My View from the Passenger’s Seat, with Comments by the Creator/Director
LIANA BURRAGE – VIDEO CREATOR EXTRAORDINAIRE
I guess it started when I asked Liana at very short notice if she could create a trailer for Ferren and the Angel, and she said yes. I’d been impressed by her trailer for The Hidden Keystone (Book 1 of The Salt Linesduology). I didn’t know how lucky I was – for many reasons! – but one reason was that I’d hit on a moment when she had a window of opportunity.
LIANA COMMENTS: The timing really couldn’t have been better! I had a break between my semesters when Richard reached out to me. As a university student who is currently studying a Bachelor of Media and Communications, the chance to design a trailer for Ferren and the Angel was an amazing opportunity to practice what I’ve learnt.
I did some thinking and sent her a first attempt at a script. I had no idea what was possible or impossible with her software, so I put myself in the position of a movie director with an infinite budget where the sky’s the limit.
OPENING: Strange haunting sounds of battle … as a black screen opens up in an irregular horizontal slit, gradually wider to reveal a boiling, turbulent night … The opening up effect is vaguely like someone lifting a blanket to peer out.
OVERVOICE: ‘In the war between the armies of Heaven and the armies of Earth, endless battles take place in the sky. They have been going on for a thousand years … blah, blah … until –‘
NEW IMAGE OF A TINY LIGHT IN THE SKY GROWING LARGER, HURTLING TOWARDS US
OVERVOICE: ‘- until the night when the angel Miriael is shot down from the sky and crashes to the Earth.’
IMAGE OF ANGEL FROM THE BOOK’S COVER, maybe starts out spinning like a ball, then comes clear and steady as approaches. Accompanied by an approaching shriek, as the angel image enlarges to extreme close-up and disappears into total brightness, followed by a dull ‘crump’
A MOMENT OF SILENCE AND BLACKNESS. Then a horizontal slit opens up again … only now we’re looking in from outside, seeing two eyes (Ferren) looking out …
OVERVOICE: ‘Ferren has been watching the battles in the night sky. When he sees the light coming crashing down out of the sky, he resolves to go and investigate.’
MAP OF THE WORLD comes up, focus moves over it.
OVERVOICE: ‘Ferren belongs to a tribe called the People. He knows almost nothing about the world he’s grown up in. A thousand years of warfare have turned the Earth into a very strange and terrible place… He’s about to discover many things -‘
TITLE FROM BOOK COVER COMES UP
‘- all recorded by Richard Harland in his new book, Ferren and the Angel.
… BOOK COVER IMAGE EXPANDS TO INCLUDE THE WHOLE COVER
‘Ferren’s encounter and unique friendship with the angel Miriael will change the course of history.’
Far too much overvoice, as it turned out, and various visual effects that didn’t work in practice (like the spinning angel and the lifting of the blanket). Amazingly, though, a fair bit of the original script is still there in the final product – even though Liana had to jump through many, many hoops to get it there!
She started with the voiceover, which was a big surprise to me, because I thought the audio would come last. She ran into an actor friend, Petra, decided that Petra’s voice would be perfect for the narration and sent some samples, like this –
LIANA ADDS: Yes, I am super grateful that my beautiful friend Petra Williamson agreed to be the voice of the trailer. We had a lot of fun building a fort of pillows and blankets around my iPhone, our makeshift soundproof recording studio. I wanted to develop the voiceover first as in my experience it acts as a backbone for the rest of the project. It sets up the narrative, pace and atmosphere for the rest of the trailer to follow.
I loved the idea of playing Petra’s soft, smooth tone against the harsh sounds of supernatural battle – wonderful contrast!
For visuals, we had the book cover and the map, but we had to search for other images and clips – which had to be non-copyright and fee-free. We were never going to find a clip of an angel shot and hurtling down out of the night sky, but we found something almost as good. Not an angel but a meteor! The clip was in a TV news item, using footage that someone had taken of an actual meteor coming down not far from Perth. Liana used her magic to trim and manipulate it into exactly the right look …
Then we needed the sound to go with it: a drawn-out falling scream. It’s a famous sound effect, so famous it even has its own Hollywood name, the ‘Wilhelm scream’. You’d think it would be easy to find, with all those cowboys falling from cliffs in slow motion – but not slo-mo enough to match with our meteor-angel. I don’t know what digital trickery Liana used to stretch out a Wilhelm scream from FreeSound (love FreeSound! they’re the best!), but she did it.
