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trailers.jpgAsk IndieGames is a new monthly feature that takes a range of topics relating to indie gaming and development and poses them as a question to the editorial staff.

Whereas our sister site Gamasutra explored last month (in)effective press releases, we narrow our focus on what makes an effective game trailer.

We understand indies generally do not have big budgets for internal press teams, outsourced public relations or marketing outlets. That's why, as we curate the finest indie news for our readers, we view practically every trailer (at least in part) and appreciate when it's not embedded in a lot of marketing-speak.

What would compel us to watch a trailer in its entirety? When can a dubstep actually help a game? We attempt to address all this and more in this month's topic: what makes an effective indie game trailer?

mike rose.jpgMike Rose: I have a very specific formula that I've devised over the last several years for what makes an effective game trailer. While I'd say it's my own personal preference, whenever I've discussed it with other journalists they always seem to agree, so I must be on to something of a winner. So here it is: how to make the perfect indie game trailer:

Length: Preferably nothing longer than 90 seconds, and definitely not longer than two minutes, or else you risk losing the attention of the viewer and, in turn, their interest in your game. If you can't convey how great your game is in 90 seconds, you're doing it wrong! Which leads me to...

Show the gameplay: Game trailers are not movie trailers. We don't want to see the words "IN A WORLD..." appear against a black background, nor do we want to spend the first 20 seconds of your trailer viewing the various logos of your game and development team. Fill the trailer with what you're trying to sell - your gameplay! Find lots of interesting parts of your game, set a video recording program like Fraps running, and then bang them all together.

Music: If you're about to add heavy metal, techno or dubstep music to your game trailer, stop and think: does this even match my content? The answer is most likely going to be no. The music in your trailer is far more important than you believe, and in some cases, is one of the main draws - I mean, check this trailer for Fez to see what I mean. Give it huge consideration, and maybe explore free samples and tracks that you can use from the old interwebs.

KD.pngKonstantinos Dimopoulos (Gnome): I'll have to be brutally honest here and admit that even the very best trailer for an indie FPS or another tower defense variant would have to be more than exceptional to actually intrigue me. Other than that, I will also have to admit that screenshots and a game's description are usually more than important, but, well, let's focus on the subject at hand here: trailers.

On a rather more technical yet very important level developers should first of all make sure their trailers are readily available both on an easily embedded form (YouTube should do fine) and as downloadable files. More than a few journalists and bloggers do after all seem to prefer uploading videos themselves, most sites demand specific widths for their media and, admittedly, more options never hurt anyone.

Another important point, one that does actually determine whether I at least actually go on to watch a trailer or not, is its running time. Anything over four or five minutes, unless it's something I've been waiting for since the early 90s or has been designed by Tim Shafer, will most probably remain unwatched.

Assuming the above criteria have been met, I'd say that an effective and thus memorable trailer is a rare and difficult to analyze beast.

Yes, aesthetics are definitely important, as is a great soundtrack and enough information to actually describe the game on offer, but I'm pretty much convinced a good trailer needs to tell some sort of story. You know, have a beginning, middle and an ending; feel coherent and informative. Check out the latest Star Command trailer: one of the few recent ones I actually fondly remember and a trailer that provides enough gameplay footage to intrigue (but not answer everything), looks stunning and is akin to a very short movie.

Oh, and do keep in mind that any trailer mentioning the words ground-breaking, unique and innovative more than once doesn't make itself any favors. And, no, pre-rendered videos showing off cutscenes aren't a great idea either. Not unless you're preparing the next Starcraft of Dishonored.

Danny Cowan.pngDanny Cowan: Here's how I typically view a trailer:

1. Before it even starts, I skip to the middle, bypassing the company logos and that storyline you've put so much work into (sorry).
2. If it starts to drag, I skip toward the end (sorry again).
3. If I haven't seen any gameplay footage after about 30 seconds of
skipping around, I close the tab (super sorry about this).

Basically, I'm a jerk, and I'm sorry. Trailers are key to attracting interest in your game, though, and you should focus on making them concise and impactful, regardless of how dumb I am.

In skimming a trailer, I'm looking for a brief explanation of the game's mechanics and an idea of why your game is fun, interesting, or unique. Everything else is secondary. A length of one minute is ideal; thirty seconds is even better. Sound doesn't matter at all -- I reflexively mute most videos before they start playing.

Good stuff to include for people who want to talk about your game: a link to your site, a release date, and a list of supported platforms.

If your trailer is for a mobile or tablet game, I consider whether the genre is underrepresented on the platform and whether its controls are a good fit for touch screens. If I so much as catch a whiff of Angry Birds, I'm out.

steve cook.jpgSteve Cook: An effective trailer for me isn't too long; around 1 - 2 minutes length is perfect. If it is longer, I tend to lose interest after the 2nd minute, unless the game is complex enough to really justify it.

I prefer to watch snippets of gameplay footage cut together with a soundtrack that matches the mood from the game rather than explanatory voice-overs or bits of writing. I don't want so much footage as to show me every single mechanic in the game (I enjoy discovering some things on my own) but enough so that I understand how the basics will work.

