Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Making the Trailer: Trial & Error

I won't lie: there were a lot of ups and downs when it came to making The Mapmaker and the Ghost trailer that debuted last week.

Originally, I thought I wasn't going to make a trailer. I really wanted a high production quality, live-action one and I knew I didn't have the resources for that. But about a month ago, thanks to the random creativity of the Internet, I was struck by an idea to try and do a stop-motion one. Stop-motion is a method wherein inanimate objects appear to move (think claymation) because of thousands of photographs strung together with just a tiny bit of movement in each one.

Like so:

Spike Jonze - Mourir Aupr├Ęs de Toi from Freak! Produtora on Vimeo.

(That one is spectacular by the way -- especially for all book-lovers. I highly recommend it).

So Graig and I set about brainstorming how to do it. I'd made some short films in college before but never a stop-motion.

First, Graig spent a couple of days hand-painting all the elements of my cover.

Then he scanned them in and printed them out and I spent a good portion of time cutting them out with teeny, tiny scissors.

Not what one usually means by "cutting a trailer"

We glued the background together and spent a while figuring out our uber-sophisticated set-up:

By this point, it was 11 PM on a Saturday. Obviously, all natural light was gone. I spent a large chunk of time trying to remember what on earth I had learned about three-point lighting in film school (fact: lighting was my worst subject there). I attempted to recreate said lessons with three lamps.

We spent a couple of hours shooting, with Graig moving the pieces just a little bit for every shot and me snapping a photo with the iPhone remote (so that the camera wouldn't move by me touching the screen).

And then we watched the results.

Here is a still:

They were...not good.

I wondered if it was cute and kitschy homemade-looking, or just I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing/awful homemade-looking. When I woke up the next morning, I knew it was the latter.

I was pretty bummed and spent about half an hour sure I had to scrap the whole thing.

But then I listed to the amazing voiceover that my friend Rachel F. Hirsch had done for me, and I knew I just had to try to get that out into the world somehow. If only I could get the images to match the quality of her work. I stared at my screen. I stared at my cover. I stared at the credits I had made for the trailer.

And ever so slowly it dawned on me. Since, unlike claymation, the elements of my stop-motion were originally 2D art anyway, I could simulate stop-motion via basic computer software.

So I did. And about two straight days of work later. Voila!

I actually had a lot of fun going back to my film school roots, both with the actual editing work and with the problem-solving. And, ultimately, my failed 'trial'er ended up being a good storyboard for the finished product.

And a little lesson in perseverance never hurt anybody, especially not me!


  1. I love the use of duct tape :-) The final version is so fantastic! Great work from all involved!!!

  2. It turned out awesome - you should be very proud!

  3. Wow, Sarvenaz--how cool to get a peek behind the scenes! I was wondering if/how your filmmaking background came into play. And I meant to comment on the original trailer post--the results are super! Awesome to see those illustrations coming to life. Great job on your part and Graig's. =)