Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Filmora Video Editor - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

You asked for it. Here's my review of the Filmora Video Editing Software by Wondershare.

First, take a look at this video I just put together with it and judge for yourself.

In a nutshell, I like it but this software is a little glitchy so far.

Overall I'm happy with the results but I did have to restart the program several times because of an error when it froze trying to upload some photos.

I really like a lot of the special effects and filters it offers, although I think they could improve on their panning and zooming effects.

I can only compare Filmora to Apple's iMovie or Window's Movie maker because those are the two video editing programs I was familiar with. What can I say, each of these editors has its own limitations depending what your expectations are.

At one point I had bought a number of filters and effects for WMM and I was happy with the results for a while. Back then my biggest complaint was Movie Maker's lack of Blur effects. WMM's panning and zooming effects were quite adequate in my opinion and the software was very wasy to learn and use.

Filmora has tons of cool effects and filters, overlays, you name it, this software includes plenty of great effects and if you're into text effects, they've got that covered too. Where Filmora falls a little short, for me, is with it all important panning and zooming effects.

Some of them are very good and useful, however, its most important and most useful basic zooms and pans are missing altogether. That's a shame because otherwise, I think Filmora is an excellent program despite its occasional glitches.

I sure had a great time working with it and taking advantage of all it has to offer. I only wish they had focused on essential zooming elements, such as zoom to right corner, pan from upper left, to lower right, etc.

The kinds of zooms best mimic camera movements and without them I find myself a bit stuck and unable to get the exact look and feel I'm after.

Timeline screenshot for the making of Millennium Trailer
In all fairness to Filmora, I suppose it depends what you expect from the software. I'm sure most users are thrilled with the effects it has to offer if you're just interested in making some cool home movies. But if you want a more professional feel to your videos, you might want to look at other high-end editing programs such as Vegas Movie Studio or even Apple's Final Cut software.

The bottom line is that for the price-point of $59, I think Filmora is a great deal and then some.

You can download a free trial version here and judge for yourself:

Filmora Video Editing

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Board Game Design - Really?

You've got to be kidding me. Board games?

Okay, okay. I get it. This is a book trailer design site. More about book trailers later. (buzzer) Yeah, sort of because it's really all about marketing and promotions so anything goes.

Here's the thing. The focus here is book trailers, as long as that market holds up. Notice I haven't been here for a while and my last article was about a book, not a trailer.

Once demand winds down for reasons beyond my control, I latch on to something else. Whatever comes my way or hits my fancy.

Besides, it so happens that package design is my first passion and one of my favorite things to do. Well, it's more than package design because it's about game design right now. For me this is a challenge because I'm not really a board game geek but I do enjoy a good game once in a while and so in an effort to make board games that I'd really enjoy playing, I decided to design one myself.

The problem with most board games for me is that they're not very engaging. They seem technical and take a long time to learn to play. Some of these rule books are more like manuals. Confusing manuals at that.

"The problem with most board games
for me is that they're not very engaging."

My goal is to design a board game that's fun to play and easy to learn. And that's where Millennium comes in. But like book trailers, novels, movies, or anything else for that matter, it's all about the concept and themes. In this case, the Apocalypse, End of Days, a dark future, take your pick. The themes are timeless so I can't go wrong with that.

Beyond concept and themes, there is story of course and besides that you've got a bit of magic you must add to the equation among other things. Yes, just as they say about relationships, it's complicated. Always is and nothing worth pursuing is ever that easy.

I'm only about half way done with Millennium and it's been about six months so all together it's about a year invested when all is said and done. Not for the faint of heart and quitting is easy to contemplate but the show must go on if you want to reap the rewards down the line if you're lucky enough.

Millennium Game Board in Development
I don't work with a team. I am the team. A one-man band and that's the way I like it. You know what they say about too many cooks.

This is a challenge but so far I've started designing 5 games and almost finished with three of them, including this one. Finishing is sometimes the hardest and longest part because that's where all the changes and refinements come into play. So it can feel like you're stuck at times but you press on towards the finish line.

My master plan is to have Millennium on the market for this coming Christmas season. (laugh track here). I think it's more like 2018 but sometimes you have to set impossible goals to get momentum going.

If you'd like to learn more about Starship Games TM and FunSpot Games TM, two gaming brands I'm developing, see more here:
Board Game News.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Book Cover Design


This is my latest book cover design for a dear friend who has stuck with me and has turned out to be one of my best clients and a repeat customer. I haven't read this book because I don't think it's out yet. But here's another book (below) from this author that I like (Cruel Harvest) and added to my collection of hardcover books.

Click on the cover to learn more.