A title or 'introductory' screen is a good way to begin so that I know the name of the project I am looking at. A fade out to an 'ending' screen is also acceptable - possibly announcing when the game will be released and for what platforms.

Humor can be a good thing to, if injected into the trailer properly. Making me genuinely laugh out loud definitely makes it that little bit more likely that I'll stick with a trailer to the end.

cass_colour.pngCassandra Khaw: I'm embarrassingly easy when it comes to game trailers. If it shows gameplay for something that I'm interested, I'll sit down and watch it, regardless of how crappy the music/sub-titles/introduction/video quality is.

That said, I'm probably not going to watch it till the end. Once I've assessed the game, I'm going to shut it down and move on to my next piece of work. OF course, that's only applicable if you're operating without a sense of humor. If you want an example of what works wonderfully, you should check out Magicka. Seriously. Check out the trailers for Magicka. They're one of the few that I would rewatch just for the pleasure of it.

As for what doesn't work, well, that's also pretty simple. Trailers that don't show anything. Those don't work for me. I'm talking about the ones that don't do anything but show two pieces of concept art for two minutes. I'm talking about the ones that linger lovingly on the logo. I understand there is a need to do teasers from time to time but there's a reason they're called 'teasers'. They're supposed to titillate, to entice, to make me desperately curious as to what is going to happen next.

johnpolson2.jpgJohn Polson: A trailer is effective for me if it educates and entertains.

I want to learn about the gameplay. Edited, short bursts of the game can be effective, but sometimes clips need a few extra frames to complete a certain mechanic. Words and transitions aren't cop outs if needed to explain what makes certain clips so special. At the very least, an educational trailer teaches me a game's pitch or message. A more educational, and effective, trailer demonstrates this game pitch to the point that I can explain paraphrase it to my readers.

I wouldn't mind learning about the game more, too. Aside from gameplay mechanics, inject the game's narrative, music, sound effects and even its personality. Learning if a game will be fun, sad, serious, fictional, dense, intense, or methodical helps me frame the game in a context as both an editor and a gamer. Release and platform information should either be in the trailer or in an accompanied website; otherwise, we can't help couple the game with its target audience.

I also wouldn't mind learning about developers in the trailer. Developers are vulnerable in exposing their work to judgment in under two minutes (a sensible length for trailers), so this is no time to feel shy. That said, not every person performs well in front of a camera or microphone, so I consider this an added bonus. If a trailer becomes slightly viral, though, the developer also becomes more widely known and has effectively already broken the ice at events like conventions and conferences.

Entertainment is entwined with a lot of what I feel should educate the viewer. While not revealing everything that makes a game special, clever snippets of dialogue, menus, cut scenes, in-game action, world maps, boss fights, or even customize or option screens can add flavor to a trailer. Stringing these elements together carefully in two minutes conveys that there's not just a bunch ideas, but a game, behind the trailer.

Audio and visual stimulation add to effectively entertaining. Unlike screen shots, I am looking at something in motion, hopefully with sound. I won't stop watching a trailer if the sound is poorly orchestrated, but rich audio (be it chiptune, 16- or 32-bit synth, or other instruments) adds heavily to my entertainment. Since the game is in motion, the importance of a cohesive art direction-- foreground, background, and everything between-- can't be understated, either.

Once developers cut a trailer, they should show it to someone who's never played or heard of the game before. If this new person can't describe the key mechanics or quirks, then the trailer needs to do a better job at educating the viewer. If this person is part of some targeted audience and doesn't want to play the game after watching, the trailer (or the game) may need to be made more entertaining.

I've spent too many words already, but I'd suggest checking out Kert Gartner's epic trailers or Tim Rogers's fourth-wall-breaking ZiGGURAT trailer. Gartner's also posted a lot of helpful, technical tips on making trailers, which were taken from his Indie Game Summit talk during GDC 2012.

Do you have a question that you'd like the IndieGames editors to tackle? Email EIC John Polson at johnpolsonfl at gmail dot com. Feel free to also check out our sister site's Ask Gamasutra, which inspired this new feature. [image source]

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When James Cameron’s “Titanic” gets its theatrical rerelease in 3-D next week, it will emerge into a very different world for movies than when it first came out. It can be hard to notice how much has changed since 1997 just by watching a contemporary blockbuster like “Transformers” or “Twilight.” But the shifts have been massive, and significant. The emergence of digital technology has given audiences more entertainment options than ever, while simultaneously opening up new ways for fans to find each other and discuss pieces of pop culture. As the Web provides ever-more information at an ever-quicker pace, new tools for making movies have allowed filmmakers to cut up and recombine images and sound at the furious pace our entertainment consumption now seems to require. And all of these changes are visible in a single piece of film marketing: the movie trailer.

http://www.salon.com/2012/03/27/the_movie_trailer_revolution/

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Well, it’s no Avengers-style bonanza, but here’s the Japanese trailer for Men in Black 3. This is mostly a recut version of the second US trailer that premiered not long ago, but it does have a few small new effects shots sprinkled into the edit here and there. Don’t expect any big creature reveal or anything, but if you’re one of the curious ones with respect to Will Smith‘s latest unchallenging outing, hit the jump for the goods.

