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Everything You Need to Know About Creating a Jaw-Dropping Movie Trailer on the Cheap

This guest post is by Jon Morrow of boostblogtraffic.com.

Ever look at those snazzy movie trailers Hollywood puts out for their latest blockbusters and wonder how you could make one of your own?

Maybe you’re starting a new blog, and you want to launch with a bang. Or maybe you’re coming out with a new book, and you want to create some prelaunch buzz. Or maybe you’re even launching a new online course, and you want to build anticipation up to a fevered pitch in preparation for launch day.

Whatever the case, creating a trailer seems like a good way to do it. There’s only one problem:

You can’t possibly afford it, right?

Movie trailer

Image copyright Deklofenak - Fotolia.com

Hollywood routinely spends $50,000 or more putting together their movie trailers. They assemble crackerjack teams of animators, story borders, musicians, video editors, and directors, all of whom work for weeks on the trailer alone.

These aren’t folks aren’t exactly begging for work, either. If you want a great trailer, you have to hire the best, and the best comes at a premium price.

So, you’re screwed, right? I mean, maybe you could scrounge around in the couch cushions to find a few bucks, but that’s not going to get you very far, now is it?

Actually … you might be surprised.

How I created a jaw-dropping movie trailer for under $50

Yep, it’s true. The movie trailer I created for my blog launch only cost me a grand total of … wait for it…

$34 US.

Granted, I already had a copy of Adobe After Effects, which saved a few thousand bucks. I’m also an exceptionally geeky dude, so I figured out how to do all the necessary work on my own.

But it’s easier than you might think.

You see, I bought this template from VideoHive for $20. It’s basically a ready-made movie trailer, where all you have to do is fill in the text.

From there, I bought this music for $14, which was actually recommended by the designer who created the After Effects template. So I bought a license, added it to the trailer, and then exported the whole thing to a movie file.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Don’t believe me?

Well then, let’s take a step-by-step walk-through of how to do it for yourself.

Step one: choose your Adobe After Effects template

Before you do anything else, head on over to VideoHive and browse through the trailers. There are several ways to do it:

  1. Just type “trailer” in the search box, and then look through everything that comes up.
  2. Browse category by category, starting with “After Effects Project Files,” and then drilling down to exactly what you want.
  3. Click “After Effects Project Files,” and then sort by “Sales,” showing you all the most popular templates on the site.

The third option is my personal preference, because it allows you to familiarize yourself with all the different types of templates and start thinking about what might work for you. When I first started working on my trailer, I spent hours and hours looking through them, dreaming about what I could do, and it took me weeks to finally settle on one.

The reason I finally chose Ivory is because it has an epic feel, but it’s not an overly complicated trailer, so it was really easy to modify. All I had to do was change the text, slip in my own videos, and it was ready to go.

That’s important, because if you’re doing it yourself, you should know Adobe After Affects is one of the most complicated pieces of consumer software in existence. I’m a technical dude, and it still took me hours to figure out how to change the text. If I’d used anything more complicated, I probably would have been tinkering with it for weeks.

That’s not to say you can’t use a more complicated template, of course. If you do, you probably just want to hire a professional to edit it for you, which we’ll get to in a minute.

But if you do want to do it yourself, stick to the ones with quotes. You can find them by searching for “quotes” or “text.”

Whatever you decide though, you’ll soon discover that none of the templates come with music. They often provide recommendations, but you have to license and integrate it on your own.

Let’s talk about that next…

Step two: license the music for your trailer

There are lots of different places you can license music online, but most or all of the templates on VideoHive use music from another site in the Envato network, AudioJungle. You can use any music you want, of course, but the selection at AudioJungle really is quite awesome, and the licenses allow for trailers (I’m not a lawyer, so consult one, if there’s any doubt).

You can search it the same ways you searched VideoHive, and if you’re looking for a few hours to kill, it’s a good way to do it, but you could also argue it’s a waste of time. Here’s why:

Changing the music will skyrocket the cost.

The majority of the templates are created with a certain piece of music in mind. The animation changes with music, and key ideas pop up at just the right time to create a dramatic effect. If you change the music, everything will be out of sync, and so you will have to redo the timing of the animation.

Unless you’re an Adobe After Effects guru, that means hiring a pro to do it for you, and I would guess the change of music, along with the necessary changes to the animation, would cost you anywhere between $500-$1,000. If you’re working on a big product launch, it might be worth it, but for a blog or book or any other project where you’re not making lots of money, you probably want to keep it cheap.

