Sencit | Movie Trailers in the Age of Originality
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Movie Trailers in the Age of Originality

These days, trailer audio seems to be finding its way into all types of media. It’s not uncommon to hear braaams and drones in a video game soundtrack, or reverb-heavy single piano hits in a tense reality TV moment. On one hand, it’s a sign that trailers are a bigger deal than ever. However, it also signals a dilemma for those of us working in trailer soundtracks: in an over-saturated entertainment landscape where anyone can sound like a big movie trailer, how do we continue to deliver audio that elevates the I.P. to a larger-than-life, once-in-a-lifetime event?

It stands to reason that the more pervasive the tricks of our trade become, the less impact they will have on audiences going forward. In this article we’ll discuss what creatives need to do to evolve with an audience that has come to expect more from trailers than Carmina Burana and synth drones.

Changes in the Movie Advertising Industry

Today’s core demographic of moviegoers (18–25-year-old’s) presents new challenges for marketers. They block popups more frequently, click out of ads sooner, and have a higher sensitivity to overt marketing than prior generations. In an age when more people are consuming trailers online, entertainment marketers need to take greater steps to hold audience interest.

The trailer industry would be smart to listen to studies like this one from Kantar Millward Brown’s AdReaction, which warns: “the only way forward is for brands to create content that will stop Gen Z in their tracks.” While loud, attention-grabbing bumpers that play ahead of trailers are a step in the right direction, the best way to keep your audience from clicking out prematurely may be through more original, unexpected creative choices.

Originality in Trailer Music

Once upon a time, “Gimme Shelter” communicated the raw, anti-establishment sentiment at the heart of every Martin Scorsese film. But after being featured in countless trailers, the song has come to mean something very different to a younger audience: “buy this.”

Audiences want to be surprised by a trailer’s use of music. Music supervisors have begun leaning toward songs that push genre boundaries or create a sense of irony in relation to the image. In some cases, music can communicate more to an audience when used as a counterpoint. One of the greatest uses of counterpoint can be found in the Battle of Los Angeles trailer. Rather than match the adrenalized action, music supervisors juxtaposed the explosive violence of war with a breathy, emotional composition, creating a more poetic connection between sight and sound, which in turn actually makes the action feel even bigger.

With moody cover songs and trailerized classic hits becoming common across all mediums of advertising and entertainment, moviegoers want authenticity and originality from their trailer music.

Is it any coincidence that after years of smothering iconic songs with custom percussion and epic strings, the trailer world is suddenly seeing an uptick in clean, unmanipulated needle drops?

Originality in Trailer Sound Design

Because trailer audio has become so pervasive, audiences have become more sensitive to over-exposed, cookie-cutter sounds. These days, those basic braaams that add tension and scope to the film are likely to earn you more eye-rolls than likes on YouTube. While creating a larger than life world remains an important part of what we do as composers and sound designers, “big” can backfire when it takes precedence over originality (a lesson we all learned a few “In a world…” voice overs too late). Not to mention, in the age of streaming, those huge sounds that play great in Dolby-equipped theaters are bound to lose a little emotional impact when experienced through earbuds and tiny iPhone speakers.

Think about it: how can you expect your film to feel like a once-in-a-lifetime event when your trailer is full of Kontakt library sounds that anyone could purchase for a few hundred bucks? At Sencit, our sound design is 100% originally sourced. This means recorded from scratch, manipulated organically, and impossible to duplicate with a patch. Sure, it’s quicker and easier to copy and paste, but the longer we, as music supervisors and composers, cling to the same old library sounds, the more they sound like…well, marketing.

Today’s audience is weary of being sold to and talked at. While signature sounds and proven techniques will never completely disappear from trailer soundtracks, audio creatives must continue to surprise their audience with creativity and innovation. The challenge for all of us going forward is to create audio that eventizes the content we’re selling, without falling back on the sounds and songs that have become standard fare across the media landscape.

Licensing

All music and sound design provided by Sencit requires a license for use. To license music or sound design for your trailer, spot, or campaign, please follow these steps:

Find the tracks that you'd like to use.

Click Start Licensing below to fill the form or email [email protected] with details as described on that page.

Complete the license, pay for the use and sync the music!

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