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How to make a movie trailer? Everything You Need To Know

Once your movie’s post-production is complete, you will be waiting to uncover your art to the world outside. However, before that, rewind your patience to fulfill the essential step of filmmaking, which is to make a movie trailer. Here in this article, let us discover how to make a movie trailer. 

What is a Movie Trailer?

People love watching movies. Hence, updating and introducing the public to your upcoming project is essential, besides enticing them to watch your film. For this purpose, every movie requires a movie trailer. A movie trailer is a commercial advertisement featuring a compilation of scenes from the movie. These scenes are edited together to stream for one to three minutes. Movie trailers play a pivotal role in creating the first impression of the film. Hence, they have to be filmed with fantastic quality to arouse anticipation among the viewers. This way, you compel them to watch the movie. 

How Movie Trailers Are Created | Vanity Fair

In short, a trailer intensifies the emotions of a story and projects it to your audience. It generates excitement in the case of an action movie, while the trailer of a horror movie evokes fear and spine-chilling moments. In contrast, a comedy trailer provokes happiness and laughter. 

When Were the First Film Trailers Shown?

The concept of a trailer first appeared in New York in 1913. It was an inspiration derived from Nils Granlund, a marketing manager for the Marcus Loew chain of movie theaters. Initially, Granlund created a trailer for a stage show and went on to design for upcoming films, including Charlie Chaplin comedies. Later, other moviemakers and cinema owners followed in his footsteps. As a result, today, no films are released without their trailers. 

Why are Trailers Referred to as Previews? 

Initially, the trailers streamed after the completion of the film. However, later the motion studios realized that people left the cinema hall before they played the trailers. Hence, filmmakers began creating trailers preceding the movie, making the audiences watch them. Consequently, trailers are referred to as “previews” or “coming attractions.” 

What Makes a Good Movie trailer?

A good movie trailer will have the following features to attract your audience. They include:

1. Conciseness

A good movie trailer introduces the movie to its audience. Hence, its length should be concise, ranging from one to three minutes. 

2. Exhibit the Theme, Genre, and the Main Cast

Grab the audience’s attention in the first place by giving them the idea of: 

  • The film genre- if it is action, comedy, or horror.
  • The main characters in the film are- Protagonist, Antagonist, and Deuteragonist.
  • The film’s mood and tone: Hatred, sarcastic, serious, and funny. The characters’ actions and dialogues establish the overall mood and theme of the movie.

Here we have the trailer of The Social Network that sets an eerie atmosphere and creates a subtle tension.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK – Official Trailer [2010] (HD)

3. Choose Your Color Palette Wisely

Colors equally communicate the movie’s mood, theme, genre, and setting, just as music, camera angles, and lighting. Thus, make optimum use of colors in your trailers where you can treat them as characters too.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Trailer

4. Matching the Trailer and the Movie Tone 

Your movie trailer must have a good background tone that blends well with the movie’s tone. For example, a horror movie cannot use a sound that denotes comedy.

How to Make a Movie Trailer

5. Differentiate your Movie Trailer

To ensure your movie trailer doesn’t resemble the teaser trailer, you have to understand the features of a teaser trailer. They include:

  • A teaser trailer usually lasts for less than a minute.
  • They only serve as an announcement and lack actual film footage. 
  • Teasers create hype for movie trailers and lack actual movie clips since they are released before post-production.
  • They are released even before the shooting is completed and don’t reveal much of the plot information. 
  • They portray only a broad release period such as ‘coming 2022’. 

Here is an example of a good movie trailer that you can look up to:

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther – Official Trailer

Good Trailer, Bad Trailer – The Art Behind Trailers

How to Make a Good Movie Trailer?

1. Use a Three-Act Structure

To make a movie trailer, you need to organize it with a three-act structure. Usually, trailers follow the same three-act structure as short films and features. However, they have their differences. Trailers typically start with a cold open. It is a narrative technique in which you directly jump into the story at the beginning. Then, you need to include the conflict or a turning point, and the trailer must end before even the resolution has arrived. Additionally, you can include a clip to represent one last joke or final action scene. 

