For this task, you’re going to create a superhero style trailer about your Media class. This task is to build your understanding of how media codes and conventions contribute to representations. You will be asked to submit:
- Five epic shots. Shoot five epic shots of you and your classmates using media technology. These shots should be between 5 and 10 seconds. You might be focusing a camera, editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, slating a shot with a clapper or using a boom pole. Anything that looks epic or exciting that we’ll be able to add to the trailer.
- Five lines of dialogue. Record five lines of dialogue that you might hear in a media class. They should be the type of witty, dramatic lines that you might hear in a superhero trailer.
- A finished superhero-style trailer. Using the shots and dialogue the class have recorded, cut a superhero-style trailer that goes for between 1 and 2 minutes.
What are codes and conventions?
In Media, the word ‘code’ refers to any system of signs that are used to communicate meaning. When you’re dealing with film, these codes typically include: camera, acting, mise en scene, editing, lighting and sound.
Conventions are well-established ways of constructing texts.
Conventions of movie trailers
Before you make a trailer, you need to think about the conventions of this form. Start by watching a bunch of trailers. This YouTube playlist features a number of superhero trailers to get you started. When you’ve watched a bunch of superhero trailers, check out How To Make A Blockbuster Movie Trailer by Auralnauts. You might also like to check out How to Make a Trailer – Editing 3-Act Trailer Structure by Derek Lieu
- Classification Advice. Trailers usually feature classification advice relevant to the country they’re screening in. Most trailers on the internet feature the green Motion Picture Association of America splash.
- Studio Logo. Trailers usually feature the animated logo of the studio that financed the film at the beginning.
- Mini-Narrative. Most movie trailers feature clips from the film they’re advertising. These clips are chosen carefully to give the audience an understanding of the narrative and characters. These clips are edited together with snippets of dialogue from the film.
- Editing. Trailers are essentially a montage of clips from a film, edited together in such a way to give the audience an understanding of the narrative. Trailers for action films are notable for rapid editing to create a sense of excitement. Fade ins, fade outs and cross dissolves are also used frequently in film trailers.
- Music. Often used in trailers to engage the audience. Soundtrack.net features a list of the most frequently used musical cues in movie trailers. Because the score for films is generally written quite late in post-production, the actual music featured in the film is rarely used. When cutting trailers, studios use music from other successful films or from music libraries. For example, James Horner’s score for Aliens has featured in the trailer of twenty-four films, including: The Abyss, Blwon Away, Broken Arrow, Dante’s Peak, Lake Placid, Man on Fire and Minority Report. Always consider using royalty free or Creative Commons music from sites like Incompetch.
- Tagline. Trailers often feature short phrases which appear on screen, these may be the tagline for the film or serve to reinforce the voice over.
- Stars. Movie trailers often prominently feature the names of the film’s stars.
- Directors and producers. If the director or producer of a film is well-know, their name will also feature prominently in the trailer. Otherwise, they might be referred to as ‘the director of…’.
- Title Card. The title of the film is usually revealed at the end of the trailer.
- First Billed. Credits for the film often appear for a few seconds at the end of the trailer. The title card will often include the actors, writer, director, producers and composer.
The codes of superhero-style trailers
When you’re collecting footage and audio for your trailer, consider the following:
- Music. A successful superhero-style trailer depends on your ability to find appropriate music. You are strongly encouraged to use royalty-free music from sites like Incompetech, risers and impacts from sites like FreeSound. At East Doncaster Secondary College, we have a subscription to Artlist.io where you can download a number of royalty-free tracks that might suit your needs. When you find a piece of music that you like, consider remixing it in Adobe Audition to make it shorter.
- Non-diegetic sound. Superhero trailers often use stings, risers and dramatic impacts. PremiumBeat offers a free pack of epic sound effects for trailers that you might find useful. ZapSplat also offers 1300 cinematic movie trailer sound effects.
- Camera techniques. When you’re planning the shots for your superhero-style trailer, consider using the following techniques:
- Drones. If your school or someone in your class has a drone, consider capturing a couple of epic establishing shots of your school. Ensure you observe Civil Aviation Safety Authority regulations for safe drone use and observe any guidelines for using drones at school.
