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How to make an awesome trailer (on a budget)

In this post I’ll talk about: * Background information about our trailer; * Features and spec of our trailer; * General advice to make a good trailer; * Translating * Preparing the video for sharing

Jan Serra, Blogger

February 12, 2018

8 Min Read

In this post I'll talk about:

  • Background information about our trailer;

  • Features and spec of our trailer;

  • General advice to make a good trailer;

  • How to create an awesome trailer for your indie game (on a budget);

  • Translating the trailer (and website);

  • Preparing the video to be shared;

  • Make all your effort worth it.

Background information

"3 Minutes to Midnight" 's (Scarecrow Studio's first point-and-click adventure game) teaser-trailer has been officially released today! At Scarecrow Studio we couldn't be prouder! In fact, we've been working on this teaser for the whole last month, while not losing focus on the point-and-click part of this adventure game.

First a few specs about the "3 Minutes to Midnight" trailer

  • Voices in English.

  • 16 Subtitles (English, Spanish, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Czech, Polish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Hindi, Turkish, Catalan, Korean, Japanese and Russian;

  • Length 2:20 minutes;

  • Resolution 4K;

General advice for creating a good trailer

  • Keep it simple and to the point; This means avoid unnecessary logo intros; Cut to the chase, you don't want people to close your video even before seeing the actual footage;

  • Avoid showing too much black screens with text; That's a resource many indie games use, because they don't have enough material. If you don't have enough material, don't do a video. It will hurt you more than it will help you;

  • First impressions count! Don't ever think they don't; So try to make your first impression a good one;

  • Show the video first to people who wouldn't mind hurting your feelings; That means forget about family and friends, you want to know the truth about what you created, not someone who tickles your ears;

  • Make it short and interesting, try to keep the viewer paying attention all the time; We managed to make it interesting, therefore in our case the video is 2:20 minutes long; However, I would advice you to try to keep the length around 60 seconds and 90 seconds;

  • Make sure you show what your game is about and the main features.

Now, how did we do it? Aka, creating an awesome trailer for your indie game (on a budget)

My first advice to you would be to make a list of the features that are going to make your game stand out; After creating the list, you have to make sure that every item on your list is shown in your trailer. Since there's a huge variety of games I'm going to use our game, "3 Minutes to Midnight", as an example. The features that make our game stand out from others are:

  • Environment art;

  • Character design;

  • Fluid animations;

  • Great story and background stories of the characters;

  • Voices in English (and translations into 16 languages);

  • A high dose of humor.

So, how could we show all that in our teaser trailer without spending a lot of time (money) on it? At that point we had no game-play ready, so we couldn't show that. At the same time, we had a lot of material that we couldn't show to people (to avoid major spoilers or ruining the story), and the final script still was on the works.

We wanted to create something unique and original while re-using some of the materials we already had, keeping the game development unaltered. Creating a trailer video, to show what we were doing, allowed us to start the promotion.

The idea was to show the game as a movie that is about to be filmed. For instance, we could use the scenes, we already had, as the trailer's background sets. Same for the characters, we could use them in their already animated positions for the game. Moreover, we could create a parallel script pretending the characters of the game are 'actors'. The script should also clearly show the sense of humor of the game. It also allowed us to have the voice-actors begin with the voice-over prior the trailer was done.

Translating the game

A big piece of advice: Do all you can to have enough budget to reach as many users as possible. We realized how important localization and translations are. And we believe players will certainly appreciate this fact. In case your budget is really really tight, I'll list you (in order of amount of users) the most important languages:

  • English | Spanish | Russian | Chinese | Portuguese | German | French | Polish | Turkish

We hired freelancers for the translation, (our budget can't allow us to have permanent positions for this task). In order find the right freelancers we used a couple of websites, (I'm not going to write them here, but google "freelancers" and you'll find them easily).

  • First, you search the freelancers and sort them by reviews and amount earned, (that will ensure quality);

  • After that, you contact them and negotiate terms and costs, (really important to do it before hand);

  • Then, you make them do a test, (a small one, you might get it free of charge);

  • Later, you make someone else proofread the test to see how many mistakes the first one made, and you repeat the process until you find the right person.

Important advice when dealing with other languages:

  • Make an excel file, with all the sentences in one column;

  • Always specify the gender of the speakers, even if the character is talking to him/herself, (some languages change completely depending on the speaker's gender);

  • Be really careful with rhymes (in your language it might do, but in others it will need a lot of effort in localization, in the end, it might either increase the cost or lose the meaning);

  • Also, don't use expressions or sentences that only make sense in your country, (such as inside jokes that only people from your country would understand), that will save you a lot of time of giving explanations to the translators, simply try to make the process easy and smooth;

  • Try to make short sentences, use as many punctuation as you can, avoid long sentences AT ALL COSTS! A long sentence might force the translator to paraphrase it completely and might lose the sense you were originally aiming for.

Since you are an indie company, and your resources are limited, you don't want to spend a lot of time answering questions coming from the translators. In our case, we have 16 languages, imagine answering questions being made by 16 people at the same time.

Preparing the video to be shared

One of the main features of our game is that it's going to be 4K. A 4K 2:20 minute video is about 53GB after you get it ready with any edition software. So we recommend not to upload that directly. Why not:

  • When you upload a video that big, YouTube will automatically resize it, which means you'll have to wait until YouTube processes the whole video.

  • You can't control the outcome quality, since it's the YouTube algorithms who are going to control the output file.


  • After creating the video with your edition software, find out how that software generates a YouTube ready video. What you'll get doing it like this:

    • Smaller video (will upload way quicker) the bigger the file the longer it takes the higher chances of something interrupting the upload.

    • YouTube won't edit at all a YouTube ready video.

    • Your video will be available right away after the upload without waiting so you can start working on it right away.

Uploading the video and working with subtitles:

  • We suggest you to upload it in one place, in our case in YouTube. So since you are indie and small try to concentrate all the viewers, visits, and comments in one spot.

  • Create your own channel. If people like it they will subscribe and your updates will reach people who's actually interested in your game.

  • Create a good description of your game, you obviously know what is about, but explain that clearly to people. In our case it's a 2D Classic Point-and-Click Adventure Game. Help people know where they can find out more about the game, add a link to your website or social media in the description.

  • Work with the best quality you can, in our case is 4K but YouTube automatically creates duplicates in lower resolutions so anyone can see it.

  • Fill all the information about the video, tags, description, suitable for all viewers, etc.

Make all your effort worth it!

  • Let people know about all the languages of your game, IN THEIR LANGUAGE, so make sure your website has at least one page where you can talk about the game in every language your game is going to be available to. In our case, we made the whole website in English, except the press kit, our press kit is in 16 languages, and it auto-generates the content depending on the preferred language of your browser, give it a try if you want:

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