Friday, March 5, 2010

My Book Trailer(s): The Unveiling

If you've been following my recent blog posts, you know that I've been working on making a book trailer for my poetry book, What Feeds Us. This is in the nature of an experiment. Having noticed that many prose writers make book trailers, I began to wonder why poets weren't doing the same thing. It seemed logical to me that we should be making trailers. After all, poetry is the oral art. It seemed to me that we were missing an opportunity to get our voices heard and to try another marketing strategy. So I began to do a bunch of research.

I've now watched several hours' worth of trailers. I haven't found a single one of a poetry book that really fits into what I think of as a book trailer. Plenty of individual poem videos and many of those I loved and admired. But I wanted something that would provide a sense of the entire collection, not just a sample poem. I don't see this as an either / or issue; I think we should be doing both. So my challenge was to create such a trailer. Since my new book won't be out until June, I worked with my more recent book, What Feeds Us.

I first worked with iMovie on my iMac. I love that program. I didn't want to spend any money on this, so I used Images at Google to find pictures. Before finding the pictures, though, I went through the book and made a list of dominant motifs and images. Then I set about finding some good food pictures to represent the poems that are about literal food. But my book is also about other ways in which we are fed or not fed, nourished or not nourished. So I also looked for pictures of love and sex and families, healthy and broken. I loaded these into a new project in iMovie and added transitions. Not enough to give a good sense of the book. I added some text. Too many text pages, so I moved some text on top of images to shorten the movie as I wanted to keep it to a maximum of two minutes.

I wanted a cover image so added that. I used Keynote to add some text to the same page. To turn that to a jpeg, I did a screenshot and resized, then dragged the image into the project. Took some experimentation and time, but progress was being made. I added some text to better convey the themes. I added some snippets from blurbs. I added an author photo and credits.

Time for the soundtrack. Off I went to Kevin MacLeod's Royalty-Free Music. I wanted something that was upbeat but also had undercurrents that suggested some of the darker aspects of the book. I wanted the pace not too fast, not too slow. I needed a track that fit what had come to two minutes. I found just what I wanted, downloaded the mp3, and dragged it into the project. Easy. The video was a bit longer than the track so the opening seemed slow to me with no sound. I filled in that empty space by making a QuickTime audio track with me saying the title and my name. Dragged it in ahead of the other track and "normalized" the volume so it would match the music. The timing now was just right.

Asked for some opinions from family members. I asked if my trailer accurately conveyed the collection. Did it make the collection appealing? If viewers didn't already have the book, would the trailer make them want to buy it? The family gave me good marks. Now it's time to go public. So here's the iMovie trailer.

Because this was fun (though time-consuming) and because I also wanted to see what I could do at Animoto, I joined that site. Initially, I just fooled around with the 30-second free video option. When I felt that I'd learned my way around the site, I signed on for the $30 one-year account. This allows me to make as many full-length videos as I want.

I then uploaded all the pictures I had used in the iMovie. Because you can't add text right onto an image as you can in iMovie, I added text clips, but that really increased the length of the video. Also, once the program mixed the video, some of the text didn't match up clearly with its corresponding image. So then I took screenshots from the iMovie and added those. That gave me text on the images. A lot of work and I first needed the other movie, but it was a way to get text on an image.

I uploaded the soundtrack, but could not upload my voiceover part as Animoto takes only mp3's. I then found a file converter called Switch Audio Converter which allows me to convert the mac format to an mp3. (Also available for Windows.) But Animoto allows for the upload of just one track so I used QuickTime to create one new audio including my voiceover and Kevin's music. Not happy with the difference in volume so ended up making a new track by recording from the iMovie. Then I used Switch to convert it to an mp3. Then uploaded that.

Animoto automatically adds effects and they are very cool. If you don't like the result, you can remix by hitting a button. Each time you Edit, the video will be different. This is good and bad. Bad in that you can't choose. Good in that the program does the work. Also, you can alter timing only to 3 different speeds. You can get a bit more time on a particular clip by spotlighting it, but that's it. On iMovie, you can exactly set the timing for both clips and transitions. I then turned over another $5 for a hi-res version. The quality on my desktop is wonderful, but I think a good deal of that quality is lost in the YouTube upload.

Take a look at this one. What do you think? How do the two versions compare?

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  1. First a disclaimer: I often can't watch design shows or other reality shows because of the quick, zig zaggy camera motions.

    That said, I like the first one best. I like having time to concentrate on the images and the words. In the second one, I felt that the images were folding and unfolding and zooming away too quickly. I got distracted by the upcoming or leaving shot behind the shot I was supposed to be focused upon. There was too much action in the second version.

    But I'm 44 years old, prone to dizziness, a fan of old-fashioned still shots. I would imagine that the 2nd version would appeal to younger viewers.

    Nice work, by the way, especially with the non-food images (that picture of the boy and the suitcase on the railroad tracks as the man walks away--haunting!).

  2. Hi Diane,

    First, I love what you did with each item - a jealous tomato, a green grape of sorrow, etc. That was wonderful! I also liked the blurbs in between. I also thought you picked good music too.

    I like the first one better because the movement in the second one made me feel a little seasick and it was going to fast. But I wouldn't suggest slowing it down because then the trailer would be way over 2 minutes and I think that's a little long.

    And thanks for the post! I'll link you up on my blog for others who are interested in book trailers.

    Nice work!

  3. Trailers usually have a certain amount of urgency to them. They push. You come closer to that with the movement in the second one.

    (Wouldn't there be copyright issues with your images?)

  4. Hi Diane,
    I loved watching these, but the second one is the one that caught my attention. It has more pressure to it. I believe that book trailers should be like movie trailers, they need to create an urgency so people want to take the next step and buy the book. I looked at this a few days ago and what stays with me is "The Jealousy of the Tomato." Also, I think two minutes is really too long -- by about 30 seconds!
    My last post here seems to have not gone up. One last thing -- the linguni doesn't appeal to me (thought I LOVE pasta). It isn't robust and sharp in the way of the grape and the tomato - something to cut? I do love the movement.

  5. The second one works for me. It looks a little more slick, has more movement, holds your attention. Good work on both of them!

  6. I vote for the second one too. I like the movement, the swinging sensation. I wish some of the slides wouldn't move out so quickly b/c you lose the letters on the edges at times, but all in all I think the 2nd had a more professional, engaging feel.

    Also, with a couple of the images of lovers, they felt a bit canned, too glossy or something. Could you find some other image to represent them, or images of people who aren't so glossy? Just an idea.

    On the other hand, leave these be and now you can get to work on your next book trailer! Congrats--good stuff here.


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