For the past couple weeks I have been cutting a trailer for an anticipated feature that will make it’s presents known around 2011 (I have contractually agreed not to say it’s title, sorry guys). It’s been a fantastic job, lots of fun. There is certainly an art form to editing a trailer. This particular trailer happens to be shot in 4K on RED. The DP did an amazing job and using Apple’s Color program only made things better. I actually never have used the Color program, but my friend Bob Sliga (a Colorist chosen to test the app at Apple’s headquarters) showed me around the program on my last PBS documentary project. And blah…blah..blah..
This blog entry is not a technically minded one, but rather to show a few techniques I developed during the course of the project. Some techniques I will show are my own and some are from other sites. If they are from other sites I will certainly give the reference link and credit to that individual.
For this project I did everything on my own, kind of the new “one man band” deal we see popping up all around the United States. Yes, this means I did both the offline and online edits myself.
Anyways, here are a few tips-
1. A solidly edited trailer reflects the feature.
Just like the feature has three acts, I believe that the trailer should too. The first act of the trailer should be used to introduce the characters and setting. The second act of the trailer should introduce the character’s situation/ problem. The last and final act should build up some sort of climax while still leaving the audience with a thirst for more. This, to me is a strong trailer structure. Before embarking on editing a trailer take the time to read a few short stories as a short story structure is told in a manner similarly to a film trailer. Short story writers also come across many of the same structurally problems as trailer editors.
2. Music first or Music Later??
This question has constantly been posted on Creative Cow’s forum for both editing trailers and personal demo reels. Should an editor lay a music bed before or after he begins cutting picture? Well, I think it clearly depends on how you as an editor work more comfortably. Whatever works best for your. I usually start with music supplied by one of the films producers or a piece of temp music that reflects the mood I am looking to set with this current edit. Then later a composer will come in and replace the temp music with his custom music composition. I generally cut the picture and sound at pretty much the same time. Then double back; check the work and throw is some sound FX.
Great places for sound effects:
Soundsnap.com / itunes (yes itunes), just search royalty free on it.
3. Editing on beat to the music.
If you are a younger editor, still experiencing, still learning new technique like myself. You may have come across this same problem. I came across it first while editing my 2009 reel (should be up shortly). I was cutting the intro, kind of a short sizzle reel intro to my reel and noticed an odd thing. The picture seemed very weird when it was cut exactly on beat to the music. Hmmm… in a feature the picture is never generally cut on beat to the music. So, I did what every editor does every five minutes of everyday – I looked for a solution to my problem on the net. This is also how I came across a beautiful blog site, which was cleverly titled: The Film Editor’s Blog.
If you are unfamiliar with this site, it’s a blog focused on editing technique rather then technology. The writer of the blog is Craig McKay, A.C.E. and he definitely knows his shit. He has a post all about this problem called “Music Trickery”. In the blog he explains that one should cut the picture about three frames before the music beat hits. I used this technique in both my reel and the trailer I was working on with great result. Problem fixed.
Craig McKay, A.C.E. has an amazing blog site on editing techniques and “tricks of the trade”. You can find it here: http://thefilmeditorsblog.com/
4. Mixing the Audio of a Trailer.
For the audio of a trailer there are no real guidelines or “red book” for the mixing of a trailer. I generally try to mix the dialog between -12 and -10. Then mix the music in after the dialog is done. I always keep my peaks at -6 or under. And if your mix sounds a bit different than a commercial trailer try adding reverb and noise reduction to the dialog sections, then add a compressor and limiter to the master track. Sometimes I will throw in a noise gate if needed. Once I believe I have a strong mix I will burn it to a CD and listen to it through a stereo, then a television to see if any frequencies are dropping out or if any dialog is being buried. I generally will mix on a Pro-tools set-up or on Logic Pro, definitely prefer Pro-tools though.
And there you have it. A couple tips that may or may not help you with the editing of a trailer. I would say 70% of a good trailer is in the sound mix.