The Write Way to Novel: Step 30ish, Book Trailer

So I wanted to time travel to step 30ish, book trailer, so I could unveil my newest book trailer.

I started making home movies in elementary school with a video camera and advanced to a sound/video mixer board by high school, so I could parody things like The Blair Witch Project. (Man, I wish I still had that! I accidentally taped Buffy episodes over it.)

Now I’m going to pause for my younger audiences and explain a few of the above terms:

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer = The best show ever made. This is not an opinion. It’s been proven by… science and Thrillist.
  • “Taped over” is something cringe-worthy that used to happen with VHS tapes.
  • Video Home System (VHS) tapes are like DVDs but square with literal film-tape inside that the movie was printed on. (I can’t tell you how many times the film got tangled in the player, and I had to take apart both the player and the tape to disentangle one of my favorite movies, so I wouldn’t have to re-buy it.)
  • Digital versatile discs (DVDs) are round discs that hold movie files that stop working the second they get scratched or warped, but sparkle nicely if you put them in the microwave. (Caution: Don’t do this with any microwave you intend to keep. It’s not healthy.)

In college, I used Windows Movie Maker, to edit together shot-by-shot remakes of movies like Rushmore and after college, I learned how to make videos with iMovie, Final Cut Express and Abode Premiere for various jobs.

Adobe Premiere is my program of choice, but the free iMovie app (which works on Apple devices) is pretty amazing and a good option if you can’t get a copy of Abode Premiere.

So why am I telling you all this? The point of the story is, you should watch Buffy. (It’s on Hulu now.) But also that you should learn to make videos, and here’s how from someone with experience. But you can shortcut that experience. How did I learn Premiere? YouTube. You can learn anything on YouTube with patience and clever searching. One day I opened Abode Premiere and just started. Every time a pop-up box asked me a question, I Googled what I should do as a clear question and YouTube always had the answer in a 2-minute demo video. This takes time, but you’d be amazed how fast you can crank out your first 2-minute video. But I do have some overarching suggestions I’ve learned from experience:

  • Film horizontally. Filming vertically looks cool on social media, but filming horizontally is more professional, since televisions have a 16 x 9 ratio. But if you want to put this on a platform that has vertical videos, you can export a vertical version of your horizontal movie after you make it, so you can post it in more places.
  • Frame your subject and background well. Put your subjects to the right or the left (golden ratio) and shoot them from the chest up, leaving a “coke can” amount of space between the top of the frame and their head. Have something interesting in the background, like my Hogwarts painting, on a slant with no other clutter in the shot.
  • Don’t skip camera stabilization or good lighting. You can get away with using natural light well or propping your iPhone on a pile of books on a table, but you must have a well-lit space and no camera shake. If The Hunger Games taught us anything, it’s that viewers hate camera shake. (Okay. There are probably a few more lessons in there.)
  • Record audio separately. Viewers have no patience for bad sound. I turned my old iPhone 6 into a recording device using the Voice Memos app and this amazing microphone. You can easily “Merge Clips” in Premiere to replace a video’s sound file with your better one. (Just Google, “How to merge clips in Premiere.”) This is an awesome feature that didn’t used to exist. You used to have to eyeball/manually line up audio, which could make any grown person cry.
  • Cross dissolve is usually the right answer for transitions. Though there are, of course, exceptions.
  • “Set to frame size” is your friend! I didn’t know this existed for a while, which was frustrating. Just right-click on your clip to make it whatever size it needs to be to correctly fill the screen. 1920 × 1080 pixels is a good HD size to stick to.
  • The Ken Burns effect is your best friend! This is where you zoom in/out on a still photo to make your shot not boring. It’s a pain to do in Premiere, though YouTube will tell you how to throw away that hour of your life. iMovie actually has a Ken Burns button! I wish Premiere had this. I’ve asked Adobe to add it often.
  • Envato is a good place to buy cheap stock music. No, you can’t put any song you like in your video. You can get sued for copyright, and YouTube usually won’t even let you post it.

And that’s it. If you’ve made any book trailers, link to them in your comments below.

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