Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Trailer Park

On the off chance you hadn't heard already, I made a book trailer for Brainsss. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out (sorry, LJ folks; the Blogger/LJ crosspost strips out everything but text. But you can find it at

There were some interesting challenges I had to get through to make this trailer.

First and foremost was deciding to do it at all. I really don't like the sound of my own voice that much, and I knew making a trailer like this was going to involve recording myself and then listening to the playback a whole bunch of times. I even thought about trying to find someone else to do the story summaries.

The next (and ongoing) challenge was learning the software. My laptop came with iMovie installed, but this was the first time I'd ever fired it up. (Yeah, seriously.) Though to be honest, this was a pretty minor challenge. I'm not a programmer any more, but a) I am not afraid of screwing around with software to see what it will do, and b) Apple generally makes a pretty tight product. I had some minor issues with figuring out how to do a couple of things, and I was minimally annoyed by a couple of limitations (which is why most really dedicated video bloggers use paid software, like Final Cut Pro). The biggest software challenge I had was when I was exporting the finished movie -- the number of options were enormous, and it took me a while to find a reasonable balance between resolution quality and file size. (My options ranged from a 6G HD-quality movie down to a barely-readable iPhone version for only 150K. The one I settled on is around 20M.)

Then I had to find the pictures. I couldn't just put up the book cover and leave it there the whole time if I was going to be reading all those individual story teasers -- I knew the thing would clock in at over two and a half minutes, and so the viewer would need something to look at. Zombie pictures were the obvious choice, but... well. There's a ton of zombie pictures on the web, but zombie pictures that are in the public domain, or else CC licensed for commercial use? Not so many. But I lucked out and found several that looked great, and in a few cases, were even particularly suited the stories I paired them with.

I was particularly pleased with the images that went with "W.O.L." (which includes a scene with a character getting his first look at a zombie through a thick window), "Delicious Caleb" (just for that tongue sticking out, really -- the zombie seems to be saying, "Mm, delicious!"), and "Two Guys..." (the image is not only silly enough to match the story's irreverent tone, but the main character has this thing about showers, so it was particularly appropriate).

The final challenge was in the music. I was originally going to let it slide without any music at all -- once again, there's this problem of finding something licensed for commercial use, and I'm not an audiophile, so I didn't relish the prospect of spending potential hours listening to public domain tracks so I could find one that would suit.

But then Lynn (yes, the same Lynn who wrote "W.O.L.") invited me to her Christmas party, which featured live music performed by one of Lynn's favorite musicians, Jonah Knight. (Yes, I am in that "groupie" picture.) Jonah writes creepy/horror/sci-fi/fantasy music. And between the two sets, I was chatting with him, and I said, "So I'm editing this book of zombie romance stories, and would you be willing to let me use "The Dead Crawl From the Earth, Alive" as my background music on the trailer, if I credit you?" and somewhat to my surprise, he said yes. So there you have it.

Though I can't take credit for the bit at the end, where I finish talking and the lyrics you hear are, "It seems you can't control the undead." It worked out almost perfectly like that, and I was so happy about it that I futzed with the timing (by no more than about half a second) to make it work out more precisely.

In the end, aside from still not liking the sound of my recorded voice, I'm really happy with the way the video turned out. Almost as happy as I am with the book, which should be released on January 2. Mark your calendars and plan to set aside some of your Christmas money!

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