You know the score. X-Factor have them, Movies have loads of them and even if you have a dancing competition on ice, you most certainly have them. What am I talking about? Trailers of course. Those ‘Wham Bam Thank You Mam’ pieces that advertise what’s coming up. A selection of typically ambiguous statements set against some huge orchestral music with a building finale. All glitz, graphics, transitions and effects.
But what if the film you’ve made is rather more considerate – thought provoking, intelligent even? And what if the trailer for it needs to convey the major story thread and lead people to invest in such a film?
Well (guess what), that’s been my task of these last few days for a film about Rwanda’s genocide and it’s under 17 football team. A complex story that has been cut to a 63min duration. My task was to cut it down to a 5 or 6min trailer that conveyed the story, setting the background and clarifying the complex storyline.
In practical terms, I was given a drive with the onlined edit on it (that’s to say the colour corrected edit) and with the audio already dubbed (mixed to broadcast standards). Essentially a finished edit except for the graphics.
It was cut in FCP7 and here’s what the timeline looks like for this kind of programme.
Just to be clear, the general workflow for cutting something that is ready for broadcast is this:
Review and log your footage – this helps to formulate the big picture.
Prepare a paper edit – figure out the general flow of the programme.
Hunker down and cut your 1st draft – use temp voiceover and music.
Review and cut your second draft – this will be shorter and tighter.
Final cut – add in the voiceover if needed and the final music.
Online the edit – colour correct each shot, add in any effects and graphics.
Dub – send the music mix out to a audio suite for the final mix down and tweaks.
Mastering – assembling all the pieces. Adding in clocks, bars and tone and the required black leaders, then laying off to tape. This is still a requirement for broadcast play out at places like Red Bee Media – a major play out service provider for the BBC and CH4 etc. My brother-in-law designed this room.
What’s in the timeline?
If you take a close look at the timeline above, then you can see that in video track 5, the whole edit has had a round trip to Apple Color and that the original edit has been locked on tracks 1 thru 4. Video tracks 7 & 8 are subtitles, graphics and lower 3rd added after the colour grading.
The audio has been separated out into 4 tracks of Sync (the actual video sound track from the clips), a voiceover track, a sound effects track and 4 tracks of music. This will then go into something like ProTools or into Apple Soundtrack for compressing and tweaking. Sound levels should aim to bounce around -12db with peaks to -6db. Compression is good for the Sync tracks and light compression for the music and voiceover.
What’s my approach?
- A good starting point is to watch the entire 63min programme. Let it soak in and look/listen out for a likely story thread.
- Talk to the client and ask them what they want the trailer to achieve. What do they think needs to be included?
- Does the client want the trailer to tell the whole story or to tease in some way?
In this instance, we needed to clarify the story so that the viewer ‘get’s it’ straight away. There had to be some element of tease, but the story was already quite complex, so a tease had to be fairly easy to understand. The aim of this trailer was to explain the whole story but leave a simple tease at the end.
Where do I start?
I start by creating a copy of the FCP project file and adding in a new sequence.
I then take out the colour graded track and the final mixed track to leave an edit that was a close as possible to the pre-onlined cut – the offline edit.
Scrubbing through the timeline I focus on the audio parts of the story – listening for soundbites that describe the key points. I’m trying all the time to get to the kernel of the story and strip away as much unnecessary narrative.
Once I’ve chosen my narrative (either Sync audio or Voiceover), I then try and get it as tight as possible on the timeline and illustrate the narrative with the necessary images.
What I’m aiming for is a story that has the basics. The setup, the key points and some sense of progression.
Crucially, if I can listen to it with my eyes closed, and it makes sense, then pictures are only going to improve the cut.
I think this is key for narrative based work like this.
In this particular trailer, I’ve decided to end it with a football sequence that leaves the viewer unclear as to whether the team is winning or losing. You need to watch it to find out more!
After the cut is approved, I onlined the edit and did a simple audio mix in Soundtrack.
I hope you like it! Take a look at the web site for this project to find out some more. www.rwanda17.tv
Whatever you think of this, it will never quite reach the dizzy heights of excellence that this is trailer…