A Trailer’s Worth a Thousand Words…

I LOVE movie trailers. Well, the good ones at least ( a sure sign of a good trailer is when I stop munching my popcorn), and this assignment introduced me to many trailers I had never seen, and gave me the opportunity to go back and watch some of my favorites. It also gave me some insight into techniques of the movie industry that I had always been aware of, but had never really though about. I tried to get a nice mixture of genres in the 8 trailers I watched, and this allowed me to see how different genres require different theatrical techniques. This was made clear in the recuts as well.

My longest trailer was two minutes and 31 seconds, and my shortest trailer was exactly 2 minutes. This makes the average trailer time about 2 minutes and fifteen seconds, which is not a very long time period to convey the plot of an almost 2 hour movie. The shortest trailer, much to my surprise, was Iron Man 3, a stereotypical action movie. In fact, I found that action movies tended to have the shortest trailers and the fastest pace. The Iron Man 3 trailer is full of speedy transitions: the longest shot only lasts around 3 seconds. There was no narration in the trailer and there was only one instance of audio and video synchronization. The other spoken word was done as overlay on another scene. The music was suspenseful and used string and brass instruments to convey this mood. I find this trailer very satisfying because it leaves just enough mystery so as not to give away the whole movie, but tells you just enough to make you want to see it.

The next genre of movie I watched is what I am calling ‘political drama.’ The movies Argo and J.Edgar had very similar trailers, including their length. They were both on the longer end of the spectrum at 2 and a half minutes. Since they are both based on true stories, both of these trailers begin with what appears to be real footage of a political and then transition into the actual plot of the movie. Unlike Iron Man 3, both of these trailers employ audio and video synchronization rather than overlaying different audio on a different video sequence. While Argo‘s music resembles Iron Man 3‘s, the music in J. Edgar starts off upbeat and optimistic feeling and then transitions into more suspenseful music by the end. Both of these trailers were slightly slower paced than Iron Man 3, but since they still involved action, it didn’t feel slow. These trailers left very little to the imagination. The only thing the watcher is left untold is the conclusion. The next group of trailers are dramas, two of which are based on well known novels. These tended to employ the same techniques as the political dramas, but they all reached a sort of climax by the end of the trailer. For example, in Anna Karenina, the music intensifies and ends in a dramatic note. This hints at the tempo of the film. Unlike the other trailers, The Great Gatsby and The Words use contemporary music with lyrics as opposed to a score. This adds a different feel to the trailer since the words tend to reflect the greater meaning of the film.

Romantic comedies employ completely different methods, however. These trailers tended to be slower paced and the plot became a backdrop for introducing the characters. These trailers really wanted to make sure the watcher knew who was in the movie, who they were playing, and who the love interest was. In New Year’s Eve, for example, there is a full 9 seconds dedicated to putting the celebrities names on the screen. That’s a rather large chunk of time considering the trailer is only two and a half minutes. These trailers also use contemporary music rather than a score to convey a mood. Of the 8 trailers I watched, Hope Springs and The Words were the only two to use typography to explain a theme of the movie; all the others used lines from the movie.

Perhaps the most fun part of this assignment, however, was finding recut trailers. All three of the recut trailers I found definitely used less audio synchronization than I was expecting, especially the Sleepless in Seattle recut. By just extrapolating lines and putting them over other video, the maker of the video was truly able to give it a thriller feel. This was exemplified by the fact that they sped up many of the shots and made it a very fast-paced trailer. None of the recuts I watched used a narrator, and only the Top Gun recut used typography at the very beginning. Their stories truly came across through the images on the screen and the music. This is especially true for the Shawshank Redemption trailer because they use Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” to convey a romantic plot. Top Gun also uses a stereotypical love song to convey it’s message: Dido’s “Here With Me.” All three of these recuts are extremely well done and do an excellent job of changing the plot of the original movie without having to use typography or narration, which is what I hope to do when I recut my own trailer. My favorite recut trailer, Shawshank Redemption is posted below.

Trailers: Iron Man 3, Argo, J. Edgar, The Great Gatsby, Anna Karenina, The Words, New Year’s Eve, Hope Springs

Recut Trailers: Shawshank Redemption (drama converted to romance/bromance), Sleepless in Seattle (romantic comedy converted to horror/thriller), Top Gun (action converted to romance/bromance).

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This entry was posted in Blog #4. Deconstructing Trailers and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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