The joke about movie trailers is that they all sound like this…
The trailer business can be a bit formulaic, but every once in a while something new shakes things up.
Doug Brandt is the man behind this sound effect that, since its creation in 2009, has been used in more than 20 movie trailers.
“That was one of the earliest things that I made. That’s been used again and again and again," said Brandt. “It sort of became a Wilhelm scream for trailers at some point.”
Brandt is creative director for a production house called Industry Creative, which specializes in trailers with ear-catching sound design. They often have little or no music, no narration and lots of strange noises. His spot for 2007’s "Transformers" movie is good example:
“I intentionally try to make things that stand out," said Brandt. "A big part of it is hunting through thousands of sounds finding a few you can combine together to make something different."
Brandt uses a program called Logic Pro to generate sounds. He reverses them, distorts them, slows or speeds them to create his movie-trailer soundscapes. This emphasis on unique sound design is one of the stylistic changes in the industry, but the way we watch trailers is also changing.
Eric Alan, who runs a studio called Pomegranate, says trailers aren’t just for movie theaters anymore.
“You want to create something that pops in pop culture, that’s the goal,” said Alan.
That can mean creating trailers just for the web, like this video Alan for 2011’s "Puss in Boots," when he was a producer with the studio, Aspect Ratio.
“The most interesting cat in the world I believe got a million-and-a-half YouTube hits, which really is quite a lot for movie advertising," said Allen.
There are trailers made just for industry gatherings like CinemaCon and Comic-Con, plus the so-called red-band trailers with racy content for older crowds. There are even trailers to promote trailers, like this teaser for the trailer for the latest "Twilight: Breaking Dawn" movie:
These days there’s more work to go around than ever before, but there's also more competition. Just 15 years ago there were only a few big companies making trailers for Hollywood, but that's all changed.
“There’s more shops. There are more vendors and more smaller vendors that work with a smaller infrastructure that is cheaper and easier to run," said Paul Holtzhausen, owner of Vibe Creative.
He should know — Holtzhausen himself spilt from a larger studio to start his own a few years back. Thanks to inexpensive editing software, the cost of setting up shop has dropped dramatically. Today, with around 50 trailer houses, it’s survival of the fittest.
For Doug Brandt of Industry Creative, staying ahead of the curve means constantly coming up with new sounds to use in trailers. Inspiration can strike any time.
“There’s a children’s store downstairs and their front door was sort of making a weird sound when it would close. I wish I had gotten a recording of, but I think they fixed it too quick," said Brandt.
For now, he’ll keep tinkering in his office until he finds the right sound. When he does, expect to hear it — coming soon to a theater near you.