It’s up to you, but my advice: stick with the music the template creator recommends.

From there, all you have to do is…

Step three: assemble and render your movie trailer

Here, you have to make a decision, and it will dramatically affect the cost of your trailer, as well as the time it takes you to create. You can either:

  1. Assemble and render your movie trailer all by yourself.
  2. Pay a professional to render and assemble it for you.

As I mentioned earlier, I decided to do myself, but … well … I’m a weirdo. I actually enjoy learning new software and tinkering with it days on end, and so the 20+ hours it took me was, in a word, fun, where most normal people would’ve already turned their computer into a flying projectile.

Maybe you’re a weirdo too, though. If you are, you can absolutely do it. Buy or borrow a copy of Adobe After Affects, pray your computer is powerful enough to run it (hint: 4 GB of RAM, bare minimum), Google up some After Effects tutorials, and start working.

On the other hand, maybe you would rather be water boarded than try to do it yourself. If that’s the case, cough up a few more bucks, and hire a pro.

It’s not as expensive as you might think.

Most of the uber-talented designers on VideoHive will put everything together for you for $250-$500. You don’t get any changes to the template, and they are probably not going to do multiple revisions, but if you hand over your text, music, and any photos or videos, they’ll put them in and send you a completed trailer.

If that’s too much money, you can also go the cheapskate route and post the job on a freelance site like oDesk. You can probably get it done by somebody in India, China, or Eastern Europe for $100 or less.

And if you think about it, that’s still pretty cheap. Sure, it’s a lot more at than the skimpy $34 I shelled out, but it’s also a lot cheaper than the $50,000 or more Hollywood movie studios spend.

It also makes you look like a rockstar. So if that’s all that’s standing in your way, don’t cheap out, here. Save up a few hundred bucks, and get yourself a nice trailer for your launch.

It’s totally worth it

No, you probably won’t pick up 1740 subscribers in a week like I did, because that takes some killer connections, but what if you get a couple hundred? Or what if it convinces a major TV or radio show to interview you? Or what if it sells just one more copy of your $500 course?

You don’t have to blow the doors off for your trailer to pay for itself. Truth be told, you can probably screw about 90% of it up, and it will still beat any other type of launch lead in you could do.

Next week, I’ll have another post here on ProBlogger giving you some strategies on how to get the most out of your trailer. In the meantime, start digging through VideoHive, get some different ideas rattling around in your head, and let your subconscious do its work.

All the technical tomfoolery in the world is no substitute for creativity. And really, that’s what we’re doing here. We’re packaging up our ideas into a 30-180 second trailer, but the strength of that trailer isn’t the animation or the music or even the video itself. It’s the ideas.

So get thinking.

Be creative.

And more than anything, believe in yourself. Yes, you might be an upstart blogger, scrounging around the couch cushions to pay for your trailer, but you can do this.

And you know what I think?

It’s gonna be huge.

Jon Morrow is also on a mission to help good writers get traffic they deserve. If you’re one of them, check out his upcoming blog about (surprise!) blogging.

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Comments

  1. Big recommendation I can offer: pay someone on an outsourcing type site (eLance, Fiverr even) to do the video for you if you don’t want to buy Adobe After Effects.

    So the process would go something like: Buy the video template from ThemeForest —> Write the copy —> Send to the freelancer to assemble —> Publish

    Will cost you more because of their time to put it together for you, but still a lot less than buying a program you might only use once.

    Great how-to guide on this Jon, Envato sites like VideoHive are a lifesaver for most of my projects.

    • Jon Morrow says:

      Yep, I actually recommend oDesk in the post, but sites like eLance and Freelancer.com would work too. And for the template I used Optimizepress.

  2. paul wolfe says:

    Jon

    One of the things on my wishlist for 2012 is a copy of After Effects AND at least 75-100 hours to start working through it. From what I’ve seen it is totally awesome…and like you that kind of time investment is something I consider fun!

    Had a quick look at VideoHive – can tell I’ll be spending a lot of time there.

    Thanks for the info.

    Paul

    • Jon Morrow says:

      Yeah, it’s an expensive program. If you’re really interested in learning how to use it, check with your local community college to see if they are doing a class, because if they are, you should be able to take it and get a big discount on an educational license for the software.

