movie Maker (it comes with Windows operating systems so just search for it then send a shortcut to your desk top).

WMM is a great program to practice on, it's easy to use, very easy to edit and trim clips and then drop/drag them into the time line.

Once you've mastered the basics, you might want to move up to something more complicated, like Adobe or Sony. I have tried both but I prefer WMM and continue to use that. Though I stress, I like WMM, not WMM Live. I hate that new version. Even if you've upgraded to windows 7, if you have an old operating system disk hanging around, the original WMM will be one of the programs on there (it comes free with every operating system, just like internet explorer).Mac also provide free software iMovie, but I have no experience of that program.

Now, making a trailer for your book is slightly more complicated than a fan vid because obviously you cant use copyrighted material. They'll let you get away with it for a fan vid, but not for something you plan to use to make money from.

That means, unless you want to hire actors, you're going to have to use pictures, not video clips. That makes it harder to make things interesting, but with the skills you've learned, not impossible.

And remember, everything you use will have to be copyrighted to you or copyright free. I have seen a trailer on You Tube that did use copyrighted images, though they tried to disguise them. That didn't stop an eagle eyed fan spotting it though. The danger here is that if you are reported, you can also be sued because you're using the images for commercial purposes. With a fan vid, your video would just be taken down.

If your book is specific then you may need to take your own pictures. The cheapest way to do this is to rope friends and family in. Make sure your pictures are high quality and go for a good resolution when you save them (like 300 dpi or ppi)

If, however you can use generic pictures, there are some great royalty free sites you can get images from. Click here for a list of them.

This one is my favourite.

There are also some royalty free video clips available now, but not very many. Do a google search and you'll find some.

For music, try googling or doing a you tube search for royalty free music. I used this site (I heavily edited the track, but hopefully you'll find something you don't need to edit).

Next, make it interesting. If you've played around, you'll already know how to use the effects (like movement, zoom, transitions, volume adjustments and subtitles) so make good use of them now to keep your video interesting.

Finally, with a trailer, keep it short and snappy, ideally keep it to under a minute. What can I say, people have short attention spans. If you're not an NCIS fan, how many of you who watched that second video watched all the way through? Exactly. Most people clicking on your trailer don't already know your book or it's characters, they will have the attention span of a gnat.


  1. My Windows media player refuses to allow me to rip the video to the hard drive. (From a purchased DVD.) What software do you use for that? There seem to be a ton of them. --wendy4767

  2. IMG Burn is another free program that will rip content from DVD's, but you may have to convert it to AVI.

  3. I figured out something that works with the old seasons but I still can't figure out how to convert the iTunes season 4 episodes so that I can play with them. That said, I asked my kid what song he'd use for a Jo/Zane video (he's the real Eureka watcher) and he picked Britney Spears "Hit Me Baby One More Time." I listened to the lyrics--for probably the first time ever--and wow, he's doing a video for Jo in season 4. Spot-on! I can't make it, since I can't get the iTunes video into Windows movie maker (although I'm having a darn good time playing with earlier seasons at the moment) but I was still impressed by his...connective ability? I don't know what I'd call it, but I still haven't found the song I like for them myself--although I love your Eliza Doolittle choice, sweet though it is--but he got his really quickly!

  4. What format do the iTunes episodes come in?

    DVD converter (there's a link in the post above) will convert almost anything to almost anything, though it does cost $40. Movie maker generally only likes likes AVI, windows media format or MP3.

    Alternatively you may be missing some codecs (mini COdeing and DECoding programs). Telling which codecs you are missing is almost impossible but you can google for and download codec packs for free.