With movie tickets so over priced these days, one would think that the worst part about being late to a movie is missing the first few minutes of the show, and therefore not receiving your full money’s worth. However, for me the worst part isn’t missing the first five minutes of the movie, it’s missing the trailers. To me, trailers are never a disappointment because they take the best parts of each movie.
The eight trailers I viewed had a time range of 1 minute and 24 seconds to 2 minutes and 33 seconds. So it appears that the average length of a movie is about two minutes. The time length of a trailer allows for just enough time to give the audience an idea of what the movie is about, and to possibly peak the audience’s interest.
Depending on the type of movie, the creators of trailers employ different methods to grab the audience’s attention. In an action movie such as The Avengers, many shots follow each other in quick succession while dramatic music plays in the background. Long shots were greatly utilized in The Avengers, as can be seen when watching iron man fly over skyscrapers, or the hulk running down a crowded street. Long shots add to the grandeur and dramatic over-tone of action movies. Music also adds to the overall epic tone of the trailer; dramatic music plays in the background while the villain talks in the opening shot and then rock-music plays during the shots showcasing the superheroes.
The Inception trailer, another action movie, also utilizes a fast pace and dramatic music. The music for Inception allows for the progression of a dramatic build-up. As the trailer progresses the pacing becomes faster as well. The switch from longer sequences to shorter sequences occurs when there is a close-up of the main character as he looks out over a city. As the camera moves closer and closer to his face, the screen suddenly goes black, and then a transition into the next shot takes place. This dramatic transition leads into the remainder of the trailer. Inception takes advantage of typography to convey the plot of the movie. Large words appear in between sequences, often no more than two or three at a time, to give the audience more information about the plot of the movie. The bold letters not only catch the audience’s attention, they are also necessary to convey the plot since Inception has a rather short trailer time of 1 minute and 24 seconds.
Three other movie trailers also appear to follow the trend of utilizing a fast pace. The comedy movie Shaun of the Dead (a parody of zombie flicks) utilizes a fast pace and rapid transitions. The narrator at the beginning of the movie lists the ways in which to survive a zombie apocalypse, and in doing so clues the audience in that this movie is to be taken lightly. The comedy Mean Girls also utilizes a fast pace and rapid transitions. There appear to be more medium shots for this movie, since the focus of the movie is on banter rather than fighting sequences. The horror movie Paranormal Activity utilizes a fast pace, but its transitions are very different from the other movie trailers. The trailer shows a movie audience watching the trailer itself. The jerky transitions between the reaction of the audience and the film are meant to not only unsettle the audience, but also underscore the unnerving story line of the movie.
In contrast to the action, comedy, and horror movie trailers discussed above trailers for romantic and family movies appear to have a much slower pace. The shots also focus more directly on the actors and actresses themselves rather than the scenery. In both the trailers for 500 Days of Summer and Pride and Prejudice the slow pacing allows the audience to focus more on the characters and the storyline, in contrast to action movies where the fast pace and quick transitions cause the audience to focus on the special effects. In the family movie Up the narrator’s cheery voice at the beginning informs the audience that the movie will be light-hearted.
The creators of recut trailers apply the techniques used in actual trailers to change the genre of the movie. In the recut trailer for the film Sleepless in Seattle, eerie music immediately gives the trailer an ominous tone. Instead of using explanatory type or a narrator’s voice over, the creators selected certain lines from the film to make it sound as though Meg Ryan is stalking Tom Hanks. In the video below one can see that by changing the context of the words, the trailer appears to embody a suspenseful storyline. In the recut trailer of the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the voice over of a narrator informs the audience that a psychotic killer is hunting Ferris and his friends. The audio synchronization of the character’s lips is a little choppy, which may distract the audience and cause the recut trailer to appear amateurish. The recut trailer for Toy Story uses typography to partially explain its story. The type appears five times throughout the trailer. The creators also utilize dramatic transitions in which the screen goes black at the end of a particularly suspenseful shot. This transition causes the build up of even greater suspense, and takes the scenes of the original trailer out of context. By manipulating certain aspects of the trailers, the creators of the recut trailers were able to change the genre of a movie.
Trailers: The Avengers, Inception, Shaun of the Dead, Pride and Prejudice, 500 Days of Summer, Mean Girls, Up, Paranormal Activity
Recut Trailers: Sleepless in Seattle (romantic to horror) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (comedy to horror) Toy Story (family to horror)