Category Archives: Trailers

Hal Douglas and the Evolving Art Form of Movie Trailer Voice-Overs

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It’s been a week since we learned about the passing of voice-over legend Hal Douglas at the age of 89. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, then you probably don’t work in the marketing department of a film or television company.

Over the course of four decades Douglas provided the voice-over narration for hundreds, if not thousands, of movie trailers and promotional television spots. His list of credits is far to vast to list in total, but included movies like “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs”, “Con Air”, “Die Hard”, “Forrest Gump”, “Four Feathers”, “Lethal Weapon”, “Meet the Parents”, “Men In Black”, and “Philadelphia” to name but a few.

Since Douglas’ death was announced I’ve heard it suggested repeatedly both in the media and in various conversations with industry professionals, that Douglas helped establish and was a part of a “golden age” of voice-over. Joining him in this unofficial category are the likes of Don LaFontaine, credited with creating the trailer catch phrase “in a world”, and Don Morrow, whose credits include “Fistful of Dollars”, “Saving Private Ryan” and “Titanic”. Up until five years ago, and dating back to the mid-1970s, Hollywood studios and television networks relied upon this troika of talent so much that their deep bass busting style has become standard to the point of almost being cliché.

Douglas made light of his own omnipresent narration by appearing in a trailer for Jerry Seinfeld’s 2002 documentary “Comedian” as a voice-over artist who only speaks in movie trailer colloquialisms.

With the passing of LaFontaine in 2008 and now Douglas, the argument being made is that an era of voice-over artistry has ended with them, and henceforth, all we’ll get is a string of artists trying to imitate these masters. While there is no disputing the talent of Douglas, LaFontaine, Morrow and their thunder throated contemporaries, when it comes to voice-over narration I must disagree with the notion that the timeframe in which they worked was anymore golden than those that came before, after or have yet to occur.

Like just about everything in life, and especially the arts, voice-over narration evolves from one set of overlapping characteristics to the next. Just as modernism spawned postmodernism or as the work’s of Picasso, the renown painter, transitioned from a monochromatic blue-green between 1901 and 1904 into cubist works by 1909, the time period in which Douglas was so prolific is defined by a style of voice-over that he helped establish.

Put another way, it’s not that Douglas was simply good at delivering “Voice of God” (VoG) narration, he actually created the style (along with others such as LaFontaine). With his passing, the style will shift slightly to match the taste of current audiences and the characteristics of whoever the next big voice-over talent is. Given the natural progression of marketing, design and popular culture, this new style will, in all likelihood, be close, though not identical, to that of Douglas and his peers.

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Klip Collective’s Projection Mapping Impresses Sundance Film Festival Audiences

Before every film screened at the Sundance Film Festival, presently taking place in Park City, Utah, a pre-roll trailer is shown. This has been going for as long as anyone can remember. The trailers, often referred to as “festival bumpers”, are crafted by noteworthy filmmakers, artists or designers and are different each year.

This year the festival turned to Klip Collective, a Philadelphia based production house that has gained a reputation for using technology and various forms of media to create immersive and unique visual experiences. In 2013, Klip Collective created a piece that appeared in the New Frontier section of the festival titled “What’s He Building In There“. Based on a Tom Waits song of the same name, the work was a story about a man inside the building that was projection-mapped onto the front of a festival venue.

The project impressed Sundance officials so much that they were commissioned Klip to create a trailer for the 2014 festival and invited them to bring another project as part of the New Frontier section.

The 2014 Sundance Film Festival trailer (which can be seen above) was meant to mark the 30th anniversary of the event. Like last year’s project, it is a 3D-pixel-mapped work that is projected onto Park City’s Egyptian Theatre, one of the festival’s primary cinemas. The piece prominently features clips from some of the films that have shown at the festival over the years, including “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, “Clerks”, “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Reservoir Dogs”.

The project would not have been possible without the use of modern technology, specifically digital cinema. Two Barco projectors were set up across the street from the Egyptian, which is located on Main Street in Park City, and aligned for pixel precision. The following is a behind the scenes video of how the piece was projected onto the cinema when Klip shot the trailer on July 17, 2013:

One thing about these festival trailers is that for those of us who see upwards of 30 or 40 movies during Sundance, they can become mildly annoying. After seeing the same trailer so many times during the 10 day span of the event, its music and images begin to permanently inhabit our heads even when not watching films. One idea to alleviate such trailer fatigue this year might be to run a contest during the festival; anyone who can name all of the dozens of movies represented or referenced in the bumper wins or is entered into some sort of raffle. Just a thought.

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Honest Trailers Use Satire To Lampoon Blockbuster Movie Trailers

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Earlier this year the National Association of Theatre Owners entered discussions with studios over the trailers being used to promote upcoming releases. Cinema operators were requesting that the trailers be shorter and not give away so much of the plot. On the other hand, some movie news websites have taken matters into their own hands in an effort to have trailers accurately represent the films they are meant to advertise.

