How to Edit Epic Trailers

How to Edit an Epic Trailer… and Make It BOOMZ

Melanie Foo Campbell

Melanie Foo Campbell

Principal Editor & Colourist

What is the secret to epicness?

How do you create a trailer that gives you goosebumps and makes you go “Whoa!!”?

There are some basic principles that are required to achieve a minimum level of epicness, and I’m going to show you how. The rest, well… it’ll come from your gut because afterall, we’re talking about art evoking feelings.

When you embark on your epic trailer, the shots, the soundbites, the music and sound effects all should come together to invoke the strongest feeling possible.. All your skills as an editor are concentrated in a minute of pure emotion, emotions that drag your audience in, removing them from their real world and taking them on a roller coaster journey of ups and downs, twists and turns that builds & builds and then boom… cut to black, epic ending line.. And everyone goes “whoaaaaa!”

Here in Singapore we call it ‘making it BOOMZ’

Boomz Adjective

1) a Boomz outfit: remarkable, extraordinary, staggering, incredible, outstanding, amazing, astonishing, marvelous, phenomenal…

*First coined by Ris Low, ex-Miss Singapore World 2009, during an interview with Straits Times Razor TV.

“If I’m feeling naughty then I’ll be wearing something RED and LOUD. Something….you know? BOOMz!”

We are lucky to have a team of passionate creators. If we are not creating for our customers, we are creating to level-up.

Our Creative Director keeps us on our toes. He’s always got a script at the ready to put us through our paces. As the Principal Editor at editlounge I work with our team to refine the editors skills. Trailers are a great way to do this.

I’m going to take you through one of our level-up edits to show you step by step how to build your own epic trailer. I’ll share the basics and some tips & tricks to help you make your next trailer boomz.

Step 1: It all starts with a good script

Epic Trailer

It’s an editor’s job to bring a script to life. 

When you get a script, read it and break it down. Take note of how the story flows, the story beats and where mood changes are, as this will roughly determine what kind of music you will need. Music is going to be your muse and help compliment each emotional beat.

Now, with the trailer in your mind, watch the show.

Step 2: Watch and take notes

Start going through the show and pull out all the soundbites that are in the script and place them in a ‘selects’ sequence.

Add markers with brief descriptions to beauty shots, dramatic shots, especially shots with movement. 

Even punchy soundbites that are not in the script but could fit in somewhere… they might come in handy later.

Any relevant scene, shot or sound bite that you instinctively gravitate to, mark it. When you’re on a creative roll later, you don’t want to be slowed down by tedious shot searching.

Keep your story in mind as you log. Take notes. Good prep makes a lot of difference.

Step 3: Build your structure

Play Video

Put everything in a sequence according to the script. Voiceovers, soundbites and GFX placeholders. That way you can see how the story flows, and if you’re roughly within your time limit or not. 

Don’t worry about filling in the shots just yet, focus on building the base structure first.

Watch it through with your director to make sure that you’re both happy with the structure and flow. This is a good time to make structural changes to the trailer story. If something doesn’t feel right at this point it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts.

In particular, sometimes soundbites sound better on paper than they do in reality. Intonation, speed of delivery, clarity, all these things are not apparent in the script and therefore you may have to change, move them or even lose them.

Keep in mind that once you put music, you’ll definitely make it a bit longer. So if you are over time, cut down your bites or switch them with shorter ones that have the same impact. 

Frankenbite to add drama.

Cutting out words in a sentence will make your soundbite punchier and give it more weight.

For example, this soundbite: 

Now that the grand finale is here, there can be no more slip ups. There’s no room for mistakes or error, because I have to give it all that I’ve got.”

but if you shorten it to this:

There can be no more slip ups. I have to give it all that I’ve got”

It’s mostly saying the same thing but with more punch. With the right music accent and shots over it, it’ll feel much more dramatic.

Step 4: Music music music

Play Video

Music is SO important to creating the mood and feel of an edit. 

Lay all your music tracks under your voiceover and soundbites. Unless you have music composed specifically for your trailer, it’s very rare to have just one track of music. You will typically have to mix a few different tracks in with some sound effects as well. 

Feel it as you go, if there’s a nice part of the music to accentuate, then space out your voiceover or soundbites accordingly. 

Find the right moments to add a dramatic pause by stopping the music and starting it again or changing to another track.

And remember, you can’t just randomly dissolve off one track and cut in another. You have to make sure the beats match and also use different parts of a track to build to what mood you’re trying to create. 

Step 5: Creating your Masterpiece

Play Video

Now, the fun part.

This is when you can start cutting in all your cool montages, putting in your effects and making your visual story flow.

One trick to making it Boomz is to turn up the volume in your edit suite and have the music play loudly as you edit… coz you have to feel it. 

Don’t just wallpaper the edit with meaningless shots. Make every shot count

Remember that the viewer will be watching once and has no context of the show itself, so clarity is very important. Every shot chosen must help the narrative move forward in some way.

Cut mini sequences that can tell the story quickly, using shots that compliment each other.

Use big sweeping wides, beautiful slow-mos or fast movement shots in time with the music. If you’re cutting a montage with shots that have a lot of movement, try to match the directions of the movement so that you end up with a more fluid edit.

Add pauses for dramatic effect, use transitions, flares and sound effects to accentuate moments. 

Final step: Boomz playback

Do a rough mix to make sure that all your soundbites are audible before you show anyone your trailer.

For extra Boomz effect, crank up the volume when you play it back for your director or producer. Make sure that they can hear all the words clearly as well as the music and effects that you’ve put in so that they can feel it as they watch.

Watch their reactions to see if they laugh or gasp at the right point. Sometimes what seems very obvious to you is not at all obvious to other people coz you’ve seen it a million times and they haven’t.

The aim is to get them to say wahhhhhh!! No changes. 🙂

So hopefully all these steps will help you get a sense of what you need to edit an epic trailer. You can watch my full epic trailer guide here.

For more thoughts on enhancing your edit by cutting to the beat you can also read Bev’s blog – Cutting to the Beat.

If you need any advice on how to improve your trailer, chat with me below, I’m always happy to help.

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