Welcome to our new series, Between Two Speakers, where we chat with editors who are breaking boundaries in trailer audio and redefining the rules of entertainment advertising. We’re bridging the gap between the artists who craft and compose audio and the editors who use their work to build award-winning, game-changing trailers.
How do you tell a story with music and visuals in just a few minutes? Trailer editor Aaron Blum shares how it all comes to life. With the pandemic and the rise of streaming, Aaron talks trailer trends and elements that he thinks are here to stay. Read his interview below or listen to it here.
How would you describe the shift that’s happened with music and sound design for trailers over the last few decades?
When you look at trailers from 20 years ago, their music and sound design wasn’t as intensive. Music has always been a big part of it, but I think that there's definitely more experienced experimentation going on with the way that music and sound design can be used for trailer's over the past year 5-10 years. One that really stuck out to me was the Mad Max: Fury Road trailer. I remember when it came out, the sound design really resonated and I thought it was very unique. And, of course, every few years, you have a trailer that makes a big impact, and then you have a bunch of other trailers trying to do the same thing or build off of that. You start to see these shifts and how it’s becoming more about sound design
Is there a particular project you've worked on where you feel like the music and sound choices you made defined the course for the trailer?
I always really like working with music in general. The music was the thing that pulled me into this business. I try to make it pretty pivotal with any project that I’m working on. Especially with trailers. When I’m working with an existing song or something like that, I’m always trying to pick it apart and see what element of a song can be used in a way that you wouldn’t have originally thought of. Whether it’s a certain melody that’s in there, an instrumental, or stems, I’ll use that to loop it or build on top of it in a way that’s totally unique.
When you're creating a trailer, are you thinking about the music budget when you're selecting music and sound design or do you start with the creative vision?
Yeah, I let the music supervisor work that stuff out. I don’t usually have any concept of most of the budgets. I usually go with whatever feels good. As far as the actual cues and sound design, I’ll pull that; but for certain songs I’ll work with the music supervisor to pull some things and we’ll figure it out.
Do you find that, in terms of the music you're going for, you're always collaborating with the music supervisor? At least in your most recent experience, in the last eight years?
Yeah, if I like the direction of a song but feel like it needs to be bigger, the music supervisor figures out how to do a custom mix on it or something. And we work together to figure out what’s the best cue for the project.
Have you ever been in a scenario where they're not available, and you have to do that on your own?
Not necessarily. Sometimes if I have an idea, I’ll start pulling stuff myself and start cutting with it. Then I might ask them if we can do something with it. But it’s usually pretty collaborative.
Do you feel like you're seeing more bespoke and custom work in trailers these days? Or do you think the industry is reverting back to more manicured, original music?
It seems like it's just evolving. A few years ago, the soft piano covers were the big thing, and that’s definitely come down a little bit. But there’s still custom versions of songs still being done. I think it is just constantly evolving to fit the current trends and whatever project it is. I think there's a mix of both though, depending on the project and if it feels like it warrants something extra versus the unadulterated version.
Do you think the industry is leaning towards recognizable songs? Whether it's a cover of a song, trailerized or not, is that a trend?
I'm not personally concerned about whether or not the song is recognizable. I’m just going for feeling; whatever feels right for the project. If that happens to be something that's not super recognizable, that’s cool, but it’s not necessarily something I’m looking for when I start a project. I’m looking for the best thing to fit the mood. If there’s a certain lyric, melody, or beat that feels right.
Have you seen a decrease in production library queues finishing in major trailers? Do you feel like we're moving away from that?
I don't think so. I think that library cues still have a place. I still use them regularly on stuff I'm working on, whether it be TVs or trailers. It just depends on what the emotion is that you're going for. It depends on if you’re trying to hit a certain feeling or need it to accentuate what’s happening in the story and in the trailer itself. Each has their place, it just depends on the needs of the cut.