Not sure how we missed this, but for more than year now the good folks at Screen Junkies have been producing a series of trailers spoofing past and present releases. Honest Trailers, as they have been dubbed, rely heavily on the old quote about many a truth being told in jest. The purpose of each trailer, some of which run more than five minutes, is to provide viewers with what a movie is actually all about through the use of ironic, biting satire. For instance, in their latest trailer for “World War Z” they introduce the film as follows:

In a world where zombies have already infected every facet of pop culture comes… another zombie movie. But this time it has Brad Pitt. Get ready for the big screen adaptation of the best-selling novel that’s got everything you loved about the title… and nothing else.

The voice over in the trailer describes Brad Pitt’s character in the movie as:

…your average everyday super attractive, scarf-wearing, Spanish-speaking, airplane-piloting, sharp-shooting, skull-bashing, armor-crafting, arm-chopping, prisoner-interrogating, surgery-doing, slow-motion-vision-having, antidote-making, eagle-eyed stay-at-home dad.

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New York Times and NPR Dissect Movie Trailers

New York Times Lincoln Trailer Timeline

As part of their coverage of this year’s Academy Awards, the New York Times has published an interesting (and technologically slick) interactive graphic that details how scenes from a film are used in their accompanying trailers.

The Times examines five of the nine Oscar nominees for Best Picture including “Amour”, “Argo”, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook”. They had trailer specialist Bill Woolery and Stephen Garrett, the founder of a trailer production house named Jump Cut, explain significant characteristics and aspects of each trailer. (Full disclosure: Stephen Garrett is an old friend of mine whose career as a trailer editor I’ve watched prosper over the past 14 years.)

Woolery and Garrett highlight how some trailers follow the chronological order of the film they are promoting (“Silver Linings Playbook”), while others might include footage not found in the version which gets released to theatres (“Argo”).

The feature provides a timeline for each trailer that shows where from the film a particular shot was taken; beginning middle or end. This makes it easy to see how the trailer for “Lincoln” jumps all over the place. Visitors can skim through the timeline with their cursor as a tiny video version of the trailer displays which shot is being viewed.

It’s a fascinating way to present how the multiple visual elements of a trailer are pulled from their source material and pieced together with specific promotional agendas in mind.

Yesterday NPR followed up the Times feature with an interview of Garrett during a 16-minute segment on Talk of the Nation titled Movie Trailer Math: Getting ‘Butts In The Seats’ In Minutes.

Woman Sues “Drive” Distributor Over Misleading Trailer

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Living up to the stereotype that you can file a lawsuit for just about anything in the United States, the Hollywood Reporter published a story over the weekend about a woman in Michigan who is suing the distributor of “Drive” over what she claims is a misleading trailer.

Sarah Deming’s lawsuit states that FilmDistrict’s trailer for “Drive”:

“…promoted the film ‘Drive’ as very similar to the ‘Fast and Furious’, or similar, series of movies…’Drive’ bore very little similarity to a chase, or race action film… having very little driving in the motion picture.”

The critically acclaimed film is directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and stars Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stunt driver who takes side jobs as a getaway driver for various robberies. “Drive” does feature at least one car chase which is likely to go down in the annals of cinema history as one of the medium’s best, but the movie is hardly a shot ‘em action film similar to the “Fast and Furious” franchise. In fact, the story centers more on Gosling’s character and his flirtations with a character played by Carey Mulligan. It’s more of a thinking-man’s suspense film.

Even so, the trailer wasn’t Deming’s only complaint. She was also turned off by moments of overblown cartoonish violence depicted in “Drive” which left very little to the imagination. Her lawsuit went on to claim:

“Drive was a motion picture that substantially contained extreme gratuitous defamatory dehumanizing racism directed against members of the Jewish faith, and thereby promoted criminal violence against members of the Jewish faith.”

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Alamo Drafthouse Anti-Texting PSA Goes Viral

The Alamo Drafthouse has gained quite a reputation over the past couple of years as one of the countries best movie theaters. Entertainment Weekly hailed it as the best movie theatre in America and Wired.com went a step further by calling it the “Coolest Movie Theater in the World”. Besides being known for an eclectic mix of programming which is served up alongside beer and barbecue, founder Tim League has also built the Alamo Drafthouse’s reputation through Fantastic Fest, an annual film festival specializing in horror, action, fantasy and science fiction titles.

But if you ever get a chance to visit the Alamo Drafthouse, you may not want to reach for your mobile phone whether it’s to make a phone call or text a friend.

Earlier this week the Alamo Drafthouse gained even more notoriety after a creative anti-texting public service announcement turned into a YouTube viral video. According to a post on the theatre’s website, a patron had to be expelled from the Drafthouse recently after she wouldn’t stop texting in the middle of a movie. Even though the Alamo Drafthouse has a strict zero tolerance policy when it comes to talking or cell phone use during movies, the moviegoer continued to text after being given two warnings to give her thumbs a break. So, Drafthouse employees tossed her to the curb without a refund.

Apparently, the audience member was none too pleased at this turn of events and called the Drafthouse to leave a profanity laden voicemail. The audio from the voicemail turned out to be the perfect soundtrack for League’s PSA, which can be viewed above or on YouTube. (Warning: The patron’s choice of language makes this video a textbook definition of NSFW – Not Safe For Work).

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Did Sony Leak The Red-Band Trailer For ‘Dragon Tattoo’?

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Over the weekend the Internet lit up with news about a pirated version of the red-band trailer for the English language remake of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”. It wasn’t long before speculation arose that Sony Pictures, the distributor releasing the film, had actually planted the trailer on YouTube as part of a viral marketing campaign.

Adapted from the first novel in Steig Larsson’s best selling trilogy, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is being directed by David Fincher and is due to hit theatres worldwide before the end of the year. A Swedish adaptation of the novel was a worldwide hit when it was released in 2009.

The online appearance of the red-band trailer had movie bloggers frothing at the mouth for a number of reasons, including the popularity of the source material and Fincher’s stature as a modern day American auteur. But what really got their juices flowing was a growing conspiracy theory that Sony had purposefully leaked a trailer.

The Hollywood Reporter and Mashable were some of the many media outlets to point out a few inconsistencies:

  • While the trailer starts out looking as if it was captured secretly with a camcorder inside a dark movie theatre, after the first few seconds the off-center, shaky image becomes more steady and clear.
  • The quality of the audio is much better than traditional camcorder versions of pirated movies and the video can be viewed in HD.
  • The red-band trailer for “Dragon Tattoo” was only released in theatres internationally, however the online footage begins with the MPAA’s red-band advisory notice. This poses the question as to why international markets would show a an advisory from a U.S. ratings board.

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“Paranormal Activity 2″ Trailer Too Scary For Cinemark

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When was the last time you heard about a movie trailer being pulled out of theatres because audiences complained it was too scary? Especially a teaser trailer? It seems unimaginable doesn’t it?

Well, apparently it’s not impossible as this is just what happened last week when Paramount Pictures was lucky enough to get the teaser trailer for “Paranormal Activity 2″ to run in front of “Twilight Saga: Eclipse” at certain Cinemark locations. After the initial midnight show on opening night, as well as one in the wee hours of the morning, the theatre chain received a number of complaints from patrons in Texas claiming the “Paranormal Activity 2″ teaser trailer was too scary. Many felt its content was inappropriate to be placed in front of a film aimed at teenagers.

Sure enough, Cinemark had to inform Paramount a day or two into the run that they would be pulling the trailer from a number of theatres. There was no word on whether the trailer was tacked onto the front of another film title.

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“The Cove” Wins Top Prize At Golden Trailer Awards

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The Academy Award winning documentary “The Cove” was a big winner at the 11th Annual Golden Trailer Awards last night. The documentary, which details the dolphin slaughters taking place in Taiji, Japan, picked up the prize for Best Documentary and also won Best In Show, the events top award. It marks the first time a documentary has won the award.

The Golden Trailer Awards were created to honor the art of short movie previews. The event nominates trailers and television spots in categories as wide ranging as Summer 2010 Blockbuster and Best Video Game Trailer. Prizes are given to the companies and craft people who produce the trailers. In the case of “The Cove” that would be AV Squad.

Other winners at this year’s ceremony included “Sherlock Holmes” for Best Action (produced by Mojo), “Shrek Forever After” for Best Animiation & Family (produced by Aspect Ratio), “Brothers” for Best Drama (produced by Seismic Productions), “Antichrist” for Best Horror (produced by Kinetic Trailers), Best Romance went to “The Young Victoria” (produced by Mojo), the Independent Trailer Award went to “A Serious Man” (produced by Mark Woollen & Associates).

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Christie Releases Digital Cinema Trailer

Surfing around the Internet last week I stumbled across a promotional trailer for Christie, the motion picture projector manufacturer. The new trailer (see below) can be found on Christie Digital’s YouTube channel. To date, it has been viewed 280 times since it was uploaded on January 14th. The trailer is 25 seconds long and promotes Christie’s line of digital cinema projectors powered by DLP chips. It seems 3D content was taken into consideration during its production.

With the conversion to digital the number of equipment manufacturers that can be found in any given projection booth has potentially doubled. This could potentially lead to at least two minutes worth of preshow for d-cinema vendors, promoting servers, projectors and 3D technology. This isn’t even taking into account satellite content delivery providers, integrators or theatre management system developers. And I’m sure I’m leaving someone important out.

Have a look at Chrisitie’s new trailer and let us know what you think.

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