Book Trailers: Behind the Scenes

By Jen Talty:

My latest book trailer is for Ivar’s Mission in Independence Day.

There is a lot that goes into the making of a trailer both creatively and technically. I consider myself very fortunate that I have what is known as an “even brain”. I actually once had a counselor test me on this. I scored a 54 toward the right side. I thought that was interesting because I figured I’d lean toward the left. That spinning woman? I can change her direction pretty much just by blinking.

Many authors make their own videos, using various programs that come with your computer such as iMovie for Mac or Movie Maker for Windows. Both of these programs are relatively easy to use, with templates, and simple transitions, etc. However, they are limited in what they can do technically and creatively.

If you choose to go it on your own, I do think it’s important to understand that it is a process. It’s not always easy. And it will cost you in time and money. Hiring someone to do it is another way to go, but I do believe that even just a base knowledge of what goes into making a book trailer will help you find the right person or company to work with.

So, how did I make the trailer for Ivar’s Mission in Independence Day?

Since, I haven’t read this book yet (Bob’s only got another week before I start to get all cranky, making sure he makes deadline), I had to rely on what I know about the mission based on what Bob has told me. I also focused this one more on “what if” than I have others in the past. Also, most of these Time Patrol trailers deal with history, making it both easier and harder as I have to stay true to the history.

So the first thing I did was write a script. That took me 2 hours. I kid you not. Like a book, you need a hook. It wasn’t until reading about Ulysses. S. Grant while searching the web for information on John C. Pemberton that I found the quote. From there, I made short one-line statements about different aspects of the Siege of Vicksburg, Ivar’s mission, and failure of that mission. And the final words in the video aren’t necessarily what I had come up with. Actually, had I used everything I came up with the video would be 5 minutes long. But that draft of the script gives me a baseline for searching for video clips, images, and music as well.

Second step is finding images and video clips. The Civil War era has a lot of images in the public domain, so my first search was finding images from the Siege of Vicksburg, Grant, Pemberton, the caves under the Union White House, and anything I could find during that specific date and place. I took those images from Wikimedia Commons. We also get images from various stock photo sites where we pay a yearly subscription for since we use a lot of images between book covers, trailers, and promo items.

After I had a good dozen images, I went looking for videos. We have a subscription to VideoBlocks, so I always look in their unlimited collection (which is our subscription) but they have millions of more clips that you can purchase for under $50.00 outside of that subscription. I downloaded the video that represents chaos of what our world would look like, also one for the background of where Ivar is fighting the SHADOW agent, the time ripple, and the time tsunami. I also have about 20 or so videos from that site about the war, but none fit for this project.

Next step was to go to and find creative commons videos about the civil war. The creative commons is key because they videos owners show how to give them credit and what they allow the video to be used for. I found five that I thought might be good. I used one, but only a few seconds of it and the original video I think was 7 minutes long.

We are now on day two of me working on this video.

The next thing I do is I start putting in images to my workspace. Here is what a workspace looks like in Final Cut Pro (which you can download from the Apple App store for $299.99). I use this program because it has many more options for me to manipulate text, images, and videos. For example, in the beginning of the video where the soldiers are rushing each other, I added a couple of different effects to the video. One was aged paper and the other was aged film, giving it that “old sepia” look.

But we need to back up one step because before I start loading project with images and text, I find music. One place, which again we pay a subscription for, is AudioBlocks. I’ve also found other sites that have royalty free music, or have found music in the public domain. This one came from AudioBlocks, but it wasn’t the first I picked. I tend to pull down 2 or 3 just to see how it works with the transitions from frame to frame.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 3.11.18 PM

Another thing I like to play with is moving my still images, like in the opening. It’s not a hard technique, but the more you understand it, the more creative you can get, like making it go in, out, then back in again. Or if you look at where Ivar fights the agent of the SHADOW, where they are moving and doing so inside a video. That sequence along too a bit of time, but not just to animate the motion, but I had to go back and find an image because that wasn’t part of the original story board. But I also had to use a .psd file, which is a Photoshop file. I had to do this because Photoshop works in layers, and I had to use two different layers to make this work. Then I also had to have them fade out, another technique that’s fun to play with. And there is more than one way to do depending on what your desired outcome is.

Finally, I used another “add on” program called Motion to create different effects than the “templates” provided for text. The opening words of the video was a new effect and I love the one where the words kind of smoke out. In addition, Motion can be used to do a lot of really neat stuff like exploding letters, or manipulating stills a certain way. It works much like Photoshop because it works with layers, but its to create motion effects, where Photoshop is just stills.

Now we’re on day three. Not all videos take me three days to make and honestly, it was three full days. I worked on it probably 3-4 hours each day. Some videos take me up to 20+ hours to make depending on the “special effects” I want. Others take just a few hours, especially if I already have the desired images and video clips in my extensive already purchased and downloaded library.

So the final part of this process is to make sure the music fits and flows with the trailer. This one, I changed out a couple images and then found a new time tsunami video that I thought looked better, and closer to the ripple video. Once it’s done, I export and view it two or three times, usually picking up a sequence that is going too fast, or too slow.

And there you have. My even brained process.

Feel free to hit me up with any questions!

1 Comment

  1. My question is what do you do with your trailer once it’s done and what recommendations do you have for a relatively unknown Indie author?

Leave a Reply

© 2021 Bob Mayer

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: