The Techniques of Trailers… From an Unreliable Source

It is truly amazing how movie trailers can be constructed to capture the essence of an entire movie (around two hours) in merely a few minutes. Trailers have evolved into an extremely crucial part of the film industry, attracting viewers to whatever movie they represent. After viewing eight movie trailers and attempting to gain some knowledge on the techniques of trailers (so I’m not quite as unreliable as the title might imply), it seems that the average length is a little over two minutes; the longest being 2:30 (Ted, Skyfall, andSinister) and the shortest being 1:10 (Snow Doesn’t Melt Forever). Although the lengths of trailers tend to vary slightly, it does seem that most follow a similar structure. Almost every one that I watched was paced very quickly with short shots and used direct cuts (rather than fancy transitions). Given that the trailer is trying to capture a much larger story in such a short amount of time, I would propose that most trailers follow this similar pattern in order to show as much material possible in the limited amount of time.

Furthermore, it seems that most trailers follow a similar pattern in the manner in which they “tell their story.” From the eight trailers I watched, most used only a limited amount of typography and narration to tell the story. Although this amount was minimal, it can’t be discounted because what was used was very effective in setting the scene; the font of typography matched the desired mood (spooky font for Paranormal Activity, etc.) and the tone of voice used in narration furthered the mood. However, most trailers told their story through the use of music/audio and characters talking. The type of music/audio used set the scene and mood of the entire trailer and was then used to guide the action by varying the pace and volume of it. Characters’ dialogue was used to present key points and their tone of voice conveyed (much better than any typography or narration could) the apparent mood of the movie.

Recut trailers have a different goal (mainly pure entertainment) than do regular movie trailers, thus they tend to follow a slightly different pattern in how they tell their story. The recut trailers I watched tended to require slightly more narration and/or typography to convey the message; in fact, none that I saw were able to tell their story without relying on type or a narrator’s voiceover.  The Toy Story recut trailer used typography five times, the most of the trailers that I watched. Despite this, I am sure it is quite possible for a creative mind to effectively tell the story of a recut trailer with no narration or typography. For specific reference, I will refer to the recut trailer of one of my favorite movies (and also recut trailers that I saw): The Big Lebowski. The recut trailer for this movie, along with most others, tend to follow a similar pattern of regular trailers in that the story was told primarily through music/audio and characters’ talking. The difference though was that much more of the audio in the recut trailers was not synchronized with the lips; The Big Lebowski trailer was quite abnormal in that almost half of the audio was synchronized. Still I feel that guiding the action through the pace and volume of music and using characters’ dialogue to magnify particular key points is more effective than using typography or a narrator. I feel this way because typography and narrator seems to create somewhat of a barrier between the action and the audience, where the music and characters’ audio fit naturally into the action and thus doesn’t interfere (and perhaps furthers) the extent to which the audience is captivated.

Through the process of watching the number of both regular and recut trailers, I found an obvious sense of entertainment but also a very informative aspect. Due to never really paying specific attention to little details of trailers, I wasn’t sure what techniques they used to tell their story and thus I certainly wouldn’t have had a good idea how to do so when creating my own recut trailer. Learning several things such as: music and audio can be much more efficient and effective in creating a mood than directly stating or insinuating the desired mood, not all audio has to be synchronized, and that quick pacing works best for trailers will be invaluable knowledge to have for our design project.

Trailers: Paranormal Activity 4, Dark Tide, Cosmopolis, Headhunters, Show Doesn’t Melt Forever, Sinister, Skyfall, Ted.

Recut Trailers: Home Alone, Toy Story, The Big Lebowksi.

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

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