It’s All About the Genre, Baby!

Since movie trailers come in many varieties, re-cut trailers can vary greatly in style and composition. However, there are some basic similarities seen within genres. Within the original movie trailers, music is important for conveying genre. For example, action trailers tend to use epic orchestral music with a solid drum beat. More often than not, the scene transitions occur along with the beat of the music. Therefore, if the music is fast paced, as it usually is within the action genre, the pacing of the trailer is relatively quick. The fast pace is often not continuous, though. Consider the trailer for Point Break (Ericson Core, 2015). This trailer uses fast fades between scenes. These fades are synchronized with the drums of the soundtrack. Near the end of the trailer, there is a countdown-style beeping sound effect. The scene transitions occur in rapid succession along with the beeping. Eventually, after reaching a climax, the music stops and there is a longer, calmer scene where a character speaks. This dramatic break in the pacing is seen across multiple genres, but it is accentuated within the action trailers. Action film trailers also seem to use the shortest shot lengths of all the trailers. The shots averaged less than one second. The trailers as a whole, though, are not short compared to other genres. In fact, the action trailers are the longer trailers at about two and a half minutes (the shortest trailer noted was Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, 2010): 1:17). Action trailers also make use of sound effects more than some other genres. There is heavy use of a “wooshing” sound that accompanies scene transitions in action trailers. Horror trailers also make good use of sound effects.

Horror movie trailers seem the use slower shot pacing than action trailers. This slow pacing helps build suspense. Sound effects help build tension; screeching noises or high-pitched strings help put viewers on edge and are an identifier of the horror genre. Of course, there is a noticeable lack of happy music in horror trailers. The happy music, then, is reserved for use in romantic comedy and drama trailers.

Romance and romantic comedy trailers tend to focus on happiness, with upbeat vocals and guitar music (typically a love song) signaling the genre. Trailers that were re-cut into romantic comedy or drama tend to make use of typography as a way to explain the narrative. For example, “George,” a re-cut trailer that makes Seinfeld (Art Wolff, Tom Cherones, Andy Ackerman, David Steinberg, and David Owen Trainor, 1989-1998) into a romance drama uses three typographic stills to explain the narrative. This is heavy usage of text within a re-cut trailer, but it seems to work in this instance. Explanation of the plot could have come in the form of a narrative voice-over, but text seems to be easier. For trailers that included text, either as title slides or as an image layover, the font usually matched the “feel” of the movie; for example, the trailer for Magnificent 7 (Antoine Fuqua, 2016) used a “Playbill” type font to hold true to the western theme of the movie. The words themselves are often used to introduce characters, as is the case with Magnificent 7.

Speaking of making the re-cutting process easier, most re-cut trailers use only a minimal amount of audio synchronization. More often than not, the speaker is not in the scene; the audio is acting as a sort of voice-over. This, however, does not seem distracting, since many original trailers follow this pattern as well. Most original trailers do not have a narrator, but, rather, use unmatched audio from other characters in a voice-over format to act as a narrator. Only National Lampoon’s Vacation (Harold Ramis, 1983) and Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007) use an actual narrator. Into the Wild has a sort of documentary-style feel to it, because of the narration.

Trailers: Rango, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Magnificent 7, Across the Universe, Into the Wild, Point Break, Exit Through the Gift Shop, High School Musical 3.

Re-cut Trailers: Pixar Up (children’s film converted to horror), Jurassic Park (action-adventure converted to romantic comedy), George (T.V. sitcom converted into romantic drama).

This entry was posted in Blog #4. Deconstructing Movie Trailers. Bookmark the permalink.

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