Talking of FreeSound, I was looking for Wilhelm screams and other sound effects when I stumbled on a perfect piece of music for the trailer – dramatic, suspenseful, building up, plus I liked it as music too. Hats off to you, MATRIXX, for “The Battle Between Scorpio and Orion”! We decided to use the music building up to a crescendo for the second half of the trailer while using pure sound effects for the first night sky segment.
LIANA COMMENTS: We decided that the first 30 seconds should build an atmosphere through ambient sounds. Here I couldn’t rely on a backing track but had to develop the soundscape through many layers of sound effects, something I reworked many times until it felt right. In the final rendition, there were 27 sound layers just within the first 30 seconds of the trailer.
So with the music settled, another sound effect or two and a visual of a stormy night sky, Liana was ready to produce a first draft version. I don’t really understand what she meant by ‘blocking’, but she called this the ‘blocking phase’ – getting the different elements lined up in terms of timing, I think.
LIANA ON THE BLOCKING PHASE: I must admit this was the most exciting stage! In the blocking phase, I lined up images and sound with a focus on the pacing and rhythm of the project. This was still quite rough and had minimal editing but gave a feel for what the sound and images looked like together.
The segment of Miriael’s fall from the sky was spot-on almost right from the start! It set a high standard – to try and make every other segment as good as that!
So then Liana started serious work on the battle in the night sky segment, which needed many more sound effects and more clips and images. The aim was to produce an impression of supernatural war … mysterious, baffling, suggestive. We found a whole lot of battle sounds – just look at the credits to see how many! Battle horn effects worked particularly well. Liana overlaid sound on top of sound on top of sound, fading them in and out … continuity and ‘smoothing’ were words she used a lot.
LIANA ADDS: I must admit editing all of these sound effects together was a tedious task, however, it was definitely worth it! Deciding which audio samples should be in the foreground compared to the background was something I enjoyed experimenting with.
Same with the visuals for that segment. Liana overlaid one image on top of another, making them blend and merge – nothing quite clear, but an impression of vast warlike activities on a cosmic scale. She didn’t need specific pictures of warring battalions on either side – it’s all done by the power of suggestion.
So then came more drafts. The third draft brought in two new elements – Ferren’s eyes in the dark, plus a new introductory segment. Liana produced that with no input from me – I could only gasp and admit it worked far better than anything I’d scripted.
LIANA ON THE INTRODUCTORY SEGMENT: I really wanted to grab people’s attention at the start of the trailer so I drafted a dramatic opening title. The sound of a war horn and the rumble of thunder paired with the golden text enabled this visually and audibly. Plus, the title matched the title of the book itself, a nice way to tie it all together.
Liana’s email that came with that version gives an idea of all the small and large creative improvements:
“ I’ll walk you through what I’ve done step by step:
- With the opening title, I added more of the golden glowing light particles.
- I removed the widening slot effect and added a fade in from black to the sky.
- As you’ve probably noticed, I added your recoloured sky image and added some flying lights from one of the videos you sent me (I think it looks very beautiful and dramatic)!
- I also added two battle scream sound effects and the war horn sound effect (they definitely build the right atmosphere).
- I left Miriael’s meteor fall as is, so glad you like it 🙂
- I added a fade-in to Ferren’s eyes.
- I also added a couple of zoom-in effects into the map.
- I moved the sound effect which was after the crash and moved it after the “everything will change” crescendo
- I added an almost angelic glow on your name and the title of the book.
- I have also added ‘YA Fantasy’ and ‘coming (insert date)’.”
So now we were racing towards the final trailer – that is, Liana racing, and me putting in my two bob’s worth like a backseat passenger along for the ride. First everything had to be tightened and made to flow perfectly; then the map had to be animated, the cover zoomed, the credits rolled – and you wouldn’t believe how many small tweakings here and there.
But finally it was done! The final result is here on my HOME PAGE. I learned so much in the process – I was privileged, I think, to be a close-up observer and even a bit of a collaborator!
LIANA WRAPS IT UP: It was all such an enjoyable experience. I had such an amazing opportunity to challenge my editing skills whilst remaining true to the book. This experience has really taught me a lot about myself and has left me feeling very hopeful for the future once I graduate.