How to Make a Trailer – Editing 3-Act Trailer Structure

Each act of a trailer includes:

Cold Open: The purpose of a cold open is to intrigue the audience. Hence it comprises an action sequence or a funny scene that is:

  • Short
  • Entertaining
  • Requires little to no context

A cold opening is followed by the logo, which eventually leads to Act 1. 

Act 1: The very purpose of Act 1 is to introduce the premise of the story and the characters by exposition or some interrogations that encourage the audience to think. The story’s premise has to be introduced to help the audience understand the rest of the trailer. 

Act 2 mixes some scenes to highlight the conflict in the movie or introduce the antagonist of the story. Additionally, this section induces a feeling of skepticism and uncertainty. 

Act 3  shows the movie’s most epic and dramatic scenes. Hence, it leads to the climax and contains dialogues that overwhelm the audience with suspense and excitement. However, at the peak of the climax, the trailer ends to display the title card. 

 Here is a list of the best movie trailers to watch the pattern unfold.

New Movies in Theaters July 2021 | Movieclips Trailers

2. Retrieve the Footage You Need

Although visual content is the essence of a movie trailer, you also have to prioritize emotionally captivating scenes. Therefore, ensure to include those scenes that you think will convince your audience to watch the film. However, remember not to spill the significant plot points. For example, you can include the funniest jokes featured in the movie for a comedy trailer without affecting the plot. This ensures you nail down your audience’s interest and keep them engaged. Once you choose your scenes, gather all the footage you need in a single folder to be accessible during editing

How Movie Trailers Are Made | Movies Insider

3. Use Voice-Over or Text to Tell the Story

Movie trailers are short and crisp. Hence to convey the crux of the story, you may require some beneficial tools such as voice-over and on-screen text. You can either customize your voice-over text for the trailer or repurpose the dialogue from the film as a voice-over.

KING RICHARD – Official Trailer

4. Use Music to Set the Right Tone

Appropriate music is capable of elevating the efficiency of your trailers. Hence, choose the music according to the scene you are portraying. 

The purpose of music in Act 1 is to generate anticipation. To enhance this emotion, choose a piece of music that builds slowly and does draw the viewer’s attention to itself. For example, you can use an orchestra of violins between actions along its course. When you transition to Act 2, choose music that will excite your viewer.

Ratatouille – trailer

5. Storyboarding

Since a trailer gives significantly less time-space, you have to cram in details that will attract your audience. Therefore, assemble your trailer with the storyboarding technique to ensure efficiency at every step. Further, take it slow as it helps in editing.

Intro to Storyboarding

6. Edit 

Once you have collated your footage, found suitable music, and storyboarded, edit the trailer. Ensure you disconnect from the whole movie and edit to arrange it in a non-consecutive fashion. This way, you can hide the plot’s twists and turns from your viewer. Further, you can ramp up the speed of the cuts and transition according to the three-act structure. For Act 1, you can choose quite a slow movement of cuts and transitions, while for Act 2, you can speed it up until it reaches a maximum near the resolution. 

How Professional Hollywood Editors Cut a Movie Trailer – Video Editing Tutorial

7. Feature the Film’s Talent

As your trailer approaches the climax, you can affix the cast run. A cast run features the list of actors who appear in the movie and includes directors, producers, or writers whose involvement will draw your audience’s attention. 


Movie Trailer Expert Breaks Down 5 Trailer Styles | Vanity Fair

How movie trailers manipulate you?

How To Make Cinematic trailer In Kinemaster || Cinematic trailer Kinemaster Tutorial

Final Thoughts

Similar to movie making, designing a movie trailer is also an art. This art appears as a feast to your audience, who always await the movie. Therefore, you must carefully plan it and project a non-sequential collage of scenes to provoke the audience and invite them to watch your film.