How much does it cost for an Indie Game Trailer? A look at the different trailer types, and my rates as a freelance Video Producer for Indie Games

I have always found these questions to be difficult to answer in specifics. When someone asks 'What are your rates', or 'What would a trailer cost for my new game?' It's not exactly a bad question either, it's just it's a little more complicated than giving any real number stright up. There are a lot of things that go into the price of a trailer. I have written this article to outline some of my considerations, and own reasons as to why why certain trailers might cost more than others.

Make Planning Easy

My first reply often is, what sort of trailer are you after? Different trailers are created for different reasons. Not every game is sold the same way, to the same person, and different production costs might not always add value even if it produces a better trailer in the end. We need to identify these things and work to create a plan which gets the most out of our trailer for our budget.

It is so important to plan out things before hand. It gives me a goal of what both our ideas are for the trailer, and how we'd like to work together. Alongside this, it also gives me an idea of how much you want to be included in the process.

  • What is your budget? A ballpark figure helps more than you might think.
  • When do you need the trailer complete by?

Once I know all of these things, we can begin to form a plan and structure to the trailer. We will also need to figure out what assets we need. If our trailer requires certain voice over work, has a lot of visual effects and custom animations, it will add a significant amount of time and costs to the production. This is, of course, assuming they all add value to the end product. Not every trailer benefits from this, so that's why planning is essential. I like to work on a fixed fee contract, so getting the planning right is important to me. That said, some projects benefit from hourly fees. Here are a few things I consider during the planning stage:

  • Do we need a voice over artist?
  • Do we need a custom soundtrack?
  • Do we need stock footage, graphics or a custom font?
  • When recording footage, will we need an external source of recording (such as actors or players for VR games, interactive board games or mobile games in the third person)?
Planning out a game trailer with a mind map, and organising assets for a cost plan.

I use mind maps to consider new concepts and ideas when creating my trailers. It is a great method of breaking down individual features and elements of the trailer.

Once we have a plan, we can begin production. Every game needs to be promoted in a different way. Are we looking at creating a conventional trailer and is it worth writing in extra time for experimentation? What sort of footage would best shows off your game, how will we capture it, and are we allowing for re-capture should we need it? Who is your audience, and what sort of trailer are we producing? (Are you launching your game, announcing it, or updating it?)

Another quick way to get planning and costs figured out is bringing a few reference links. Whether that's for similar games or a completely different product, not only do these help us identify what sort of trailer and style you are looking for, but it also gives us ways of examining what was done well by the video, and what wasn't, so we can figure out how best to apply these concepts to our trailer.

As I mentioned before, not every trailer will benefit from a higher production value. Even if your budget is low, there are ways we can promote the game very effectively through video. I like to identify the scope of the project before hand so we can safely develop a plan for the budget.

How long will a trailer take to complete?

Much like the costs, this is entirely dependent upon the game and the trailer we are trying to make. I work on a lot of launch trailers, and more often than not, the game is not yet complete at the point of starting the trailer production. To plan for this, we look to schedule extra days which allow us to record draft footage, or we record what we can nice and early, and leave the collecting footage or assets which are to be fixed until the end. This ensures that we have a trailer which is representative of the game your audience will get. It shows your game in the best light possible and gives us an excellent way of refining the workflow.

I also like to leave time for feedback during the course of a project. Being critical of your productions is key to getting the most out of them. I always like to note in time for revisions. If we feel like the game might need a lot of them, this will of course make the project last longer and costs might increase, however.

How long does a game trailer take to make?

A trailer can take anything from less than a week to several weeks to complete, depending on the scope of the project.

Asset List

I thought I'd also talk a little about an asset list. Depending on the trailer, there are quite a few moving parts to be considered, and planning for them while making their costs apparent is key to producing a great trailer alongside the schedule.

  • Footage. Game play! One of the most important considerations for any game, is how it should be played! We need to figure out what is being recorded, how it is being recorded, and who is doing it. I always like to play the game I am working on before I write my script. It helps a lot, and gives me a better feel for what sort of experience the game developer was trying to achieve. There are different ways of capturing footage though, and we're looking to make the game shine here. Being picky with what footage you show is key as you can really pack in a lot about a game in just a few clips.
    • 4k? 1080p? Mobile phone capture? VR Capture? Third person? Is the game stable yet? Are there specific sections of game play which work really well for a trailer which are hard to capture? How many takes do we need? Are we looking for multiple camera angles of one shot? You always want to show the game naturally, as to not throw off your audience from making them think it is something else.
  • Soundtrack. Do you already have a license in mind for a trailer use? Do you want a custom remix of the game soundtrack?
  • SFX. Mixing the audio track is a really important part of any trailer. Considering the sound effects is just as important as the visual and video work. It's a subtle consideration, but a heavily animated trailer might need a lot of custom sound work. Including game play sound is also big on launch trailers. You want the trailer to be honest.
  • Voice Overs. It is worth considering hiring a voice actor for your trailer. When used in the right situation, it adds a lot of production value to the trailer, and can really help make your trailer more accessible. Not everyone is looking at a trailer, and not everyone is listening. Accessibility is key to engaging people.
  • Graphics. Layered logos make my job a lot easier. It gives your artists and editors a chance to animate the individual elements to great effect. Alongside graphics, considerations for titles and custom graphics are included too. Reusable game assets help a lot in this regard, so anything you can provide helps!
  • Text / Copy / Titles. Alongside VO, graphics and font, I thought i'd include this. Sometimes, I write the script for a trailer, other times, the developer has a way with words and likes to create amazing scripts for the VO and titles themselves. You want your text and titles to be concise and effective. A fine balance between the onscreen video, text and audio information is important to the final production.
  • Fonts. Having a custom font for a trailer is a great way to really nail down on the style of the titles and captions. I try to keep trailers not too text heavy, but having a specific type in mind when producing can go a long way to add detail and push a certain style further.

Getting In Touch

The best way to know for sure would be to get in touch and tell me a little about yourself and your game, and what you hope to achieve with the trailer given what I have mentioned here. Being a great client can help us not only identify quickly what your trailer will cost and what we will need to achieve it, but it also helps down the line with getting a much better result due to good planning and communication. It is key, in my books to be transparent about these things. So I hope this article helps you understand a little more about what goes into my process, and how a project might go when we work together on a trailer for your game. If you'd like to get in touch about creating something together. You can send me an email at: info@hiadammarshall.com



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