Making the Winter’s Light Trailer – Part 3

by M.J. Hearle

The editing of the Winter’s Light Trailer went pretty smoothly, mainly because I didn’t have much footage to tinker with. I’d shot sparsely – too sparsely it turned out as I was stuck with one wide shot that didn’t match the close-ups. If you watch the trailer you can probably spot it (hint: it’s towards the end). Once the footage was cut together, I was ready for the next stage: visual FX.

My ambitions were small. I wasn’t attempting AVATAR quality CGI, just a simple glowing effect which I knew I could achieve with a program called After Effects (AE). I’d never used AE before, however I’m a whiz with Photoshop and figured it couldn’t be much more complex. I was wrong. To operate AE, I’d recommend a doctorate in quantum physics. Without expertise in mathematical formulae you’ll find yourself, much as I did, staring at the screen with slack-jawed incomprehension. It took hours of studying YouTube tutorials before I could figure out how to achieve a reasonable looking glowing effect and even then it was more through blind luck than anything else. Lots of button mashing was involved.

After I had my visual FX composited in, it was on to the colour grading stage. For those, unfamiliar with this concept, colour grading is when you take the raw video footage and tweak the colours digitally until you get the specific visual look you’re after. For my purposes, I wanted the trailer to have the ‘Twilight’ look which meant ramping up my ‘blues’ and desaturating the other colours. Upon making this change, I noticed a problem. Genevieve’s beautiful red hair was no longer red: it was greeny-brown. More tweaking was necessary on the Winter shots but I never did manage to replicate her true hair colour. My apologies, Genevieve.

The colour grading was the final step in locking down the visuals. The only production step left was adding an aural component to the teaser. Firstly, was the sound FX which were pretty easy to layer in. Just some ocean sounds, thunder and wind blowing through the trees. The score was a little trickier and I wish I’d given myself more time to work on it. I used a program called Garageband to mix the loops and create some simple melodies. There’s a Garageband function which transforms your keyboard into an electronic piano. I spent five years learning the piano when I was a kid, so I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with playing music but it’s much harder composing on a computer than it is with an actual instrument. In the end, I kept the score very basic – five notes layered in different ways with lots of reverb.

Some final thoughts on the end product:

I wish I’d done more prep work. By that, I mean I should have storyboarded every shot before picking up the camera.

The location worked out fine but I wish I’d chosen a longer, less rocky beach. The beach in the story is barren and stretches on for miles. There’s actually a similar beach in Port Macquarie I could have used but I was worried it would have been crowded during the holiday period.

I was delighted with the crisp picture quality and lighting. Of course these factors were completely out of my control. I love the lodestone prop my parents were able to cobble together. I think Genevieve does a fantastic job with the little direction I offered her.

Ultimately, I’m pleased the trailer. It was challenging flexing the old filmmaking skills again, but also a ridiculous amount of fun. So much fun that I might even try to shoot a few more clips over the coming months. However, I’ll probably pick scenes with no special FX requirements. After Effects and I are not friends. Making movies is hard enough without having to do maths.