It’s just too easy to make that connection. That and I am never opposed to plugging Seth McDebit (Which I have to italicize, apparently. Done in by my own creation).
It’s clear after watching a number of trailers how seriously they are taken. I feel like the consistencies between trailers are evidence that there is a certain art behind them. Given that it is generally going to be the first thing a person sees about the film you are pushing, that is not super surprising.
Pacing and timing seem to be pretty important. Of the trailers I watched, there was very little deviation on time, and each film clocked in at right around 2:30 (A Good Day to Die Hard was an outlier that only hit 1:30 or so, but is granted an exception, as it will give me plans for Valentine’s Day). Shot lengths are very short. It’s hard to get an average timing on shots thanks to the sheer number, but I was only able to count two shots that lasted longer than four seconds (one from Lincoln and the other from one of the re-cut trailers). It’s fairly clear that shots are either meant to establish anything that can only be established visually or anything that will create excitement, such as an action shot or a visual gag, without spoiling the plot. Anything that is not necessary is not used. Simple transitions are king in trailers (though most movies avoid anything fancy as well), presumably because it can waste time and take away attention from the audience. With only two and a half minutes to work with, this is not good.
Narration typically happens more at the beginning of a movie. Narration is done by the characters themselves, and sound clips are used outside of their dialogue scenes to help establish the premise and setting (if the setting needs explanation). Typography can be used to help this establishment take place, though anything that can’t be said in a few words against a black background. Audio synchronization does not seem to be an issue. Most of the time, the narration is simply put down over video that is somewhat related to what is being said. Even when the dialogue is that from the scene, there were some instances of tiny desynchronization. This trumps most of the sound effects in the film (though some more intense sound effects, like a gunshot or a scream, can be given precedence).
Music creates emotional responses. For the most part, it seems to play at the end of trailers, while the front part is used more to establish the basic premise and setting. To be clear, there is some amount of music at the beginning of trailers, but it is a lot quieter. Music generally takes precedence with sound effects. Sound effects seem to be largely unimportant. I feel bad for sound effect guy. The more musical part of trailers is the part seems to be the part where the typography establishes who the creators are and when the movie will come out. Anyways, music tends to crescendo near the end, just to leave you with a super excited feeling near the end (I didn’t watch any romantic comedies. It may be different for those.
Recut Trailers, to their credit, really do a good job of feeling like trailers. They didn’t use typography that much more than regular trailers. At most, there were four cuts to typography that I gathered, and this was used for actor names. I was also surprised by how little desynchronization there was in the audio. There was audio put over video clips from different parts of the movies, but for the most part, dialogue that was supposed to be synchronized was dead on or very close. I get the feeling the scenes were largely picked out from these particular films, and the trailers designed around them. One scene from the Willy Wonka re-cut uses the same music and audio from the original film, and skirts the synchronization problem that way. Type faces are a little less fancy, length is a bit more variable, and some shots drag on a bit, but all in all, they were very impressive re-cuts. Then again, these all had a lot of views, and don’t necessarily represent the average performance.
Actual Trailers: Wreck-It Ralph, Skyfall, A Good Day to Die Hard, Rise of the Guardians, Looper, Lincoln, Hotel Transylvania, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Re-Cut Trailers: Home Alone (Done as a horror featuring Kevin’s slow descent into madness), Willy Wonka (A SAW-style slasher film. Doesn’t seem like he had to work that hard to get the effect), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (The editor says it’s supposed to be a coming of age story, but I get a sense of a heartwarming, terminal-illness film personally).
The Home Alone trailer was pretty fun: