This is the second part in my blog series How to Make a Low Budget Book Trailer. In this series, I will go over how I complete each step of my young adult, horror/supernatural book trailer for Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell. At this point, I shot some new video, searched through old video, and took pictures to begin to build the trailer in the film editing software I use, Movie Maker.
If You Don’t Have All the Needed Video
My roughly sketched out storyboard lays out how I envision the initial video. Some footage I decided to use, such as desert scenes, footsteps on squeaky floorboards, and a thunderstorm, was already in my library. After opening a new Movie Maker project, I added that footage first in the order it appears on the storyboard. I edited each section of video by cropping the length to six seconds and changing the brightness and tone, which is under the visual effects tab.
To fill in the gaps where I don’t have the right footage yet, I snapped pictures to use as placeholders. For instance, the opening scene will show a table with two handwritten notes, signed by my two main characters Racer and Arloe. I took a picture of two pieces of paper and added it to Movie Maker. The duration can be set on photos as well as videos, so I set the photo’s duration to six seconds. When I get the proper video, I’ll just replace the photo in Movie Maker. By using a placeholder, I can see how the scenes flow together and where I will add text.
The Second Step is Adding Music and Sound Effects
As soon as I get all the video and placeholders into Movie Maker, I will work on finding sounds or music to add to it. There are three ways I’ve acquired sound in the past:
- Using the natural background noise of the video
- Stripping audio from another video by using Audacity software
- Purchasing sounds/music from online suppliers which is generally cheaper than video
In my book trailer, The Troubled Souls of Goldie Rich: The Zombie Next Door, I used all three methods. The footsteps crunching leaves in the graveyard scene and the thunder occurring after the lighting is natural background noise. The wolf howling during the full moon and the doorbell ringing was stripped from different video I’d taken. All the music and the noise of the candle cracking were purchased.
I have already determined which background sounds I’m keeping and which need to be turned off for each section of video in the new trailer. By the next blog, I’ll have hopefully shot the video I’m lacking and gotten my sounds and music together.
Saving the Text and Special Effects for Last
Text can be added in Movie Maker with many options including font size, color, and duration on screen. The text will be lines I’ve chosen from the manuscript, which will introduce the characters and set up the story. Making sure the text is easy to see and on screen long enough to read takes a lot of testing.
The hardest part of the trailer will be adding special effects. I am not an expert at Photoshop, but I use it every so often. In The Zombie Next Door trailer, I used Photoshop to make the gravestone with the angel on top. I also used it to change the angel into the gargoyle and make the voodoo doll wink. All of it was done with photos and not video.
For this trailer, I’m going to create a tattoo on a picture of a bicep I took and make the tattoo’s outlines turn into dancing flames–hopefully. I also want to create a welcome sign for my fictional town, Winthrop. I will use a photo of a desert landscape and add the sign. I hope to have the “before and after” pictures for the next blog.
With my rough sketch of my book trailer in hand, I grabbed my camera, camcorder, and tripod and got down to business. Let me just make it clear that I do not own professional video equipment. My digital camera is a nice point-and-shoot Sony Cyber-shot, and my digital camcorder is a Sony Handy-cam. I borrowed the tripod from my daughter, who is an aspiring photographer. I used Movie Maker software, which I’d never used before making the book trailer. It’s easy to figure out and worked well for my needs. As with any software, you get faster with it and learn tricks as you go. I am not selling any product, just telling you what I used.
My first challenge—my book, Pirates Off the Deep End, is set mainly on a boat in the ocean or in South American ports. I live in a desert. It could have been a potential problem, but I made it work.
I could have driven four hours to the ocean, but I didn’t. I would have loved to, but a beach trip costs time and money. I went down to the local lake and videotaped scenes of different boats and the marina. A tripod helped tremendously, especially after a cup of coffee, to get non-shaky video. I zoomed in and out, filmed from different directions, and took some random fish video. You never know. I did have to drive 30 minutes, so I made the most of my time.
The rest of my trailer except for the sunset and full moon is shot inside my home. By showing a boat in the first scene, it gives the illusion (or is meant to) that the rest of the action takes place on a boat.
Video Tips from an Amateur
I kept the video under 20 seconds. Short videos download faster, are easier to crop, and take up less space on your computer. If you’re only using 10 seconds of video per scene, shooting 20 seconds should give you plenty to work with. The tripod is really worthwhile. To acquire one cheaply, borrow one, buy one used online or seek out one at a garage sale. Get one if you plan on making more than one trailer. Try to limit the background noise, if possible.
Keep Your Camcorder Handy
Buying footage can be expensive, so I learned fast to shoot random video and save it. The old proverb about ‘saving for a rainy day’ really works when you live in the desert and only see rain every three months. After a huge summer rain, I ran for my camcorder. Clouds make for a beautiful sunset and great moon shots. I got lucky with the sunset video and creepy full moon. I actually used the moon in my other book trailer, too. Recycling footage and audio saves money.
Whatever Works Part I
The $12 hourglass I purchased does not glow. It only shifts sand back and forth. I needed a glowing hourglass because that’s what in my story. It’s actually a huge part of the story. To get the hourglass to glow green, I set the camcorder on the tripod and turned it on. I held a green translucent paper over a flashlight and pointed it at the hourglass. By the way, the candle and hourglass were sitting on a hamper in my hallway—far from any boat. Yep, whatever works.
If you’re still following along, go shoot some video and make sure to have a clear .jpg of your book cover. Also, you may find some free video you can use at Vidsplay. I used on of their beach videos as my opening scene for my Zombie Next Door book trailer. Don’t forget to write down the information to give them credit if you do use their video. In my next blog, I’ll cover audio.
The first thing I did in the process of making the book trailer for Pirates Off the Deep End was to decide what are the key points of my book. Pirates is a middle grade, ages 8 to 12, adventure with some tense moments, but it has a funny side—after all it involves three brothers ages 10, 12 and 13 and the trouble they get into. The main character and narrator is the middle brother, Tommy. Another main character is 400-year-old ghost pirate, Francois l’Olonnais. If the name sounds familiar, he was a real pirate in the 1600s. As the main characters, Tommy and l’Olonnais had to be mentioned in the trailer.
Set the Mood
Since my book has adventure and comedy, I wanted to have at least one ‘tense’ scene appropriate for the book’s age range and a funny scene. Cute dogs and babies always score points with people, but I don’t have any babies in my book. I do have a scene with a dog. Fortunately, I have four dogs of my own to choose from to star in the video. Turbo just happened to fit the bill. Much of the story takes place on a boat, so I need to let the viewer get the feel that the video is shot on a boat. Two huge problems for me—I don’t own a boat, and I live in the desert. Most problems have solutions, and I’ll get to mine later.
Actors or Not?
I have two reasons why I didn’t want any actors other than Turbo. I like my readers to create their own image of my characters in their mind, so I never describe my characters in great detail. I certainly don’t want to put their image in a video…unless a producer wants to make a movie of the book. That would be an exception. Otherwise, it’s my personal preference as a writer to let the reader get creative. Another huge reason to avoid actors in a low-budget book trailer is that the acting probably will be less than stellar if you recruit your child, a friend, or a neighbor. For good acting, you’re going to have to pay, and that will increase the cost of your trailer.
Use Your Words
One more thing before you grab your camera is to pick out some of your favorite lines from your book or lines that tell a lot about the story in a few words. A book trailer has to hold the audience for roughly a minute and 30 seconds, so you can’t have a huge chunk of text for them to read. If you’re switching scenes like I did, they may only have 8 to 10 seconds to take in the action and read the words.
Get Your Ideas down Quick and Dirty
So, if you’ve been following along and you want to try my method, you should pick out a few key scenes, main characters, and lines from your book. I figured that if my book trailer was a minute and 30 seconds, I’d have 10 scenes at the most. I know 13 seconds doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but it is for a trailer scene.
After I had a rough idea of what scenes I wanted to recreate, I divided a sheet of paper into 10 sections and sketched the most basic drawings of items I needed in each scene. For Pirates, I sketched a boat (the kind that looks like a banana with a sail) in one section. It’s just a placeholder for an idea, so who cares? I filled in all 10 sections with quick drawings. Next, I wrote down the lines from the book on another piece of paper. I’m a VERY visual person, and yes, I do have Photoshop and other graphic packages, but I didn’t need to spend time making it look perfect. Do you type your grocery list? Quick and dirty. Now match the lines with scenes.
My next blog will discuss filming tips and techniques, editing, and where to get the video and audio you can’t shoot on your own—all within a low budget, of course.