  3. Jon says:

    Definitely inspiring. To be honest, when I read your post about how you quickly got almost 2,000 subscribers without a single post I thought ” Well that’s because he has a million dollar awesome video trailer on his home page!”. Well I’ll be eating my words as I check out the awesome videos at VideoHive. Thanks!

    • Jon Morrow says:

      Yeah, it looks really expensive, doesn’t it? That’s what I love about it. People think you must really be a big shot to have a video like that. :-)

    • Rivka says:

      Want more inspiration? Check out this video we did for a client to help her launch her business after reading this. Thanks so much Jon!!!

      http://www.emorshoes.com

  4. Faizan Elahi says:

    Very informative post ! And this is surely a unique way to market yourself.

  5. Hi Jon,
    When I watched the video a few day ago, I thought you’d probably hired a professional to get it done. I remember reading through some comments by others wondered about it too. Perhaps, those comments inspired you to write this post.

    Anyways, I just started trying out videos a few months ago. It’s mostly been quick and useful tips for others. After watching your trailer, I thought I could do sort of an welcome/introduction video to my blog. Anyways, will think of something to do.

    Thanks for sharing this process and letting us know it way so easy :-)

    regards
    Shamelle

    • Jon Morrow says:

      Yeah, of all the different types of video, this one is the most technically advanced. You may want to work up to it, if you’re thinking about doing it yourself. Simple talking head videos and screen recordings are great way to get started, though. You can get more fancy from there.

  6. Mike says:

    This is a great post for using an extra medium for marketing!

  7. Mark Aylward says:

    Hey Jon
    Sweet post. A bit over my head, but I bookmarked Videohive for future reference
    Thanks
    Mark

  8. Thank you, this really helped. Your last post got me thinking about making a trailer. I’ve written the “script” for it already and hopefully I’ll have it ready soon.

    Just one question. Do you think it’s better to only use text and graphics instead of being on the video personally? People usually like to see a human to connect with. So, is there a reason you did your trailer without one?

    • Jon Morrow says:

      There are a few reasons I didn’t include myself. For one, I would’ve had to modify the template for the trailer, and that would have increased the price at least $500, maybe several thousand dollars. For two, I wanted to put the emphasis on what other people are saying about me, and that meant deliberately excluding everything else. And for three, I’m in a wheelchair, and any time I do a video of myself, it surprises people, and it’s all they can think about. I’ll probably do some videos of myself in the future, but for this one, it was just better all around to stick with the template.

      • Thanks for replying.

        I know After Effects isn’t exactly the easiest application to use. So, I understand the question of price.

        Can you share how you approached the people who’s “testimonials” you used? Did you already know them personally and asked for them to say something? Or how did you succeed?

  9. Josh Sarz says:

    After Effects? I need to learn that. Great post Jon. Yeah that trailer was sick. Immediately made me want to sign up. If video trailers have that effect on people, it’s definitely a great idea to get one.

  10. J S says:

    Great post on how you did this. The important point, and the one that will make this post lest useful, is the $2,000 software package.

    Jon, since you say ‘I’m a geeky guy and it still took me all day’ … try out the latest Openshot.org program and in a follow up post (?) see how close you can get to the Adobe offering. That would be worthwhile to see.

    I have a trailer for a new book and I’m working with Openshot to get there. I’ve done other ‘trailers’, though more targeted for small distribution of product demonstrations at clients, using Avidemux and creative commons music tracks.

    • Jon Morrow says:

      Well, the problem with the free video editors is they don’t have all the templates. So, you can save yourself $2000 on the software, but then you spend another 100 hours creating your trailer. In my case, probably not worth it, but to some people it might be.

  11. Simple. Effective. Magic.

    I’m watching Ivory 2 :-)

    Thanks!

  12. Roy Bauman says:

    Great info Jon. I have made a few short videos with inspiring background music of my family using imovie, garageband, idvd. Let me ask you this: Is AfterEffects much more difficult to learn than any of those programs? Or say Illustrator or Photoshop?

    • Jon Morrow says:

      Yep, I’ve used those same as well. They are much, much easier to learn than After Effects. In my opinion, After Effects is even a little harder than Photoshop.

  13. Andrew Hall says:

    Good article Jon. Video is certainly a valuable tool for online marketing and I totally agree that it’s becoming more affordable for more people. I saw your pre-launch trailer and thought it was fantastic. The tips in your article are on-point, but aren’t there any low cost alternatives to After Effects? I’m a firm believer in “you get what you pay for” and have no problem with the cost myself, but others working on a small budget might not be able to afford such a high-end solution. Also, it looks like you used a lot of screen captures in your video, was that done with Camtasia, or another similar screen capture software? Thanks for writing this. Looking forward to more of your articles.

