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What's going on in that Death Stranding trailer tease? A video editor breaks it down

Over the last few days Hideo Kojima has revealed - via a series of tweets - that he’s been back in the Kojima Productions editing suite.  Presumably working on the next trailer for Death Stranding expected sometime around E3 2019. It started with a mini Koj figure standing next to a keyboard but the most recent post actually shows us an image of what he’s been working on when it comes to the next Death Stranding trailer. 

I’ve seen a heck of a lot of screens like that in my time creating videos and it actually tells you a lot more about what's to come then you might think so let’s break it down.

Firstly that timeline is a mess, especially towards the end where there’s about 10 layers on top of each other.  I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and admit that I do exactly the same thing so it’s nice to know we have the same creative processes. But what it usually indicates is that section has either gone through a lot of reversioning -  and the old footage is just sitting under the new stuff - or that it’s very effects heavy and each layer is required to create the end result. In this case, and based on the different coloured layers that we’ll get to next - I’d say it’s probably effects based so expect lens flares, colour changes and distortions in the final section of this trailer.

So what about all those different colours? This one’s pretty straight forward, but it tells us a lot. Adobe Premiere (the editing software he’s using here) gives everything you put on the timeline a default colour. No-one I've ever met changes them so I can confidently say that the green bits are audio (or voiceover / actors lines) and the blue sections are video layers. If you look at certain sections you can see that sometimes two blue sections run in parallel with each other, which shows those files have linked video and audio, which in this case would almost certainly mean continuous  gameplay footage. 

The pink sections are a little harder to pinpoint as this would be a custom colour choice but from the spacing throughout the video and the fact there’s a couple near the end I'd say these are adjustment layers (things used to alter the original material by increasing the contrast etc) and / or text and logo layers. Now, there’s a lot of them in this edit. Previous Death Stranding trailers have been pretty clean so some of them could also be instructions for the editor such as ‘ recapture footage’, ‘needs replacing’ or ‘placeholder image’. Normally you’d do this with markers but this way makes sure you don’t export something with the wrong footage in it. But those pink layers do give away how this trailer will end. 

The dual monitor set-up we can see in the tweet allows the editor to easily scrub through the timeline on one screen and watch the final output on the other. The blue marker at the bottom of the left screen also shows where the timeline marker is in the edit (which we can match with the monitor on the right) in this case, on the logo. 

But it’s clear that the trailer doesn’t end there. Kojima loves to keep you waiting until the very end to reveal extra pieces of information and just like with the Marvel movies it looks like we’re also getting a post credits scene here. Following the same format as the E3 2018 trailer, which ended with the logo before cutting to Lea Seydoux's character eating a worm, then more logos, a cut to a photo realistic Lindsay Wagner and finally more logos. This edit, annotated below, has the logo (1), a pink ‘text’ layer - probably a quote from a well known scholar, Kojima loves a quote (2) - a cut to a chunk of unbroken gameplay (3) , another pink text layer likely detailing the actors starring in the game (4), a smaller video chunk - likely a new character reveal like Lindsay Wagner in 2018 (5)  and finally  another pink ‘text’ layer (6) which if I was guessing will reveal the release date. 

Lastly, although the image is too pixelated to make out a run-time I can have a pretty good stab at it based on the distance between the markers on the left hand monitor. The bar at the bottom allows you to scrub through the entire timeline and the almost invisible markers above it split the time into chucks. These markers scale depending on how big the bar is and how long the project is and after a bit of fiddling (and help from another Kojima tweet I’ll get to) I’ve replicated it with my own project which comes in at 4 minutes 31 seconds. Relatively short of a Death Standing trailer then.

But the reason for that could be in that other tweet I mentioned. On April 28 Kojima tweeted ‘Good Morning’ along with an image of the track ‘Endless War' by Within Temptation - a track that’s 4 minutes 7 seconds long. Add in enough time for a slow build plus the ending logos and you’ve got something that not only sounds very fitting for a Kojima trailer but perfectly fits the timeline. 

It’s clearly not going to be long before we see the final product, especially given the fact that there’s what looks like another program, Adobe Media encoder, open in the task bar at the bottom and it’s half way through an export. That means Kojima is nearly ready to share the finished video with the world, and we can't wait. 

Kojima teased that new details about the game would be coming soon we he spoke at the Tribeca Film Festival. Read about that, and why Death Stranding will connect us all, here.