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Definition of a Trailer

Trailers consist of a series selected shots from the film being advertised. Since the purpose of the trailer is to attract an audience to the film, these excerpts are usually drawn from the most exciting, funny, or otherwise noteworthy parts of the film but in abbreviated form and usually without producing spoilers. For this purpose the scenes are not necessarily in the order in which they appear in the film. A trailer has to achieve that in less than 2 minutes and 30 seconds, the maximum length allowed by the MPAA. Each studio or distributor is allowed to exceed this time limit once a year. if they feel it is necessary for a particular film.

Composition of Trailers

Trailers tell the story of a film in a highly condensed fashion to have maximum appeal. In the decades since film marketing has become a large industry, trailers have become highly polished pieces of advertising, able to present even poor movies in an attractive light. Some of the elements common to many trailers are listed below. Trailers are typically made up of scenes from the film they are promoting, but sometimes contain deleted scenes from the film.

The key ambition in trailer-making is to impart an intriguing story that gets film audiences emotionally involved.

Most trailers have a three-act structure similar to a feature-length film. They start with a beginning (act 1) that lays out the premise of the story. The middle (act 2) drives the story further and usually ends with a dramatic climax. Act 3 usually features a strong piece of “signature music” (either a recognizable song or a powerful, sweeping orchestral piece). This last act often consists of a visual montage of powerful and emotional moments of the film and may also contain a cast run if there are noteworthy stars that could help sell the movie.

Screenshot from film trailer for 1959 North by Northwest

Voice-over narration is sometimes used to briefly set up the premise of the film and provide explanation when necessary, although this practice has declined in the years after the passing of voice-over artist Don LaFontaine. Since the trailer is a highly condensed format, voice-over is a useful tool to enhance the audience’s understanding of the plot. Some of the best-known, modern-day trailer voice-over artists have been the aforementioned LaFontaine 

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Other Types of trailers

Beginning in the late 1990s to early 2000s, and along with the development of the Internet and sites such as YouTube as well as animation techniques, more types of trailers began to be created due to easier and cheaper costs to produce and show trailers.

Video Game Trailers

Beginning in the late 1990s to early 2000s, video game trailers began to be produced as they became more mainstream. Used to entice viewers to go out and play the game, game trailers are very useful. The content and production process is similar to that for movies, complicated by the need to convey the way the game plays. The trailer for Aliens: Colonial Marines, for example, featured graphics that were of a higher standard than the game that was eventually sold. Hideo Kojima, a game creator strongly influenced by Hollywood movies, edits the elaborate trailers for his own games from a special studio in his office.

Teaser Trailers

A teaser campaign, also known as a pre-launch campaign, is an advertising campaign which typically consists of a series of small, cryptic, challenging advertisements that anticipate a larger, full-blown campaign for a product launch or otherwise important event. These advertisements are called “teasers” or “teaser ads”. Ateaser trailer for an upcoming film, television program, video game or similar, is usually released long in advance of the product, so as to “tease” the audience.

An early example of the teaser trailer was the one for the 1978 Superman film by Richard Donner. The film was already nearly a year late; it was designed to re-invigorate interest in the release.

Teaser campaigns, or teaser advertising, can be defined as a planned set of communication activities designed to arouse interest without giving too much away (Trehan and Maan, 2012). Often, it is not a single advertisement but a series of inter-related communications, combining multiple forms of advertising, surrounding a single theme or idea that consumers follow to fill in the information and lead up to the “reveal” (Menon and Soman, 2002). 

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History of Movie Trailers

A Trailer is also known as a preview or coming attraction or broadcast is an advertisement or a commercial for a feature Film or Movie that will be exhibited in the future at a cinema. This is basically the result of a creative and technical work compiled. The term “trailer” comes from their having originally been shown at the end of a feature film screening. That practice did not last long, because patrons tended to leave the theatre after the films ended, but the name has stuck. Trailers are now shown before the film begins. This is a practice that has been around since the 1950’s.

Movie trailers have now become popular on DVDs and Blu-rays, as well as on the Internet and mobile devices. Of some 10 billion videos watched online annually, film trailers rank third, after news and user-created video. The trailer format has also been adopted as a promotional tool for television shows, video games, books, and theatrical events/concerts.

 A perfect example is the Fast and Furious 8 Trailer which is fully Action Packed from the beginning which draws you in and keeps you focused.

Up until the late 1950s, trailers were mostly created by National Screen Service and consisted of various key scenes from the film being advertised, often augmented with large, descriptive text describing the story, and an underscore generally pulled from studio music libraries. Most trailers had some form of narration and those that did featured stentorian voices.

In the early 1960s, the face of motion picture trailers changed. Textless, montage trailers and quick-editing became popular, largely due to the arrival of the “new Hollywood” and techniques that were becoming increasingly popular in television.

As more and more animated films were produced, the need for outstanding voice actors steadily progressed not only for the movies but also for movie trailers, commercials, and promos. Thus, the industry saw a growing number of professional voice artists. One of the most famous voice personalities for the modern generation is Don LaFontaine who recorded hundreds of thousands of commercials and promos by the end of his career. LaFontaine recorded his first voice over in 1962 for a movie trailer. From then on, he was able to set the standard for how movie trailers were written and voiced, literally becoming the voice of the movies.

The film trailer for 2014 Citizenfour, a ‘modern’ film trailer

Many home videos contain trailers for other movies produced by the same company scheduled to be available shortly after the legal release of the video, so as not to spend money advertising the videos on TV. Most VHS tapes would play them at the beginning of the tape, but some VHS tapes contained previews at the end of the film or at both ends of the tape. VHS tapes that contained trailers at the end usually reminded the viewer to “Stay tuned after the feature for more previews.” With DVDs and Blu-rays, trailers can operate as a bonus feature instead of having to watch through the trailers before the movie.

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