- Dolly in. Dramatic dolly-ins can be used to add a sense of dynamism to your shots. While it’s possible to achieve this type of shot handheld, you can also use gimbals or devices like the DJI OSMO pocket to achieve smooth shots.
- Tracking shots. Smooth tracking shots or rough handheld shots of your characters—perhaps running to class, using media equipment or studying—will create a sense of excitement in your trailer.
- Canting. Canting is when the camera is tilted to make vertical lines appear diagonal. In static shots, this technique is often used to create a sense of disequilibrium. Canting combined with a dolly in is often used in action films to create a dynamic and highly stylised shot. In Armageddon (1998), Michael Bay uses canting to heighten the drama of a scene in which the characters diffuse a nuclear weapon. Every shot tilts ceaselessly as Bay dollies in on the action.
- Low angle shots. Low angle shots are often used to convey a sense of power.
- Orbital shots. Orbital camera movement has almost become a cliche of the action genre. The shot attained iconic status in Bad Boys 2 (2003) when Michael Bay circled his characters as Martin Laurence uttered the line, “This shit just got real.” More recently, Christopher Nolan used this shot in The Dark Knight (2008) when filming The Joker to create a sense of disequilibrium. The technique is wonderfully parodied in the last third of Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz.
- Whip pans. Whip pan. Whip pans—quick pans which results in blurring—are often used in action sequences and to mask the transition between two shots. JJ Abrams used the effect frequently in Star Trek (2009), whip panning between actors aboard the bridge of the Enterprise. Edgar Wright is also fond of using this technique to make scenes more dynamic in films like Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2011).
- Editing. When you are editing your superhero-style trailer, remember that trailers are notable for rapid editing to create a sense of excitement. Fade ins, fade outs and cross dissolves are used far more frequently in film trailers than they are in narrative films generally. You might also like to consider the following editing techniques:
- Lens flares. What self-respecting superhero trailer would be complete without a few lens flares thrown into the mix? Fortunately, PremiumBeat has, once again, got your back with 17 Free Anamorphic Lens Flares for Your Videos and Motion Graphics.
- Slow motion. Your smart phone probably has the capacity to shoot incredible slow motion. Combine that with a gimbal and you’ll be able to capture some epic shots of you and your classmates walking towards camera. You can always slow footage down in Adobe Premiere Pro by right clicking on a clip in your sequence, choosing ‘Speed and Duration’ and making the speed of the clip less than 100%.
- Lock’n’load montage. Why not try editing a lock’n’load montage except with camera gear and tripods? Maybe you could take inspiration from the greatest lock’n’load montage of all time from Hot Fuzz?
- Repeat cut. The repeat cut—when a dramatic moment in the film is repeated from different angles—is another editing technique that action directors can use to ramp up the action. Although this technique has been used extensively in modern action films—look out for it in Mission: Impossible II (John Woo, 2002) when Tom Cruise does a front wheel stand on a motorcycle—it is not something new. Sergei Eisenstein pioneered the use of this technique in his silent film Battleship Potempkin (1925).
- Speed ramping. The use of slow motion has been a staple of action films for decades. More recently, however, filmmakers have started becoming more stylised in their use of slow motion using a technique known as speed ramping which, in one continuous shot, shows the action slowing down and dramatically speeding again. Director Zack Snyder used the technique extensively in both 300 (2006) and Watchmen (2009). Although this might seem like a sophisticated effect, this can be easily achieved in applications like Apple’s Final Cut Pro and Adobe After Effects.
- Wipe by cut. A wipe by cut is when someone passes in front of the camera lens and the filmmaker cuts to another shot as someone leaves the frame. The wipe by cut was named by Jaws (1975) editor Verna Fields. It is used extensively by both Edgar Wright—in Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs The World—and by Paul Greengrass in The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum to create a sense of fluidity between shots.
- Colour grading. Use Lumetri Color in Adobe Premiere Pro to give a blockbuster look to your footage. You can simply drop one of the presets onto a clip, double-click the clip in the source monitor, then click the ‘Effects’ tab where you can turn down the Intensity of the effect so that it blends more realistically with the footage.
- Special effects. If you want to go a little bit crazy with your superhero trailer, try some of these After Effects tutorials: