SHOW AND TELL

I think text on video advertisements can be a compelling way for Dungeon Masters Guild authors to market their creations (something Matt Rauscher, for example, did for his two Days of Blight adventures). That’s why I’m going to be putting one together for my first adventure, Blind Man’s Buff, which will be released later this summer.

However, in the meantime, I did the same thing for my illustrator and cartographer Randy Musseau, a Corner Brook, NL-based graphic designer who is also the creator of the Bay of Spirits fantasy setting. So I thought it would be helpful to share with you some of the techniques I used for that project, which promotes a free adventure Randy wrote called Blood in the Snow.

The cover of Blood on the Snow, an adventure in the Bay of the Spirits fantasy setting. (Randy Musseau)

The first step was to see what images he had available. I’m lucky because Randy is a talented artist, having thoroughly and beautifully illustrated the adventure. His maps, in particular, are an inspiration. However, I decided not to use his black and white drawings because they would look inconsistent with the ones that were full-colour. I also ruled out some of the other illustrations because they were too small or oriented vertically rather than horizontally (since they were designed for a page rather than a screen). That left me with two strong possibilities: the adventure’s cover shot and a map of Winterton, the hamlet where it takes place.

A map of Winterton, the village where Blood on the Snow takes place. (Randy Musseau)

From those images, I thought about what kind of narrative I could create. This is important because the text you use must relate to the images that are available. Otherwise, there will be a disjuncture between what the viewer sees and what the viewer reads. After that, I put together a really rough editing script for myself and opened up Final Cut to begin my work:

The editing script for Blood in the Snow’s text on video advertisement. (S.M. Holman)

The first segment of the advertisement uses the map of Winterton. This is what is known as an establishing shot. It gives the viewer a sense of where the action is going to take place. The segment begins with a close-up of the hamlet beneath the words “Near a lonely village.” Notice how the the image is consistent with the text. I also used the adjective “lonely” to emphasize the cold isolation that Randy’s map evokes. The camera then pans up to a wider shot of the peaks above the village as the words “Amidst the high mountains” appear. Again, the image is consistent with the text. And, again, I used a simple adjective (“high”) to emphasize a quality that’s already present in the image.

The second segment uses the adventure’s cover shot: a snowy road with a bloody hat in the middle of it. You can almost feel the camera getting closer to where the action is going to take place. The segment begins with a close-up of the flurries above the road beneath the words “A travelling merchants stumbles into a blizzard and vanishes.” I didn’t have an image of the merchant. But I did have an image of falling snow. So I was able to keep the text consistent with the image. Then, the camera pans down to a close-up of the bloody cap beneath the words, “Leaving behind nothing but…Blood in the Snow.”

A simple and intriguing story has been told in just 24 words and two images. I then described what Blood in the Snow is – “a free old school adventure” – with the word “free” hopefully driving traffic to Randy’s Website. And, finally, I added some finishing touches to the video: the sound of a howling snow storm (which was purchased from Soundogs.com for $5.60) and a falling snow effect (which was purchased from Pixel Film Studios for $29.95).

So here’s the takeaway: you don’t need a lot of images to create an advertisement such as this. You just need a few good images that you can write about. Keep it simple. Keep it short. And hopefully that will keep players and dungeon masters buying your creations.

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