What you hear, what you see

              Most trailers I’ve watched have at least one longer shot, which gives the viewer an overall idea of what the movie is about. This shot might be that of a conversation between important characters or simply of meaningful scenario or object or perhaps that of a key scene of the movie. Aside from this key long shot, the following shots are usually short (1-3s) and there’s a quick transition from one to the other – it’s very common to see “flashes” of a scene, to entice the viewer’s curiosity. Usually the final 3-8 seconds of the trailer are dedicated to acknowledgements and other information about the movie, such as where it will be displayed, when, as well as the age restriction.

            Background music is extremely important to set the tone of the movie – a slow passed ballad gives the impression of a slow monotonous movie, while utilizing a more aggressive soundtrack such as heavy metal will give the impression of a more dynamic and action-filled movie. However, some movie trailers are an exception. The new 300 movie trailer has a slow, monotonous background music constantly playing, however, the sound effects which are taken from the actual movie, as well as others that are added for the trailer, such as the sound of thunder, leave the viewer with no doubt that this is a very action-oriented movie.

            The shortest trailer I watched was a 30s clip of The Expendables, while the longest was the original 1964 Mary Poppins trailer, which is 4:41min long. Although there is a significant length difference among these two, an average trailer length is somewhere in between 2-3minutes; more precisely, the most common length of the trailers I watched were in between 2:20-2:30minutes long.

            As to narration, I noticed a trend for older movies to make use of narrators more often, while more recently, the scenes of the movies which are shown in the trailer mostly speak for themselves. Moreover, the length of the trailer is also one of the factors that determine whether it should use of narration or not. 30s clips use narrators because their time is restricted and not long enough to convene the message the producer is trying to put out. While trailers which are at least 2 minutes long, have a sufficient time window to display enough information about the movie.

            Some trailers still use typography at the introduction first, such as on Gravity’s trailer. However, this is not usually common for recent movies. It used to be very common – the Mary Poppins trailer has a very long typed introduction, and so does The Shinning. Recently, words are mostly used in trailers to introduce actors, and the date of release of the movie. Sometimes in between shots the words “This Summer” or “Get Ready”, might pop up, but it’s usually really quick. Some trailers, such as Bad Grandpa and the Delivery Man, still have a somewhat typed narrative – at the beginning of Bad Grandpa the words “Meet Irving Zisman” pop up, and for the Delivery Man we get the words “You’re never quite ready for what life delivers”. Although the former two movies are exceptions, typography is usually only used in the beginning and end of trailers. On the three recut movie trailers I analyzed, the audio synchronization with the lips of the actors were perfect, since no lip-syncing took place and all scenes were cuts from the original movie.

            The recut of Free Willy as a horror movie makes no use of narration or typography (aside from “Free Willy” at the last few seconds of the trailer). However, it does alter light and sound effects to alter the original version. AMC’s version of Forest Gump as a Gangster Movie required the use of a narrator to completely alter the original story. It also uses typography, with slang language – “gang life”, “thug life”, but it’s not so crucial to tell the story, it is the narrator that makes it possible. Finally, for Mrs Doubtfire’s recut there is no added narration or subtitles, just a very cleverly made selection of scenes – with quick transitions. Moreover, the soundtrack and the added sound effects are what make this recut so successful.

Movie trailers watched – 300: Rise of An Empire, Jackass – Bad Grandpa, Delivery Men, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Gravity, Original Mary Poppins (1964),The Expendables

Recuts watched – Free Willy Horror Recut (Family movie to Horror); Forrest Gump as a Gangster Movie (Drama/Romance to Gangster Movie); Mrs Doubtfire recut as a horror movie (Family movie to Horror)


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