The Science Behind Comedy

Trailers are very important in the film industry. In fact, it could be argued that a good trailer is more valuable than the movie itself. Trailers give viewers an initial impression of the film that can ultimately decide whether they will watch the film or not. Viewers have expectations for certain genres of film. These expectations are met through trailers that follow along similar guidelines for each genre.

The two main genres of trailers that were examined were science fiction and comedies. The science fiction films tended to use much faster shot lengths or more transitions than the comedies. This contributed to a much faster overall pacing that one would expect from action and science-fiction films. On the other hand, the comedies tended to have slower pacing and longer shot lengths. This was used to develop comedic situations for greater effect. Of course, several of the comedies that were chosen had faster pace due to fitting into more genres than just comedy such as Guardians of the Galaxy (Science Fiction/Space comedy) and Tropic Thunder (War/action comedy). The music varied widely between the two genres. The science-fiction trailers were composed of “epic” music that is supposed to evoke the awe and power of the story of the film. The comedies definitely had more playful and upbeat music. A sound effect utilized by the comedy trailers was that there would be a pause or silence after a joke was made as if the trailer expected the audience to laugh then. In some comedic trailers, the trailer would begin with serious music and then abruptly change when the action in the trailer became comedic.

The shortest trailer was District 9 which was 109 seconds in length. Guardians of the Galaxy, Prometheus, and Tropic Thunder had the longest trailers at 151 seconds.  The average trailer length was just over 2 minutes in length. Voice-over narration was more likely to be found in the comedies (Zoolander and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story). Similarly, most of the comedies included much more typography than the science fiction trailers to explain the storyline and the characters.

The recut trailers that were examined were science fiction films that were recut to a form of comedy. These trailers included many of the elements seen in the comedic trailers. They tended to be slower paced with less abrupt shot transitions. The music tended to be upbeat with playful sound effects. There was a wider range of trailer lengths for the recut trailers. Gravity recut had a trailer length of 90 seconds where the Martian Recut had a trailer length of 160 seconds. Both The Martian Recut and Inception Recut used a narrator’s voice over to tell the story. Gravity Recut used extensive type to explain the story. Type appeared on the screen five times in the Gravity Recut trailer.  So each of the recut trailers either used type or the narrator’s voiceover.

The lips in each of the recut trailers was synched correctly with audio. In Gravity Recut, there was no lip movement in the trailer. In The Martian Recut and Inception Recut, when lips were moving, the audio was always appropriately timed as well. All of these recut trailers show ingenuity but also follow a set guideline for the comedy genre that already appears in the film industry. The Martian Recut trailer can be found below.

Trailers: Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hangover, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Zoolander, Sunshine, Prometheus, District 9, and Tropic Thunder

Recut Trailers: The Martian Recut (Sci-FI to musical comedy), Inception Recut (Sci-Fi to Holiday comedy), and Gravity Recut (Sci-fi to Rom-com)

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