Tips on Making a Professional Game Trailer

A beginners guide to making an effective trailer for your upcoming title

Tips on Making a Professional Trailer

A beginners guide to making an effective trailer for your upcoming title

I know you’ve got deadlines to make, and the gaming public is raving for a visual to go along with your upcoming mystery title: but Michael Bay is a bit busy this week, so you’ve had to take trailer production into your own hands. Listen to me, breathe and just relax for a second.

It’s going to be okay, your friendly neighborhood Terminals Account Coordinator is here to help!

Prep Time

Working on game trailers is like fixing a sink, it’s not just about worrying about leaks, you have to make sure you’ve got the right tools for the job.

If you’re working alone and you don’t have a degree in graphic design or experience editing shorts, you’re probably going to need a little help. To get things started you’ll want to have programs to help capture, edit, and add polish to the final product.

Subscription-based programs like Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut (For Mac Users), or Vegas Pro can be pretty expensive and while I highly recommend them for long-term use, there are a few free options that you can use to edit together footage if you’re not a video editing snob such as myself. Davinci Resolve, Blender, Open Shot, and Movie Maker possess the same standard features needed to bring your vision to life and they’re all available for free!

For capturing footage, if you aren’t already capturing in-engine, on programs like Unity or Unreal Engine, you’ll want to download OBS Studio, FRAPS, Bandicam, or Xsplit, which are free or very low-cost subscription-based tools that can get the job done.

When it comes to securing assets outside of your own footage, I highly recommend checking out the following sites:
I recommend these sites because they provide video graphic templates, customizable logos, and creative commons music which are easy-to-use customizable products that will give you much greater production quality for your final trailer.

Avoiding The Darkest Timelines

So at this point, you’ve got your tools, your assets, and your footage, that means you’ve definitely got a plan on how you’ll approach your trailer right? If your answer is still: “I have no idea” then I’m happy to fly in with a bit of assistance.

Start by focusing on a single idea/message and then selecting footage that complements and emphasizes the message you’re trying to send. Assuming you’ve captured some great footage —meaning it has no visible bugs or errors gives you plenty of room for editing— and you’ve got a strong soundtrack ready to accompany your burgeoning masterpiece, you’re almost ready to get started.

The next thing you’ll definitely need to do is identify what kind of trailer you’re planning on making. Once you know if you’re making a reveal announcement, gameplay highlight, release date, or accolades trailer, your job is going to be relatively straightforward.


Announcement Trailers 
Usually, the first asset that your audience will be able to identify your game with. They can be any length, but the shorter and more succinct they are, the better. You must give viewers the “elevator pitch” of your game, and not only excite them with the anticipation of release but leave them asking questions that only your upcoming marketing material and eventual launch will answer.


Gameplay Highlight Trailers
They are important to help viewers understand how they’ll be able to navigate through your game when they play it. They are short gameplay previews that show off the best footage of your game and should highlight what makes it fun to play. There isn’t much of a time limit to how long these can be because they can either be a full-level walkthrough or a quick vertical slice of a gameplay feature that you would like to highlight


Release Date Trailers
These are similar to announcements in both intent and structure except for the fact that the build-up in these trailers should be towards the end where you announce the release date. You’ll definitely want to put your best foot forward, once again showing off a bit of your elevator pitch, except in this case, you’re focusing on building hype and excitement alongside a date that you’re definitely, absolutely for sure going to stick to.


Accolades Trailers
Contrary to popular belief, they don’t always come out post-launch. There are many situations where early access or Kickstarter titles can use their “best of show” awards as clout to entice the masses. In rare cases, where your game hasn’t been a bombastic blast with critics, but you feel there are improvements that have been made since launch, or you generally just disagree with the public opinion, you can be a little creative and embrace the hand you’ve been dealt!

Rendering a Result

Now that we’ve gone over the tools you’ll need for the job and the types of trailers you might want to make, it’s time we covered some of the dos and don'ts of making a trailer!

You’ll want to include your company logo, title of the game, footage from the most up-to-date build, music (either from the game’s soundtrack, or something that fits the theme), and enough information to let the viewer know what platform they’ll eventually find the game on. When selecting footage for the game, you’ll want to include content that will actually be in the final product. A trailer is as much of an advertisement as it is a bit of entertainment, so lying to your audience about your product is not a place you want to go.

You’ll want to basically grab their attention by presenting the main focus of your game as a question or a challenge. As I said earlier, a good game trailer is like an elevator pitch. You’ll want to give viewers the hook of your game without revealing everything all at once, as quickly as possible. So shorter trailers with content that delivers the message are preferred over short films.

According to studies done by business intelligence analysts at Wistia, 2 minutes is the sweet spot when it comes to viewer engagement with online videos: “The average 30-second video was viewed 85% of the way through, while the average 2-minute video was viewed on average 50% of the way through. What’s even more 20% of the audience drops after the first 10 seconds and 44.1% of the audience skips the video after 60 seconds.”

[LTE Video Streaming Masters Thesis - Smruti Ranjan Panigrahi - University of Gävle]

The more you can get across with a shorter trailer the better. Any shot or piece of messaging that doesn’t align with the main message, needs to be cut. If you’ve got too much gameplay in a story trailer, or too many pre-rendered cutscenes in a gameplay trailer, you’ve gone too far!

The best thing I can recommend is making two versions of the trailer. One with everything you’d want to have in it, and the second with enough cut to get the message across but fit into a 30-second ad spot. Another reason you’ll want to have shorter trailers is that most social media platforms have a limit for media size/length that will prevent you from uploading telenovelas as content.

Don’t be afraid to get a second set of eyes on your work, consulting others and getting new viewpoints is encouraged to get the best out of your final product. Every trailer is born from a journey to share a dream. Whether it’s the struggle of finding the right editing program, fighting with camera angles and builds to record the perfect shots, or waiting out the enemy of progress that is rendering media for export, there are always struggles, but it’s worth it to bring a new gaming experience with your audience. Hopefully, the tools that I’ve provided here will translate into new dreams and more magic that you can share with everyone!

Published September, 09 2022
Last updated September, 09 2022
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