Finishing touches – Part 14: How to make a (good) promotional film
This is the latest instalment in our How To Make A (Good) Promotional Film series. If you missed previous posts or want to go right back to the beginning and find out what it’s all about, click here. New instalments will be released every Friday. Click here to have them emailed straight to your inbox the moment they go live.
The main picture edit has been approved; you’re so nearly there! But now for the little bits that really make the finished product. This is where we add production value.
We talked before about the importance of sound. You can’t make a good film without good quality sound. A lot of that comes from professionally recording the interviews and using live sound. But it’s important in the edit too.
Once you’ve locked down the picture edit, you need to do the sound edit. There are two options for this. The first is that your editor does it. Most good editors can handle a basic sound edit, and it will come as part of the package you agree with them. However, if you have the budget or sound is particularly important to your film, you may want to consider an external sound edit.
Unless you send it to a production house (an expensive route), it is usually best to use the same sound recordist to do your sound edit. A lot of recordists will also be sound designers. This person knows the environment and what they recorded, so they are best placed to do the edit. If this is a route you’re considering, discuss it before you book your sound person to find someone who offers design and edit as well as the actual recording.
A sound edit can mean simply balancing out the music, talking and background sound. It may also be adding additional sound design. When we discussed the importance of sound I shared our film for Saietta. In the final edit, we added a lot of sound elements to build the layers of interest – either stuff we had recorded on the day, or things that our editor had far too much fun making additional recordings of (tapping keyboards, clicking metal nails etc).
Have a listen, can you hear the added sound?
Music sets the atmosphere for the film. You can access your music through royalty-free online libraries.
Our usual practice is that I make a playlist of potential tracks that have the right ‘feel’ of what I’ve been imagining, and the editor will choose from these (or do a ‘find similar’ search) for the tracks that will work with the actual edit.
Often these libraries have the functionality to search by mood or instrumentation, which can be really helpful. Have a think about exactly what you’re trying to get across. Do you want this to be tense and dramatic; or uplifting and moving; or urgent; or mechanical and robotic…
The cheap way is to have one track that runs for the whole film. But that rarely works and will slowly drive your audience mad. In a 3-4 min film we usually use two or three tracks. Your music should follow that same overall narrative arc we discussed in the picture edit: The intro sets the scene and mood for the film; a music change for the middle keeps things moving and changes the pace; and the final music brings it all together and completes the picture.
(Note: In reality, you’ll choose your music when you do the picture edit – as the pictures should be edited to the beat or pacing of the music.)
And the right music really does make all the difference. One of our most popular films is for Kite Power Systems. There are a lot of reasons it came together so well, but a key one is the music track.
See what you think…
You know when you watch TV or films and there’s just something about the way it looks that makes it look like TV or film? Well, a lot of that is the grading. Grading is a bit like when you choose a filter on your Instagram photos.
A good grade can dramatically increase the quality of your film. To grade properly you can send the film to a specialist post-production house or freelancer that specialises in grading.
Your editor should be able to do a basic grade to make sure there is a similar look and feel throughout your film. And often that’s the only level of grading you can afford. But it is worth considering stretching the budget to include a full grade.
Your film may have intro titles. It will definitely have some sort of ending title – even if that’s just a screen with your logo and web address. And usually, it will include ‘lower thirds’ which are the name captions for the interviewees.
Having professional looking titles really adds to the production value of the overall film. It’s also a good way to ‘brand’ your film so it looks like ‘yours’. You ideally want a designer to work these up for you so that everything is on brand and looking good. Alternatively, you can share your brand guidelines with your editor who can develop titles following them.
You can also look at using animated titles for the lower thirds. You can buy templates for these, but you’ll need a programme such as AfterEffects to edit them.
Titles may be something your editor can handle, or you may need to get a separate designer or animator to help with these. Again, make sure you discuss this with your editor beforehand.
Subtitles are a great tool when displaying your film at events and other situations where the sound may not be fully audible. Subtitles are also becoming standard for online videos (YouTube etc.) to ensure content is accessible to those hard-of-hearing, foreign speakers, or anyone needing to watch content without sound (e.g. in a busy office).
You can create a seperate version of your film with ‘burnt on’ subtitles, and use this at events etc. You can also add a subtitle file to YouTube or other online hosting sites so that viewers have the option to switch subtitles on.
Your editor can manually add the subtitles or you can use an online service as you may have for the original transcription (especially if you want translations).
And finally, your film is finished!
Up next our FINAL post in this series – Part 15: Strategy and distribution.
Want to know more about our film service? Take a look at our website.
Have a film you want to make? Get in touch with our resident film producer.
Interested in what else we do at Life Size Media? Check out our marketing campaigns.