This week at the Turin International Book Fair the book trailer Auramala is a finalist for the Antonello Prize for the Best Book Trailer. It is up against a daunting field of short films, many by large and established publishing houses like Mondadori and Feltrinelli, not to mention rock star Ligabue. The book trailer was produced by my old friend Giacomo Sardelli, director of the chilling short film The Ambulance and Further Up Yonder, which caused a sensation on the web back in December 2012 with its breathtaking footage from the International Space Station.
To celebrate being nominated for this award in such a prestigious event, here is a guest post by Giacomo Sardelli, on the making of the trailer. Well done Giacomo, once again your stylish work is being recognized!
How to make a book trailer
Auramala is a grand medieval adventure written by my Australian friend Ivan Fowler. It tells the story of two secret agents in the year 1338, who are on the traces of a mysterious king, whose destiny seems to contradict accepted history. After reading the book I decided that it deserved a book trailer with a cinematic touch, and this is the result.
The book trailer, the locations and the ammonite
Right from the start I wanted the book trailer to have a cinematographic look. Generally, book trailers favour animation and graphics over live action footage. Auramala has the good fortune of being set in a landscape that lends itself to filming, so I decided to base the book trailer of Auramala on two key elements: the location and, to hold the story together, the ammonite.
Ivan has lived in Pavia for years, and has acquired profound knowledge of the the city and its Province, which he loves. The pages of Auramala betray his passion for the Apennines of Pavia, the Oltrepò Pavese, which is as much a protagonist of the book as the human characters. For this reason I inserted into the shooting list some time-lapse sequences taken in the exact location of the book, a region that is still wild enough to allow for fields of view where there are no modern or non-medieval elements whatsoever.
To plan the timing of the shoots, above all for the time-lapse sequence, which can literally take hours, I used The Photographer’s Ephemeris, a neat, free app for PC and Mac, and available for Android and iOS for a fee. TPE allows you to find out exactly what time the sun rises or sets, and on which point of a horizon. An image is worth a thousand words:
Knowing the timing and direction of the sunset, I set up the shoot, deciding on the right angle as soon as I arrived on the spot. I shot the video footage in the surrounding areas when the light was not yet right for the time-lapse sequence, and got back to the spot where I was going to film the sunset just in time to set up the tripod.
Remote controlled slider For the tracking time-lapse shot I used a remote controlled slider that I finished constructing myself just the month before. It’s a bit of an ad hoc, hand-made job, but it does exactly what it’s intended to do, just right. The two motors allow it to slide at a normal speed for a regular tracking shot, but also ultra-slow for time-lapse. I still have to measure it exactly, but roughly speaking it will do a metre in 10-15 minutes on slowest speed. Perfect for a time-lapse sequence. Here is a photo taken with a smartphone on the day of the trial:
The second element I used is the ammonite, which plays a key role in Auramala, so it couldn’t be missing from trailer. It poses a question in viewers’ minds that can be answered by reading the book. The ammonite is in the hand of a character who, in 1338, is fleeing through the woods, and who has to hide it somewhere before his pursuers catch up with him. The sound of bells guides him to the Abbey of Sant’Alberto, where he finds a niche in which to conceal it. For these shots I therefore needed a brick-work niche, and the possibility to age it by 600 years, until the present, when the detective in the trailer discovers the ammonite inside it. I created the niche so as to have total freedom in positioning the camera, and so as to be able to modify it as I pleased. Some moss and dust (from Ivan’s garden and firewood-pile respectively) re-created a 600-year journey through time. Here is the result, the final shot and the mini set.
So, these are the simple techniques I used to achieve the result I wanted. If you have any questions about any other part of the video, I’ll be happy to answer.
Giacomo Sardelli, author of the blog Making Movies, studies Film and New Media at The Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, “New Academy of Fine Arts”, or NABA, in Milan. After his first-aid adventures with The Ambulance and trip into outer space with the world-recognized Further Up Yonder, he is now working on a documentary in his experiences with a Ugandan tribe, the Karimojong. In the meantime, he has travelled backwards in time ot 1338 with an Australian story teller in search of King Edward II of England, and much else besides.