Why is it that “Men in Black 3″ said with a heavy Japanese accent sounds better than it does in less-accented English?

Men in Black 3opens on May 25 2012.

In Men in Black 3, Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back… in time. J has seen some inexplicable things in his 15 years with the Men in Black, but nothing, not even aliens, perplexes him as much as his wry, reticent partner. But when K’s life and the fate of the planet are put at stake, Agent J will have to travel back in time to put things right. J discovers that there are secrets to the universe that K never told him — secrets that will reveal themselves as he teams up with the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save his partner, the agency, and the future of humankind.

 [ComingSoon]

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The first Snow White film, Mirror Mirror, is due out in a few weeks but the second one, Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Therton, is still a few months out. It’ll be released in the United States on June 1 and while we’ve already seen a pretty revealing teaser trailer here, the shorter Japanese trailer for the film has some new footage. Check it out after the jump.

Thanks to Latino Review for the trailer and Script Flags for the embed.

Here’s the official plot synopsis:

In the epic action-adventure Snow White and the Huntsman, Kristen Stewart (Twilight) plays the only person in the land fairer than the evil queen (Oscar® winner Charlize Theron) who is out to destroy her. But what the wicked ruler never imagined is that the young woman threatening her reign has been training in the art of war with a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, Thor) who was dispatched to kill her. Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) joins the cast as the prince long enchanted by Snow White’s beauty and power. The breathtaking new vision of the legendary tale is from Joe Roth, the producer of Alice in Wonderland, producer Sam Mercer (The Sixth Sense) and acclaimed commercial director and state-of-the-art visualist Rupert Sanders.

The jury is still out on this film. It definitely has that epic look and feel to it but it’s lacking a hook to suck me in. Good early reviews could do that, or maybe a new trailer that’s longer with a little more of Kristen Stewart’s leading performance. Everything hinges on that but you get so little in these teasers.

What do you think?

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A week or so ago I shared a couple of trailers for my friend Niko‘s upcoming TOKYO X CREATIVES video series, and here’s a third trailer, this time for the episode that will feature the gaming/clothing shop Meteor, located in Kichijoji. Niko did a presentation on the project at last week’s PechaKucha Night Vol. 89, and it should be up on the PK site within a week or two.

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Jimmy Kimmel has produced an epic 9-minute movie trailer parody featuring nearly every actor and actress in Hollywood. Movie: the Movie tackles every blockbuster and crowd pleaser movie and movie marketing cliches, and packs them all into one film trailer. Watch the trailer now embedded after the jump.

The trailer features appearances by Ryan Phillippe, Jessica Alba, Taylor Lautner, Antonio Banderas, Edward Norton , Josh Brolin, Colin Farrell, Charlize Theron, Tom Hanks, Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Gary Oldman, Cameron Diaz, Samuel L. Jackson, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Jason Bateman, Kevin James, Daniel Day Lewis, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Kate Beckinsale, Chewbacca, Danny De Vito, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Christoph Waltz, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Gabourey Sidibe, Steven Tyler and even directors J.J. Abrams and Martin Scorsese.

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The latest film from Abel Ferrara, one of the most dedicated indie filmmakers working, is 4:44 Last Day on Earth, which presents a story in which the world is about to end. Willem Dafoe and Shanyn Leigh play a couple living in New York, and we watch as they live through what may be their last hours, as the world is supposedly going to end at 4:44 AM the next day. Reviews of the movie weren’t great when it premiered at festivals last year, but this trailer is fairly convincing.

It’s taking me a minute to get past one thing in this trailer, which is that it seems to feature a new song from Tom Waits. That’s not the case, though — the score, and the trailer song are by a guy named Francis Kuipers, who sounds a whole hell of a lot like Waits.

Hit the jump to check out the trailer and a video for the song contained therein.

4:44 Last Day on Earth will be released in theaters and on demand on March 23rd.

In a large apartment high above the city lives our couple. They’re in love. She’s a painter, he’s a successful actor. Just a normal afternoon – except that this isn’t a normal afternoon, for them or anyone else. Because tomorrow, at 4:44 am, give or take a few seconds, the world will come to an end far more rapidly than even the worst doomsayer could have imagined. The final meltdown will come not without warnings, but with no means of escape. There will be no survivors. As always, there are those who, as their last cigarette is being lit and the blindfold tightened, will still hope against hope for some kind of reprieve. For a miracle. Not our two lovers. They – like the majority of the Earth’s population – have accepted their fate: the world is going to end.

Here’s the video for ‘Blindfold Blues’ by Francis Kuipers.

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Gummo is a 1997 American independent drama written and directed by Harmony Korine. A directorial debut for Korine, the film stars Jacob Reynolds, Jacon Sewell and Chloe Sevigny. Rather than following a linear plot, the film is a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes depicting the hopeless, nihilistic lives of the residents of Xenia, Ohio, a small Midwestern town that had been previously struck by a devastating tornado. This is an alternate trailer by Mark Romanek. His music videos have garnered 19 MTV Video Music Awards, including Best Direction for Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” in 2004. He has also won three Grammy Awards for Best Short Form Music Video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtY_545-ST8

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