Monday, July 27, 2015

WOLF WINTER by Cecilia Ekback - Great Story, Awesome Book Trailer


Sometimes you come across a book and a trailer that seduces you. This happens to be one of those books and one of those trailers. Everything about this trailer, the book cover, its title, its color, is quite effective and eye-catching. 

Turns out this is a debut novel and a good one at that. My main purpose for posting it here is to show how a simple video can help promote your book when done at this level. Whether it was intentional or not, I don't know, but all that white space helps this trailer stand out among the sea of dark trailers.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Your Book Trailer's Opening Scene - Which Way To Go

Outline Your Book Trailer with this Hollywood Trick:

Once upon a time, I was an aspiring screenwriter. (still am, but who cares) In fact, screenwriting was how I got started writing novels, so I've learned a trick or two from the pros on how to pitch your screenplay to Hollywood.

Novelists can use this same technique to fine-tune their book trailers.

Traditionally, screenwriters pitch a logline of their script, which is a brief sentence or two, or a short paragraph outline for the movie.

Titanic Logline:
A seventeen-year-old aristocrat, expecting to be married to a rich claimant by her mother, falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.

This logline is all about the love story and along with  loglines, screenwriters also mock-up sample posters. The reasoning is, if you can't envision the poster, the movie won't work.

Think about this idea. A logline and a poster do one very important thing for your story: they help you define the core story question. In other words, Titanic is really about a love story between an aristocrat and a poor, starving artist. On a broader scale, it's also about social classes and its disparities when it comes to true love. But that only covers the genre: A love story.

You can write hundreds of love stories, but what sets them apart? It's always, boy meets girl, girl hates boy, and in the end, they fall in love and live happily ever after. Right, but what makes these stories unique? That's where your story question, the driving force behind your story, comes into play. In Titanic, the main conflict is all about The Heart of the Ocean jewel, a rare, blue diamond, and its whereabouts. Who owns it? Was it stolen, or is it lost on the bottom of the ocean floor?

But, the plot thickens, and that leads to a love affair, a feud for the lost diamond, and then a sinking ship, among several other subplots thrown in for good measure. Wow, what a powder keg this story sits on!  So how do you sort it all out and what opening do you choose for your trailer?

Let's see, James Cameron chose to frame this story within the context of this core story question. What happened to the Heart of the Ocean diamond? It's a fictitious tale, book-ended to frame the true history of the Titanic's demise. Why? Because without this "literary" device, the real story of Titanic is nothing more than a documentary. And that's not as exciting as a 3 hour movie with a complex structure and a myriad of intriguing subplots.

The poster, however, mentions nothing about the diamond. The poster focuses entirely on their love affair. Notice the imagery. A young couple in love, and a ship seemingly splitting them apart. Then the tag line: Nothing on earth could come between them. Really?  Not quite, because that's exactly what happens. That tagline does a tremendous job launching the main theme of the story: True love conquers all. That's really what this Titanic movie is all about. Everything else is context, subtext, and icing on the proverbial cake. And what a multi-layered cake it is.

So how does all this relate to your book trailer? Simple, you need a hook to launch your book trailer, a logline, of sorts, that says: here's the essence of this book. This is what this book is really all about.  And you need to show it with vibrant images, sound, and voiceovers if necessary. You need to pose a story question that sets the tone for the book and the trailer, from frame one. Think theme and think genre.

The official Titanic movie trailer runs long at 4:09 minutes. That's about twice the length of most trailers, however, this is a long movie with a rather complex plotline, but those digital shots of the Titanic are breathtaking and interesting to watch, so it all holds up.

Look at this way, the marketing folks chose to saturate their marketing with different points of view. Very smart because, why would you want to repeat the same message in the poster and in the movie trailer? That's redundant and a waste of marketing dollars. Instead, they chose to angle the poster as a love story, (after all, you must keep its message simple) and showcase the trailer with a historical POV, focusing on the rare diamond, the feud over its disappearance, and the race against time to save themselves aboard a sinking ship. Hence, a four minute trailer.

Whew! This is exhausting just writing about it. It's no wonder the budget for Titanic was about 200 million. Ridiculous, but most likely, necessary.

The bottom line here is that when you outline your book trailer, think about the story theme and the story genre. Because that's where most of the images and music comes from. Musical scores are all about genre. Images are also about genre, but they can be specific to scenes too, so you have to decide early which way to go. What's your focus? Is it theme, or is it a specific scene in the book? A scene that covers the main theme, or the opening scene, or hook. Your choice.

Once you pinpoint your short synopsis (logline) and envision a (movie) book poster for your book, you're on your way to finding the best way (which scene or images to use) to open your book trailer. Starting a trailer is a lot like staring at a blank canvas, or an empty screen with a blinking cursor. Where do you begin? What launches the story? What are the circumstances that set it off?