    • Jon Morrow says:

      iMovie, or just plain old Keynote or PowerPoint would be a cheaper alternative. Granted, it won’t look like what they do in Hollywood, but you can still make an effective trailer.

      Also, yes, I used Camtasia for those screen captures. Good eye. :-)

  14. This idea sounds like fun but also a lot of work and learning for those who are not familiar with the process. I will leave this up to the pros for now.

    • Jon Morrow says:

      Well, it’s a lot of work if you do it yourself, but if you hire a pro to do it for you, then you don’t have to know anything. :-)

  15. John Hoff says:

    Hi Jon.

    Yeah I love that video and I hope you don’t hate me, I was looking at setting up the same video for my site, there’s a person on Fiverr who will do it for $5.

    Great tutorial and links. Like one person commented above, you can find some pretty cool videos (semi) pros will edit for you on Fiverr. Great site.

    • Jon Morrow says:

      If people are willing to do a trailer like this for you on Fiverr, then you should absolutely go for it. That’s an amazing price.

  16. Nice article and video, but why did you wrap the video in flash, which leaves it blacked-out to non-flash-capable devices. I saw this article on an iphone, but had to go to a desktop computer to see the finished product in a flash player.

    The subscriber rate would arguably go up if the video was wrapped in HTML5 with a fallback to flash to ensure practically every user is capable of seeing the video.

    The video and the method you used to create it is great, but give usability just as much attention to optimize success.

    • Jon Morrow says:

      I did it in Flash because that’s all this particular page template supported, and I didn’t want to mess around with integrating an HTML5 player. In my experience, folks on mobile devices don’t usually opt in as much, so it wasn’t a high priority.

      But it’s true, HTML5 is the way of the future. Switching all of my videos over to it is on the to do list. :-)

  17. Kevin says:

    Jon,

    I like the movie trailer you made. One thing– I like it better when I have control over stopping or pausing the movie.

    Another way to make a movie trailer on the cheap is to use iMovie 11. Cost about $15.00 if you have a Mac. There are 15 read to go different trailers that you can customize. Just drop some video clips in, cut and edit using the storyboard and outline and you can put something nice together in a short time.

    I did this movie trailer for my egg in a bottle demonstration.
    http://siyensya.com/2011/05/16/the-egg-in-the-bottle-demonstration-video/

    Kevin

    • Jon Morrow says:

      Yep, everybody likes it better when they have playback controls. The problem is, those controls also reduce conversion by quite a bit. Around 20% from most of my tests.

      And yes, iMovie is a decent alternative if you can’t or don’t want to do After Effects. It’s not near as powerful, nor do you have as many template options, but it will do in a pinch. Thanks for bringing it up.

  18. Drewry says:

    I’m looking for good affordable professional video editing program that comes with special effects. If you happen to know one, please make a blog post about it, and I’ll double back to check up on it :-)

  19. Ed says:

    Really impressed with the Video Hive webite. Also,I know that iMovie on the Mac has some trailer templates as well. These could be adapted for the same purpose.

  20. Fleur says:

    I’m looking into creating a trailer for our blog so this article comes in handy! The only thing is that After Effects is such a heavy application, especially if I’m only going to use it to create a simple trailer. I will give a go with iMovie!

  21. Zuo says:

    I find hard to keep on posting fresh blog every so often. I realised that everything need to make effort to gain. When I blog every 2-3 days, my blog Alexa record up to 300,000, then I becoming tired of doing so, no new content for a month, the Alexa ranking soon sliding down to 1,000,000.

  22. Morné says:

    Hi Jon,

    Some nice tips you gave there, I’m going to check out videohive for some awesome video content. I just got a few ideas from this post ;)

    Thanks

  23. Edgar says:

    I know a better and cheaper way to get a trailer video.. its called fiverr.com there are hundrends of people willing to do videos for 5 bucks…

  24. Hello Jon. Love this strategy and I am in the process of implementing it over at my new site http://downnotout.net but I am running into some issues.

    I am not really a graphic designer but I am pretty familiar with wordpress. Most of the themes still have headers, footers and sidebars on every page. Can you detail how you actually make a full screen video page for the homepage using wordpress that a non-techie could understand. I think I can pretty much handle everything else. I have been stuck on this for a few days not. Thanks