Making a Magical Trailer

trailer still image

Most of the time on this blog, we write about the artistic process in the rehearsal room, onstage or in one of our shops. Today I want to share a different kind of artistic process with you – and it begins with something I first saw yesterday, after our final A Midsummer Night’s Dream run-through in the rehearsal room. Earlier in the day, Geva’s marketing department released the trailer for our production, which begins preview performances on Wednesday, May 8 and opens the following Saturday. I was so impressed by the video, which you can see here, that I asked Geva’s graphic designer Chris Holden to tell me how he did it. He agreed to give us a behind the scenes peek at his process.

Chris writes:

The goal of a trailer is to excite and interest the viewer in the hope that they rush out and buy a ticket!  With a movie trailer, clips from the film will usually be cut together with music to give the audience some idea of the plot and who the stars are, but with a theatre production, (especially one that isn’t yet on stage) I usually don’t have any footage with which to work.  Therefore, everything in the trailer needs to be created from scratch.  For A Midsummer Night’s Dream I knew that I wanted to communicate the ‘feel’ of the play, rather than to try and portray a specific scene.  I also knew that the voiceover would help to let people know what the play is about.  I wanted to create a magical atmosphere, and since our other advertising artwork for the show features the forest in which the play is set, it seemed logical to use that as a backdrop.

layer screen shot

We use Adobe After Effects to create our trailers.  This is a powerful visual effects program in which I created a virtual 3D ‘set’ of a floor and three walls.  Onto this set I dropped 2D layers of tree images.  By moving the images around in 3D space, I created the illusion of depth.   This image to the right is a view of all the layers involved in creating what you see in the trailer. Each box represents an object – a tree or group of trees, for instance.

Lighting and other special visual effects can also be added to the virtual set, just like on a real stage set.  Using virtual lights, I created the moody nighttime look, while extra lights highlighted specific areas of the set.

 A particle generator system was used to create the sparkling trail of lights, and I animated a glowing lens flare over the trail, working frame by frame to make sure it stayed on course.  A different particle system was used to generate the ‘fireflies’ throughout the scene.  Stock footage of smoke was layered in to create the misty atmosphere, and more lens flare effects became shafts of moonlight.

 A virtual camera was then animated to move through the space, and by adjusting the pitch and roll of the camera I was able to create the illusion that we are flying through the forest.  I animated the camera to linger at different moments to give us time to read the text.

 This is the most technically complex video I have yet created to advertise a production, but it seemed a fitting way to celebrate the final show of our 40th season.  Thanks for watching!

 If what Chris has said is too technical for you (and I promise you, it was for me…), he also gave me a visual description. The video you’ll find if you follow this link shows you in steps the layers that Chris created, which, when taken together, depict the beautiful forest for the trailer. If this doesn’t make you long to join us at the theatre for a performance of Midsummer, I don’t know what will…


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