What will engage the viewer and hold their interest for the next 90 seconds or several minutes? And how will those images, those questions, inspire viewers to keep searching for more answers?
Realize this:
 Your book trailer is an open-ended question, a curiosity that leads viewers 
on a quest for final answers, and consequently, closure.

Without this mindset, all your efforts, all your hard work will lead to nothing more than a slideshow of something that vaguely resembles your story. Apply these principles and techniques to your writing, to all your marketing, and to your book trailers, and see the amazing difference it can make in how readers perceive your book, its story, and ultimately, your book sales.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

STARSHIP BOOK VIDEOS - The Future of Your Book is Here


Book marketing is author marketing for the most part. Just the mention of some authors, Harper Lee, of To Kill a Mockingbird fame, in this case, and you instantly relate to her one and only novel, or so we thought, since her "new" novel, Go Set a Watchman is scheduled to be released this July, we'll soon have two books we can attribute to her.

Watchman, as you may already know, was the original Mockingbird, which her editor at the time, Tay Hohoff, suggested Lee skew in another direction, thus, TKM was born. This is interesting because the new book, was actually written before Mockingbird, and will now stand as a sequel to it.

Praise for clever editors, I suppose, although the big question remains; how much, if any part of this new book has Harper Lee re-written under the advice of her new editor(s) at HarperCollins? Some of it, or perhaps, none of it is safe to say based on Lee's mental health and rumors circulating in Monroeville. To a great extent that is irrelevant at this point. 

Based on Lee's comments regarding her publishing another book, we can assume she had little to do with polishing this version of her original Mockingbird manuscript. Lee has said that she didn't want any attention or publicity about a new book at this point in her life. Who's to say what's what? Except for Harper Lee, who thought the original manuscript was forever lost and has suddenly surfaced.

The real curiosity here is not only all the buzz surrounding Lee's reclusive life throughout the years, but we're all eager to know what her original intent for Mockingbird was, aside from what we already know. Lee says that her original story was about an older woman, named Scout who visited her hometown family and wanted to find out about her father's views about the world. Many of the same characters populate both novels in the fictional Alabama town of Maycomb.

HarperCollins will print 2 million copies of the new book and advance orders on have already pushed Watchman to number one bestseller status. Publicity is everything. Although, I'll admit that Lee's original story sounds interesting enough on its own. As its publisher, the president of HarperCollins,  Mr. Morrison asserts, "I've read the book twice, and it's fantastic," he said. 

Hopefully, millions of readers will agree.

However, book marketing doesn't always lead with the author as in Lee's example. If a story is of topical interest or controversial, it certainly has legs of its own to run on. Take JFK's assassination for instance. Enough said. How about a fictional tale such as, The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins was virtually unknown at the time of this book's publication, but the controversial story helped push it to bestseller status almost instantly, and then of course the movie did wonders for it thereafter.

Back in the 60's, Harper Lee's somewhat autobiographical story was not only topical, born right out of the Civil Rights Movement, but controversial as well, plus the movie, starring Gregory peck, was also a huge push. Never mind legs, this book had centipede legs right out of the gate.

Unknown authors take heart. There is hope if your amazing story has legs. Note the adjective. Yes folks, ordinary stories need not apply. Ordinary stories are the amputees of the literary world. They have no legs to run on. No fuel for the fire. No spark to ignite a fire for that matter. 

Stories need a catalyst. They need a strong hook and it helps if they are current and controversial all at once. All these factors create buzz, which leads to movie deals and consequently, more book sales. And let's not forget that if your story happens to be of social importance at the time of its publication, well, then you get to be featured in public schools and your story can live, and sell, forever.

Not a bad deal if you can write one. It is possible to conjure up such a story if you consider all these factors and if all the stars and moons align for you at the most opportune moment in time.

What about a book trailer you ask? Oh, right. That's what this article was all about to begin with. Yeah, you'll need one of those as part of your marketing mix these days. Book trailers are like a badge of honor. They give readers a glimpse, a taste of what your amazing story is about in 90 seconds or less. 

And when done right, book trailers arouse curiosity, help build author branding, and motivate readers to look into your story for answers to the profound questions raised in your book trailer.

Profound or profoundly amusing because nothing else will do.  Literature is not for the faint of heart or faint of spirit for that matter. 

Popular stories hinge on relevant concepts that ask profound questions, which in turn, demand provocative answers. We are curious creatures by nature and nothing arouses our curiosity more than images that awaken our deepest desires.
That being said, all stories are subject to individual interpretation on the page as well as on screen. And that's the beauty of literature and art alike, it is always in the eyes of the beholder.

Amen to that. Enjoy the Starship Trailer.