PREVIEW REEL TUTORIAL

[UPDATE 28 Jun 11] I forgot to mention that you can sometimes find first-run Red Band (!) trailers on IGN's pay site, although it's like hell trying to find these trailers while searching through IGN's site.  Normally I only come across them because I see them in articles on the badassdigest.com.  In the last few months, I've also seen YouTube premiere several first-run trailers (X-Men First Class and the new Brave trailer, for instance).  Again, I normally only find out about these trailers because of reading the badassdigest.com

[UPDATE 19 Jan 12] Yahoo! has just completely redesigned their trailers page and I can't find an easy way to save their trailers as .mov files.  However, HD-Trailers.net has and they even link directly to the .mp4 version.  Accordingly, I have now linked to them in the "What You Need" list as a source for HD trailers.

[UPDATE 8 Feb 14] Around May of 2013, Apple removed the direct links to the 1080p versions of their trailers.  However, HD-Trailers.net has found a way to uncover these now hidden 1080p links, for both archive and new trailers.

Making Your Own Preview Reel

Background - Since around 2001, I've wanted to be able to show guests attending one of my movie nights a selection of previews and promos just like one sees in a commercial theatre.  I still remember buying a Denon DVM-4800 multi-disc DVD player back during that time with the hopes that it would be programmable in such a way that I could set up a playback sequence that would play several trailers from various discs loaded into the player before spinning the main feature.  Since I did not have access back then to first-run trailers, I set my sights on a modest goal of just hoping to show trailers from movies that I loved.  Alas, my dreams for what that player could achieve were completely out of sync with reality. 

Around 2004/2005, however, I came across XBMC and found that it could stream trailers from Apple's Quicktime trailers page.  This was an interesting solution although streaming these trailers through a wifi connection to my TV sometimes proved embarrassingly unreliable during movie nights.  There's just something about jerky, stuttering playback that makes me cringe when guests are around (which is why you won't see me on the streaming bandwagon for the foreseeable future).  Nonetheless, XMBC was getting me pretty close to realizing my dream, but there was still a ways to go.  It was around this period that I also started dreaming of having custom "intro promos" advertising my cinema and dividing up the preview reel into "Coming Soon", PSAs, and "Feature Presentation" sections.

Enter fall 2008.  Thanks to a lot of casual research and advances in equipment/technology, I discovered that I could have everything that I wanted for my preview reel and then some.  By then some, I mean that I discovered that not only could I play the trailers and intro promos I wanted, but I could do so in 1080p High Definition!

What You Need:

Getting Started with the Basics:

If you just want to be able to show first-run trailers before your movie, do the following.  Visit the HD-Trailers' page and download your preferred trailers in 1080p (you can try other resolutions, but this tip sheet is assuming you want your preview reel to look the best that it can).  If the downloads are coming from Apple's website via HD-Trailers, make sure your change your User Agent Switcher add-on in Firefox to reflect "iPhone 3.0."  Switching the user agent setting to Quicktime works even better if you're comfortable making your own user agents (there are plenty of tutorials out there).  Once the trailer is fully downloaded, SAVE the trailer in the Quicktime as a .mov file, then click on "File", then "Export..."  Next to "Export..." select "Movie to MPEG-4" on the drop down list.  Then, click on "Options..." then make sure the selected file format at the top says "MP4" and the drop down underneath says "Video."  Select "Pass through" from the "Video Format" drop down list, then click on "Video" in the drop down list above and now select "Audio."

Assuming your receiver or processor can handle pure AAC encoded soundtracks, select "Pass through" from the "Audio Format" drop down list.  Otherwise, if your receiver cannot handle this audio format, select "AAC-LC (Music)" and set the accompanying "Data Rate" to 320 kbps.  AAC-LC (Music) worked for me back when I was using the Atlantic Technology P-2000 preamp.

After establishing the prescribed settings, export the file - it's now ready to use. 

Load the file onto your thumbdrive.  For testing purposes, you can just put the file on your thumbdrive straight away, but for real world purposes, I recommend inserting an integer as the first piece of the filename and then incrementally increasing the number assigned to the subsequent files (this is essentially your playback sequence).  Like "0 TrailerA.mp4", with the next file (trailer) using "1 TrailerB.mp4" and so on.  To keep things clean and trouble free, put all of your trailers and promos in the same directory with no miscellaneous files present. 

To playback the file on your PS3, insert your thumbdrive, select the thumbdrive under the Video section of the PS3's crossbar, then press TRIANGLE and then choose "Display All."  Select the folder with your trailer(s) and then start playback.  Make sure that you've set the PS3's Video Settings to "Sequential Playback - On" if you plan on showing more than one trailer (which you probably will if you've made it this far).  You should now be enjoying brand new trailers in their 1080p glory in your home theatre.

 

Going the Extra Mile:

Ok, so I've just shared with you a close-held secret about how I am always able to entertain my guests with first-run trailers.  If you want to turn things up to 11 though and add a little extra spice to your movie nights, you need to also make your own intro/outro promos.  That's where Sony Vegas Pro comes into play.  Sony Vegas Pro can generate 1080P, Dolby Digital 5.1 .m2ts format video files which will work on the PS3.  Unfortunately, I can't really give you much advice on how to use Sony Vegas Pro.  However, if you are interested in pursuing its capabilities, just do some research on YouTube.  There are plenty of 10-year-olds out there making videos to show you all of its tricks.  Here are some screenshots of some of the promos I've made:

 

PSAs, Audio Format Promos, and THX

PSAs - You can find a lot of fun PSAs against texting and talking during movies on the Alamo Drafthouse's YouTube page.  Several FireFox add-ons for YouTube (Best Video Downloader or Ant Video Downloader) will let you save the PSAs in the .mp4 format after you select the video's resolution as 1080p.  You can find a couple other good PSAs against talking/texting on Demo World's miscellaneous trailers page here.

Audio Format Promos and THX - You can find plenty of great 1080p Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD trailers along with THX trailers through Demo World's HD trailer page.*   

For the non-HD .vob format realm (which will also work on the PS3), you can find classic Dolby Digital trailers here, classic DTS trailers here, and classic THX trailers here (anti-bot authentication code submission required).

 

*Warning...

Be forewarned, the lossless trailers on Demo World's site will not work on the PS3 when played as individual files!  Instead, just use the lossy versions.  Chances are that none of your guests will EVER notice the difference.  Also, just as an FYI, the PS3 will not play .m2ts or .vob files with DTS, DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD tracks.  The PS3 also will not play any individual .m2ts files encoded in VC-1.

 

That's About It

Well, this was my first venture into providing some home theatre tips that I haven't seen posted anywhere else on the web.  What did you think about this tip page?  Would you like me to post more tips in the future?  Is there something I need to correct or clarify on this page?  If so, shoot me an email.