IFH 181: Trailer Editing Techniques to Cut a Badass Movie Trailer

Trailer Editing Techniques, Movie Trailer, editing pro, film editing pro,

Trailer Editing Techniques to Cut a Badass Movie Trailer


I’ve probably edited over 500 movie trailers, network promos, and commercials in my career. So many indie filmmakers and feature film editors think they can just throw together a trailer for their feature film and make it work. Over the years, I’ve shared my Trailer Editing Techniques with many of the indie filmmakers that have walked into my post suite.

Trailer editing requires a very different set of skills from feature film or other long-form editing. I’ve seen way too many bad movie trailers in my day. I wanted to bring on today’s guest Chris from FilmEditingPro to drop some knowledge bombs on the IFH Tribe on what it takes to really edit an effect and kick ass movie trailer, regardless of genre.

Enjoy my conversation with Chris from FilmEditingPro.

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To fully learn the craft would require quite a bit more detail than we can cover in this article. But, here are five tips that will give you a head-start when cutting your next trailer:

Tip #1: The Movie is Not the Trailer

Trailer Editing Techniques: Believe it or not, the first step to creating a great trailer is to separate yourself from the full-length movie. This can be a real challenge, especially if you helped create the film. It’s easy to become overly precious with your own work, falling in love with the way certain scenes, storylines or characters play out.

But the veteran trailer editor doesn’t care about any of that. They are only concerned with one thing:

How do I package the footage in a way that entices an audience? In other words, how do I make people want to see this movie?

Tip #2: Create Detailed Dialogue and Footage Breakdowns

Trailer Editing Techniques: You probably already know that editing requires the systematic and careful organization of materials. Trailers require the same effort in this area, but the methods used are very different from a typical long-form editing project.

After you’ve watched the film, you’ll want to sub-clip, or otherwise mark, every single dialogue line in the film. If you’re using sub-clips, label each with the name of the character and what they said. This way, you’ll be able to go back and access any word, phrase or even syllable at a moment’s notice. Remember, trailer editing is often about combining moments in ways that are different from the film. For that reason, you’ll need a way to non-linearly access every spoken line.

Second, you’ll want to create multiple sequences with the shots from the film separated by category. You might have sequences with character ID shots, wide scope shots, action, romantic looks, etc. Again, you’ll be combining these in new ways in the trailer, so the order they exist in the film becomes almost irrelevant.

Tip #3: Start By Cutting Your Audio First

Trailer Editing Techniques: It would never occur to most long-form editors to begin a trailer by cutting the audio first. I mean, it’s called video editing for a reason, right?

Well, in trailers, a couple unique factors come into play that will flip the whole process upside-down.

First, you have the inherent musicality of a trailer or promo. It’s rhythmic and relies heavily on the beats of your music and the small, crafted, editorial moments. These are all dictated by your audio bed, which is why you should start with it.

Second, is the shorter length of these pieces. In order for your character’s lines to be heard, you must cut your music in a way that starts, stops, ebbs and flows in exactly the right places. By starting with your audio, you’ll have increased flexibility to make sure you get the timing and pacing correct before you start filling in picture which, in most cases, is primarily there to support the audible story being told.

Tip #4: Tell a Story With Style

Trailer Editing Techniques: One of the keys to cutting great trailers is telling a story with style.

The style of the film trailer is arguably even more important than the story itself. If you show someone a trailer that has great editorial style but a cliché or weak story, they’ll still probably think the movie looks pretty good.

A constant uninterrupted stream of story information will feel monotonous, boring, and quite frankly, it’ll feel like WORK for the viewer trying to pay attention to it. You need to pace out the story beats and add some accents and short style moments in between.

During story-heavy sections of a trailer, particularly the first and second acts, the general pattern you want to follow looks a bit like this:

Dialogue line — moment — line — moment — line — moment (etc…)

Tip #5: Excite Your Audience Without Spoiling the Film

Trailer Editing Techniques: In just about any good trailer, keep one rule in mind: nothing should fully resolve.

Trailers are made of numerous small sequences of shots and lines. These are like mini scenes (that can be as little as 2 or 3 shots in length) that tell a quick “story” before moving on to another mini scene.

Your goal should be to keep each short sequence unresolved. If the hero is fighting a bunch of bad guys, you might show a rapid exchange of blows and then cut to an explosion from a different area of the movie.

Think of your trailer as a series of promises you’re making to an audience. In the case of the action genre, you promise that the film will be exciting. In comedy, you promise that they’ll laugh. In a dramatic film, you promise that they’ll feel some sort of emotion.

Additionally, by leaving your moments unresolved, your audience will want to know how that huge battle ends. Will the guy get the girl? How does the hero make it out of that horrible situation alive?

For every single moment of your trailer, just ask yourself this question: What is this moment/shot/line promising to the audience?

Remember, it is the trailer’s job to make these promises and set up this un-resolution but it’s up to the film to honor those commitments. If you want closure if you want to see how it all ends…go see the movie!

Take a look below and be prepared to have your mind blown!

If you want to watch a 45 min FREE online course on how to edit a movie trailer CLICK HERE!

(Full Disclosure, I’m an affiliate for FilmEditingPro and do receive a small commission, at no additional expense to you, if you decide to buy the full course. I have taken the course myself and it’s a one of a kind course. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn how to edit movie trailers.)


LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

SPONSORS

  1. VideoBlocks.com – (IFH Discount SAVE $50)
  2. Hollywood Film & Television Directing Masterclass (EXCLUSIVE 50% OFF)
  3. Directing Actors Master Course – (30% OFF – CODE: HUSTLE)
  4. Get Your Film on Netflix, Hulu & Amazon & Keep 100% of the Revenue – Distribber
  5. Hollywood Camera Work: Mastering High-End Blocking and Staging (30% OFF – CODE: HUSTLE)
  6. Werner Herzog’s Filmmaking MasterClass
  7. Aaron Sorkin Screenwriting Master Class

KILLER RESOURCES!!!

  1. IFH Masters Circle Filmmaking Community
  2. IFH’s Online Film School
  3. Six Secrets to get into Film Festivals for FREE!

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