A trailer is a short sample of your film that is used to promote it and give audiences a taste of what’s in store. They can be used to advertise in a variety of ways, from traditional print ads and radio to online and social media. A well-written and engaging trailer can get viewers interested in your movie and encourage them to check it out.

The term “trailer” actually refers to the very first previews of films, which were not shown before feature movies in theaters but instead trailed them. These early previews were essentially a series of clips from the film overlaid with dramatic text and big-name stars to grab audience attention. Movie studios soon found that releasing trailers was a much more efficient way to market their new releases than simply showing them in theaters.

Movie trailers are a unique form of art and storytelling that often have their own idiosyncratic conventions. Some follow a basic three-act structure, however abridged, of establishing characters, then introducing conflict or complications and finally raising the stakes for the big reveal at the end. In addition to these narrative techniques, trailers also tend to rely on music to set the mood and atmosphere of the story. Suspenseful scores work great for thrillers while lighthearted pop music and orchestral pieces are a good fit for dramas and comedies.

As for how a trailer is shot, it usually consists of a mixture of footage that you shoot on location and stock footage that you then cut together to create the final edit. For example, if you’re shooting a documentary about an interesting topic or historical event, you may need to conduct several interviews with your subject. You can record these audio-only and then later cut them into a trailer with stock footage, establishing shots, and title cards.

Another common element of trailers is a cliffhanger, which keeps the audience hooked so that they want to keep watching. This can be achieved through a twist in the plot or a suspenseful scene. For example, the 1960s thriller Psycho’s famous trailer opened with Alfred Hitchcock giving a tour of the Bates Motel shower, then cutting to Vera Miles’ blood-curdling scream.

Whether you’re making a short teaser for your movie or an elaborate animated sequence to promote your latest video game, it’s important to create a compelling story that is worth sharing. To do so, make sure to engage the viewer within a few seconds and provide an easy call-to-action at the end of your trailer. Encourage viewers to purchase your film, find out more on your website, sign up for your mailing list, or any other action you’d like them to take.

The final step in creating a trailer is to share it on your favorite websites and social media. YouTube is the go-to site for most filmmakers due to its high quality playback and accessibility, but Vimeo is also an option. For the best results, avoid using a logo or any other text over the top of your trailer that could confuse or distract viewers.