A trailer is a promotional video for a film, often broadcast on television or on the Internet before it is released in theaters. It typically features excerpts from the film and is usually shorter than the actual movie itself, ranging from two to three minutes in length.
A well-crafted trailer is like a prelude to a feature-length film: It establishes characters, sets up the central conflict, and ends on a cliffhanger that leaves it unresolved and creates an emotional throughline for viewers. The most successful trailers use this basic structure to draw audiences into the story and get them pumped up about seeing the movie.
The first step in making a good trailer is to know your audience. Knowing your target market will help you choose the best types of footage for your trailer and how to present that footage in a way that appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds.
Once you have the right footage, you’ll want to edit the footage into a cohesive storyline. There are a lot of tools available to do this, such as Apple’s iMovie or Adobe Premiere, but it’s still up to you to put the pieces together into something that feels cinematic and compelling.
Start with a storyboard, which will help you determine the direction of the trailer and when to add titles, on-screen information, and other visuals. It also gives you a sense of what’s working and what isn’t so you can focus on the parts that are most effective for your audience.
Include a soundtrack that sets the tone for your film and drives the emotional throughline. This can be a song that represents the genre or a sweeping orchestral piece that elevates the mood of the film.
Depending on your film, you may need to create special shoot footage to flesh out your trailer. For example, if you’re shooting an action film, you’ll need to include car chases or a scene of heroism. Alternatively, if you’re making a documentary or educational film, you can use interviews.
Be sure to use sound effects as well, which can add another layer of story telling and make your scenes feel more real. For instance, you could use ambient sounds of battle to convey a war film or futuristic noises to hint at science fiction.
For a dramatic film, consider using a strong piece of signature music for your trailer’s third act climax, which will drive the emotional throughline further. You can purchase this type of music from stock music libraries or hire a composer to compose the music specifically for your trailer.
Then, you can use sound effects and editing techniques to control the pace of your trailer, fading in and out of scenes, quick cuts, and synchronizing music cues to specific moments.
It’s also important to remember that your trailer is not the movie itself, so don’t give away too much. A trailer shouldn’t feel like a mini-movie or even a trailer trash program.