Creating Trailers for Events in International Development

posted in: CommsConsult UK, News Story | 2

At CommsConsult, we have found that creating short film trailers can be an effective and relatively low-cost way of spreading the word about the events that we cover.

A two-minute trailer can sum up the themes and issues being addressed during a conference or workshop quickly and succinctly whilst being visually interesting and compelling. They are also the perfect opportunity to provide your audience with practical information, such as dates and locations, as well as emphasizing your organisation’s logo or brand.

When putting together a trailer it is important to consider copyright issues and sourcing materials.

Finding strong, good quality images and video clips surrounding your conference theme is the biggest challenge you will face. If it is possible to get footage of the organisation directors, panel members or plenary speakers then this will prove invaluable in summing up the main event issues. However, when dealing with developmental concerns, strong and visually arresting images are needed to do justice. That is not to say that shocking stills should be put in for the sake of it, all the footage should support and have some significance towards the event topics.

If it is not possible to source images and video from the organisation holding the event then utilize other resources on the web. There are a number of development organisations that have archives of images, which can be used for non-commercial projects, as long as the photographer is properly cited.

For example, the Department of International Development has a great Filckr gallery of images available (but do check the copyright one each one).

As do:

UKCDS, Wellcome Images, World Bank, UNESCO, CTA, Kiwanja, Global Food Security,United Nations, Forced Migration

There are also some fee-based sites:

Panos, African Media Online, Photo Voice, iStock

Music is the other element that can draw audiences in and add far more impact to the viewing process. If you want to add music to your film, you can find some royalty free tracks on these sites (some you have to pay for, others, you just have to cite the composer):




Try and get as much footage as you can during the event, it is the best way to capture the first-hand knowledge and experience of those participating. Talking heads are an excellent way to get people to sum up their views on the subjects being discussed but capturing people on video in a crowded conference hall can be tricky.

The 10 top tips to remember when capturing people on video are:

  1. Get them to introduce themselves to camera first – if you capture a lot of people it’s a nightmare trying to remember all their names and institutions. If possible, try to get a shot of their name badge – it will come in handy for difficult spellings in the editing process. Ask them to state their name and organisation/institution on film before you begin.
  2. Start recording for 5-10 seconds before you tell them to start speaking – this makes the editing process a lot easier. Also, wait 5-10 seconds once they’ve finished before you stop recording.
  3. Framing. Many of the clips you will see in the examples above have the person central in the frame looking directly into the camera. This is fine, but it’s sometimes a nicer balance to have them slightly off-centre. Make sure the top of their head is not cut off and you can see their full head and shoulders. Try and set it up so that the background is neutral (a wall, etc) rather than a busy poster or corridor with people walking through the shot.
  4. Lighting. If indoors, try to find somewhere light – i.e. not a dark, dingy corridor. Don’t get people to stand directly in front of windows so they are in shadow. If outdoors, make sure your interviewee isn’t squinting into the sun.
  5. Sound. It’s often difficult to find a quiet corner at these events (and people are reluctant to be dragged too far away from the crowd) but it’s important to try and get as little background noise as possible so you can hear clearly what they’re saying. Scout out a good location before you approach your interviewees and then you can lead them directly to the quiet spot. It helps if you have somewhere in mind and don’t end up dragging them around with you aimlessly.
  6. Content. Often people like to be prepared before they’re captured on film, so tell them what you are going to ask them before pointing the camera at them. If the interviewee was one of the speakers, say “Could you just sum up the key messages in your presentation for me”. Or you could ask “What do you think of the points raised in the last session”. Do a little background reading and think of a couple of questions ahead.
  7. Steady…When you are holding a small camera for short talking heads your arms get surprisingly tired very quickly! Try to keep your other hand free so you can support your filming arm, in case you feel an attack of the wobbles coming on. The steadier the better.
  8. Be upfront. People always like to know what you are going to be doing with the footage, so tell them it will be published online and that you can send them a link when it’s up if they want you to.
  9. Don’t be afraid to approach people, most are surprisingly obliging!
  10. Once you’ve captured all your footage, all you have to tackle is the editing process. Try to keep it short, succinct and snappy.

Once completed, it is incredibly easy to share your trailer across social media channels through sites such as Vimeo, YouTube and Blip TV. This also gives you the opportunity to embed the clip into blogs and onto your website, spreading its reach and visibility.

I have created a number of trailers for CommsConsult at events we have attended across the years. For example, the trailer below was prepared for the Awards and Medals scheme that the Global Development Network (GDN) hosts annually. It was played during the Ceremony for the 13th Annual Conference to announce the prize winners. Rather than putting together a script for this trailer, we let it come together naturally by filming a number of the Awards and Medals finalists sharing their view on the scheme:

GDN Awards and Medals: Recognizing Innovative Ideas from CommsConsult Ltd on Vimeo.

Restrictions in both time and budget often have a significant impact on the look and feel of the video work that I do, but I have found that sometimes even the simplest combination of music and moving images brings a welcome relief to the drudgery of scanning through another eight page document!

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