Trailer Editing Part 2

In the last couple weeks I’ve been receiving quite a bit of calls for “Trailer Edits”, both theatrical and promotional. This is mostly due to the trailer I offlined and onlined at home in 2K RED for the feature “Into The Darkness” which begins shooting in August. This is a bit odd for me because I started out assistant editing on PBS documentary shows (and still do), but apparently I’m not too bad at it.

The situation that I am in right now with the current client I’m cutting a trailer for is simply “What should I ask for?”

This client can’t hand me over the entire project and let me pluck the clips/ media I need to create a strong 2 minute story. The film’s only in the rough cut phase and only has about 5 or 6 scenes cut anyways. So, really what should I be asking for?

Below is the list of demands I asked for in order to cut a successful trailer in the above situation.

1. THE FOOTAGE: Always ask for the footage to be delivered in its native format. If it’s shot in 1080p HD, then you should be receiving 1080p HD footage loaded on a drive.

Since I will not be able to pull my own footage or clips for this project I have to give a pretty detailed list of the kind of shots I’m looking for.

Hero Shots

Shots of the Main Characters in the film, Character Reactions, Character introductions. The bottom line is that I need to be able to introduce these characters to the audience in the first 30 sec. and show them why they should take the time to watch these characters travel through the story.

Story and Setting Establishing Shots and strong cut away choices

Anything else the director feels would be eye catching and attention grabbing.

2. THE CREDITS: You should always ask for a word document of the locked credits for the feature. Ask for the client to review the credit list and make sure all the names are spelled correctly before receiving it yourself. I hate when my name is spelled wrong on credits and I’m sure someone else would also.

3. THE ELEMENTS: Do they have a Company Logo? Do they have specific music they want the trailer edited to? Do they already have title design and animation work for the trailer? Ask for all these elements from the client and make sure your receiving the highest quality deliverables of each item.

4. THE SCRIPT: Have the client write up a rough script for you to follow while you edit the project. A rough script is great. It helps the editor further understand what the client is looking for and the editor now has a roughly laid out story that he or she can begin to enhance or build off of.

Ian Johnson brings up some good points:

I think it is a mistake to try to edit a 2 min trailer from someone else’s selects. It won’t seem like enough, and you will wonder if there is something better they missed. And a lot of the best shots are often little moments in what might seem like unremarkable scenes.

If the problem is not having enough storage to take all of the footage in its original resolution, then try this. Have them select one take from every setup, every camera. They don’t have to watch and pick the best ones. If there are 4 takes, I will often go for #2 or #3, figuring they might have done it better after a few tries.

Depending on how many takes they typically shot, this could cut the amount of material down by half. They might also decide if a scene has no chance of being used in trailer, like maybe one that only features secondary characters advancing a minor plot point without interesting visuals. In that case they should include one take of the master so you can see what is there, and leave out the rest of the coverage.

Even if you don’t get all of the media for the movie, you should still get all of the master clips. That way if they chose Take 2 but someone bumped the mic during the line you want, you can see that they shot 4 other takes and ask for them to be sent along as well.

The other important thing to find out is what your options are for music. Do they have the budget to license a commercial artist or movie soundtrack? Can they afford custom work or the expensive libraries aimed at trailers? Or do you need to stick with the more basic needledrop companies? And never use something as temp that you know you won’t be able to license, it always leads to heartbreak.

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One response to “Trailer Editing Part 2

  1. Ian Johnson

    I think it is a mistake to try to edit a 2 min trailer from someone else’s selects. It won’t seem like enough, and you will wonder if there is something better they missed. And a lot of the best shots are often little moments in what might seem like unremarkable scenes.

    If the problem is not having enough storage to take all of the footage in its original resolution, then try this. Have them select one take from every setup, every camera. They don’t have to watch and pick the best ones. If there are 4 takes, I will often go for #2 or #3, figuring they might have done it better after a few tries.

    Depending on how many takes they typically shot, this could cut the amount of material down by half. They might also decide if a scene has no chance of being used in trailer, like maybe one that only features secondary characters advancing a minor plot point without interesting visuals. In that case they should include one take of the master so you can see what is there, and leave out the rest of the coverage.

    Even if you don’t get all of the media for the movie, you should still get all of the master clips. That way if they chose Take 2 but someone bumped the mic during the line you want, you can see that they shot 4 other takes and ask for them to be sent along as well.

    The other important thing to find out is what your options are for music. Do they have the budget to license a commercial artist or movie soundtrack? Can they afford custom work or the expensive libraries aimed at trailers? Or do you need to stick with the more basic needledrop companies? And never use something as temp that you know you won’t be able to license, it always leads to heartbreak.

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