How to make a movie trailer.

Tell a story in less than three minutes with these tips for planning, shooting, and editing.

The best movie trailers squeeze more than two hours of story content into anywhere between 15 to 60 seconds. They give you a sense of the film’s plot and characters, but they also leave you wanting more. That’s the magic of movie trailers: They tell the story without telling the full story.

Want to make your own movie trailer? Follow these basic principles of storytelling, shooting, and editing to make a movie trailer that will hook your audience every time.

Tell an effective story.

Yes, movie trailers are quick. But the same storytelling principles that guide the best books and films apply here too. Follow the three-act story structure when you’re planning out your trailer:

  1. Introduce the characters, the setting, and the idea.
  2. Highlight the conflict.
  3. Finish with the climax — or most exciting part of the story — right before it’s resolved.

Make it visual.

Pick the most exciting, emotional, and engaging scenes — without giving away the plot. If you’re creating a trailer for a horror film, for example, you might show the moment of suspense before something terrifying happens. If it’s a comedy film trailer, pick some of the funniest one-liners.

Intersplice these engaging scenes with narration or captions to help tell the story. With this technique, those show-stopping scenes speak for themselves.

Set the pace with edits.

Editing is what turns your collection of clips into a narrative trailer. Use editing to control the pace and add music and sound effects to set the tone.

If you’re following the standard three-part storytelling technique, the pace and sound effects tend to accelerate as the conflict builds toward the climax.

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