As you're building that out and getting the feel, you mentioned that you like to pull your own sound design. Do you have a particular method of approaching sound design and creating that bed? Do you have a particular way to go about finding the sounds and figuring out what works?
I’ll dig through and start mining some past projects that I've done or go through our music library. There’s sound design that I know of that I’ll pull from. If there’s a certain sound where I’m looking for something different, I’ll go to the music supervisor and ask if they have a certain effect that I might need.
When you're not on a project, do you use that time to expand that?
Yeah, for sure. I’ll look through libraries, just seeing if there's anything new that sticks out, that could be good to have on hand. I’ll casually see what’s out there.
What do you think the pros and cons are of editing trailers in the age of streaming?
I tackle a streaming project the same way that I would a theatrical project. It doesn't really make a difference. Where it’s being released doesn’t really affect me. That said, a streaming project doesn’t quite get the same outreach or attention that it would if it was theatrical. You don’t have the captive theater audience that you had previously. I know personally, my attention has been even more drawn back in the last year. I haven’t seen nearly as many trailers as I did before the pandemic. With that dwindling awareness, I think a lot of the smaller movies get sidelined now.
Could you imagine a marketing scenario in the future where the trailer becomes something different, since we don’t have as many people traditionally watching them in a theater?
It's kind of hard to predict. It seemed like things were getting ready to completely open back up and then the Delta variant happened. And who knows what else is coming down the pipeline. I think it’ll be interesting to see over the next year if things adjust and if we get back to a state of normalcy. Even though I feel like I haven’t seen as many trailers over the last year, we are starting to find a groove in how to market the stuff. In the first few months of the pandemic you didn’t see a lot of lead up for certain things. But there’s a little more going on now.
Do you think about how someone will watch your trailer? Like the fact that it could be coming out of a little phone speaker and not some big Dolby speakers?
Not really. That's definitely relevant, but at the same time, we were already starting to go that way anyway. Even though there were still trailers being shown in theaters, a good majority of people were watching trailers on YouTube. The new Spider Man trailer had something like 20 million views in the first 24 hours or something crazy like that? So that’s how a lot of people are watching this stuff to begin with anyway.
Do you have a lot of experience creating bespoke or working with libraries like Sencit to customize an audio bed? Or are you mostly giving feedback?
My music supervisor is more in contact with the libraries and actually handles that. But he and I will sit down and build out a rough bed and discuss what we think it needs. He’ll then pass that along to the companies with his own feedback. We’ll go back and forth until we feel like we have something that fits our needs. I do like the intermediary, that’s the only way I’ve done it. I value his opinion and enjoy the discussion. It helps filter it a bit.
As a music lover, do you have a genre of music that you gravitate towards as an editor? Or do you have a genre of movie or TV show that you tend to specialize in, and do the two things have anything to do with each other?
Not necessarily. I’m definitely more into alternative indie music, but I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve been able to work on a variety of genres and stuff. Like animation, comedy, drama, rom-coms. I’ve been able to get a spectrum of things. We have music and cues that I would listen to on my own, and that’s cool, but if it fits the project, I’m able to get excited about it regardless of the genre. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s able to give me chills, it doesn’t matter what genre it is. If it elevates the story and the trailer, I’ll get hyped for that.
Is there a trailer in history that best resonates as the best use of a song, or needle drop of any piece of music?
The Social Network teaser is definitely one that still gives me chills. There were a lot of elements there that started a wave of similar music and sound design. It’s the same thing with the Inception trailer, where it was very iconic and ground breaking at the time and then everyone else was trying to do something similar.
About The Speaker
With a background in cinema and television arts, Aaron Blum started his creative career wanting to direct music videos. He was drawn to short-form storytelling and was pleasantly surprised when trailer editing offered him the same opportunity. A family friend turned him on to it and helped him land a job as an Assistant Editor at Transit. From there, he worked his way up to his current position as an Editor, overseeing a host of TV spots and trailers including The Fault in Our Stars, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and more.