Trailer Is Not Appetizer

Some of my friends really enjoy watching trailers. They believe trailers help them get glimpses of movies and decide which to see next. Personally, I’m very indifferent to them. In fact, I really appreciate them sometimes. I will not miss any second of the main movie when I’m a few minutes late to the cinema thanks to their usual appearance at the beginning.

However, I don’t believe that they necessarily give me overviews of movies. Intuitively, directors want to make the trailers attractive and seemingly worth watching. Therefore, trailers tend to be well-crafted products that serve a single purpose: to convince people to go to the cinema to see the movies. To make them do their jobs well, many different techniques have been applied to the process of creating trailers.

We can easily recognize some patterns of movie trailers by examining some. First, the length of a trailer tends to vary between 2 and 3 minutes. Since they are considered as advertisements, they have to be short so they can fit into strict advertising time frames. Also, they will not make people get tired of following long and possibly complicated advertisements. Second, the shot length tends to be fairly short as well. It seems that it will make the trailers clipped and more importantly, energetic. It will excite people and incite them to pay attention to it. It seems that 2 to 3 minutes is a reasonable amount of time to let the audience digest a large number of different shots. The shot transition that trailers use mainly is cut. It makes the overall pacing of them fast and therefore, contributes to their energetic style. Also, fade ins/outs tend to be used in some romantic movies’ trailers and some special scenes that the audience needs to digest slowly. However, overall, it seems that the overall pacing has to be fast so trailers can function effectively as advertisements.

Music in trailers tends to fit their movies’ genres. For example, it tends to be slow-paced in romantic ones and fast-paced in action ones. However, it should be noted that the music does not necessarily need to come from the movies. The shots can be re-ordered to form sequences that transmit just some ideas about the movies. In other words, they don’t have follow the order that will appear in the movies. Therefore, the music just has to fit the sequences in the trailers. Audio synchronization is not necessary as long as the audience can get the messages. Also, some sound effects may be added too. For example, they may be added to some sudden cuts. Those shots are the wow factors. The added sound effects will really help in surprising the viewers.

To assist the audience in getting messages from the trailers, voice-over and text can be utilized as well. Taken’s trailer uses text to describe some details about human trafficking. The Notebook’s one uses a narrator voice to guide the audience through the love story. Kick-Ass’ one uses both to portray the concept of superhero. Overall, they all somehow help the viewers understand the movies’ ideas correctly.

As many different techniques help the trailers shine, it can be showed that we can also applying the same techniques to the movies’ genuine shots so that they can completely change the audience’s interpretation. Recut trailers are exemplary examples. Since the recut trailers have to tell “unintended” stories, they tends to extensively use narrators’ voice-overs and type to direct the audience to their messages. For example, in a Titanic’s recut trailer, the author has to let type appear on the screen 3 times to tell how bad Jack is. Also, audio synchronization with the lips is hard to achieve. However, I think it is capable of not using them at all if we use appropriate orders of shots and sound effects.

Generally, one should not judge a movie by its trailer since it is a heavily crafted product. As the following recut movie trailer can tell,  trusting an official trailer is like appreciating the beauty of carefully made-up persons.


Trailers: The Social Network, Taken, Toy Story 3, Tangled, Shrek The Third, Kick-Ass, 50 First Dates, The Notebook, Catch Me If You Can.

Recut Trailers: Home Alone (family comedy film converted to horror), Toy Story 3 (animated comedy film converted to horror), Titanic (romantic disaster film converted to thriller).

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

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